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.

Offshore Exploration

Sean Fleming

Question:

8 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he intends to hold the next meeting of the north west forum Corrib gas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23845/11]

The North West Mayo Forum was established in 2008 with the dual objectives of providing an opportunity for dialogue between parties with an interest in the Corrib gas project and offering an opportunity for furthering the socio-economic development of the North West Mayo Region.

It was intended that membership of the Forum would include a broad representation from local community groups, however a number of groups opposed to the Corrib gas project declined to participate in the Forum.

Over the course of its first year, the Forum met on five occasions. The last meeting was held over a year ago on 8th May 2010. A decision has not been taken to convene a further meeting of the Forum at this time.

The decision to approve the application from the Corrib partners to construct a pipeline connecting the offshore and onshore facilities made specific provision for the establishment of a Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee, to monitor implementation of the conditions of the Section 40 gas pipeline consent.

This provides an opportunity for representatives of the local community to engage in a meaningful way in relation to the construction of the principal remaining element of the development.

I will continue to keep in mind the potential for a further meeting of the Forum.

Niall Collins

Question:

9 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made to date on the Corrib gas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23841/11]

Construction of the Corrib Gas Terminal at Bellanaboy is substantially completed, as are the subsea facilities at the Corrib Gas Field. The 83 km. offshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline has also been installed

Following the granting of a number of statutory consents earlier this year for the construction of the onshore section of the pipeline along a revised route, work on this final element of the development has now commenced.

It is estimated that construction of the onshore section of the pipeline, including the construction of a 5 km. tunnel, will take in the region of two years.

The consent granted by the then Minister in February of this year for the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline required the Corrib Gas Partners to prepare an environmental management plan. The purpose of this plan is to ensure that the mitigation and monitoring controls identified in the developer's Environmental Impact Statement as approved, are appropriately managed and implemented by the developer in agreement with my Department.

In July of this year, following a detailed assessment, my Department approved the EMP submitted by Shell, which set out the proposed schedule of works for this year, together with the relevant environmental protection mitigations. These works relate to the construction of the Aghoose tunnelling compound and the conduct of offshore surveys.

Works at Aghoose are now ongoing and these works are the subject of independent monitoring being undertaken by international consultants ENVIRON on behalf of my Department. Shell's progress reports, together with ENVIRON's reports will be made available on my Department's website.

Exchequer Savings

Martin Ferris

Question:

10 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if any submission has been made regarding the McCarthy report recommendations on Bord na Móna. [23954/11]

The Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, chaired by Mr Colm McCarthy, was presented to Government and published in April this year. In respect of Bord na Móna the Review Group recommended that the Government should seek to dispose of Bord na Móna as a single entity, including peat extraction rights but not ownership of the peat lands. Following publication of the Report, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sought the considered views of relevant Departments in respect of the Review Group's recommendations. My Department consulted with Bord na Móna as part of the process of preparing its response. The Company made a submission on the Report in response to this request. My Department subsequently submitted its views to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in respect of the aspects in the Report which related to the work of the Department. As the Deputy is now aware the Government has considered the general issue of the sale of State Assets and these submissions will feed into the process that has been established.

Television Licence Fee

Robert Troy

Question:

11 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views that in view of modern technology, it is reasonable that €18 million of the licence fee was attributed to RTE Radio 1 in 2010; and if he has asked RTE, in view of the high salaries paid to broadcasters at the station, that the public service funding requirement be reduced. [23860/11]

RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009. Section 114(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 charges RTÉ with providing and operating a national sound broadcasting service which shall have the character of a public service, be a free-to-air service and be made available, in so far as it is reasonably practicable, to the whole community on the island of Ireland.

Section 98 provides that the company shall be independent in the pursuance of this object, subject to the requirements of the Act, and as such I, as Minister, have no function in the management of RTÉ's day to day affairs, including matters relating to its budget for Radio One in 2010 and in relation to general staff remuneration and contracts. These are purely matters for RTÉ management who no doubt seek to manage their full cost base in a way that ensures the financial sustainability of the company.

That said, I would highlight to the Deputy that the €18.4 million of licence fee revenue attributed to RTÉ Radio One in 2010 represents a 21.7% reduction on the licence fee attributed to the station in 2009. It serves as an example of the widespread and significant cost reductions which RTÉ has undertaken and continues to undertake. I would also point out to the Deputy that RTÉ Radio One provides a very substantial quantum and quality of public service content, continues to attract the highest national share of listeners in the State, and, accordingly, fulfils an integral role as part of the public service broadcasting landscape in this country.

With regard to the public funding of RTÉ, it is the case that this has been reduced in recent times, both in the most recent Government Budget and with the onset of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The Act provided that the proportion of net television licence fee receipts to be paid to RTÉ was reduced from 95% to 93% having the affect of reducing RTÉ's annual budget by approximately €4 million. The Budget of last December resulted in the reduction of RTÉ's public funding by €10 million as a result of the decision to transfer that sum to assist in the funding of TG4. The Budget also capped the payment of free television licences issued by the Department of Social Protection at 2010 levels which is expected to further reduce the corporation's funding by €3 million in 2011.

This series of reductions in RTÉ's public funding is taking place in an economic climate where RTÉ's commercial revenue has reduced drastically when compared to 2008 levels. RTÉ is forecasting a significant end year deficit this year having already posted a €4.7 million deficit in 2010. I have met recently with RTÉ management and I have made my view clear that a continuing deficit position is not tenable. I believe that the management fully concur with this and will take the remedial action necessary to address the situation.

RTÉ has invested significantly in respect of the upgrading of infrastructure to facilitate the successful transition to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). In this context, Deputies should be aware that Capital Expenditure of up to €70 million will be incurred by RTÉ. It is important that the costs of DTT roll-out do not place an undue burden on the company.

Section 124(8) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 requires the BAI to carry out a review on the adequacy or otherwise of the funding of public service broadcasters not more than 3 years after the passing of the Broadcasting Act 2009. I look forward to receiving this review, which is due to be completed by the Authority by mid-2012 at the latest, as it will assist in informing any policy decisions I may take on the future public funding of public service broadcasters.

In conclusion, I am confident that the Board and management of RTÉ are taking the necessary action to ensure that the company is placed on a sustainable financial footing as soon as possible and that it continues to meet its legal obligations.

Departmental Expenditure

Billy Kelleher

Question:

12 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the fees paid to the chairman (details supplied) of the north west forum in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23850/11]

The North West Mayo Forum was established in 2008 by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Forum was established with the dual objectives of providing an opportunity for dialogue between parties with an interest in the Corrib gas project and offering an opportunity for furthering the socio-economic development of the North West Mayo Region.

The forum is chaired by Mr. Joe Brosnan, who in addition to chairing Forum meetings helped initiate direct meetings between the developer and local groups opposed to the project, engaged in ongoing contacts with a broad range of interested parties, including community representatives, the developer and public bodies.

Membership of the Forum includes representatives of a range of local groups; elected public representatives; Government Departments, State bodies and Shell E&P Ireland Limited, along with representatives of its local workforce.

The Forum has, facilitated discussion and debate on a number of issues relevant to the project and the region including:

the consents processes relating to the project;

local community concerns about health and safety;

issues around policing including a presentation from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission;

the Private Security Authority's regulation of private security firms; and

renewable energy opportunities in the region.

The Forum last met in May 2010 and consequently no fees have been paid to the Chairman in 2011. Fees totalling €37,400 were paid up to 2010.

Question No. 13 answered with Question No. 5.

Offshore Exploration

Dara Calleary

Question:

14 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the companies granted licences for onshore exploration of gas in the north west were required to indicate as part of their application for the licence their preferred method of extraction of gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23837/11]

Companies wishing to submit applications for licensing options in the competition run by my Department last year were not required to indicate as part of their application the method they would propose for the extraction of gas in the event of a commercial discovery being made in the future.

The licensing options on offer at the time specifically excluded exploration drilling of any kind. Accordingly, it would not be possible to make a commercial discovery under the licensing options that were on offer and as a consequence it would have been premature to focus on the technology that might be used to produce gas.

The purpose of the licensing options is to allow the companies assess the natural gas potential of the acreage largely based on desktop studies of existing data from previous petroleum exploration activity and shallow geological sampling. They also confer on the companies involved a first right of refusal for an exploration licence over the areas concerned.

Exploration activity under these authorisations is at a very early stage and there is no certainty that it will lead to applications for follow-on exploration licences that would be required before exploration wells could be drilled.

I have made clear that any future application proposing the use of hydraulic fracturing, will be the subject of an environmental impact assessment, including an appropriate public consultation phase before any decision is made.

Broadcasting Services

Seamus Kirk

Question:

15 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he will take to ensure that the broadcast media here are not dominated by a small number of players; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23853/11]

The Advisory Group on Media Mergers Report points out that there are some indications of a trend towards the concentration of media ownership and that this may accelerate depending on economic circumstances.

Global trends also reveal a tendency by large media corporations to acquire other media organisations on a continuing basis.

The audiovisual media business in Ireland is subject to the same technological advances, growth of new media, globalisation and the convergence of what were formerly separate businesses.

These rapid advances in communication technologies, including, in particular, Internet based media offerings, provide both for freedom of expression and a plurality of voices but may also concentrate media in large conglomerates not subject to Irish jurisdiction.

I agree with the general view that, with increasing technological advances, growth of new media, and convergence of what were formerly separate businesses, new media is becoming inextricably interlinked. These fundamental changes mean that the traditional print media business is migrating to audiovisual media and the Internet in a rapidly globalising print and audiovisual media landscape.

On this basis, I see an increasing role for my Department and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in the media mergers area as desirable.

The public interest test in relation to media mergers currently rests with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Minister Bruton has recently brought legislative proposals to Government in this area and I understand that the proposed legislation, the Consumer and Competition Bill, is now being drafted. The issue of the future locus of the public interest test in relation to media mergers is being addressed in that context and I will be remaining very close to the issue during the drafting of legislation.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

Timmy Dooley

Question:

16 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce a fuel poverty strategy; the timeframe for this strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21424/11]

I am acutely aware of the difficulties that recent electricity and gas price rises by several utilities are having on householders and particularly those vulnerable customers who may already be struggling with arrears. The recent report from the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul is a sobering reminder that energy poverty and reduced income are a cause of deep anxiety among many older people in our society, especially as we head into the winter months. That is why the Government is determined to systematically tackle the causes and mitigate the effects of energy poverty across the country.

Energy Affordability is a cross-cutting policy issue and tackling the root causes of energy affordability or fuel poverty requires action on a number of fronts.

Energy poverty is caused by the interaction between energy prices, thermal inefficiency of the home and income. Action to mitigate energy poverty has traditionally focused on providing assistance through the schemes operated by the Department of Social Protection.

The Affordable Energy Strategy will be the framework for building upon the many measures already in place to protect households at risk from the effects of energy poverty, which include the thermal efficiency-based measures delivered through the Better Energy: Warmer Homes programme. By providing significant energy efficiency improvements to homes in, or at risk of, energy poverty, it brings benefits to recipients in terms of energy affordability, tangible health improvements and overall well being. The programme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of my Department.

Better Energy: Warmer Homes is primarily delivered by 28 community based organisations (CBOs). The CBOs work in partnership with their local network of poverty and community support organisations including public health nurses, MABS and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to identify and address vulnerable homes. Private contractors are also engaged to address areas or technologies not covered by CBOs.

Enhancing the energy efficiency of low-income homes through structural improvements remains the most effective means of reducing energy poverty. To date, energy efficiency improvements in over 71,000 homes have been made under Better Energy: Warmer Homes. My Department and SEAI have a target of an additional 20,000 homes this year of which 11,197 have been completed to the end of August.

In addition to Better Energy: Warmer Homes, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government operate a retrofit programme for social housing. Approximately 1,850 units were approved in 2010 with a similar number expected this year.

The Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Affordable Energy, which is chaired by my Department and which represents all key Departments, Agencies and energy suppliers as well as the Energy Regulator and NGOs, finalised its own deliberations over the summer months. Their analysis and recommendations formed the basis for a strategy to be agreed with my Ministerial colleagues. I would remind the Deputy that I informed the Oireachtas Committee last evening that I was in the process of bringing a Memo to Cabinet on this issue and it is my intention to publish an Affordable Energy Strategy within a few weeks.

Telecommunications Services

Mattie McGrath

Question:

17 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to address the ongoing difficulties that rural householders and businesses are experiencing accessing a sufficient level of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23881/11]

The telecommunications market in Ireland has been fully liberalised since 1999 and, since then, has seen the steady growth and development of vibrant well-regulated competition in the provision of the full range of telecommunications products and services.

The Government is not a player in this market and can only intervene in cases of market failure.

Between the significant private and public sector investments over recent years all areas of the country now have access to at least a basic broadband service.

The Rural Broadband Scheme, which recently closed for applications, aims to identify the remaining individual premises in rural Ireland, including county Tipperary, outside of the NBS areas that are unable to obtain a broadband service and to provide a basic broadband service to those premises, where requested.

TheVerification Phase of the Scheme will now commence. Under this phase efforts will be made to obtain a service for those who have applied under the Scheme from commercial Internet Service Providers under existing market terms.

If internet service providers confirm that a particular applicant cannot be served at present, the Rural Broadband Scheme will seek to offer a service through whichever company is successful in bidding for the RBS procurement contract.

Theprocurement process is expected to commence toward the end of October and will aim to identify the preferred supplier. Pending contract negotiations a service provider will be appointed in early 2012.

Roll-out of the service under the Scheme is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of next generation broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development.

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband customer access to every home and business in the State. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce has an important role, in this regard.

In June of this year I convened the Taskforce which I chair and which also comprises the Minister of State with responsibility for NewERA, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and the CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss the optimal policy environment required to facilitate the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, private sector investment plans, and the role of Government in driving and facilitating investment. The Taskforce met earlier this week and will meet again in December. I expect that it will help to identify the optimal policy to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

18 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent that comparisons have been made with the quality, standard and speed of broadband and other IT telecommunications services here with those available in other EU member states; his plans and targets, if any, to bring the quality in this country up to the highest available and the period within which it is expected to do so; if any examination has been done as to the reason that efforts in this regard over the past ten years have been largely unsuccessful; if provision can now be made for the ongoing updating and upgrading of such services on an incremental basis in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23934/11]

The telecommunications market in Ireland has been fully liberalised since 1999 and, since then, has seen the steady growth and development of vibrant well-regulated competition in the provision of the full range of telecommunications products and services.

The Government is not a player in this market and can only intervene in cases of market failure.

Commercial operators have been investing steadily in rolling out critical communications infrastructure in Ireland over the last number of years. That investment has been of the order of €400 to €500m per annum. The State too has invested where it has identified market failure.

Between the significant private and public sector investments over recent years all areas of the country now have access to at least a basic broadband service. International comparisons of retail broadband services are conducted periodically. The ComReg statistical report for end 2010 noted the latest OECD broadband data up to June 2010 ranked Ireland 13th of 19 EU states surveyed for fixed line broadband penetration per 100 inhabitants and third of 18 EU states surveyed for wireless broadband penetration per 100 inhabitants. A wider report on broadband services in 72 countries published in 2010 by the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo, Spain, concluded that the broadband services currently available in Ireland are capable of meeting the requirements of today's broadband applications and overall, in terms of broadband quality and penetration, ranks Ireland 13th of the 72 countries studied.

Significant improvements have been made in the quality and delivery of broadband in recent years. For example, broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second are already available to around 500,000 premises using coaxial cable. This will increase to over 700,000 premises by the end of next year. Telephone lines now provide digital subscriber line broadband (DSL) offering speeds of up to 24 mbps, depending on distance from exchanges. In addition to these improvements in fixed line services, developments in wireless technologies are also delivering higher speeds. WiMax products, which are increasingly available, offer speeds of up to 10 mbps, while mobile broadband speeds are also being increased. Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State.

The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, has an important role, in this regard. In June of this year I convened the Taskforce which I chair, and which also comprises the Minister of State with responsibility for NewERA, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss the optimal policy environment required to facilitate the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, private sector investment plans, and the role of Government in driving and facilitating investment. I expect that the Taskforce, which met earlier this week and will meet again in December, will help to identify the optimal policy to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Denis Naughten

Question:

19 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to develop fourth generation broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23883/11]

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband customer access to every home and business in the State. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce has an important role, in this regard. In June of this year I convened the Taskforce which I chair and which also comprises the Minister of State with responsibility for NewERA, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market as well at the CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to consider and report on the optimal policy environment required to facilitate the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, private sector investment plans, and the role of Government in driving and facilitating investment. The Taskforce met earlier this week and will meet again on 12 December. In the interim, the four Working Groups will continue their work. The objective is that the Taskforce will report before year end. I anticipate that it will identify the optimal policy to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Proposed Legislation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

20 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation to ensure net neutrality; if such legislation will ensure that access to all websites and services that are on the Internet can be accessed freely and without preference to websites and services favoured by a particular Internet service provider in view of the fact that a growing percentage of Internet access is provided by telecommunications operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23751/11]

The issue of net neutrality is currently being considered by the European Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). The Commission intend to publish the evidence emerging from BEREC's investigations by the end of 2011.

The essence of net neutrality and the issues underpinning the debate include how best to preserve the openness and quality of this platform allowing innovation to flourish, while ensuring respect for fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom to conduct business.

The EU will play an important role in this matter, guiding Member States on a common approach which could inform any future legislation. I will await the outcome of EU deliberations in this regard.

Denis Naughten

Question:

21 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to reform the regulation of the energy market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23882/11]

The Government's energy policy, including the regulatory framework, seeks to deliver a secure, sustainable and competitive energy supply. In achieving this objective, the regulatory framework must meet evolving energy policy challenges and also ensure compliance with the requirements of both EU and national legislation.

The regulation of the electricity and gas market is the responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The Electricity Regulation Act 1999 provided for the establishment of the CER as an independent statutory regulator. Since its establishment, there may have been a number of changes to the regulatory framework, and CER's functions, in line with the continually evolving energy policy landscape and partly as a result of EU obligations.

Initially, the Commission was responsible for the regulation and reform of the electricity market only. In 2002, under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act, the Commission was additionally given statutory responsibility for the regulation of the natural gas market. Since then its remit has been further extended to include additional responsibilities, for example for security of supply, upstream petroleum and downstream gas safety and customer protection matters.

With a view to meeting policy objectives, the CER has played a pivotal role in the development of the Single Electricity Market (SEM) which has been operating in Ireland and Northern Ireland since November 2007. It represents one of the first markets of its kind in the world, a fact that was been recognised by the EU Energy Commissioner at the time of the launch of the SEM.

Building on the success of the SEM, the two regulators are currently working together to develop Common Arrangements for Gas (CAG) on the island, whereby all players in the gas market can buy, sell, transport and contribute to the development and planning of the natural gas market North and South on an all-island basis.

In the immediate future, the regulatory regime for the Irish electricity and gas market, including consumer protection issues, is being enhanced by the obligations on Ireland of the EU's Third Energy Package aimed at developing an integrated EU energy market and improving competition to the benefit of consumers.

The International Energy Agency will, in the coming weeks, be conducting its periodic in-depth review of Irish energy policy. The Agency reviews the energy policy of every member country every four to five years. On this occasion, the IEA review will include, as part of its overall review of Ireland's energy policy, an independent assessment of the efficiency of the Irish electricity and gas sectors, as required under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland. In this assessment, the IEA will examine, inter alia, existing policy in relation to the regulatory framework and actions to ensure that the electricity and gas markets are competitive. The IEA may make proposals for further strengthening of the regulatory and market reform framework, among the range of energy policy recommendations it will make in its final report.

Based on the results of that assessment, I will consider what actions may require to be taken in relation in regard to strengthening the regulatory and market reform programme in consultation with European Commission Services, in line with the requirement in the updated EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland.

It is also my intention that a new energy policy framework will be published next year. The new framework will take account of developments over the past few years since the publication of the 2007 White Paper. The new energy policy framework will also be informed by the outcome of the IEA's review, including independent assessment of the efficiency of the Irish electricity and gas sectors referred to above.

Offshore Exploration

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

22 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will guarantee that in the event of granting licences of any kind to a prospecting company for hydraulic fracturing, fracking or by unconventional means, that every single drilled bore hole will require an Environmental Protection Agency licence; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23932/11]

It is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is an independent statutory body, to determine the activities that it is to licence.

From my own Department's perspective I can inform the Deputy that each proposal for the drilling of an exploration well gives rises to a detailed application and assessment, before permission to drill can be given. On the specific issue of possible future onshore exploration drilling using hydraulic fracturing, I have made clear that any such proposals would be subject to an environmental impact assessment before permission to drill could be granted by my Department. That process would include a public consultation phase.

Under the licensing options granted by my Department earlier this year, which run to 2013, exploration drilling is not allowed.

Overseas Development Aid

Catherine Murphy

Question:

23 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to honour the commitment given by the previous Government to grow the overseas aid budget to 0.7% of the national income by 2015; the rationale for his decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23264/11]

Alan Farrell

Question:

27 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will reach its 0.7% of GDP by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22924/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 27 together.

Ireland's total contribution to Official Development Assistance (ODA) will amount to €659 million in 2011. €524 million of this funding will be planned and managed by Irish Aid, in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Some €135 million is accounted for by contributions of other Government Departments and by Ireland's share of the EU development cooperation budget. On current projections, this level of allocation ensures that Ireland will provide approximately 0.52 per cent of GNP for development assistance in 2011.

The Government is strongly committed to Ireland's development programme, which is central to our foreign policy and to Ireland's role internationally in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We are committed to the target of 0.7% of GNP and we are working to achieve it by 2015. This is in line with the long-standing UN target for ODA, and with the commitment of the European Union.

It is clear that, in current circumstances, this will be a challenging target to meet. However, the Government was elected to face up to the challenges of rebuilding our society and economy, and of restoring economic growth and our international reputation. I strongly believe that we can do this without undermining our work to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people. Over the next few years, decisions on the annual allocations for the aid programme will have to be taken within the overall budgetary framework and fiscal constraints facing the Government. Nonetheless, I can assure you, as Minister with responsibility for trade and development, that I will make the strongest possible case for funding for development cooperation.

Consultancy Contracts

Shane Ross

Question:

24 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the external public relations companies hired by his Department from 2006 to date in 2011; the departmental projects they were used for; the cost of each company’s services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22697/11]

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for two Votes — Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Cooperation). The information requested by the Deputy, together with a brief description of the services provided, is set out in the following tables. I am very conscious of the need to achieve value for money on such expenditure. My Department commissions external public relation companies only where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department. The commissioning of these contracts is in full compliance with national and EU procurement regulations concerning tendering requirements.

Vote 28 — Hiring of Public Relations companies 2006-date

Year

Organisation

Detail of project

Amount €

2008

e Communications Clinic

Action Plan under the Communicating Europe Initiative

€41,000

2009

e Communications Clinic

Action Plan under the Communicating Europe Initiative

€6,300

Vote 29 — Hiring of Public Relations companies 2006-date

Year

Organisation

Detail of project

Amount €

2006

Drury Communications

Advice on preparation of a public information strategy for the Government’s aid programme.

€62,464

2007

Bannon & Bannon

Communications and strategic advice on Hunger Task Force information promotion

€5,082

2008

DHR Communications

Planning/ Management/coordination of Africa Day events

€34,485

2009

DHR Communications

Planning/Management/coordination of Africa Day events

€63,058

2010

DHR Communications

Planning/Management/coordination of Africa Day events

€56,023

2010

DHR Communications

Management of Simon Cumbers Media Fund

€31,363

2011

DHR Communications

Planning/Management/coordination of Africa Day events

€6,806

2011

DHR Communications

Management of Simon Cumbers Media Fund

€32,868

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

25 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent on taxis by his Department in the past year; the amount that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for his Department; the times that taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the number used by staff members; the number used by outsiders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22725/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

31 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount his Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years [23299/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 31 together.

The amount expended by my Department on official taxi fares for Headquarters and Missions abroad from 1 January 2008 to date is outlined in the following table:

Year

2008

454,878

2009

305,985

2010

263,202

2011 to date

143,741

My Department's current taxi policy provides that taxis may be used for official business only in cases when public transport is not available or feasible or when officers are required, because of work or official travel commitments to travel early in the morning or late at night either to or from HQ or to airports or train stations. At other times, the use of taxis is not allowed. I believe that this provides a reasonable balance between requirements to safeguard the exchequer to the greatest extent possible and a recognition that there are situations where the use of taxis will be necessary.

In addition to the figure for taxi usage given above, HQ-based officers abroad travelling on official business may also find it necessary to use taxis and may be reimbursed for these costs. These costs are reimbursed with travelling expenses in the normal way.

The costs related to taxi use are monitored on a monthly basis and the taxi policy is kept under review. The cost of contract taxi services has declined each year since 2007.

The official taxi service is intended for staff of my Department only and is not made available to others.

Proposed Legislation

Clare Daly

Question:

26 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to hold a referendum on the changes to the Lisbon treaty that have been agreed at the European Council; his further plans to pass legislation in Dáil Éireann and the timeframe envisaged for same. [22913/11]

The 24-25 March European Council adopted the Decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in connection with the proposed new European Stability Mechanism. This Decision shall enter into force on 1 January 2013 provided that all Member States have notified the completion of the procedures for the approval of the Decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

Having considered the matter carefully, including the legal advice of the Attorney General, the Government is satisfied that the amendment to the Treaty is compatible with the Constitution. As no amendment of the Constitution arises, a referendum will not be required in order for Ireland to approve the amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. I propose to bring forward a Bill in the coming months to amend the European Communities Act 1972 to reflect the amendment of Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to allow for the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism.

It is envisaged that this Bill would also amend the European Communities Act 1972 to take account of the transitional provisions on the composition of the European Parliament until the end of the current parliamentary term (2009-2014). These are contained in a Protocol agreed at an Intergovernmental Conference on 9 June 2010, in order to allow for the inclusion in the current European Parliament the additional seats which are provided under the Lisbon Treaty, since the last European Parliament elections took place before the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 23.

Passport Applications

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

28 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passport applications issued during the 2010-11 period on a monthly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23049/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

29 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff working in the passport office during 2010-11 on a monthly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23050/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

30 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of days holidays taken by staff in the passport office during 2010-11 on a monthly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23051/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 to 30, inclusive, together.

The total number of passport applications received in the period 1 January to the end of August 2011 was 546,382. This contrasts with 540,110 for the same period in 2010 and 504,524 from 01 January to the end of August 2009. 2011 demand represents a 1.2% increase over 2010, a year in which very significant demand over this period arose during a time of industrial action in the Passport Service, and an 8% increase in demand over 2009.

Passport Application Demand by Month

2010

2011

January

45,098

52,221

February

57,215

59,424

March

85,470

68,407

April

84,575

70,735

May

72,890

89,235

June

78,293

83,556

July

68,600

68,918

August

47,969

53,886

September

40,712

October

36,291

November

35,391

December

22,820

The Passport Offices in Molesworth Street, Balbriggan, Cork and London are currently staffed approximately as follows: 1 Principal Officer; 2 Assistant Principal Officers; 12 Higher Executive Officers; 52 Executive Officers/Staff Officers; 251 Clerical Officers; 6 Services Officers and 4 cleaners. The number of sanctioned posts has remained static since an additional 127 permanent posts were sanctioned by the Department of Finance in July 2006. However, the actual number of staff varies considerably depending on the time of year with up to 85 temporary staff engaged during the period March-August 2011 compared with a figure of 52 for 2010. The total number of days annual leave taken up to the end of August 2011 was5,504 which contrasts with 5,669 for the same period in 2010.

Passport Service — Annual Leave by Month

Month

No. of days annual leave

Jan-10

338

Feb-10

222

Mar-10

333.5

Apr-10

492.5

May-10

761.5

Jun-10

990.5

Jul-10

1,250

Aug-10

1,281

Sep-10

890.5

Oct-10

564.5

Nov-10

396

Dec-10

504.5

Jan-11

220.5

Feb-11

209.5

Mar-11

319.5

Apr-11

624.5

May-11

714

Jun-11

932

Jul-11

1,185

Aug-11

1,299

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 25.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

32 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of spending, using departmental credit cards held by Department staff over the past four years; the numbers of persons in his Department who hold credit cards; the credit limits of said cards; and the amount that was specifically spent by his Department on entertainment provided using said credit card. [23314/11]

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

Their use is subject to the same authorisation and control procedures as other forms of payment and decisions to issue a card are made in response to identified business needs. There are currently 4 official credit cards in use by my Department in Ireland, two assigned to Vote 28 and two to Vote 29. There are 16 official credit cards in use by Missions abroad. Where credit limits apply, this is set at €5,000.

The details of total spending on departmental credit cards from 2007 to 2010 and to date in 2011, and the amount that related to representational expenditure, can be found in the table below.

Vote 28

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total Spending per Departmental Credit Cards

20,182

18,831

15,335

5,929

1,831

Representation charged to credit cards

7,870

2,877

905

737

Nil

Vote 29

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total Spending per Departmental Credit Cards

2,959

6,713

6,941

6,273

525

Representation charged to credit cards

1,839

2,305

712

882

Nil

Passport Applications

Charles Flanagan

Question:

33 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if, in relation to an application for an Irish passport, (details supplied), having regard to the fact that this applicant, being an Irish citizen, is unable to submit details of their birth certificate to support their passport application, the affidavit submitted in support of the information submitted with the application will facilitate the progression of matters, notwithstanding the fact that the submission of such affidavit is not intended to replace or substitute the submission of primary items of evidence, such as would be the case in respect of a birth certificate; if having regard to appropriate and exhaustive searches having been made to locate a birth certificate, he will accept the affidavit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23327/11]

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

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

(ii) They help to demonstrate the person's entitlement to Irish citizenship which is a prerequisite for passport issue; and

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

The Department is aware that some Irish citizens may have difficulty in locating a record of their birth and thus providing civil birth certificates. The Department will consider this on a case by case basis where it arises in a passport application. However, such consideration must be mindful of the Department's clear statutory obligation under the Passports Act, 2008 to satisfy itself as to the identity of each passport applicant.

The case of the person in question is currently the subject of legal proceedings and as such it would not be appropriate to make any comment on the matter.

Ministerial Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

34 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of his Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries to each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23344/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

35 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of special advisers and programme managers in his Department; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for each of the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23359/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

36 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons employed in his private offices and constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23374/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 to 36, inclusive, together.

The staffing arrangements for my private and constituency offices and those of Minister of State O'Sullivan and Minister of State Creighton in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are set out in the following table. These arrangements are in line with the Government's decision on 15 March 2011 to reduce maximum permitted constituency office staffing levels for Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Office of the Tánaiste

Constituency Office

2 Special Advisers

1 Personal Assistant

1 Personal Assistant

1 Personal Secretary

1 Clerical Officer

Private Office — Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Special Adviser

1 Private Secretary (Third Secretary)

1 Higher Executive Officer

1 Executive Officer

3 Clerical Officers

Minister of State for Trade and Development

Private Office

Constituency Office

1 Private Secretary (Third Secretary)

1 Personal Assistant

1 Executive Officer

1 Personal Secretary

2 Clerical Officers

1 Clerical Officer

2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for European Affairs

Private Office*

Constituency Office

1 Executive Officer — part time

1 Personal Secretary

1 Personal Assistant

2 Clerical Officers

1 Clerical Officer

2 Civilian Drivers

The basic salary costs of each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 are outlined in the following table:

2009

2010

2011 to date

Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs *

€725,452

€585,179

€301,983

Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs

€688,473

€525,056

€277,063

Office of the Minister of State for Development **

€541,901

€253,492

€174,562

* From 10 March 2011 — Office of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

** From 10 March 2011 — Office of the Minister of State for Development and Trade

Departmental Expenditure

Simon Harris

Question:

37 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the budget available to his Department for IT expenditure in 2010 and 2011; the provisions within his Department for the purchasing of IT equipment; the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure value for money and cost reductions in this regard; if there are budgets and procedures in place for the purchasing of IT equipment for each State agency under his remit for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23446/11]

The budget available to my Department for IT expenditure was €10,852,599 in 2010 and is €8,740,180 in 2011. IT equipment is purchased in line with national and EU procurement guidelines and regulations. My Department has a number of approaches to ensuring value for money and cost reductions:

The Department draws on the various framework agreements established by the Department of Finance for the supply of IT-related goods and services.

Where such frameworks are not available, the Department conducts regular procurements for appropriate goods and services to secure best value.

Procurement documents are drafted on the basis of purchasing goods and services at levels appropriate to meet the identified requirements of offices of my Department.

Procurement of goods is centralised across all offices, where appropriate, to achieve economies of scale where possible.

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

Expenditure Reviews

Sean Fleming

Question:

38 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will publish the details of his Department’s submission and all correspondence to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration as part of the comprehensive spending review [23473/11]

My Department's submission to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure forms part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government. As such, its release cannot be considered in advance of Government decisions on the forthcoming Budget. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has already indicated that it is his intention to publish the reports submitted as part of the CRE process following the finalisation of the budgetary process.

Diplomatic Representation

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

39 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he will appoint a new ambassador to Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23764/11]

Irish Ambassadors are appointed by the President based on nominations by the Government. I will be submitting proposals to the Government in the very near future about filling existing Ambassadorial vacancies and others that will arise over the next few months.

Human Rights Issues

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

40 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take in response to reports of documents indicating that the CIA used privately owned aircraft to transport suspects or prisoners around the world and that at least ten of these flights passed through Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23935/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

41 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on response to calls by the Irish Human Rights Commission to ensure that necessary steps beyond mere diplomatic assurances are taken to ensure that Shannon Airport is not used by aircraft for the purpose of rendition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23936/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

42 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that he has planned or has taken in respect of Council of Europe recommendations arising out of its reports on the use of airports in member states including Ireland for rendition flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23937/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

43 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps being taken in order to carry out the commitment in the programme for Government to enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law. [23938/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Government states that the Government "will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law". I have already made clear, speaking in the Dáil on 22 March, 2011, that "Shannon will not be used as a means of rendition, facilitating torture, or any other activity which violates human rights".

None of the various investigations into allegations of extraordinary rendition, including those carried out by the Council of Europe, have revealed any evidence that rendition through Irish airports has occurred, nor is there any new information or allegation linking Irish airports to acts of extraordinary rendition.

Specific and unique assurances have been sought, and have been received, from the US authorities that no such prisoners had been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be without our express permission. The Government has no reason to call into question the value of the assurances received at a high level from the US authorities in this matter.

Tax Collection

Finian McGrath

Question:

44 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support a matter (details supplied) concerning a tax refund issue in Portugal from a person (details supplied); the agency that should be contacted; and the options available to resolve this issue. [24129/11]

The matter raised by the Deputy appears to concern a tax refund issue related to a property transaction in Portugal. The Deputy will be aware that the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade concerning private property transactions by Irish nationals abroad is limited and that redress in such cases, including on taxation issues, should be sought through the relevant legal system. The Embassy of Ireland in Lisbon can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers to the individuals concerned. However, I understand that they have already sought independent legal advice. The Embassy is happy to discuss any further concerns that the individuals may have.

Professional Fees

Pearse Doherty

Question:

45 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the potential savings to the Exchequer by reducing professional fees paid by the State by25%. [24283/11]

External professional services are procured by the Department only where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department and, particularly in the case of Irish Aid (Ireland's official development assistance programme), where an independent evaluation of programmes and projects is required. Given the overall scale of the Irish Aid Programme, this level of monitoring, review and evaluation is both prudent and proportionate. My Department does not use the services of professionals who operate on the basis of agreed fee scales or fees which are set by statute or regulation.

These services are procured on foot of competitive tendering which is designed to achieve the best value for money from the market. Services procured in this manner do not allow for post-hoc unilateral reduction of fees by my Department, as this could expose the State to the risk of litigation for breach of contract.

On the basis of 2010 expenditure, a further reduction in fees of 25%, if achieved through future tendering, would equate to savings of €350,000.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

46 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact to business in the Border regions arising from the programme for Government commitment to increase the top rate of VAT to 23%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22820/11]

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. In recent years, the trend among EU Member States has been to increase VAT rates as a means of covering the budgetary shortfall generated by the economic downturn. Sixteen of the 27 EU Member States have increased their VAT rates over the last 3 years, so that the EU average standard VAT rate now stands at 20.7%. Nine Member States have a higher standard VAT rate than Ireland with 20 of the 27 EU Member States having a standard VAT rate of 20% or higher. VAT increases continue to be considered, as the recent announcement by the Italian parliament suggests. In this context, any increase in Ireland's standard VAT rate is not out of place.

A number of studies into cross-border shopping have been undertaken in the last few years to determine the level of cross-border shopping and how much this affects Exchequer revenue. The Report on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping, which was undertaken on behalf of the Minister for Finance by the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office, was published in March 2009. This was followed on 4 December 2009 by the results of a survey of cross-border shopping as part of the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) Quarter 2, 2009. Finally, on 12 November 2010, the QNHS cross-border shopping survey for Quarter 2, 2010 was released.

The statistics in the QHNS Reports were broadly in line with the results of the March 2009 Report on the Implications of Cross Border Shopping, which noted that the main causes of price differentials between goods in Northern Ireland and the Republic were operating costs, profit margin (mark-up), taxes and a significant depreciation of Sterling against the Euro. While variations in the VAT rates widened some price differentials, their impact remained small compared to the size of the change in the exchange rate.

The differential between the standard VAT rates in both jurisdictions reduced from 6.5 percentage points in 2009 to just 1 percentage point since the start of this year. Any increase in this differential due to VAT increases in Ireland is however likely to be offset by the relative strengthening of Sterling against the Euro since 2009, providing less incentive for people to shop outside the State.

Liquor Licences

Emmet Stagg

Question:

47 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if new alcoholic drink licences have been issued to the National Asset Management Agency controlled hotels and public houses; if so, the number of such licences issued; and if they were in a position to present tax clearance certificates as required with their renewal applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22900/11]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

48 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the inspectorate responsible for inspecting and enforcing the licensing of public houses has the necessary resources to carry out that function; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 900 such licences have not been renewed this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22901/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 48 together.

The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the issue or renewal of public house licences. A licence may only be issued when the appropriate certificate has been issued by a District Court. The licensing year runs from the 1st October to the 30th September.

The most recent period for which statistics are available is 2009/2010 when 914 licences were not renewed. (By way of comparison, the equivalent figure for 2008/2009 was 893). The most common reasons for non-renewal include difficulties in obtaining tax clearance, cessation of trading, court procedures pending and change of entity (sale of licence to new premises and/or entity).

If a public house licence is not renewed, a range of targeted compliance interventions are initiated by Revenue, up to and including prosecution, to ensure that renewal of the licence takes place at the earliest opportunity.

The Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that they have the necessary resources to effectively carry out their role in relation to non-renewal of public house licences.

An Garda Síochána also have a key role in ensuring compliance by publicans with the licensing laws. The Minister for Justice and Equality is satisfied that sufficient resources are available to the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána to enforce the legislation in question. The Commissioner is responsible for operational policing matters, including the allocation of Garda resources. The current strength of the Force is 14,162 and all attested members of the Force have enforcement powers in relation to the licensing laws.

As regards to NAMA, the Revenue Commissioners do not distinguish between licensed premises that have been specifically brought under the control of NAMA and licensed premises that are under the control of any other persons for the purposes of deciding eligibility for the issue of a licence. Accordingly, where any NAMA-controlled entity applies for a licence, the same conditions apply as regards a valid tax clearance certificate as would be the case in any other instance where a licence is sought. The Revenue Commissioners do not hold specific information that would identify the number of NAMA-controlled entities, to whom they have issued licences.

Tax Code

Nicky McFadden

Question:

49 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Finance his views on the possibility of lowering the VAT rate for the craft industry in order to allow the industry to grow business and generate employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23529/11]

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the VAT Directive Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. I understand that the major sectors within the Irish craft industry are pottery, glass, jewellery, textiles and furniture. Annex III does not provide for a reduced rate of VAT to be applied to these goods, which are consequentially subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.

Tax Collection

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of corporate tax that was paid by the company (details supplied) in County Waterford. [24244/11]

The tax affairs of a particular company are a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and the company concerned. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the tax affairs of individual taxpayers or companies precludes them from providing the information requested by the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

51 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money that was spent on taxis by his Department in the past year; the amount of money that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for his Department; the times that taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the amount that was used by staff members; the amount that was used by outsiders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22724/11]

A total of €10,710 has been spent on taxi fares by my Department since the start of 2011. Taxis should only be used for official business purposes only. While it is not Departmental policy to pay taxi fares for outsiders, occasionally a journey, which begins from this Department, will include outsiders along with a Departmental official. This would be done as a means of reducing overall expenditure for the public service.

Credit Unions

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

52 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Financial Regulator, with responsibility for credit unions, is making decisions on credit union reform before the commission has completed its review. [22806/11]

The Programme for Government sets out the Government's position with regard to the credit union sector. The Government recognises the importance of credit unions as a volunteer cooperative movement and the distinction between them and other financial institutions. The Government has established the Commission on Credit Unions to review the future of the movement and make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for it. This will take into account its not-for-profit mandate, its volunteer ethos and community focus, while paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors' savings and financial stability. The Commission has met on eight occasions since the end of June and will be providing me, as Minister for Finance, with its interim report by the end of September.

While the work of the Commission on Credit Unions is ongoing, and its interim and final reports will inform Government policy, it should not prevent or delay regulatory action where it is needed in the meantime. Under the Credit Union Act 1997, the Registrar of Credit Unions, as part of the Central Bank, has an independent role in the regulation of credit unions. From time to time, the Registrar is required to act to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability and to protect the savings of credit union members. Such actions are within the Registrar's independent statutory mandate and are a necessary part of an effective regulatory regime.

Legislative Programme

Joe Carey

Question:

53 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the issuing of a commencement order in relation to section 13 of the Finance Act 2011 incorporating section 477A into the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22816/11]

Section 13 of Finance Act 2011 provided for income tax relief at the standard rate for expenditure incurred by individuals on a range of works carried out to improve the energy efficiency of residential premises situated in the State. The underpinning legislation for the scheme was subject to Commencement Order. However, that legislation, on review, was found to have flaws and would have required amendment before it could be implemented.

As part of the announcement in the recent Jobs Initiative, the Government undertook to provide further funding for the grants available under the Better Energy Homes scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Because of these circumstances, I decided to review the requirement for a co-existing tax incentive for similar works and, following this review, I have decided not to proceed with the introduction of the tax relief scheme.

National Asset Management Agency

Peter Mathews

Question:

54 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance the contact details of the person in the National Asset Management Agency who is responsible for the hotel sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22843/11]

I am informed by NAMA that the person concerned is Mr. John Mulcahy, Head of Portfolio Management, NAMA.

Insurance Industry

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

55 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine the situation that life assurance companies are increasing the level of premiums payable by policy holders while also reducing the value of the policy and the amount due to be paid out to the beneficiary of the policy; if companies are entitled to do this without the expressed consent of the policy holder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22856/11]

Consumer issues relating to insurance matters are covered by the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code. The Central Bank has informed me that there are life assurance products for which the benefits and premiums can vary over the life of the product. These are called ‘Unit Linked Whole of Life Policies'. Each life protection policy is intended to pay out a sum of money to the beneficiary in the event of death of the insured person. Premiums are not guaranteed to remain constant throughout the life cover protection period. Premiums that are paid are used to purchase units in a unit-linked fund, which in turn pays for the life cover protection.

The performance of the fund is linked to fluctuations in the stock markets and, therefore, if the fund increases, the value of units held by the consumer increases. Conversely, if the fund underperforms, then the consumer's share of units in the fund decreases. As the consumer gets older the cost of the life cover protection will become more expensive and therefore more units will have to be used if the same level of life cover is to be maintained. To avoid the possibility of policy funds not having sufficient value to pay for the life cover, life companies are supposed to carry out periodic reviews of a policyholder's fund to ensure that sufficient units are maintained in the fund to pay for continued life cover protection. This is governed by the terms of the policy rather than by any statutory obligation. Generally, a periodic review will take place 10 years after the policy's inception and usually at intervals of 5 years thereafter.

At the periodic reviews, life companies usually offer the policyholder a choice of:

paying a greater premium in order to maintain the same level of life cover, or

reducing the life cover protection in order to maintain the static level of premium.

The Central Bank expects that entities, regulated by it, ensure that the key issues, specific to ‘Unit Linked Whole of Life Policies' such as the periodic review feature and the non-guaranteed nature of the premiums are highlighted by their sales staff at the point of sale.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

56 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding mortgage interest relief in respect of a person (details supplied). [22880/11]

As the Deputy is aware, there is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress. The Government is examining a number of proposals in relation to this commitment. One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers.

When these proposals have been examined and the findings presented to me, I will make any necessary decisions in the context of Budget 2012.

Mortgage Products

Terence Flanagan

Question:

57 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will reply to a matter (details supplied) regarding negative equity mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22882/11]

The Central Bank has advised me that they wrote to all mortgage lenders to ascertain whether they were offering, or intended to offer, a mortgage product that would allow home owners to sell their existing home and transfer the negative equity portion of the original loan to the new loan. The Central Bank was concerned as to whether such a product was in the long term interest of consumers as it could lead to indebtedness at a time when there was no certainty over the direction of future property values. In addition, consumers would be moving to a new product and, consequently, those on tracker mortgages would move to fixed or standard variable rates which were generally higher than existing tracker rates. The higher rates would impact on the continued affordability of such mortgages and there would also be an increase in the loan to value ratios of many mortgages.

In response to the Central Bank's letter, only a small number of mortgage lenders said that they would consider offering such a facility, but it would be on an exceptional basis, would only be considered following an approach from an existing customer and would be subject to strict criteria in relation to debt service ratio, net disposable income, loan to value ratios, income multiples, credit history, transparency and suitability.

A trial period commenced in mid-2011 and is due to be assessed by the Central Bank and the institutions involved before the end of the year. Any institution offering such a facility may only do so in accordance with criteria agreed in advance with the Central Bank and subject to a trial period. Consequently any arrangement that might be agreed with a customer would have to be in the context of the parameters set out above and not as a result of the introduction of a negative equity type product.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

58 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the betting sector has changed radically since the time that the Betting Act 1931 was written; his views on allowing shops to remain open until 10 p.m. during the winter months, as they already do during the summer, which would be a modest reform that would help to boost employment within the sector and add to the Exchequer returns for betting activity; his further views on a simple amendment to the legislation governing betting to allow for betting shops to open when racing in Ireland, either horse or greyhound, is taking place which is all that is required to unlock this additional employment and revenue generating potential in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22893/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the law which governs the opening of bookmakers at certain times of the year. [22938/11]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

113 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to review the current legislation governing the opening hours of bookmakers. [23716/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 63 and 113 together.

The proposed Betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will amend the 1931 Betting Act tointer alia establish the regulatory framework for the licensing of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, including measures to enforce the regulatory framework. The extension of the opening hours of retail betting shops over the winter period is being considered in that context.

The drafting of the Bill, which is fairly complex, is well advanced. The Bill is likely to be published in the autumn.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

59 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if tax loopholes used by senior executives will be closed off as in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22909/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that the Revenue Commissioners cannot comment on any particular individual's tax affairs. However, I understand that the details supplied in connection with the Deputy's question, which appears to be based on a newspaper report of 25 February 2011, may not have taken account of a subsequent report concerning the same matter that was published on the following day by that same newspaper.

The High Wealth Individuals and Professionals Business Unit of the Revenue Commissioners initiated enquiries into approximately 300 directors and executive/management level employees in the six main financial institutions. Enquiries have been closed in approximately 291 of these cases and are ongoing in the balance. To date, €1.3 million in tax has been collected as a result of these enquiries.

The Deputy can be assured that where the Revenue Commissioners identify any artificial tax avoidance arrangements that may not be open to challenge within existing law, they will recommend appropriate legislative amendments to my Department and I will have no hesitation in closing off such loopholes to protect the Exchequer.

State Banking Sector

Peter Mathews

Question:

60 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding money owed to Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22916/11]

Anglo Irish Bank has filed proofs of claim in the US on 14 February 2011, which are a matter of public record, showing a debt owed to the bank by the person, to which the Parliamentary Question refers, of €8,454,779.27. As the Deputy is aware the individual filed for US bankruptcy on 14 October 2010 and since that time the bank has been engaged and participating in the US bankruptcy process as creditor. The jurisdiction of the US Bankruptcy Court in respect of the individual's bankruptcy estate has been recognized by the Irish Bankruptcy Court. The appointed US Bankruptcy Trustee's mandate is to realise the maximum assets of the estate and distribute to creditors, as appropriate.

The US Bankruptcy Trustee has lodged an objection to the discharge of the individual from bankruptcy seeking to bar him entirely. The bank has also lodged such an application and in addition an application to bar his discharge in respect of the bank's claims against the estate. The bank is advised that in the ordinary course there would be a trial in respect of the objections lodged subject to any directions by the US bankruptcy judge. Under the US bankruptcy code, where an objection to discharge is successful the debtor is denied the protection of the US bankruptcy court.

The bank's stated objective is to obtain maximum recovery in the interests of the taxpayer.

Tax Code

Alan Farrell

Question:

61 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money generated by the universal social charge on a year by year basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22932/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

80 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of abolishing the universal social charge. [23253/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 80 together.

The Universal Social Charge (USC) is a tax which replaces the income and health levies. It is intended to broaden the tax base in an equitable manner and applies to approximately 500,000 more income earners than the income and health levies. USC receipts are collected as part of income tax. The Budget 2011 projections for receipts are set out as follows.

2011

2012

2013

2014

Universal Social Charge(€ billions)

€3.3

€4.1

€4.3

€4.5

In addition to the projected USC receipts detailed above, the Exchequer benefits in 2011 from arrears collected in respect of the income and health levy. As with all new income tax measures, the first year yield is expected to be significantly below the full-year yield for a number of reasons including the fact that a portion of the tax collected in the year in which a measure is introduced relates to earnings in the previous year.

On the basis of the forecasts set out in the Budget the cost to the Exchequer of abolishing the universal social charge would be of the order of 4 billion in terms of the 2012 projection.

In relation to USC receipts, approximately €1.7 billion was collected in the first eight months of 2011 and this broadly is in-line with expectations.

Alan Farrell

Question:

62 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the context for the forthcoming review of the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22933/11]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

108 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reduce the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23574/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 108 together.

As I outlined in my reply of 30 June 2011, a review of the Universal Social Charge is a commitment in the Programme for Government. This review has commenced.

The Terms of Reference of the review are broad and wide-ranging and include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

Low paid income earners;

Persons over 65;

Medical Card Holders;

Widows/Widowers;

Self-employed;

Public Service Pensioners;

Employer contributions to PRSAs; and

Any other issues (including any operational issues that have arisen in the administration of the charge).

When the review is completed and the findings are presented to me, I will make any necessary decisions in the context of Budget 2012.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 58.

Pension Provisions

Clare Daly

Question:

64 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to assist those whose pension funds have been frozen by Custom House Capital, in view of the fact that this was a Government approved financial organisation; the reason that steps were not taken to ensure that funds were adequately protected. [22949/11]

Clare Daly

Question:

65 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the freezing of pension funds in the Government approved Custom House Capital, he will consider the establishment of a State fund in order to allow persons to invest safely for their retirement. [22950/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 65 together.

Pensions policy falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection. I have no role in relation to the regulation of pensions in Ireland, a role which is fulfilled by the Irish Pensions Board. Any proposals for a compensation fund for pensions would be a matter for that Minister and the Pensions Board. However, in the context of the questions tabled by the Deputy, I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to a number of issues.

This investment firm was originally granted its authorisation to operate by the Financial Regulator in 1998. As part of its supervisory function, the Central Bank has, since 2009, intensified its monitoring of the firm. Recently the Bank became increasingly concerned about the firm. The Bank successfully applied to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors to the firm and Custom House Capital consented to the appointment of the inspectors. The application arose from the Bank's continuing concerns about the firm's management of its client holdings as well as the financial position of the firm. A final report is expected to come before the High Court on 21st October 2011.

The specific inspection activity currently underway is mandated by Regulation 166 of the European Communities (Markets in Financial Instruments) Regulations 2007.

The steps taken by the Central Bank to closely monitor activities of the firm demonstrate the active and urgent efforts being made to ensure the orderly oversight of the firm and the protection of investors.

I understand the process of inspection necessitates temporary and urgent restrictions on the firm's activities while the Central Bank attempts to investigate the issues with the firm. Regrettably, this has resulted in the temporary freezing of funds. However, the restrictions are deemed necessary by the Central Bank, acting independently to ensure the protection of all clients' holdings in this firm.

Tax Reliefs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

66 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a matter (details supplied) regarding Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22976/11]

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 is carrying out 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 the end of this month. 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.

State Banking Sector

Terence Flanagan

Question:

67 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23004/11]

As the Deputy is aware the Quinn Group and Quinn family are substantially indebted to Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited (‘the bank') and by direct extension to the Irish taxpayer. The bank is obliged to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the bank's Quinn-related assets/investments from a diminution of value and the bank's involvement in a joint venture to acquire the Quinn Insurance Company or in the appointment of a share receiver to the wider Quinn Group must be considered in this context. The position is that the Quinn Insurance company was placed in administration on 29 March 2010 after concerns were raised by the Central Bank of Ireland about the firm's ability to meet its liabilities to its policyholders. Further, and quite separately, the bank has been instrumental in the appointment of a share receiver to the wider Quinn Group but has no direct involvement in the day to day running of the various companies in the Group.

In relation to the Quinn Insurance company, the bank is involved in a joint venture with Liberty Mutual to acquire the company. This involvement does not require the Bank to provide cash towards the purchase price, instead it involves the bank procuring the release of legal guarantees held by the relevant banks and bondholders in return for a carried interest in the company. This partial ownership approach is considered to be the best way to maximise the repayment of debt owed to the taxpayer. The appointment of a share receiver to the wider Quinn Group does not involve the acquisition of those companies by the bank or indeed any additional funding of these operations. The process of appointing a share receiver pursuant to relevant security documents entered into by Quinn related entities and persons with the bank is simply to protect the bank's interests.

The bank is actively involved in a myriad of litigation with the Quinn family in five jurisdictions in order to stop attempts to dissipate valuable property assets pending resolution of the primary proceedings in Dublin early next year.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

68 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a proposal (details supplied) regarding 75% interest restriction for residential investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23015/11]

As noted in the proposals, which the Deputy has submitted, the level of tax relief investors can claim on the interest for mortgages and loans on residential rental properties was reduced to 75% of the interest accrued from 7th April 2009 under Section 5 of the Finance Act 2009. The proposals submitted, will be examined in tandem with the normal process of reviewing and considering taxation measures and reliefs, in the context of the budgetary process. The proposals also note concerns relating to the possible withdrawal of the "legacy" property-related tax relief schemes, which are the subject of an impact assessment. The results of this impact assessment will be addressed in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Financial Institutions Remuneration

Terence Flanagan

Question:

69 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter regarding the repayment of a bonus (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23098/11]

The outgoing Board of Irish Nationwide Building Society made many efforts to recoup the bonus paid in 2008 to the individual to whom the Parliamentary Question refers. Now that INBS has merged with Anglo Irish Bank, I regard the commitment of the former CEO to return the bonus to the Society as one that remains outstanding to the new merged entity. Therefore, I have asked the Board of the new merged entity to continue to strongly press this matter and I fully encourage and support their efforts to recoup the payment in accordance with the commitment made by the former chief executive of INBS.

Banking Sector Regulation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

70 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the public inquiry into the failure the Irish Banking system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23099/11]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

73 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on holding a public inquiry into the failure of the Irish banking system (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23171/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 73 together.

The Deputy will recall that the previous Government in January 2010 set out a framework to the Oireachtas for investigation into the banking sector. This investigation consisted of two distinct stages. The preliminary reports published in June 2010 by the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Patrick Honohan, onThe Irish Banking Crisis — Regulatory and Financial Stability Policy 2003-2008 and the report by Messrs. Regling and Watson, Preliminary report on the sources of Ireland’s banking crisis, formed the first stage of this investigation.

The second stage consisted of a statutory Commission of Investigation. The establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector in Ireland was approved by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann on 8 July 2010 and an Order formally establishing the Commission was made by the previous Government on 21 September 2010. Mr Peter Nyberg was appointed as sole member of the Commission of Investigation on 22 September 2010.

The Commission's terms of reference which were for the period 2003 to 5 January 2009 were in summary to examine:

a) the main causes of the serious failure, within each of the covered institutions;

b) the main reasons why Anglo Irish Bank Corporation and Irish Nationwide Building Society adopted and implemented business models, strategies and lending practices, which resulted in those institutions experiencing severe financial distress;

c) whether external auditors of the covered institutions commented in their audit reports or other communications to the institutions concerned on the failures I referred to;

d) the main causes for the failures, in the performance of the statutory roles and responsibilities of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland and the relevance in that regard of any advices or directions given by the Department of Finance.

The Commission submitted its reportMisjudging Risk: Causes of the Systemic Banking Crisis in Ireland, Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector in Ireland to me on 22 March 2011, in keeping with its remit to complete its Report within 6 months.

As I said in my statement to Dáil Éireann on 20 April 2011, following the publication of the Commission's report, the report has identified the main causes of the banking crisis. Together with the two preliminary reports they set out all the interlinked elements that, each in their own way, contributed to the financial crisis that we found ourselves in since 2007. I also set out a number of steps the government is taking to implement the report's recommendations.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

71 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding middle earning families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23109/11]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

93 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal a matter (details supplied) regarding support for middle income families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23385/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 93 together.

The Government acknowledges the continuing cost pressures on parents, particularly those with young children. Childcare is one of the biggest issues facing working parents today. For this reason a number of support measures have been introduced. These include, (i) the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, which funds community childcare services to enable them to charge reduced childcare fees to qualifying parents, (ii) the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme, which provides free childcare places to qualifying FAS and VEC trainees and (iii) the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which provides for a free pre-school year for children in the year before commencing primary school. In addition, generous entitlements to paid and unpaid maternity leave are provided, as well as child benefit payments.

In order to assist with an increase in the supply of childcare places, an exemption from income tax for individuals who mind children in their own home is available. To avail of this scheme, the childminder concerned may not mind more than 3 children, excluding their own. The exemption is subject to a limit of €15,000 per annum.

I have no plans at present for any additional tax incentives in this area given the current fiscal position.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

72 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce new ways of raising funds rather than applying the stamp duty levy on pension funds assets (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23170/11]

As I explained in my speech introducing the "Jobs Initiative" in May last, the decision to fund the Initiative by way of a levy on pension funds over the 4 year period was taken because the alternatives for increases in taxation elsewhere at this time would be more damaging to the economy. I do not have any plans for alternative sources of revenue to the fund the Jobs Initiative.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 70.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

74 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to enter into negotiations with Switzerland with a view to regularising untaxed funds which Irish citizens hold in Swiss banks; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that following negotiations, the United Kingdom Government has now reached an agreement with Switzerland to tackle offshore tax evasion which is expected to secure billions of pounds of unpaid tax for the UK Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23203/11]

I am not privy to the full details of the agreement to which the Deputy has referred and accordingly it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. Initial reports would suggest that any such agreement may provide for a one-off deduction from funds on deposit to settle past liabilities and a withholding tax from 2013 in place of the actual liability due in respect of investment income and capital gains. We have no plans at present to pursue a similar approach with the Swiss Authorities; however, we will keep the matter under review when the full details of the final ratified agreement are published.

The Deputy may be aware that the Office of the Revenue Commissioners obtained High Court orders in December 2009 requiring clearing banks in the State to provide information to Revenue on details of transfers to and from the State involving a number of offshore jurisdictions including Switzerland. The orders cover the 12 years to 31 December 2008 and include electronic transfers as well as cheques and drafts either drawn in the State and sent offshore or drawn offshore and sent to the State.

Mortgage Arrears

Finian McGrath

Question:

75 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider getting the building societies and the banks to sign up to the deferred interest scheme and moratorium for housing holders having difficulty with their mortgages. [23222/11]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Deferred Interest Scheme that was recommended by the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt which published its report late last year. Under this scheme, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, borrowers are allowed to pay at least 66% of their mortgage interest but less than 100%. Payment of the balance may be deferred for up to five years. The Central Bank has advised me that a number of lenders have notified the Bank of their decision/intention to implement a Deferred Interest Scheme but with varying dates for its availability. Since the publication of the Group's Report, the Central Bank has revised the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) to reflect many of the Group's recommendations, including recommendations relating to the introduction by all mortgage lenders, regulated by the Central Bank, of a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP).

Chapter 3 (33) of the CCMA provides that:

'A lender must explore all options for alternative repayment arrangements, when considering a MARP case, in order to determine which options are viable for each particular case. Such alternative repayment arrangements must include :

a) an interest-only arrangement for a specified period;

b) an arrangement to pay interest and part of the normal capital element for a specified period;

c) deferring payment of all or part of the instalment repayment for a period;

d) extending the term of the mortgage;

e) changing the type of the mortgage, except in the case of tracker mortgages;

f) capitalising the arrears and interest; and

g) any voluntary scheme to which the lender has signed up e.g. Deferred Interest Scheme.'

In addition, Chapter 3 (47) of the CCMA provides that:

'Where a borrower co-operates with the lender, the lender must wait at least twelve months from the date the borrower is classified as a MARP case (i.e. day 31), before applying to the courts to commence legal action for repossession of a borrower's primary residence. The twelve month period commences on day 31 but does not include:

any time period during which the borrower is complying with the terms of any alternative repayment arrangement agreed with the lender;

any time period during which an appeal by the borrower is being processed by the lender's Appeals Board;

any time period during which the borrower can consider whether or not they wish to make an appeal on the decision of the Mortgage Lender's Appeals Support Unit;

any time period during which a complaint against the lender regarding any aspect of this Code, is being processed by the Financial Services Ombudsman's office; and

for pre-arrears cases, the time period between the first contact by the borrower in relation to a pre-arrears situation and an alternative repayment arrangement being put in place.

A copy of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears is available on the Central Bank's website:www.centralbank.ie

The Government would urge all lenders to make available a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS). I have been informed by the Central Bank that the lenders which have implemented a scheme are Bank of Ireland, ICS Building Society, EBS, Haven Mortgages, Permanent TSB and Springboard Mortgages. The following have indicated their willingness to implement a scheme later this year — AIB, AIB Mortgage Bank, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Start Mortgages.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

76 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 105 of 24 May 2011, the current tax expenditure valued at €400 million which allows the exemption of income arising from the provision of child care services. [23249/11]

The Deputy refers to a reply given to Parliamentary Question No. 105 of 2011, in which a figure was supplied in error. The correct figures are below:

2007

2008

€m

Numbers

€m

Numbers

Exemption of Income arising from the Provision of Childcare Services

0.7

400

0.8

440

Section 216C of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides for an exemption from income tax for individuals who mind children in their own home. The individual may not mind more than 3 children, excluding their own. The exemption is subject to a limit of €15,000 per annum.

The Revenue Commissioners are currently engaged in updating figures of the cost of tax reliefs for the tax year 2009 for inclusion in their next statistical report. This work is ongoing and not yet complete, but a tentative estimate of the cost in 2009 of the tax exemption for income arising from the provision of child-care services is of the order of €0.8 million in respect of approximately 470 claimants.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

77 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the effective rate of corporation tax paid here. [23250/11]

There are different ways of measuring the effective rate of corporation tax depending on the variables that are used and it is difficult to determine a general or single reliable comparative measure of an effective tax rate. In responding to questions in the House during the Summer, I mentioned that our effective rate of corporation tax was 11.9%. This figure comes from a recentPaying Taxes study produced by the World Bank and PriceWaterhouseCoopers as part of an annual Doing Business report and includes a measurement of effective tax rates across 183 countries. The effective tax rate is based on the tax obligations of a standardised company operating in each country of the study and using standard assumptions regarding exemptions, deductions and allowances.

Another recent study by the European Commission also indicates that Ireland has an effective corporate tax rate which is close to, or indeed higher than, the statutory 12.5% rate (because of the higher 25% tax rate that applies, generally, to non-trading profits).

These general findings are to be expected as Ireland's 12.5% corporation tax regime is transparent, does not discriminate based on company size or ownership and applies across a broad base.

The effective rate of corporation tax paid will vary from company to company, of course, depending on the circumstances in each individual case.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

78 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the savings made to the Exchequer if incorporated bodies were no longer allowed to claim losses against profits made in previous years. [23251/11]

The availability of relief for losses incurred in a business is a well-established feature of corporation tax, which is in recognition of the fact that a business cycle runs over several years and that it would be unbalanced to tax profits in one year and not allow losses in another. Under Irish tax legislation, a company incurring a trading loss in an accounting year can carry that loss back for offset against profits in the immediately preceding year. The carry back of a trading loss is limited to one accounting year back and there must be profits in that year for the provision to be of use to a company. A trading loss in an accounting year may also be carried forward for offset against trading profits of the same trade in subsequent years. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the potential saving to the Exchequer if future claims by incorporated bodies for losses to be offset against previous year's profits were to be disallowed would depend on the amounts of losses incurred by companies and the extent to which there are profits in the preceding accounting year against which such losses would otherwise be available for set-off. It is not possible to anticipate what these would be.

By way of illustrating this latter point, data from corporation tax returns for 2008 and 2009 (the latest years available) show that for 2008 the amount of trading losses carried back for offset against profits earned in a previous year was €1,573m while the comparable figure for 2009 was a much lower figure of €868m. The actual saving to the Exchequer in respect of those years under the Deputy's proposal would depend on the tax rate applicable to the profits of the companies concerned but assuming that this was the standard 12.5% rate, the savings under the proposal would have amounted to about €200m in 2008 and about €100m in 2009. The Deputy should note, however, that the estimated savings for 2008 and 2009 are not necessarily indicative of what the savings might be for future years. Also, since under the proposal companies could continue to carry forward losses for offset against future profits, the estimated Exchequer savings outlined would be temporary in nature.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

79 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be raised for the Exchequer by decreasing the capital acquisitions tax thresholds by 10% across the board and by increasing CAT by 10% on these new thresholds. [23252/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer from increasing the Capital Acquisitions Tax rate by 10%, based on the expected outturn in 2011, could be in the region of €110 million, assuming no change in the existing thresholds. The additional full year yield from existing taxpayers from reducing the existing thresholds by 10% and applying the proposed rate of 35% to the additional amounts thus brought into charge is estimated at €20 million. Revenue do not receive information on gifts and inheritances which currently do not have to be declared so it is not possible to estimate the potential yield if such benefits were brought into the tax net. These estimates are based on transactions recorded in 2010, the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is available.

It should be noted that these estimates are based upon an assumption that there would be no behavioural impact from these changes, which could lead to a less than expected impact on Exchequer yield. In addition, the realization of any estimated yield from an increase in taxation on assets relating to property is subject to movements in the value of such assets, which are currently occurring in the economy.

Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 61.

Tax Reliefs

Pearse Doherty

Question:

81 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the remaining tax expenditures to be paid as a legacy resulting from property reliefs issued up to 2008. [23256/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information provided in tax returns on the annual amounts of claims for property based tax reliefs is not sufficiently detailed to provide a basis for deriving an estimate of the remaining legacy cost to the Exchequer. I am not therefore in a position to provide the information requested by the Deputy. The estimated annual cost to the Exchequer of all "legacy" property-related tax schemes in 2009 was €341.8m.

Departmental Expenditure

Pearse Doherty

Question:

82 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the potential savings to the Exchequer of reducing professional fees paid by the State by 25%. [23257/11]

The total amount of professional fees paid by my Department in 2010 was €5,393,503. If a reduction of 25% was applied across the board then potential savings of €1,348,376 could have been achieved. In relation to expenditure on professional fees by agencies under the aegis of my Department the following outlines the position of each:—

Revenue

The total amount of professional fees paid in 2010 was €11,195,000. Accordingly, a 25% reduction would save €2,798,750 (this figure is net of VAT.)

Appeals Commissioners

In 2010 the Appeals Commissioners did not incur any professional fees.

National Treasury Management Agency

Based on the 2010 legal and consultancy expenditure for the NTMA the potential savings of a 25% reduction would be €570,000.

Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General spent €461,000 on professional fees in 2010, including legal fees, contract audit services, internal audit and external audit. A 25% reduction in expenditure on professional fees would have led to savings of €115,250 in the year.

The Deputy should be aware that the figures include fees some of which are determined by legislation, regulation, contract etc and a reduction of these fees may require agreement of the parties concerned. The Deputy should also note that included in the figures supplied by my Department, are payments for professional fees which from 2011 have transferred to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Tax Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

83 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be raised for the Exchequer if the individual incomes in excess of €100,000 were taxed at 49%. [23258/11]

It is assumed that the threshold for the proposed new tax band mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of the introduction of a new 49% rate would be of the order of €436 million.

However, given the current band structures, major issues would need to be resolved as to how in practice such a new rate could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

This figure is an estimate from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using latest actual data for the year 2009, adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. It is therefore provisional.

The current basis of cost also reflects a revision of the cost basis that was used to underpin my reply of 19 July last to a question about a 48% rate which was tabled by the Deputy under Parliamentary Question reference 21030/11.

The impact of this would be to raise the top marginal rate for people with income in excess of €100,000 to 60% or over.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

84 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the savings to the Exchequer if mortgage interest relief for landlords was abolished. [23259/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers for 2009, the latest year available, the amount of tax foregone by allowing a deduction for interest on borrowings to be offset against all rental income assessable under Case V, Schedule D for both residential and commercial property is estimated at €745 million. This is an update of an estimate of €730 million provided on 21 July last in my reply to Parliamentary Question number 22016/11.

On this basis, the full year yield to the Exchequer from abolishing this relief would be of the same order. The estimated 2009 cost is based on assuming that tax relief was allowed at the top income tax rate of 41% and the figure provided could therefore be regarded as the maximum Exchequer cost in respect of those taxpayers. This figure is subject to adjustment in the event of late returns being filed or where returns already filed are subsequently amended.

It should be noted that any corresponding data returned by PAYE taxpayers in the income tax return form 12 is not captured in the Revenue computer system. However, any PAYE taxpayer with non-PAYE income greater than €3,174 is required to complete an income tax return form 11. This return is the source of the figure provided in this reply.

A basis for providing an estimate of the current yield to the Exchequer from such an abolition is not available.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

85 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance his views on abolishing group relief for incorporated bodies, which cost the Exchequer €450.3 million in 2008; the position regarding holding companies here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23260/11]

In recognition of the fact that groups of companies generally comprise a single economic entity, the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for the allowance of trading losses of a group company in an accounting period against profits of another group company in the corresponding accounting period. Essentially, two companies are members of a group of companies if one company is a 75% subsidiary of the other or both are 75% subsidiaries of a third company— and in many instances there will be more than 75% common ownership throughout the group. It is important to note that only current year trading losses may be surrendered between companies under the group relief provisions. As regards holding companies, the position generally is that such companies hold shares in subsidiaries, do not carry on a trade and do not, therefore, incur trading losses. In many instances, for commercial reasons, group borrowings may be controlled by the holding company. Where this is the case, similar to the treatment of losses, under the group relief provisions the interest paid by the holding company may be surrendered to subsidiaries for deduction against their profits.

Group relief is a standard feature of corporation tax codes and similar relief is available in most other countries. The availability of such relief is an important facility for Irish and multinational enterprises which conduct their business operations within a group of companies. The absence of a group relief provision would put Ireland at a significant competitive disadvantagevis-à-vis other jurisdictions.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

86 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the return of the Exchequer arising from an increase in tax charge to companies licensed to avail of Ireland’s natural resources to 25% to 75%. [23261/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information furnished on corporation 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 collected in respect of the activities specified in the question cannot be readily identified from the overall corporation tax yield. There is, therefore, no statistical basis on which the Exchequer impact of the changes mentioned in the question could be estimated. I am further informed by Revenue that even if the basic information was available the obligation on the Revenue Commissioners to observe confidentiality for taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers might preclude them from disclosing it.

Section 45 Finance Act 2008 introduced new tax provisions in relation to profits derived from petroleum exploration and production activities. A new tax called a "profit resource rent tax" will apply at rates of 5%, 10% or 15% in addition to the corporation tax rate of 25% that currently applies to profits from petroleum activities. It will apply when profits exceed certain defined levels. This will be worked out by a formula that relates the profits from a petroleum field to the capital investment in the field. The new tax provisions give effect to the Government Decision of 30 July 2007 that a new regime would apply in relation to petroleum profits from discoveries made from 2007 onwards.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

87 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance the amount his Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years. [23298/11]

The information requested by the Deputy will be forwarded directly to him within the next few days.

Shane Ross

Question:

88 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance the details of spending, using departmental credit cards held by Department staff over the past four years; the numbers of persons in his Department who hold credit cards; the credit limits of said cards; and the amount that was specifically spent by his Department on entertainment provided using said credit cards. [23313/11]

The expenditure on credit cards by my Department over the past four years is as follows:

Year

Spend

2007

€8,310 (Sept to Dec)

2008

€44,697

2009

€35,566

2010

€31,694

2011

€15,075 (year to date)

The expenditure on entertainment by credit cards by my Department over the past four years is as follows:

Year

Spend

2007

€999.74 (Sept to Dec)

2008

€5,412

2009

€6,937

2010

€455.75

2011

Nil (year to date)

The number of credit cards held by my Department at the end of each of the last four years is as follows:

Year

Number

2007

9

2008

14

2009

6

2010

5

2011

5 (present total)

The credit card limit is €5,000 euros.

Ministerial Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

89 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of his Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries to each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23343/11]

Since his appointment as Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Finance, Mr Brian Hayes, TD has appointed the following staff member to his office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Staff Officer

€33,070 — €43,906

John O'Mahony

Question:

90 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of special advisers and programme managers in his Department; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for each of the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23358/11]

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance on 9 March 2011 the relevant details are as follows:

Name

Title

Salary (per annum)

Duties

Mary Kenny

Special Adviser

€83,337

Any duties which may be assigned to her from time to time as appropriate to the position of Special Adviser as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

John O'Mahony

Question:

91 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed in his private offices and constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23373/11]

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance on 9 March 2011, the following staff have been appointed to my private office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

1 Private Secretary

€33,247 — €58,294

2 Executive Officers (EO)

€29,024 — €47,379

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177 — €37,341

2 Clerical Officers (CO)

€23,042 — €36,267

The following staff are assigned to work on constituency matters.

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

1 Personal Assistant

€43,715 — €56,060

1 Executive Officer (EO)

€30,516 — €47,975

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177 — €37,341

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,042 — €36,267

Tax Code

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

92 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the new arrangements in place to qualify for the vehicle registration tax exemption for disabled passengers in view of the fact there has been some confusion resulting in genuine cases being unable to avail of this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23381/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there have been no changes in the qualifying criteria for the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) exemption for disabled passengers. The scheme is governed by the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers [Tax Concessions] Regulations 1994 (S.I. No. 353 of 1994). The Scheme is open to persons who meet the specified medical criteria and have obtained a Primary Medical Certificate to that effect.

A disabled person can apply for relief either as a driver or a passenger. The vehicle must be suitably adapted for the transportation of the disabled person and must be used for that purpose. In the case of passengers, VRT relief is restricted to a vehicle which has an engine size up to 4,000 cc and the net cost of the adaptations must be not less than 10% of the tax exclusive cost of the vehicle. The vehicle must be purchased outright by the applicant (this includes vehicles purchased on hire-purchase, but excludes vehicles which have been purchased by way of a leasing arrangement). The vehicle must not be destined/used for any commercial purpose following the granting of relief, e.g. taxi/hackney, courier service.

A family member of a person with a disability who purchases a vehicle for the transport of that person as a passenger qualifies, provided the person resides with and is responsible for the transport of the disabled passenger. In exceptional circumstances, the condition concerning residency may be waived. In this regard, evidence is sought that the qualifying vehicle is used on a regular basis for the transport of the disabled person. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis and, where the Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that a qualifying disabled person is transported on a regular basis, the relief is granted.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 71.

Pension Provisions

Niall Collins

Question:

94 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider the current regulations restricting access to pension funds (details supplied). [23387/11]

I would consider the Deputy's question to be principally a matter for the Minister for Social Protection but tax legislation and rules are also relevant to the issue. Generally speaking, once an occupational pension scheme member has at least two years qualifying service for pension purposes, that member is entitled under the Pensions Acts to preserved pension benefits on leaving employment and does not get a refund of contributions made to the scheme. The rationale for giving various tax reliefs to pension savings schemes in the first place is to encourage and promote savings over the long term in order that individuals will have an adequate replacement income in old age. Emerging demographic indicators point to increasing numbers of people living longer and healthier lives with more of their lives spent in retirement than previously. I am conscious of the case being made for pre-retirement access to pension funds but there is also a strong case for maintaining the ring-fencing of pension savings to ensure that individuals have an adequate post-retirement income. This is not a simple matter and while I am open to examining it further, in conjunction with the Minister for Social Protection, it would require very careful consideration before any changes could be made to the current arrangements.

Tax Collection

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

95 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue that was raised by the new levy imposed on tax exiles by the previous Government; and if that figure is not yet available, when same will be available. [23392/11]

I assume that the measure to which the Deputy refers is the Domicile Levy which was announced in Budget 2010 and introduced in Finance Act 2010. The Domicile Levy of €200,000 is charged on an individual who is Irish-domiciled and an Irish citizen whose world-wide income exceeds €1m, whose Irish-located property is greater than €5m, and whose liability to Irish income tax was less than €200,000.

The Levy will be charged for 2010 and subsequent years, but the payment for each year can be made at any time up to 31 October in the year following the valuation date, which is 31 December of each year. The first valuation date for the Domicile Levy will be 31 December 2010 and the tax return and payment of the Levy for 2010 will not be due until 31 October 2011. The figure will, therefore, not be available until after that date.

Joe Costello

Question:

96 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Revenue Commissioners are charging a 14% interest rate on small companies in arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23397/11]

The Revenue Commissioners are charged with responsibility for the timely collection and recovery of taxes and duties due to the Exchequer. Revenue has a clear focus on making sure that every person and business complies with his or her responsibilities by paying the right amount and on time. That is an appropriate and correct focus for Revenue, which I fully endorse. In that context, where businesses or individuals fail to meet their tax payment obligations on time, then they are liable to interest, as provided for by the Oireachtas in the Taxes Acts. Interest on late payment of tax operates not only as a compensation for the Exchequer for the late payment of monies due to it but also as an essential support for timely voluntary compliance by ensuring a level playing field between those who meet their obligations on time and those who pay late or who may attempt not to pay at all. The Finance Act 2009 provided for a reduction from 1 July 2009 of the rate of interest applied to late payment of tax. In the case of Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Capital Acquisition Tax, and Stamp Duty, the daily rate of interest was reduced from 0.0273% to 0.0219%, in effect an annual equivalent drop from 10 % to 8%. In the case of other taxes and duties i.e. Value Added Tax, PAYE/PRSI the daily rate was reduced from 0.0322 to 0.0274%, in effect an annual equivalent drop from 12% to 10%.

Tax Reliefs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

97 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his plans for section 23 properties; his views on recent submission that were recently made on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23400/11]

David Stanton

Question:

136 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his views on section 23 tax relief; the progress made with regard to changes to section 23 tax reliefs following the public consultation process in July; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24193/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 136 together.

The public consultation on "legacy" property-based tax reliefs, including Section 23-type reliefs, undertaken by my Department concluded at the end of July. Over 500 submissions were made during the consultation, which forms part of an impact assessment process to assess the potential effects of amending, curtailing and/or abolishing such reliefs.

These submissions are being examined and with the results of the impact assessment process will be considered in the context of the budgetary process. As is customary, I do not propose to comment in advance of the Budget on any matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Departmental Properties

Sean Fleming

Question:

98 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the levels of reductions in rents achieved by the Office of Public Works in 2011 in view of the current economic circumstances; the locations at which this related to rents with an upwardly only rent review clause and properties that did not have such a review clause; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23417/11]

So far this year, the Office of Public Works has achieved rent reductions to the value of €1,494,346.87 in relation to the leased properties listed below.

Location

Building Name

Old Rent

New Rent

Savings Per Annum

Upward Rent Clause Y/N

CAVAN

Cavan Gov Office Elm House

€29,920.00

€24,684.00

€5,236.00

N

DOWRA

Dowra Garda Station Shannon Bridge

€13,000.00

€11,440.00

€1,560.00

N

ENNIS

Ennis Education Office

€100,000.00

€70,000.00

€30,000.00

N

MALLOW

Mallow Farm Development Service

€11,000.00

€8,250.00

€2,750.00

N

DUBLIN 02

Molesworth Bldg Setanta Centre

€2,267,000.00

€1,145,000.00

€1,122,000.00

Y

DUBLIN 02

Statoil Building

€373,500.00

€215,000.00

€158,500.00

N

DUBLIN 22

Clondalkin Education Office

€86,000.00

€50,000.00

€36,000.00

N

DUBLIN AIRPORT

Dublin Airport Pier B

€5,212.00

€1,904.45

€3,307.55

N

GALWAY

Galway Education Office

€180,000.00

€90,000.00

€90,000.00

N

GALWAY

Galway Probation & Welfare Service

€31,144.00

€27,068.28

€4,075.72

Y

GALWAY

Galway Probation & Welfare Service

€42,334.50

€34,274.04

€8,060.46

Y

PORTLAOISE

Portlaoise Furniture Store

€2,031.58

€1,800.00

€231.58

N

CLAREMORRIS

Claremorris SWO

€8,913.56

€5,000.00

€3,913.56

N

CLAREMORRIS

Claremorris Temporary Decentralisation Office

€68,712.00

€40,000.00

€28,712.00

N

Total Saving

€1,494,346.87

Price Inflation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

99 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding the rising cost of everyday living; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23424/11]

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 the HICP falling by 1.7% and 1.6% respectively. In the latter months of 2010 and to date in 2011, the main drivers of inflation have been insurance premium hikes and increases in the price of commodities. The CPI has also been affected by increases in mortgage rates.

In August 2011, the annual rate of increase in the CPI was 2.2% and 1.0% in the HICP. This rate of inflation is the lowest in Europe meaning prices in general here are growing at a slower rate than in any other European country.

Specifically, I would like to address Mr. Gibson's (Mr. Gibson of Dublin 13 was in touch with Deputy Flanagan on this matter) concerns regarding Government policy to improve the cost of living and escalating food and petrol prices.

The Government is keenly aware that people are under financial pressure in the current economic environment. To counter that, the Government is encouraging increased competition in the domestic areas of the economy. For example, the reduced VAT rate was introduced to lower prices for a range of services connected to the hospitality and tourism sectors.

In relation to food prices, the latest CSO information for the grouping ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages' shows that prices are equivalent here to mid-2007 levels and are over 7% lower than the peak seen in 2008.

Petrol prices have increased substantially in recent months mainly related to increased oil prices on international markets so Government policy is limited in what it can do to alleviate price pressures in this regard.

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Simon Harris

Question:

100 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the budget available to his Department for IT expenditure in 2010 and 2011; the provisions within his Department for the purchasing of IT equipment; the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure value for money and cost reductions in this regard; if there are budgets and procedures in place for the purchasing of IT equipment for each State agency under his remit for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23445/11]

The information technology purchasing policy of my Department and agencies under its remit is to ensure that all procurements comply with procurement law, provide value for money, are fit for purpose, and comply with all applicable standards. All ICT expenditure is tendered in accordance with Circulars 2/09, 10/10 and 2/11 to ensure best VFM. Additionally my Department and all agencies procure, where appropriate, from centrally-negotiated Public Service-wide framework contracts for a wide-range of IT and telecoms products and services. The budgets available for each were:

Dept/Agency

2010

2011

€’000

€’000

Finance

793

6261

Revenue (incl. Appeals Commissioners)

50,029

45,925

Office of Public Works

2,729

2,447

Comptroller & Auditor General

503

461

Footnotes:

1. This budget covers IT expenditure for both the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as IT is now provided on shared service basis between them.

Financial Services Regulation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

101 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a matter regarding Home Payments Limited that went into liquidation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23463/11]

Following the collapse of Home Payments Ltd (HPL) last month, the Central Bank commenced an investigation into the matter. This investigation is on-going and I await the final report from the Bank. However, I can confirm that the Central Bank has informed me that, as HPL was not authorised or licensed by the Bank, clients are not eligible for a compensation scheme/deposit protection scheme and, in addition, clients of HPL do not have recourse to the Financial Services Ombudsman. Since the collapse, the Central Bank has worked with the National Consumer Agency and with regulatory and industry bodies to provide assistance to customers of HPL who are at a financial loss. The Bank has also informed me that it is undertaking a review of all firms in the State which appear to offer customers debt advice and/or debt management type services.

The Government is committed to having in place an effective regulatory/supervisory system for those firms providing a household budgeting and bill payment service, a debt management service and/or a debt advice service. The findings of the investigations by the Central Bank into HPL and into the other firms will inform what regulatory/supervisory system should be put in place for firms providing these services — whether provided separately or bundled together — or, alternatively, what amendments to the current regulatory/supervisory framework may be required.

Expenditure Reviews

Sean Fleming

Question:

102 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will publish the details of his Department’s submission and all correspondence to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration as part of the comprehensive spending review. [23472/11]

Departmental submissions to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) are a central part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government. As such, release of these documents could not be considered in advance of Government decisions on the forthcoming Budget. The Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform has already indicated that it is his intention to publish the Reports submitted as part of the CRE process following the finalization of the budgetary process.

Tax Code

Sean Fleming

Question:

103 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine the position regarding stamp duty in situations in which, for example, two siblings jointly own a house and there is a mortgage of approximately €200,000 on the property but the value of the house is now €100,000 and one sibling wishes to take over the entire ownership of the house and the transfer value of 50% is deemed to be €50,000 but stamp duty of €500 is payable; his views on this situation in view of the negative equity in these cases; his plans to change the legislation to ensure that no stamp duty is payable in these types of cases in negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23481/11]

The Stamp Duty rate on residential property transfers was reduced in Budget 2011 while some reliefs and exemptions were abolished. This broadened the tax base while lowering the rate of Stamp Duty for most purchasers. All purchases of residential property valued under €1 million in value are now only liable for stamp duty at 1%, with any balance over €1 million liable at 2%. Even where a transfer was previously relieved or exempted from Stamp Duty the overall transaction cost is now lower than in recent years. Stamp Duty on property transfers is calculable by reference to the value of the property on the date of transfer, regardless of any mortgage or loan outstanding. No account is taken of whether the property was previously transferred at a higher or lower value — to do so could lead to complications. I have no plans at this time to make further changes to the residential Stamp Duty regime.

Financial Services Regulation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

104 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding a mortgage application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23505/11]

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. 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. 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.

Tax Code

Finian McGrath

Question:

105 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will investigate the possibility of a tax of 0.05% of every euro spent on business-related transaction levied on those in the transaction. [23507/11]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to a type of Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). The EU Commission stated in a Communication in October 2010 that it supported the idea of an FTT to help fund international challenges such as development at climate change. However, the Commission has recently proposed the introduction of an FTT in Europe for the purpose of an "own resource" tax imposed centrally to fund the EU. Ireland has traditionally opposed the concept of an EU-wide tax and believes that the financing of the EU Budget should continue to be mainly based on GNI. While we will examine any proposal, we would have serious concerns about its economic, budgetary and political impact.

There is no consensus as yet among European member states on this issue, and most Member States are awaiting the EU Commission's impact assessment of the various measures before deciding what stance to take. There is a strong emerging view that the EU and other international groupings such as the IMF and G20 should move in tandem in a global manner to avoid the danger of financial sector business gravitating to areas where taxes are not levied on financial transactions.

Banking Sector Regulation

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

106 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take regarding controlled banks and institutions increasing mortgage interest rates thereby increasing pressure on customers who are already struggling with mortgage repayments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23542/11]

As Minister for Finance, I have no statutory role in the setting of interest rates charged or paid by financial institutions regulated by the Central Bank. The Central Bank 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, competition in the market, risk pricing and the impact on deposit rates.

In the case of a customer experiencing financial difficulties in meeting his/her mortgage commitments or one who is concerned that he/she is in danger of getting into financial difficulties, mortgage lenders must comply with the requirements of the Central Bank's revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) which came into effect on 1 January 2011. The CCMA applies to the mortgage loan of a borrower which is secured by his or her primary residence. Primary Residence means a property which is:

the residential property which the borrower occupies as his/her primary residence in this State, or

a residential property in this State which is the only residential property owned by the borrower.

Under the CCMA a lender must have a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process in place incorporating communication with borrowers, financial information, assessment, resolution and appeals. In exploring all options for alternative repayment arrangements lenders must consider, inter alia, deferred payment, term extension, interest and partial capital payments and interest only arrangements.

Tax Code

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

107 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the terms of the phased withdrawal of rent relief; in the context of section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, if he will clarify if a person is entitled to continue receiving rent relief when that individual has been continuously renting over the past number of years but has moved property and signed a new lease since the 7 December 2010 cut-off point while at no point ceasing to be a tenant.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23567/11]

Section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides tax relief at the standard rate to individuals who pay for private rented accommodation that is used as their sole or main residence. The level of rent qualifying for rent relief depends on an individual's marital status and age. In Budget 2011, it was announced that rent relief was being withdrawn on a phased basis. No new claimants were allowed from 7 December 2010 but existing claimants will continue to receive the relief, on a reducing basis, with a complete cessation of the relief from 2018.

Any person who was paying rent under a tenancy on 7 December 2010 qualifies for rent relief. A subsequent change from one property to another or from one lease to another does not affect their entitlement to rent credit on a reducing basis.

The following table sets out the withdrawal plan:

Tax Year

Reduction on current amounts

Single Under 55

Single Over 55

Widowed/ Married under 55

Widowed/ Married over 55

Maximum Amounts of Rent Relievable

2010

2,000

4,000

4,000

8,000

2011

20%

1,600

3,200

3,200

6,400

2012

20%

1,200

2,400

2,400

4,800

2013

10%

1,000

2,000

2,000

3,600

2014

10%

800

1,600

1,600

3,200

2015

10%

600

1,200

1,200

2,400

2016

10%

400

800

800

1,600

2017

10%

200

400

400

800

2018

10% to 0%

0

0

0

0

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 62.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme

Noel Harrington

Question:

109 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Finance the guarantees available to a depositor of an Irish bank on deposits of up to €100,000; if this is guaranteed in the event of a default of any bank to bondholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23589/11]

The legal basis for the Deposit Guarantee Scheme in Ireland is set out in the European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Scheme) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 168 of 1995) as amended. These Regulations implement the European Union Directive on Deposit Guarantee Schemes (Directive 94/19/EC) as amended. Under the Regulations, a depositor with a deposit of up to €100,000 will be covered by the Deposit Guarantee Scheme where a compensation event occurs in a credit institution. A compensation event occurs if-

(a) the Central Bank of Ireland has determined that, for the time being, the credit institution appears to be unable, for reasons directly related to its financial circumstances, to repay a deposit or deposits and to have no current prospect of being able to do so,

(b) a court has appointed a liquidator or examiner of the credit institution, or

(c) a judicial authority has made, for reasons directly related to the credit institution's financial circumstances, any other ruling that has the effect of suspending depositors' ability to make claims against it.

The Scheme covers 100% of deposits held in any credit institution authorised in Ireland (including credit unions) up to a maximum of €100,000 per qualifying depositor per institution and is administered by the Central Bank of Ireland. Generally, the Scheme covers deposits held in current accounts, demand deposit accounts and term deposit accounts with credit institutions.

The basic intention behind such a scheme is to reassure depositors that there is a safety net that will enable them to recover all, or at least most, of their savings in the event of a failure of a credit institution. This reassurance, in turn, helps to contribute to the stability of the financial system. For more information on the various guarantees available to depositors for amounts above €100,000, please see:http://www.itsyourmoney.ie/index.jsp?n=757&p=125

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

110 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reduce the cost of fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23609/11]

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

There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments, 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.

National Pensions Reserve Fund

Pearse Doherty

Question:

111 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed report on funds remaining in the National Pensions Reserve Fund and Central Bank reserves following the recapitalisation of the banks in July 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23619/11]

The most recent figures for the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) published by the NPRF Commission are for the second quarter of 2011. These showed that the Fund was valued at €20.8 billion at end-June 2011, made up of €15.5 billion in the Directed Portfolio (the part of the Fund which is managed by the Commission on foot of directions from the Minister for Finance) and €5.3 billion in the Discretionary Portfolio, the investment of which remains the Commission's responsibility.

The €15.5 billion in the Directed Portfolio comprised €5.5 billion in bank investments — the value of investments in Bank of Ireland and AIB made at the direction of the Minister in 2009 and 2010 — and a further €10 billion set aside at the direction of the Minister as part of Ireland's contribution to the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. The €10 billion was subsequently used in July 2011 to recapitalise Bank of Ireland and AIB.

The value of the Discretionary Portfolio at end-June 2011 was €5.3 billion, which can be broken down as set out in the table below (figures may not add due to rounding). The Discretionary Portfolio has not been affected since that date by bank recapitalisation investments.

Asset Allocation 30 June 2011

Asset Class

€ million

% of Discretionary Portfolio

Large cap equity

1,161

22.0%

Small cap equity

134

2.6%

Emerging markets equity

406

7.7%

Quoted Equity

1,701

32.3%

Eurozone government bonds

0

0.0%

Eurozone inflation linked bonds

73

1.4%

Eurozone corporate bonds

474

9.0%

Cash

767

14.5%

Financial Assets

1,314

24.9%

Private Equity

918

17.4%

Property

484

9.2%

Commodities

223

4.2%

Forestry

30

0.6%

Infrastructure

270

5.1%

Absolute return funds

180

3.4%

Alternative Assets

2,105

39.9%

Value of €1.3bn equity market protection (put options)

154

2.9%

Total Discretionary Portfolio

5,274

100.0%

Central Bank:

Information on the Central Bank Reserves is published monthly on the Central Bank websitewww.centralbank.ie. At end-August 2011 the Central Bank held €1,522 million in Reserve Assets as follows:

€ million

Monetary Gold

202

Special Drawing Rights

695

Reserve Position in IMF

286

Foreign Exchange

339

National Treasury Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

112 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the remaining cash reserves held by the National Treasury Management Agency; the portion of this money that was borrowed prior to 2009 and whether moneys currently held by the NTMA was drawn down from EU-IMF support programme funds; if so, if he will indicate from what portion of the funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23620/11]

This figure of €9 billion does not include the assets in the discretionary portfolio of the National Pensions Reserve Fund which amounted to €5.2 billion at end-August (of which, €422 million was held in cash at the Central Bank).

Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 58.

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

114 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reduce national car test VAT rate to 13% to bring it in line with the VAT rate for other services. [23717/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the repairing or maintaining of movable goods, including motor vehicles, is liable to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5% in accordance with paragraph 20(1), Schedule 3 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. The service of vehicle testing, that entails an inspection of a vehicle rather than its repair or maintenance, is liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21% in accordance with section 46(1)(a) of the VAT Consolidation Act. There is no provision under the EU VAT Directive that would allow for a reduced VAT rate to apply to testing services.

Financial Services Regulation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

115 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if existing legislation allows for regulation of debt management and debt advice services companies. [23718/11]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

116 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to regulate debt-management and debt-advice services companies. [23719/11]

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

The Government is committed to having in place an effective regulatory system for debt-management and debt-advice companies. To that end, my officials are in consultation with the Central Bank in examining what legislative proposals would be appropriate in this area.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

117 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to protect those who had their finances managed by a company (details supplied). [23720/11]

Following the collapse of Home Payments Ltd (HPL) last month, the Central Bank commenced an investigation into the matter. This investigation is on-going and I await the final report from the Bank. However, I can confirm that the Central Bank has informed me that, as HPL was not authorised or licensed by the Bank, clients are not eligible for a compensation scheme/deposit protection scheme and, in addition, clients of HPL do not have recourse to the Financial Services Ombudsman. Since the collapse, the Central Bank has worked with the National Consumer Agency and with regulatory and industry bodies to provide assistance to customers of HPL who are at a financial loss. The Bank has also informed me that it is undertaking a review of all firms in the State which appear to offer customers debt advice and/or debt management type services.

The Government is committed to having in place an effective regulatory/supervisory system for those firms providing a household budgeting and bill payment service, a debt management service and/or a debt advice service. The findings of the investigations by the Central Bank into HPL and into the other firms will inform what regulatory/supervisory system should be put in place for firms providing these services — whether provided separately or bundled together — or, alternatively, what amendments to the current regulatory/supervisory framework may be required.

Pension Provisions

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

118 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if any adjustment will be made in the future to take into account those who paid their pension levy out of their personal pension. [23722/11]

I assume the Deputy is proposing that the amount of the pension levy passed on to individuals over the period of the levy should be available to them as a credit against their future tax liabilities. The moneys raised from the pension fund levy will be used to pay for the reductions in VAT, PRSI and the air travel tax as well as for the additional expenditure measures announced in the Jobs Initiative in May last. These and the other various measures in the Initiative represent the first steps by this Government towards improving the competitiveness of important sectors of the economy and facilitating the return to work of people currently unemployed.

Given our commitments under the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support and the current difficulties in the public finances, the Jobs Initiative must be funded on a cost neutral basis. Since the proceeds of the levy are already committed in the manner I've described, a commitment to allow the levy to also be used as a tax credit against future tax liabilities would mean that the Jobs Initiative would not be cost neutral. I cannot therefore agree to the proposal.

Banking Sector Regulation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

119 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering alternative courses of action for lenders other than the current moratorium on the enforcement of repossessions. [23724/11]

The Deputy may wish to note that a Working Group has been established under the Economic Management Council to consider the state of implementation of the main recommendations of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Group which published its final report in November 2010. This Group has also been asked to consider and develop further necessary actions to alleviate the increasing mortgage over-indebtedness problem. I expect that the Group will have its work completed shortly.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

120 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance further to Questions Nos. 89 and 93 of 10 May 2011 regarding employment contracts of all the senior management in financial institutions covered by the State guarantee, the stage the review has reached; when it will be completed; and if he will give details of any preliminary details. [23725/11]

As the Deputy is aware, in April of this year, the NTMA requested a review of remuneration policies and practices by each of the covered institutions. In that regard, the institutions were asked to consider measures that could be taken to realign staff expectations with regard to remuneration and benefits in the current economic environment and financial circumstances of the banks. The review exercise is ongoing. I fully recognise that there is a real public interest in the levels of remuneration at the covered institutions and I will endeavour to have this completed in the shortest timeframe possible with a view to putting the information into the public domain.

Shane Ross

Question:

121 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that holders of investment tracker mortgages are being aggressively pursued to give up their trackers by banks such as Permanent TSB; if he will intervene to prevent State controlled banks from indulging in such activities against mortgagors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23789/11]

The Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code requires entities regulated by the Central Bank to act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of their customers. Regulated entities must not recklessly, negligently or deliberately mislead a customer as to the real or perceived advantages or disadvantages of any product or service. In accordance with common rule 12 of the Consumer Protection Code, regulated entities have to ensure that all relevant information, and in particular key information, is provided to a consumer in a clear manner. The operation of any agreement between a regulated entity and a consumer must be in accordance with the terms and conditions applying to that agreement. The Central Bank does not investigate individual complaints but if a consumer is not satisfied with the service he or she has received, he or she is entitled to make a complaint by writing directly to the firm concerned. If he or she is not happy with the response received from the regulated entity he or she is entitled to refer the complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman who has statutory powers to investigate complaints against financial service providers.

In the case of a customer experiencing financial difficulties in meeting mortgage commitments or one who is concerned that he/she is in danger of getting into financial difficulties, mortgage lenders must comply with the requirements of the Central Bank's revised Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) which came into effect on 1 January 2011. The CCMA applies to the mortgage loan of a borrower which is secured by his or her primary residence, which is defined as a property which is the residential property which the borrower occupies as his or her primary residence in this State, or a residential property in this State which is the only residential property owned by the borrower. Under the CCMA, a lender must have a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process in place incorporating communication with borrowers, financial information, assessment, resolution and appeals. In exploring all options for alternative repayment arrangements lenders must consider,inter alia, deferred payment, term extension, interest and partial capital payments and interest only arrangements. The CCMA states that lenders “must not require the borrower to change from an existing tracker mortgage to another mortgage type, as part of any alternative arrangement offered to the borrower”.

Debt Levels

Peter Mathews

Question:

122 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance the total household debt as a percentage of GNP; the total corporate debt as a percentage of GNP; the total Government general debt as a percentage of GNP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23793/11]

The Central Bank's Quarterly Financial Accounts data show that households had outstanding loans amounting to €184.9 billion in the first quarter of the year, representing 147 per cent of forecast GNP for 2011. The stock of household loans has declined by €18 billion or 9 per cent since peaking in the final quarter of 2008. The same data source reveals that non financial corporations had outstanding loans of €264 billion in the first quarter of the year, or 210 per cent of forecast GNP. The stock of such loans has contracted by €62.5 billion or 19 per cent since peaking in the final months of 2009.

Of course the data also show that households and non financial corporations have significant assets as well as liabilities. In the case of households, for example, net financial wealth — the difference between assets and liabilities — was a positive €105 billion (this figure does not include housing assets). This figure has increased by 80 per cent since the first quarter of 2009.

Finally, my Department has forecast General government debt of €173 billion in 2011, which would represent 111 per cent of forecast GDP (137 per cent of GNP). This is up from debt of €148.1 billion in 2010. General government debt as a percentage of GDP is forecast to peak at 118 per cent in 2013 before moderating in the following years.

Banks Recapitalisation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

123 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter regarding expenditure of public money (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23797/11]

As the Deputy is aware, under the previous Government, some €43.6 billion was injected into the Irish banks by the end of 2010. The Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR), which was carried out by the Central Bank and reported in March 2011, identified an additional capital requirement of €24 billion. This means that the expected total capital needs in March 2011 amounted to €70.3 billion. While the Government is committed to ensuring that the banks would be fully capitalised up that level, the Government has instigated processes which have reduced and will further reduce the cost to the State. Direct contributions were sought from subordinated debt holders through burden sharing/liability management exercises (LME) and where possible, by seeking private sector investors.

Prior to the PCAR, burden sharing with subordinated bondholders raised c. €9.7 billion of core tier 1 capital. Since the PCAR announcement, burden sharing with bondholders has realised an additional c. €5 billion. AIB/EBS completed their LME in July resulting in a total capital gain of €2.15 billion. Bank of Ireland announced on 8 July that it generated circa. €2 billion from LME. Further burden sharing with outstanding subordinated bondholders is expected to raise additional equity capital. Irish Life and Permanent completed their LME on 24 August with a €1bn gain from €1.2bn of subordinated debt. Burden sharing with outstanding subordinated bondholders is expected to raise additional equity capital. Irish Life and Permanent completed their LME on 24 August with a €1bn gain from €1.2bn of subordinated debt.

Under the PCAR, Bank of Ireland required an additional €5.2bn of capital. In July 2011, private investors agreed to an investment of up to €1.123 billion in Bank of Ireland's Tier 1 capital. This transaction, in addition to other equity participation from existing shareholders/bondholders of some €600m, ensured that the State's commitment was significantly reduced while retaining a significant equity shareholding in the banks.

The commitment from the Irish State is lower than initially expected as a result of the LME exercises with subordinated bondholders conducted since 31st March 2011 and private sector investment in Bank of Ireland. Out of the total identified capital of €70.3 billion, at the end of July actual capital investment was circa €63 billion. There will be further stress tests in 2012 by the Central Bank of Ireland through a PCAR and also by the European Banking Authority. I believe that the Irish banks will have sufficient capital to meet those stress tests.

Through the processes I have referred to above, the Government has ensured that the recapitalisation burden has not fallen exclusively on the Irish taxpayer.

I have forwarded for the Deputy's attention a copy of my presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on 1st September 2011 on progress made in restructuring of the banking sector.

Departmental Investigations

Finian McGrath

Question:

124 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will investigate any financial irregularities at Temple Bar Cultural Trust to ascertain if this asset is being managed appropriately and in the public interest with adherence to best possible practice. [23906/11]

The Temple Bar Cultural Trust is a private limited company whose shares are held by Dublin City Council and the Council is responsible for appointing its Board of Directors. Any issues specific to the Trust should therefore be raised with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the first instance.

Proposed Legislation

Finian McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if new legislation was put in place or will be required in order to ratify and implement the agreement on the European financial stability facility. [23907/11]

With the approval of the Government and subject to confirmation by the Oireachtas, I signed the Amendment to the EFSF Framework Agreement on behalf of Ireland on 8th September 2011. The Amendment agreement provides for the implementation of the measures announced by the Heads of State or Government on 21 July last. These include increasing the flexibility of the EFSF in the euro area, to allow it to act on a precautionary basis, to finance the recapitalization of banks through loans to Governments and to intervene in primary and secondary markets on the basis of ECB analysis. The Amendment agreement will facilitate the reduction in the interest rate charged on loans to Ireland but the actual reduction will be given effect in the EFSF Loan Agreement with Ireland. It should also be noted that the Amendment I signed on 8 September 2011 incorporates an earlier Amendment agreement of 30 June 2011 which had not yet been ratified by most euro area Member States, including Ireland. The primary purpose of the earlier amendment was to increase the effective lending capacity of the EFSF to €440 billion. This is being accomplished by an increase in the level of over-guarantee to 165% for each of the guarantor Member States. Although Ireland's guarantee ceiling increases, it is notional in our case because we have stepped out and this is noted in the Amendment agreement.

Legislation to ratify the Amendment to the EFSF Framework Agreement is being prepared for the consideration of the Oireachtas. The Bill will also provide for the amendment of the Euro Area Loan Facility Act 2010 to provide for the amendment of the (Greek) Loan Facility Agreement dated 14 June 2011. It is proposed that the Bill be published later this week and brought before the Dáil for debate next week.

Strategic Investment Bank

Anne Ferris

Question:

126 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in establishing a strategic investment bank from the two pillar banks as promised in the programme for Government; the persons who will oversee the operations of this bank; the remit of this bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23911/11]

As I said in a reply to questions from Deputies Tóibín and Conway on 21 July last, 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 objectives for the renewal of the banking system, which are ahead of schedule, have been completed. This assessment will include the strategic investment bank's relationship with the two pillar banks and the timeline for its establishment.

National Asset Management Agency

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

127 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons working at the National Asset Management Agency for each year since it was set up. [23951/11]

NAMA was established on 21 December 2009 and, by the end of that year, seven staff had been assigned to it by the NTMA. By the end of 2010, the NTMA had recruited for NAMA 104 staff with experience and expertise in the areas of lending, property, accountancy, law, banking and credit.

Its current staff complement stands at 190 and it plans to recruit an additional ten staff before the end of 2011.

National Archives

Anne Ferris

Question:

128 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if funding will be made available to the National Archives to properly preserve the records of psychiatric hospitals as highlighted in a recent television programme (details supplied); if these archives will receive statutory protection; if all archives for each hospital have been investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23960/11]

The allocation of funding for the National Archives is a matter for the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. However, issues concerning the statutory protection of medical records and investigation into hospital archives are a matter for the Minister for Health in the first instance.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

129 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the contact he has had with mobile phone operators with a view to finding a workable mechanism for implementing a text message levy in view of the fact that a 2 cent levy would gross €240 million per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24016/11]

I am informed by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) that no projections are made for mobile telephone usage, whether calls or texts. The only basis for estimating the yield from a tax on text messages is the figures for mobile telephone usage per quarter supplied by the companies to ComReg. In the 12 months to end March 2011, the last 12 month period for which figures are available, over 12 billion SMS messages and over 43 million MMS messages were sent in Ireland, a total of over 12.192 billion messages. At those usage rates, a levy of 2 cent on such messages could raise c. €242 million per annum, which is in line with the figure indicated in the Deputy's question. However, this potential yield does not take account of any behavioural impact if a levy was directly imposed on customers or imposed on the mobile phone companies and passed on to customers. Text messages are already subject to VAT at 21%. While any additional revenue would be welcome in the current circumstances, the wider social and economic factors which militate against the introduction of a further levy on text messages must also be taken into account. I am not aware of a similar tax anywhere else in the world. Although there are no plans to introduce such a tax at this time, and I have had no contact with the mobile telephone companies on the matter, all potential taxation measures are kept under review.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

130 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a tax on considerable winnings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24024/11]

It was announced in last years Budget that the necessary arrangements are being made to ensure that bets placed on the internet by domestic punters are subject to the same level of betting duty as applies to high street betting shops. This will serve to broaden the tax base and increase betting duty receipts. The Finance Act 2011 provides for the taxation of bets that remote bookmakers enter into with persons in the State. This means, for example, that a business which engages in online bookmaking and which accepts bets from people in this country will be liable for betting duty on those bets, irrespective of where that business is based. The existing betting duty (1%) will be applied to such bets. The Finance Act also provides for the taxation of Betting Exchanges under the new arrangements; however the calculation of the tax will take account of their particular business model. In addition, excise duties are being applied to the granting and renewal of remote bookmakers' and remote betting intermediaries' licences.

The proposed Betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will establish the regulatory framework for these licences. The tax changes provided for in the Finance Act can only be implemented once the Betting (Amendment) Bill is enacted. This Bill is well advanced and it is hoped that it will be published in the autumn.

I am hopeful that by including the high-growth area of the betting sector the tax base from betting will be boosted significantly.

In addition, this measure conveys a positive signal to international betting operations that have expressed an interest in or have already invested in Ireland. A location with an appropriate licensing regime coupled with relatively low taxes provides real investment and employment opportunities in this sector, which ultimately can potentially be beneficial to all concerned.

There are currently no plans to introduce a tax on winning bets which would represent a fundamental change to the taxation of betting to date.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

131 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a fees and charges reimbursement facility for recent Irish emigrants returning home to visit from overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24025/11]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to airport passenger charges that apply at Irish airports. Such charges, which are regulated at Dublin Airport by the independent Commission for Aviation Regulation but otherwise set by individual airport authorities on a competitive commercial basis, are normal fees applied by airports the world over for the use of facilities. They are what pay for the development and maintenance of airport infrastructure. I have no plans to consider a rebate system suggested by the Deputy.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

132 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding taxation of social protection payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24034/11]

The position is that most social welfare allowances, pensions and benefits, including the carer's allowance, awarded by the Department of Social Protection are taxable. The extent of tax due depends on the level of an individual's tax credits.

The following Department of Social Protection payments are taxable:

State Pension (Contributory);

State Pension (Non-Contributory);

State Pension (Transition);

**Illness Benefit;

Invalidity Pension;

**Occupational Injury Benefit;

**Interim Disability Benefit;

*Disablement Benefit;

Death Benefit Pension;

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension;

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension;

Deserted Wife's Benefit;

Deserted Wife's Allowance;

Prisoner's Wife's Allowance;

One-Parent Family Payment (Unmarried parent, Separated Spouse, Prisoner's Spouse);

Guardian's Payment (Contributory);

Guardian's Payment ( Non-Contributory);

Carer's Allowance;

Carer's Benefit;

+ Jobseeker's Benefit and Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (first €13 per week excluded);

Unemployability Supplement (payable with Disablement Pension);

Blind Pension;

Constant Attendance Allowance (payable with Disablement Pension).

When payable in the form of a pension rather than a once-off payment.

+ Jobseeker's Benefit paid to systematic short-term workers is exempt.

** Illness/Interim/Injury Benefit payable for the first 6 weeks of each year and any child dependent element of benefit is exempt from tax.

County Flags

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

133 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in the Upper Yard, Dublin Castle, the display of flags with county colours includes 26 and not 32 counties; if he will ask the Office of Public Works to rectify this and to ensure that all 32 flags are included. [24052/11]

The number of flags displayed at any one time in the Upper Courtyard of Dublin Castle is dictated by the number of flagpoles available. At present 28 flagpoles are available representing the members of the EU and the EU flag which are flown during the EU Presidency. The flags of the 32 counties are currently flown in rotation. It is not planned to erect any further flagpoles at present.

National Asset Management Agency

David Stanton

Question:

134 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to complete housing estates and other developments under National Asset Management Agency control; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24137/11]

NAMA participated in the Working Group set up by the Government to examine the issue and extent of unfinished estates in Ireland. The Group's report was published by the Minister for Housing in June 2011.That report identified 2,800 unfinished estates that were categorised by reference to the extent to which they required remediation work. The report identified about 225 Category 4 estates which were considered to require immediate remedial attention. NAMA debtors have loans with an exposure to 31 of those Category 4 estates. I am informed by NAMA that is has committed, through its debtors, the cost of essential urgent works on these sites. It instructed a surveyor to carry out an initial assessment of the required works to meet the public safety initiative, and then each debtor/site owner was requested to liaise with the Local Authority to assess what works needed to be carried out urgently and the estimated cost of such works. Based on this assessment, it was estimated that funding of €3m was required for urgent remedial work. Site resolution plans are currently being prepared and consultation is taking place with various local authorities in relation to sites within their areas. NAMA is considering proposals and 15 site resolution plans are under review.

State Claims Agency

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

135 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent on legal fees by the State Claims Agency in each of the past five years. [24186/11]

I am informed by the State Claims Agency that the amount spent on legal fees by the Agency in each of the past five years is as follows:

Legal Costs

2006 (€m)

2007 (€m)

2008 (€m)

2009 (€m)

2010 (€m)

Defence Legal Costs

3.9

4.7

8.2

8.6

12.0

Plaintiff Legal Costs

5.0

3.3

10.4

12.8

18.1

Total

8.9

8.0

18.6

21.4

30.1

The legal cost of the clinical claims portfolio has been increasing since 2008 due in particular to the resolution of high settlement value claims associated with cerebral palsy and other serious birth-related events. The legal costs associated with the Employers' Liability, Public Liability and Property Damage Claims portfolio have remained at €4 million — €5 million per annum since 2008.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 97.

Motor Fuels

David Stanton

Question:

137 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the procedures and practices used by officers of the Revenue Commissioners to take fuel samples from motor vehicles under section 134(1)(b) of the Finances Act, 2001 relating to the enforcement of mineral oil tax legislation, do not risk causing damage to the operation of vehicles; if he will consider the introduction of a statutory alternative manufacturer approved sampling regime (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24194/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in mineral oil products, that their officers are empowered under section 134 and 135 of the Finance Act 2001 to stop vehicles for the purpose of examining and taking fuel samples. The Revenue Commissioners office continually review the sampling procedures and practices employed by Revenue's officers in the course of Revenue as well as multi-agency road checkpoints. Such sampling is carried out in accordance with Revenue's Health and Safety guidelines and international best practice. Revenue officers are all fully trained in oil sampling techniques.

Revenue monitors developments in the motor industry and in the road haulage sector on an ongoing basis and provide appropriately updated sampling equipment for its officers. Where particular technical difficulties are identified with regard to the sampling of newer model vehicles, Revenue's enforcement service procures compatible sampling equipment from the vehicle distributors in question. There are no plans at this time for the introduction of a statutory alternative manufacturer approved sampling regime.

Departmental Expenditure

Denis Naughten

Question:

138 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff and respective budget of each regulator under his responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24234/11]

The following is the list of replies that we have received to date. The complete list will be forwarded to the Deputy within the next few days.

Financial Services Ombudsman

Budget for 2011

Staff Numbers

€5,820,000

34

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

Budget for 2011

Staff Numbers

Nil

Nil

The Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal

Budget for 2011

Staff Numbers

€382,863

None

School Staffing

Patrick Deering

Question:

139 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will extend the time line beyond the current 12 month period to allow special needs assistants who have had their working hours changed to apply for part redundancy. [22691/11]

There are no plans to extend the current time limit allowed to apply for payments under the Redundancy Scheme for Special Needs Assistants.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

140 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to assist a person (details supplied) to complete their apprenticeship. [22874/11]

My Department has been in contact with FÁS about the case in question. I understand that FÁS will be introducing shortly a Competency Determination Mechanism to enable eligible redundant apprentices in the trade of Brick & Stonelaying to complete their apprenticeship. This will provide redundant apprentices with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge against the occupational standard for the specified trade.

Those who successfully pass the Competency Determination Mechanism will be progressed for the award of the FETAC Level 6 Advanced Certificate — Craft.

To be eligible for the Competency Determination Mechanism redundant apprentices must meet the following criteria: be redundant as an apprentice as notified by their employer and be registered with FÁS Employment Services; have successfully completed all Phases 1-7 inclusive, reaching the minimum standard; and have not completed 4 years in employment as an apprentices in the trade

I also understand that FÁS intend to invite eligible redundant apprentices to register their intent to participate in the Competency Determination Mechanism in the near future.

School Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

141 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will assure the public that all the funding provided to his Department for transporting school children to schools is used for that purpose only and not redistributed to other sectors of our public transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22895/11]

The school transport scheme, which is operated by Bus Éireann on my Department's behalf, facilitates the transportation of some 120,000 children to primary and post-primary schools each day including approximately 8,000 children with special educational needs. School transport is a very significant national operation involving about 42 million journeys and over 82 million kilometres on 6,000 routes every school year. This service is delivered using a mix of Bus Éireann, both school transport and road passenger vehicles, private contractor vehicles including private operator scheduled services, and Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, DART and LUAS where practical. The 2011 allocation to my Department for the provision of School Transport is almost €180m. I can assure the Deputy that expenditure from this allocation is used solely for the provision of school transport in accordance with the terms of the school transport schemes.

Departmental Agencies

Terence Flanagan

Question:

142 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if she will comment on a matter (details supplied) regarding FÁS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22973/11]

A pre-retirement leave policy was introduced by FÁS a number of years ago. The Board of FÁS cancelled this policy in March 2010. However, the Union referred the matter to the Labour Court, and the Labour Court recommended that the arrangement be re-instated to allow for due process. It further recommended that discussions on the future of the pre-retirement leave policy begin immediately with a view to bringing the pre-retirement arrangements in FAS into line with arrangements in comparable agencies within the Public Sector. I understand that as no agreement has been reached between FÁS and the unions, the matter has been referred back to the Labour Court, which will hold a hearing on the matter on 23 September.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

143 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the rebranding of FÁS to SOLAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23057/11]

In July 2011, the Government decided that a new further education and training authority, to be called SOLAS, should be established. SOLAS will operate under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills, and will co-ordinate and fund the wide range of further education and training programmes around the country. The establishment of SOLAS, the disbanding of FAS and making VECs responsible for the delivery of Further Education and Training programmes to learners is the most significant change in Further Education and Training in decades. It does not merely involve rebranding. The branding of SOLAS is a small but necessary part of the significant change management process that is involved. This will be one of the issues for consideration by the SOLAS Implementation Group which has been set up to oversee the process. Particular care will be exercised to ensure that the costs associated with the rebranding will not be excessive.

There are currently no plans for compulsory redundancies in FÁS, nor are there any plans to recruit additional staff.

Jobs Iniative

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

144 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the 20,900 additional training places announced in the jobs initiative will encompass those in the tourism and hospitality industry. [23138/11]

The Jobs Initiative which was announced in May 2011, does encompass a level of training provision for those in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry was refused a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23195/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

181 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry was refused a higher education grant; if he will confirm this person’s residency status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23196/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 181 together.

I understand that in the case referred to by the Deputy, an application for a grant made to the student's local authority was unsuccessful and that in a subsequent appeal made to the local authority the original decision was upheld. I also understand that a further appeal was made to the Department and the decision of the awarding authority was upheld on the grounds that the candidate in question did not meet the nationality requirements of the grant scheme.

The specific clause relating to nationality in the 2010/11 student grant schemes stipulates that candidates must be a national of (i) an EU Member State, (ii) a state which is a contracting state to the EEA Agreement, (iii) the Swiss Confederation, or a refugee or other person entitled for the time being to the rights and privileges specified in section 3 of the Refugee Act 1996; or be a person, pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006), (i) who the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has determined is eligible for the time being for subsidiary protection pursuant to Regulation 4 of those Regulations, or (ii) to whom the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has granted permission for the time being in writing to enter and reside in the State pursuant to Regulation 16 of those Regulations; or have permission to remain in the State as a family member of a Union citizen under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008 and Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council; or have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State, or be the dependent child of such person, not having EU nationality; or have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State (prior to the Immigration Act 1999); or be a person in respect of whom the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has granted permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999.

Gaelscoileanna

Terence Flanagan

Question:

146 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding the current policy on gaelscoileanna; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23539/11]

The standardisation of the staffing schedule for Gaelscoileanna so that it is the same as that which applies to primary schools generally was one of a number of measures introduced in Budget 2011 by the previous government to control and reduce teacher numbers. These changes came into effect from September 2011. Given the financial constraints in which this country now finds itself, it is not possible to reverse these changes.

School Enrolment Age

Terence Flanagan

Question:

147 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views regarding the raising of the school age to five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23752/11]

The compulsory school starting age is 6 years of age and a child must be at least 4 years of age before she/he may be enrolled in a primary school. A proposal to raise the school starting age to 5 years was one of a range of budgetary savings options that were put forward to the previous government as a means of reducing teacher payroll costs. This measure was not implemented.

School Accommodation

John McGuinness

Question:

148 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide new school accommodation in the Tallaght region of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23878/11]

In June this year, I announced that 20 new primary and 20 new post-primary schools are to be established in the next six years across a number of locations. This announcement included a proposal to establish new primary schools in the Tallaght region. My Department has recently informed patron bodies of these new schools to be established and has invited appliactions for patronage of same. Arrangements for the delivery of accommodation for these schools is currently underway. In addition to these new schools a number of extension projects may be required to existing schools to meet the demand for increasing pupil numbers.

EU Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

149 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the fact that Dell European flobal adjustment fund programme is now concluded, if he will indicate the percentage of the allocated funds that will be returned unused to the European Commission. [23908/11]

My Department has to date paid €5,550,306 in funding in respect of EGF co-financed measures relating to the support of redundant workers under the Dell EGF programme. The programme has approved EU co-financing under the EGF of €14.8m and another €8m allocated from national sources.

The Dell EGF programme concluded on 28 June 2011. A number of payment claims from various service providers are currently either being processed or are still awaited by the Department, including a claim from FAS for the entirety of its activities under the EGF programme since 2009. A number of these claims are or will be for expenditure of significant amounts.

As final claims have not all yet been received and as a final statement of eligible expenditure is not required by the European Commission along with a Final Report on the Dell EGF programme until 29 December 20011, I am not currently in a position to indicate the percentage of funds that will ultimately be returned to the EU. However, a significant portion of the EU funding is likely to be returned under this programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

150 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that have been put in place to ensure that the total funding approved under the construction industry application for the European global adjustment fund will be spent, in particular the measures that he has taken to front load the spending to the individual workers who have lost their jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23909/11]

The EU budgetary authorities, in the first instance the European Commission, has not to date approved the three applications submitted by my Department for EGF co-financing, which contain various active labour market measures in support of certain identified workers made redundant between 1 July 2009 and 31 March 2010 in the construction sector.

However, in anticipation of EU approval in due course, a number of measures, for which EGF co-financing is being sought, are already being provided by the relevant service providers and funded from national sources. These measures include guidance, training, apprenticeship progression, further and higher education and enterprise supports. Subject to EU approval of the EGF applications, further measures will be provided or intensified as necessary and relevant.

My Department has put in place co-ordination mechanisms to ensure that all relevant issues are addressed, including spend, in order to maximise the impact of the EGF in this area.

School Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

151 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the 2011/2012 school bus transport arrangements for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [22686/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

159 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the 2011/2012 school bus transport arrangements for a school (details supplied) in County Cork [22709/11]

Niall Collins

Question:

196 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the 2011/2012 school bus arrangements in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork [23410/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 159 and 196 together.

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that three school transport services are continuing to operate to the school in question for the current school year.

School Staffing

Niall Collins

Question:

152 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the decision to reduce the number of special needs assistants at a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [22689/11]

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 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.

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.

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

The NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy in County Cork, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school.

I wish to clarify for the Deputy 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.

I also wish to clarify that 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.

The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of any review process to review allocation decisions to ensure that correct procedures were followed and that they comply with my Department's policy. The merits of individual allocation decisions will not be open to appeal under this mechanism.

It will be expected that schools, before requesting a review, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect.

Áine Collins

Question:

153 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to set up a panel system similar to that currently being used by national school teachers for special needs assistants. [22690/11]

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

The recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. The Board is the SNA's employer and the terms of employment are subject to the conditions of the contract of employment. There are therefore presently no plans to introduce a panel system for SNAs.

However, the Deputy will be aware that my Department has recently published a Value for Money (VFM) and Policy Analysis review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme. This review is available on my Departments website:www.education.ie.

The Value for Money review recommended that the Department of Education and Skills should consider conducting a cost benefit analysis, to establish if the introduction of a regional redeployment scheme for SNAs would lead to greater economic efficiency. It also recommended that alternative employment models for SNAs that could achieve greater administrative efficiencies and provide greater employment certainty for SNAs should be considered by the DES.

My Department is currently establishing a working group which will consider and implement the recommendations of the SNA Value for Money report.

In the interim, a Special Needs Assistant whose post is surplus to the approved allocation to the school may be entitled to a redundancy payment under the terms of circular 58/2006 — titled Redundancy Arrangements for Special Need Assistants. Support to SNAs who may have been made redundant is provided for within the terms of this scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will not cut resource hours for a pupil (details supplied) in Dublin 24 [22694/11]

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 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.

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.

In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the coming 2011/12 school year, an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy in Ballyboden, 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.

Schools have now 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 the receipt of all such applications, consideration will be given as to whether there is potential to revise the 90% allocation previously given to schools, and also the extent to which new Resource Teaching allocations can be made, taking into account the number of valid new applications received and in the context of my Departments Employment Control Framework obligations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

155 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly will be included on the supplementary panel for primary school teachers, in view of the fact that this applicant has been a full-time primary school teacher for a period of seven years prior to their transferring to a temporary position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22699/11]

The primary redeployment procedures are published on my Department's website. Under these procedures, my Department provides supplementary panel rights for eligible fixed-term teachers who are currently employed in a primary school with between three and five years temporary service. The teacher referred to by the Deputy, does not meet these requirements and has been advised accordingly.

School Placement

James Bannon

Question:

156 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school placement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22703/11]

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. 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.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The Board can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

James Bannon

Question:

157 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that will be put in place to educate a person (details supplied) who has been refused a place at their local primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22705/11]

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 Educational 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, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. 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.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the NEWB in Longford is National Educational Welfare Board, Unit 19 Sandyfort Business Centre, Grealishtown, Bohermore Galway, phone number 091-385302.

My officials understand from the NEWB that the child in question has secured a school place.

Education Schemes

James Bannon

Question:

158 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford did not qualify under the HEAR scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22706/11]

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

Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 151.

School Transport

Pat Breen

Question:

160 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person will be facilitated (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22710/11]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of my Department, has advised that the service referred to by the Deputy has been rerouted. As a result, the bus pick up and set down points have been revised to accommodate the pupils in question.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

161 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money that was spent on taxis by his Department in the past year; the amount that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for his Department; the times at which taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the amount that was used by staff members; the amount that was used by outsiders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22721/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

183 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount his Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years. [23296/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 183 together.

The following table shows the total cost of taxi hire met by my Department in the past four years (2007- 2010).

Year

2007

71,999.07

2008

71,762.02

2009

50,777.69

2010

43,055.91

Taxis used by my Department's officials are strictly for business purposes and staff members are required to ensure that every effort is made to minimise the use of taxis. The costs of taxi hire as indicated above are met through departmental accounts with taxi hire firms in Dublin and through reimbursements of vouched domestic and foreign travel claims from staff travelling on official business. Taxi hire for official travel is only permitted where: the number of officers travelling make taxi hire cheaper than other forms of public transport; no suitable public transport alternative is available or; using other forms of public transport is not possible/practical. Receipts must be furnished for all official travel, including taxi hire, undertaken by staff.

While it is not possible to accurately predict the potential future costs of taxi hire for official purposes, it is not anticipated that the expenditure for 2011 will exceed expenditure for the previous year. My Department regularly monitors the costs of taxi hire for official business purposes, whether on account or arising from personal hire for which a refund is subsequently claimed. My Department does not meet the cost of taxi hire by individuals or staff of external agencies or bodies visiting my Department.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

162 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide figures on a matter (details supplied) regarding special needs assistants. [22804/11]

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 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 intends to publish details of all of the Special Needs Assistant allocations which they have made to schools to date, for the 2011/12 school year. This will be available on the NCSE website shortly atwww.ncse.ie.

Higher Education Grants

Catherine Murphy

Question:

163 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce any measures to alleviate the financial pressures on mature students who will suffer the combined effect of the removal of the non-adjacent grant and the extension of the non-adjacent area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22815/11]

The economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse or vary any of the changes to the student grant schemes introduced by the last Government and funding is not available to me for any new student support measures. However, students on particularly low incomes will continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of grant under the student grant scheme and students in exceptional financial circumstances can apply for assistance under the Student Assistance Fund. Information on the Fund is available through the access offices of third-level institutions. The access offices themselves will also continue to provide support and advice to students to enable them to continue with their studies.

Arts Plan

Sandra McLellan

Question:

164 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills how he plans to use primary and secondary level schools to increase participation in the arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21797/11]

Arts education (visual arts, music and drama) is one of the seven curriculum areas that comprise the primary curriculum, which was revised in 1999. Therefore all primary school children have access to an arts programme.

At second level there are approved syllabuses for Junior Certificate in Music and Art, Craft and Design. In the senior cycle there are syllabuses in Music and Art. Modules in the Arts are also available as part of the Leaving Certificate Applied. In the Transition Year programme, schools offer a variety of modules which stimulate pupils' interest in the Arts in general and which, in many cases, give them the opportunity to interact with practising artists in their own classrooms and in other contexts.

In addition to supporting curricular provision for the arts at primary and second level, my Department aids the arts through the provision of some 68,000 teaching hours to a number of schools of music operated by VECs and through co-operation (teaching) hours to VECs which support work with other institutions. In addition, two Music Education Partnerships are funded in Donegal and Dublin City VECs.

A further initiative in Music for young people of school age has been launched by Music Generation, a subsidiary company of Music Network, supported by donations from U2 and the Ireland Funds. The programme is aimed at providing access to vocal and instrumental music education for children and young people.

The Artists in School Guidelines, developed jointly by the Arts Council and my Department, and issued to all schools in 2006, are an important resource in informing schools of how best to plan, implement and evaluate partnerships with local artists and organisations which will provide stimulating and interesting learning experiences for children. This type of initiative could be further strengthened through work experience programmes in schools for arts graduates.

School Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an itemised breakdown on all costs covered in the 13% fee that Bus Éireann charges his Department relating to school transport, which amounted to more than €18 million in 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22887/11]

The factual position is that the school transport scheme administration heading, within the Bus Éireann school transport independently audited annual accounts, has in fact reduced from €18.7 million in 2009 to €16.7 million in 2011 (-10.7%). This categorisation is a legacy from the original 1970's agreement and originally it was a charge of 13% on certain defined costs. This figure covers some indirect costs, indirect support costs, indirect regional costs, property and a contribution. A more detailed breakdown of the administration heading is available on my Department's website and as set out below. I should add that the full school transport accounts for the 1999-2010 period are also available on the Department website.

Bus Éireann has committed to finding further cost reductions over the next three years.

School Transport Scheme "Admin Heading"

This categorisation and treatment is a legacy from the original 1970's agreement. Originally it was a charge of 13% on certain defined Direct Costs. More recently this charge has reduced following negotiations between the Department of Education and Skills and Bus Éireann.

In reality this covers

1) Some Direct costs

2) Indirect support costs

3) Indirect regional costs

4) Property

5) Contribution It should in fact be described as aTransport Management Charge and Indirect Costs. This charge has been reduced from €18.7m in 2009 to €16.7m (10.7%) in 2011 and Bus Éireann has committed to finding further cost reductions over the next three years. An apportionment of the overall company total of these costs is allocated to the School Transport Scheme.

A detailed breakdown of 2010 costs is set out in the following table:

No.

Actual 2010 €m

1.

Direct Element

3.8

2.

Indirect Support

2.8

3.

Indirect Regional

4.5

4.

Property

2.5

5.

Bus Éireann Contribution

4.6

Total

18.2

1. Direct Element

This includes direct costs not included in the School Transport Account , a significant amount of which is for pension costs but it also includes other direct costs such as insurance and support, security and development of Information Technology and Telecoms services. An apportionment of the company total is allocated to the School Transport Scheme.

2. Indirect Support

This includes indirect support costs such as Finance, Human Resources, non payroll costs of School Transport Head Office, PR support and communications, advertising and community sponsorship measures, internal and external audit, corporate governance, legal and regulatory affairs, vetting, training, planning, implementation of plans and review, development of cost saving measures, central industrial relations, disciplinary and grievance procedures, complaints handling, treasury planning, safety and risk planning / monitoring, accident investigation and follow up, strategic direction, severe weather planning and liaison, Irish language, data protection, Gardaí and emergency service liaison, quality of standards setting, ensuring implementation of International best practice, regional co-ordination, etc. An apportionment of the total charge to the company of these costs is allocated to the School Transport Scheme.

3. Indirect Regional

This includes indirect regional costs incurred at the eleven local offices throughout Ireland, which provide services for both road passenger and school transport services and administration which include costs as described above at a regional level and costs such as payroll and procurement, building maintenance, cleaning and security, rates, utilities, clothing, regional training, cash security, health and safety, postage, stationery and printing, telephone costs, Accident and Incident investigation and follow up, industrial relations, disciplinary and grievance procedures, complaints handling, fuel monitoring, severe weather planning and liaison, community liaison, local authority, Gardaí and emergency service liaison. An apportionment of the total charge to the company of these costs is allocated to the School Transport Scheme.

4. Property

Property is required throughout the country in order to deliver the service required for the operation and management of the School Transport Scheme. A significant amount of CIÉ property is placed at the disposal of Bus Éireann for this purpose. An apportionment of these costs is allocated to the School Transport Scheme. Properties used in the School Transport Scheme are in most cases shared locations used for both the School Transport services and administration and Road Passenger activities. In some locations the properties are also used by both Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail.

In total there are 16 operational / administrative properties and 15 maintenance facilities throughout the country. School Transport is such a significant proportion of the activities of Bus Éireann that in the event that the company no longer operated the scheme, it is likely that all the company's property used for these purposes would have to be reviewed.

5. Bus Éireann Contribution

This provides funds for:

Specific capital investment in School Transport services and administration for example IT to deliver future cost savings.

Portion of general capital investment for example garage equipment that serves all three businesses — Commercial, PSO and School Transport.

Reduction of cost base through voluntary severance for schools staff (direct and support).

Return to risk associated with School Transport business.

Depreciation and Interest

This is the charge for Depreciation and interest on vehicles funded by the company. As at 31 December 2010 there were 578 vehicles in the School Transport fleet.

Special Educational Needs

Regina Doherty

Question:

166 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy on educating children with autism; if this Deputy will be furnished with a copy of same; the research underpinning same; and the date it was originally published. [22919/11]

The Deputy will be aware that policy can be expressed and manifested through a variety of forms. Explicitly, it is communicated via legislation, regulations, rulings, orders, plans, strategies, policy statements, and other forms — or through a combination of these. Therefore the Deputy will appreciate that specific policies and objectives are not always articulated in just one document.

In response to a previous request from the Deputy regarding my Department's policy on autism I outlined how my Department strives to ensure that a continuum of special education provision is available as required for children with special educational needs. In line with this approach the policy is to promote a child-centred approach to education of all children with special educational needs including those with autism. As each child with autism is unique they should have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs.

Children with autism present with a wide range of needs. Some children are capable of being fully integrated into mainstream schools without additional teaching or care supports. Others are able to attend mainstream schools but need additional teaching and/or care assistance. Many are best enrolled in autism-specific classes where more intensive and supportive interventions are required. Some may move from one setting to another as they get older and differing needs/strengths/abilities emerge.

The preferred policy of my Department is that children with autism are educated in school settings where children may have access to individualised education programmes (IEPs), fully-qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants, the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Autism classes are established with a staffing ratio of 1 teacher and a minimum of 2 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) for every 6 children. Other SNAs may be allocated if required to meet the care needs of the children. Start-up grants are provided to the schools to enable special equipment to be purchased. Enhanced capitation is paid in respect of each child and assistive technology is funded where this is recommended. This approach promotes the maximum level of inclusion which accords with the intent of the EPSEN Act.

While some children may be able to attend a mainstream class, for others the most appropriate provision may be in a special class or unit in the school or in a special school. My Department supports provision in mainstream schools, some 430 special classes for autism attached to mainstream and special schools and 18 special schools for children with autism throughout the State which cater for the educational needs of some 5,000 children with autism, all of which operate within the policy parameters. This policy is based on advice received from international experts on autism, NEPS, the Inspectorate and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism.

My Department is satisfied that research does not support the exclusive usage of any one approach as a basis for national educational provision for children with autism. It is for this reason that my Department's preferred policy is for a child centred approach where the approach to be taken is based on the individual child's needs. In arriving at the preferred policy which is currently in place, my Department has considered published research, including the Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001) and the Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (2006), both of which are available on my Department's website has also informed the policy. My Department was also mindful of contributions of many others experts at international conferences/visits have also informed the development views.

FÁS Training Programmes

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

167 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all fees collected by FÁS for FETAC certification of the construction skills certification scheme have been paid in full to FETAC; when they were paid in full and the sum that payment amounts to since the scheme began in 2002. [22931/11]

In November 2010, FÁS and FETAC agreed the scope, waivers and payment of certification fees from April to December 2009, for 2010 and thereafter. Prior to April 2009, FÁS was not required to pay certification fees to FETAC. In March 2011 FÁS paid the full amount of monies due to FETAC for all FETAC Construction Skills Certification Scheme and Quarry Skills Certification Scheme awards, for 2009 and 2010. This amounted to €382,580.

To date for 2011, 4,033 CSCS/QSCS Awards have been issued and certificate fees amount to €80,660. Payment of these fees will be made in the final quarter of 2011.

Departmental Funding

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

168 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding for the Irish Centre for Talented Youth; and if he will reverse the discontinuation of this funding. [22963/11]

In view of the serious financial situation I regret that I do not have the resources to restore funding for the Irish Centre for Talented Youth. Given the current challenging economic climate, difficult choices will have to be made in order to further reduce public sector spending in line with the EU/IMF arrangements.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

169 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a permanent funding stream from his Department for a law centre (details supplied) in Dublin 17; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22978/11]

There is no funding available from my Department towards the costs of the law centre referred to by the Deputy. My Department does provide supports to eligible students attending specific courses in law at the Law Society of Ireland or the Honourable Society of King's Inns under the maintenance grant schemes. However, no funding is provided to these institutions towards the cost of their operations.

School Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to provide school transport for persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23016/11]

Changes in the School Transport Scheme were announced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. One of the changes announced included the increase from seven to ten in the minimum number of eligible pupils, residing in a distinct locality, required to establish or retain a school transport service.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that in this case, the number of applications from eligible pupils has fallen below the minimum number requirement and consequently the service will not operate for the 2011/12 school year. As is currently the position, families of eligible pupils, for whom there is no school transport service available, may apply for a remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

It is essential to stress that the wider context within which 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.

Third Level Remuneration

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

171 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons employed in third level educational institutions who are paid in excess of €150,000, €200,000 and €250,000; the names of the institutions employing them; the numbers in each institution earning above that figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23072/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is listed in the following table and is based on information supplied by each of the Institutions concerned.

Institution

€150,000—€199,000

€200,000—€249,000

€250,000+

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

4

0

0

UCD

13

17

1

UCC

12

34

0

NUIG

10

21

0

NUIM

4

0

0

TCD

13

20

2

University of Limerick

8

5

0

Dublin City University

11

0

0

NCAD

1

0

0

Athlone IT

1

0

0

Blanchardstown IT

1

0

0

Carlow IT

1

0

0

Cork IT

2

0

0

DIT

1

0

0

Dundalk IT

1

0

0

Duacute;n Laoghaire IADT

1

0

0

Galway Mayo IT

1

0

0

Letterkenny IT

1

0

0

Limerick IT

1

0

0

Sligo IT

1

0

0

Tallaght IT

1

0

0

Tralee IT

1

0

0

Waterford IT

1

0

0

Total

91

97

3

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

172 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an extra special needs assistant in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23077/11]

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 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.

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.

The NCSE issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme is to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools. The NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy in Baldoyle, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school.

I wish to clarify that 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.

The Deputy will also be aware that SNA allocations are provided, in accordance with the terms of my Departments Circular 07/02, to provide for the care needs of qualifying pupils with special educational needs. The SNA role does not provide for teaching of a child, which is the role of the class teacher, or which may be supported by an additional resource teaching allocation.

The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of any review process to review allocation decisions to ensure that correct procedures were followed and that they comply with my Department's policy. The merits of individual allocation decisions will not be open to appeal under this mechanism. It will be expected that schools, before requesting a review, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

173 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in County Donegal has a range of class sizes of 30 or more pupils; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these are some of the largest class sizes in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23087/11]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

175 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason class sizes are increasing in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23125/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 175 together.

Class size data for all primary schools is compiled by my Department on an annual basis and is available on the Department's website. The most recently published data relates to the 2010/11 school year. The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for allocating mainstream teaching posts to all schools. It currently operates on the basis of a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 28 pupils. Schools have autonomy on how these posts are deployed to individual classes.

School authorities are advised in the staffing schedule to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.). In particular, they should ensure, as far as possible, that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum. With over 20,000 individual classes spread across all schools throughout the country there will always be differences in individual class sizes.

Special Educational Needs

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

174 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the fact that parents with dyslexic children must present a report of a three-hour assessment carried out by an educational psychologist at a cost of almost €500 to get support for junior certificate examinations (details supplied). [23110/11]

The State Examinations Commission's (SEC) scheme of Reasonable Accommodations is designed to assist candidates with special needs at the certificate examinations. The term special needs applies to candidates who have physical/medical and or specific learning difficulties. Applications for reasonable accommodations are considered within a published framework of principles. Reasonable Accommodations are designed to remove as far as possible the impact of a disability on a candidate's performance, so as he or she can demonstrate in the examination his or her level of achievement — they are not designed to compensate for a possible lack of achievement arising from a disability.

Accommodations are granted under the scheme to students who fall within specific criteria. The existence of a specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia) does not automatically entitle an examination candidate to such special arrangements. Even though candidates may have a specific difficulty with reading, writing or spelling, they may not require the provision of any special facilities provided that they can read the question papers of the required level and write legibly. Decisions are made on foot of the evidence supporting a candidate's application, including educational psychological assessments, as to whether his or her special needs fall within the parameters set for the granting of an accommodation.

Some information on how the scheme operates may be of help in understanding the process. There is no obligation on schools or parents to provide a private psychological assessment in support of their application for reasonable accommodations. However, many parents choose to provide such report in support of their application. There is a fundamental difference in how the scheme operates between Junior and Leaving Certificate level. At Junior Certificate level the application process was changed in 2001 to expedite decisions and allow schools a larger degree of autonomy.

The key features of the SEC's approach on the Junior Certificate are: A series of tailored application forms that match the more common special needs that give rise to applications

Elimination of the requirement for supporting medical evidence in most cases

Elimination of the requirement for submission to the SEC of psychological assessments or samples of course work in the case of students with specific learning difficulties

Provision for the application to be signed by a school representative other than the principal

Essentially the SEC accepts a school's confirmation on the application form as sufficient evidence to enable the arrangement. Put simply, if the candidate's special need has been established by the school, there is no need to provide documentary evidence to the SEC.

To guide the school in its determination, the SEC provides a set of guidelines to schools to help them determine the eligibility of a candidate for accommodations. This procedure is designed to reduce the administrative burden on schools and essentially empowers the school itself to put reasonable accommodations in place. This approach reduces the amount of preparatory work and documentation collation for schools in preparing applications. However, a key feature of the Junior Certificate model is that, where an accommodation is approved for Junior Certificate, it does not automatically follow that approval will be granted for Leaving Certificate. A fresh application is required in respect of the Leaving Certificate and each will be considered on its own merits. This position is clearly outlined in the documentation that issues to schools annually in relation to the operation of the Scheme.

At Leaving Certificate decisions in relation to applications for reasonable accommodations are taken having regard to the circumstances of each individual case. Applications on the grounds of a specific learning difficulty are referred the National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS) for consideration in the first instance.

In cases where a school/parent or student is dissatisfied with any aspect of SEC's decision, at either Junior or Leaving Certificate level, they have access to an Independent Appeals Committee. All members of the Appeals Committee are drawn from outside the SEC. The remit of the Appeals Committee covers appeals against all elements of a decision taken by the SEC. All appeals are considered within a published framework of principles.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 173.

Third Level Charges

Terence Flanagan

Question:

176 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason college registration fees have increased from €1,500 to €2,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23126/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

217 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a family with two or three children in third level college; and if there is a reduction in fees. [24005/11]

John Lyons

Question:

228 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the cost of registration fees for those undertaking third level undergraduate courses; the subsequent cost to families if a number of children in the family are undertaking higher level education at the same time; and the reason costs must be paid up-front to educational institutions and the only method of reimbursement is through tax relief. [24199/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176, 217 and 228 together.

The economic circumstances of the country are such that the previous Fianna Fail-Green Party Government introduced a new Student Contribution Charge of €2,000 from this September. The Programme for Government commits the Government to implementing the decisions of the 2011 Budget, which was passed by the last Dáil. The new student contribution will replace the previous Student Services Charge and will apply to students who qualify for ‘free fees'. The contribution will be paid by the Exchequer on behalf of student grant-holders who last year amounted to some 46% of students in receipt of free fees.

Conscious of financial pressures on families tax relief provisions have been put in place so that second and subsequent siblings will not have to bear the full cost increase. Based on current rates of relief, the effective cost of the student contribution, net of tax relief, for second and subsequent siblings will be €1,600 each. An additional category of "50% Student Contribution" has been also been included in the student grants scheme. Institutions have also been asked to allow students to pay the contribution in two moieties.

Departmental Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will cease the educational cuts to the primary education system. [23148/11]

My Department's expenditure on the primary education system is determined within the context of the parameters of the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. It is not possible to reverse budgetary measures that have already been put in place or give commitments about any future measures that may be required.

The Government will endeavour to protect frontline education services as best as possible. However, this must be done within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure into line with what we can afford as a country. All areas of Government will have to manage on a reduced level of resources. The challenge will be to ensure that the resources that can be provided are used to maximum effect to achieve the best possible outcome for pupils.

Teaching Qualifications

Finian McGrath

Question:

178 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason persons from Gaeltacht areas require fewer points for teaching than persons in other areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23161/11]

The Colleges of Education operate a number of reduced points and direct entry schemes including streams for mature students, students from disadvantaged areas and students eligible under the Gaeltacht scheme. Provision is made for up to ten per cent of the teacher training places in the Colleges of Education to be reserved for applicants who reside in the officially designated Gaeltacht, and the normal language of whose home is Irish. The special entry competition is in accordance with Government policy for the support and promotion of the Gaeltachtaí and of the use of the Irish language as a community language. In order to achieve these objectives, it is essential to ensure an adequate supply of teachers for the schools in the Gaeltacht. It is also considered highly desirable that children from Gaeltacht areas would be taught by teachers who are native speakers of the dialect spoken by the children in order to maintain and develop children's fluency in the local dialect.

The scheme requires the reservation of up to 10% of places on teacher training courses for Gaeltacht applicants with any places not being taken up distributed to mainstream candidates. The scheme does not provide for a difference in entry points depending on candidate; rather this is dictated by market forces of supply and demand and is within the remit of the Central Applications Office. Given the fewer numbers of Gaeltacht applicants, points required for admission as a Gaeltacht applicant may be lower than otherwise required. However it is important to note that Gaeltacht applicants who secure places do not necessarily have lower points than other mainstream applicants.

The Teaching Council now has a remit to advise the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the minimum standards of educational qualifications required for entry into programmes of teacher education and has been asked, when formulating its advice on entry standards, to provide specific advice on the Gaeltacht entry scheme.

Education Reform

Terence Flanagan

Question:

179 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the Finnish education system (details supplied); his plans to adopt some of the main themes of this system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23168/11]

The results of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), undertaken in 65 countries in 2009, were published on 7 December 2010. Finland scored above the OECD average in reading literacy, mathematics and science, and is often cited as an example of excellence in educational practice. Whilst there are no plans to specifically adopt the Finnish education system, educational policies are informed by many factors including international research and experiences of educational practices. The two principles of the Finnish education system referred to in this question: an egalitarian system and regular systemic student assessment are, I believe, vitally important.

An objective of Finnish education policy is to achieve as high a level of education and competence as possible for the whole population. I am also committed to ensuring that all students reach their potential and providing additional supports for those students who require them. There are a range of existing provisions in place to achieve this. DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion was introduced in 2005, and provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). As a result of the identification and review processes, 876 schools were included in the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS. These comprise 676 primary schools (urban and rural) and 200 second-level schools. DEIS provides various supports for both primary and post primary schools including a reduced pupil teacher ratio in primary schools in urban areas with most disadvantage.

An evaluation of DEIS has been undertaken by the Educational Research Centre on behalf of my Department and a report of this evaluation is expected shortly. The outcomes of the ERC evaluation will inform any future changes to the current programme. In July of this year I launched the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People, "Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life", which aims to ensure that no child leaves school without having mastered literacy and numeracy skills. The Strategy contains 6 key areas which include helping students with additional learning needs to achieve their potential and improving assessment and evaluation to support better learning.

In relation to a policy of regular student assessment, I agree that when used properly this can provide useful information about the progress of individual students and also inform schools in their self-evaluation processes. The Literacy and Numeracy Strategy emphasises the importance of assessment for learning which gives an indication of the progress that students have made in achieving the learning outcomes that are set out in the curriculum. Standardised test are identified by the Strategy as one important tool which can be used to monitor student progress. The Strategy provides for standardised tests for students in second, fourth and sixth classes in primary school and for students in second-year at post-primary school.

School Enrolments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

180 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school place for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23169/11]

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 Educational 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, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. 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.

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.

The Deputy will be aware that I have recently launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document,"Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent and I am inviting education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by the 28th of October.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the NEWB in Portmarnock is National Educational Welfare Board, Block 3, Floor 1, Grove Court, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, phone number 01-8103261.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 145.

State Examinations

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

182 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the results being achieved in State examinations in mathematics, he will review the use of calculators in the primary curriculum and the subsequent effect this has on future performance in State examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23217/11]

In line with international best practice, the Primary School Curriculum (1999) advocates the use of resources to develop mathematics concepts. This includes the use of calculators from Fourth Class onwards. In Irish primary schools, calculators are primarily used to check answers and perform routine calculations and best practice includes their use to enhance mathematics reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Whilst some people believe that calculators can harm rather than enhance a pupil's mathematical skills, this is not supported by research evidence. A recent study in Ireland (Close et al, 2008) reports that, correctly used, calculators can improve performance on more complex mathematical concepts and skills, and on problem-solving. This is also reflected in international research.

The reforms that I have announced as part of the national literacy and numeracy strategy include increased provision for teacher education at the pre-service stage, during the induction phase in the early stages of a teacher's career and as part of every teacher's continuing professional development. As a result of enhanced professional development, I am confident that teachers will have a better understanding of the effective use of calculators to support better teaching and learning in Mathematics.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 161.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

184 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of spending using departmental credit cards held by Department staff over the past four years; the numbers of persons in his Department who hold credit cards; the credit limits of said cards; and the amount that was specifically spent by his Department on entertainment provided using said credit cards. [23311/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. For the Deputy's information, details to date for 2011 are also included.

Expense Account Credit Card Holder

Credit Limit

Year

Expenditure

Minister*—Batt O’Keeffe

€10,000

2008

€1,760.48

2009

€61.00

Private Secretary to The Minister

€10,000

2007

€1,056.35

2008

€2,806.45

2009

€3,901.65

7,500

2010

€816.53

2011

€1,049.76

Private Secretary to The Minister of State

€8,000

2007

€4,716.00

2008

€1,878.00

2009

€732.33

2010

€395.00

2011

€30.00

Principal Officer — IT Unit**

Debit Card — No Limit

2007

€590.90

2008

€1,013.90

2009

€663.51

* This Credit Card not in use post-2009.

**This Credit Card not in use post-2009.

Cardholder: Minister O'Keeffe

Date of Purchase

Item Purchased

Location of Purchase

Cost

Reason for Purchase

19/10/2008

Air France

95 Roissy CH D

€556.34

Official Business — Travel for official delegation to China

19/10/2008

Air France

96 Roissy CH D

€556.34

Official Business — Travel for official delegation to China

19/10/2008

Air France

97 Roissy CH D

€556.34

Official Business — Travel for official delegation to China

25/10/2008

The St Regis Beijing

Beijing

€60.46

Official Delegation to China *(this charge was discharged to Department by Minister O’Keeffe)

2008

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

Total 2008

€1,760.48

2009

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

Government Stamp Duty

Total 2009

€61.00

Cardholder: Private Secretary to the Minister 2007-2011

Date of Purchase

Item Purchased

Location of Purchase

Cost

Reason for Purchase

28/11/2007

Radisson SAS

Dublin

€310.00

Official Business — Room hire for meeting

16/11/2007

Brussels Marriott

Brussels

€287.00

Official Business — Accommodation for PSM only.

09/04/2007

Imperial Hotel

€185.00

Official Business — Meeting & dinner for delegation at the INTO annual conference -Dinner for 5 Officials

03/02/2007

MacNamaras Pharmacy

Dublin

€63.85

Official Business — Medication for Official Trip to Zambia

22/01/2007

Grafton Street Medical Centre

Dublin

€110.50

Official Business- Travel vaccinations for Official Trip to Zambia

2007

American Express Annual Fee

€100.00

Annual Fee

Total for 2007

€1,056.35

01/12/2008

The Italian Connection

Dublin

€62.65

Official Business Lunch

01/12/2008

Clerys

Dublin

€18.95

Official Expense — Electrical Equipment, Minister’s Office

17/11/2008

McDermott’s Bar and restaurant

CastleBaldwin

€96.90

Dinner after school visits *(this charge was discharged to Department by Minister O’Keeffe)

14/11/2008

City North Hotel

Gormanstown

€29.45

Breakfast meeting pre Gaelscoileanna Conference *(this charge was discharged to Department by Minister O’Keeffe)

14/11/2008

AerLingus Flight Sales

Dublin

€10.00

Official Travel — Ministerial Seminar of the Ministers of Education of the Council of Europe-Inflight Refreshment

13/11/2008

Aer Lingus Inflight sales

Dublin

€12.00

Official Travel — Ministerial Seminar of the Ministers of Education of the Council of Europe- Inflight Refreshment

06/11/2008

Sheraton Carlton

Nuremburg

€338.00

Official Business Accommodation — Ministerial Seminar of the Minister of Education of the Council of Europe

06/11/2008

O’Shea’s Pub

Nuremburg

€48.30

Dinner *(this charge was discharged to Department by Minister O’Keeffe)

06/11/2008

ICP International Cash PR

Schwalbach

€6.00

Official Expense — Cash charge

06/11/2008

Allresto

Munich

€13.80

Official Business — Munich Airport-Refreshment

06/11/2008

Allresto

Munich

€2.00

Official Business — Munich Airport-Refreshment

05/11/2008

Taxi

Hamburg

€5.80

Official Business — Travel Expense Ministerial Seminar of the Minister of Education of the Council of Europe

27/10/2008

Airsavings

Boulogne

€9.00

Official Expense

27/10/2008

Aer Arann

Dublin

€49.73

Official Business — Travel Expense Dublin to Cork

27/10/2008

Aer Arann

Dublin

€57.37

Official Business — Travel Expense Cork to Dublin

22/05/2008

Brussels Marriott Hotel

Brussels

612.00

Official Business — Accommodation for Minister and Private secretary

02/05/2008

Mount Falcon Castle

Ballina

145.00

Official Business — Accommodation for Minister Hanafin

26/02/2008

Stillorgan Park Hotel

Dublin

132.50

Official Business — Room hire for meeting including refreshments

24/01/2008

Ritz-carlton hotel Berlin

Berlin

996.00

Official Business — Accommodation for World Seminar organised by Microsoft (Minister & PSM)

2008

Annual Fee

Not on file.

€31.00

Annual Fee

2008

American Express Annual Fee

€100.00

American Express Annual Fee

28/04/2008

Govt. Stamp Duty — American Express

€30.00

Govt. Stamp Duty — American Express

Total for 2008

€2,806.45

09/12/2009

Dublin Airport Authority

Dublin

95.00

Entry fee for 4 to Anna Livia suite in Dublin Airport before Brussels trip-Discount for 1 member

26/11/2009

Sofitel Brussels Euro

Brussels

470.00

Official Business Accommodation — Education Council Meeting (Minister & PSM)

17/11/2009

Westin Hotel

Dublin

305.50

Official Business — Deposit for lunch for Minister meeting with Delegates from Saudi Arabia

24/09/2009

Radisson SAS Hotel

Dublin

55.40

Official Business — Minister meeting with Microsoft International-Refreshments

17/09/2009

Radisson — Royal Hotel

Dublin

13.40

Official Business Meeting — Minister launching event to publicise the referencing of National Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning-Refreshments

09/07/2009

Novotel

Paris

€408.60

Official Business Accommodation — UNESCO/Microsoft Education Leaders Forum

12/05/2009

Sofitel

Brussels

€600.00

Official Business Accommodation — Education Council Meeting

14/05/2009

Ryanair

Dublin

€180.36

Official Business — Travel Expense Minister Cork to Dublin

29/03/2009

Ryanair

Dublin

€49.21

Cabinet Meeting — Travel Expense Minister Dublin to Cork

14/04/2009

Silver Tassie

Letterkenny

€70.00

Official Business Accommodation — Minister attending INTO annual conference

14/04/2009

Silver Tassie

Letterkenny

€30.00

Official Expense — Printing Service

16/03/2009

Begyhofcongress Hotel

Leuven

€960.00

Official Business — Accommodation prepaid — Bologne Conference 27-29 April 2009

18/02/2009

City North Hotel

Gormanstown

€17.90

Official Business — North/South meeting— Refreshments

16/02/2009

Sofitel Brussels Euro

Brussels

€477.00

Official Business Accommodation — Education Council Meeting

04/02/2009

Ritz Carlton Hotel

Manama

€26.70

Official Business -Minister accompanying President McAleese to the Kingdom of Bahrain -Refreshments

04/02/2009

Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel

Seef District

€111.58

Official Business -Minister accompanying President McAleese to the Kingdom of Bahrain -Dining

2009

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

Total for 2009:

€3,901.65

28/12/2010

Raheen Woods Hotel

€89.00

Raheen Woods Hotel (Official Business) — Accommodation for Tánaiste

28/12/2010

Meadow Court Hotel

€82.80

Meadow Court Hotel — Business Lunch Meeting

28/11/2010

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

28/09/2010

Government Fee/Membership Credit

€27.12

Government Fee/Membership Credit

28/09/2010

Government Fee/Membership Credit

€27.12

Government Fee/Membership Credit

28/07/2010

Purchase Interest

0.44

Purchase Interest

28/07/2010

Purchase Interest

€1.12

Purchase Interest

28/06/2010

Purchase Interest

€0.45

Purchase Interest

28/06/2010

AerArann flights

€78.17

AerArann flights

28/04/2010

The Clayton Hotel Official Business

Galway

€378.50

Teacher conferences (Accommodation for Tánaiste & Private Secretary for 2 nights, photocopying & refreshments.

01/04/2010

Government Stamp Duty

n/a

€30.00

Government Stamp Duty

28/03/2010

Grand Hyatt Seoul Hotel

€69.41

Business Meeting with Korean Ambassador-Refreshments

28/01/2010

n/a

n/a

€1.40

interest charged

Total for 2010

€816.53

28/05/2011

Anatolia Restaurant

€641.50

Working Dinner Senior Management Meeting

28/05/2011

Tullamore Court Hotel

€67.07

(Official Business) — Accommodation for Minister

28/05/2011

City North Hotel

€18.65

Business Lunch

28/05/2011

Brussels Schuman

€145.00

(Official Business) -Accommodation for Minister

28/05/2011

Brussels Schuman

€145.00

(Official Business) -Accommodation for Private Sec

01/04/2011

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

Government Stamp Duty

28/01/2011

Purchase Interest

€2.54

Purchase Interest

Total for 2011

€1,049.76

Name of cardholder: Private Secretary to the Minister of State 2007-2011

Date of Purchase

Item Purchased

Location of Purchase

Cost

Reason for Purchase

20/10/2007

Hotel St Honore

Paris

€4,000.00

Attendance of Minister, Private secretary and Department official at UNESCO meeting

15/10/2007

Hotel St Honore

Paris

€168.00

Official Business- Attendance of Minister, Private secretary and Department official at UNESCO meeting

16/02/2007

Brussels Marriott Hotel

Brussels

€289.00

Official Business- Accommodation in Brussels for Minister and Private secretary re Education, Youth and Culture Council of Ministers

16/02/2007

Brussels Marriott Hotel

Brussels

€194.00

Official Business- Accommodation in Brussels for Minister and Private secretary re Education, Youth and Culture Council of Ministers

2007

Annual Fee

€25.00

Annual Fee

2007

Government Stamp Duty

€40.00

Government Stamp Duty

Total

€4,716.00

21/11/2008

Sofitel Brussels Euro

Brussels

€585.00

Official Business- Accommodation in Brussels for Minister and Private secretary re Education, Youth and Culture Council of Ministers

26/02/2008

P&J O Callaghan

Killarney

€300.00

Official Business- Transport for Minister when he officially opened National Association of Youthreach Co-ordinators Annual Conference in Killarney

14/02/2008

Brussels Marriott Hotel

Brussels

€542.00

Official Business- Accommodation in Brussels for Minister and Private secretary re Education, Youth and Culture Council of Ministers

06/02/2008

Dromoland Castle

Clare

€390.00

Official Business- Accommodation for Minister and Private Secretary — Minister officially addressed IVEA Annual Conference in Mayo and opened Adult Education Centres in Shannon and Ennis

2008

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

01/04/2008

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

Government Stamp Duty

Total

€1,878.00

01/04/2009

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

28/10/2009

Pullman Eiffel — Paris

Paris

€661.57

OECD Meeting in Paris

28/11/2009

Interest

€9.76

Interest Charged

27/11/2009

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

Total

€732.33

01/04/2010

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

19/11/2010

Carlton Hotel, Brussels

€334.00

Official Business — Carlton Hotel Brussels — Attendance at Education Council Meeting in Brussels

26/11/2010

Annual Fee

€31.00

Annual Fee

Total

€395.00

01/04/2011

Government Stamp Duty

€30.00

Total

€30.00

Ministerial Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

185 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of his Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries to each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23341/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

186 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special advisers and programme managers in his Department; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for each of the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23356/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

187 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons employed in his private offices and constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23371/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 to 187, inclusive, together.

At a Government meeting held on the 15th March, 2011, it was decided to reduce the number of staff permitted in Minister's Private Offices from 10 to 8 and Minister of State's Private Offices from 7 to 5. The number of staff permitted in Minister's Constituency Offices has been reduced from 6 to 4 and Ministers of State's Constituency Offices from 5 to 3. The staffing of these offices at my Department is in accordance with these reduced parameters.

Since I have taken office I have appointed 2 Special Advisers. It should be noted that there were 3 Special Advisers, as allowed under Department of Finance guidelines, appointed by the then Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills from March 2010 to March 2011 to allow for additional duties in respect of her role as Tánaiste. Salary costs in respect of these Advisers are set out in the following table. There are currently 4 officers in my Constituency Office and 8 officers in my Private Office. Salary details in respect of each office are set out in the following table.

There are currently 3(2.8 fte*) officers in the Constituency Office and 5 officers in the Private Office of Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, T.D. Salary details in respect of each office are set out in the following table. There is also 1 Private Secretary appointed to Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D., and Minister of State for Research & Innovation in my Department. Their salary to date in 2011 is set out in the following table. The salaries paid to the civil servants are in accordance with the Department of Finance salary scales for the relevant grades. The salaries paid to the non-civil servant staff are in accordance with the Department of Finance Instructions relating to the Appointment of Ministerial Private Office Staff.

* Full time equivalent

Minister's Special Advisers

Year

Gross Salary Cost

1st January to date 2011

€161,752

2010

€246,637

2009

€192,269

Minister — Private and Constituency Offices

2011 — 1st January to date 2011

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

€181,107

Constituency Office

€128,912

2010

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

€238,671

Constituency Office

€238,465

2009

Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

€245,667

Constituency Office

€256,031

Minister of State — Private and Constituency Offices

2011 — 1st January to date 2011

Gross Salary Cost

Private Office

€152,595

Constituency Office

€76,666

2010

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

€159,460

Constituency Office

€195,586

2009

Gross Annual Salary Cost

Private Office

€192,425

Constituency Office

€198,346

Private Secretary appointed to Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State for Research and Innovation in the Department of Education and Skills

Year

Gross Salary Costs of Private Secretary

2 June to date in 2011

€15,655.58

School Transport

Brendan Griffin

Question:

188 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review school transport catchment boundaries in a location (details supplied) in County Kerry due to exceptional circumstances in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23386/11]

Under the current terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme, pupils are eligible for transport if they reside 4.8 kilometres or more from their local post primary education centre, that is the centre serving the catchment area in which they reside.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their ‘own' post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

Changes in the School Transport Scheme were announced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. One of these changes includes the cessation of the use of the above catchment boundary system. Eligibility for school transport for all new pupils entering post-primary from the 2012/13 school year will be determined by the distance they reside from their nearest post-primary centre or school. Existing eligible post primary pupils will retain their eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided they continue to meet the terms of the current scheme.

State Examinations

Charles Flanagan

Question:

189 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make Irish a subject of choice in the leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23389/11]

This Government is committed to supporting the overall thrust of 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, and to the delivery of the goals and targets proposed. As part of this, a thorough reform of the Irish curriculum and the way Irish is taught at primary and second level will be undertaken. The priority is to take steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching of Irish. Only when these steps have been implemented, the question of whether Irish should be optional at Leaving Certificate will be considered.

A revised Leaving Certificate curriculum in Irish began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012. The revised programme provides for an increase in the proportion of marks available for oral assessment to 40%, and is aimed at promoting a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been asked to review this syllabus in the light of the experiences of students in the first examination.

Teaching Qualifications

Finian McGrath

Question:

190 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers with maths degrees who will be recruited by schools ahead of the new academic year. [23401/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

191 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the breakdown of qualified maths teachers by age; and the number of teachers who are nearing retirement. [23402/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

192 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of leaving certificate students being taught by a teacher who does not hold a qualification. [23403/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of unqualified maths teachers who are teaching the subject; the breakdown of the number of unqualified maths teachers in public versus private schools, or by geographical area, or by gender. [23404/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

194 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of qualified maths teachers teaching here; and if he will contact each secondary school to find out whether it has enough qualified maths teachers. [23405/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any study has been completed on the relationship between maths grades and the qualification of teachers. [23406/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 to 195, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Teaching Council that there are almost 4,100 qualified Maths teachers currently on the register of teachers. Of these, just over 500 teachers are aged between 55 and 59 (nearing retirement), while less than 230 are aged 60 and over.

In relation to the qualifications of those currently teaching mathematics in post-primary schools, the Teaching Council has carried out a survey on this subject. The results of the survey shows that out of a total of 2,045 teachers teaching maths in 258 schools, 1,400 teachers are fully qualified to do so, 596 teachers have undergone some studies in maths and only 49 have no third level qualifications/studies in maths. The survey helps us to get a clearer picture of what is actually happening on the ground in these schools and the data allows us to plan to meet the training needs of teachers over the coming years. The Council has not advised on the breakdown of maths teachers in different categories of schools, by gender, or location, nor is this information currently available to the Department.

Recruitment of teachers is a matter for individual schools and therefore it is not possible for me to say how many teachers with maths degrees will be recruited for this academic year. However, schools have been directed by my Department, as far as practicable, to appoint only appropriately qualified and registered teachers. The appointment and deployment of teachers within schools is also a matter for schools themselves.

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 151.

School Transport

John O'Mahony

Question:

197 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on a school bus run (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23434/11]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of my Department, has advised that they are awaiting payment from a number of eligible pupils who applied for transport. A service will be established and tickets will be issued when payment is received from a minimum number of 10 eligible pupils.

Departmental Expenditure

Simon Harris

Question:

198 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the budget available to his Department for IT expenditure in 2010 and 2011; the provisions within his Department for the purchasing of IT equipment; the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure value for money and cost reductions in this regard; if there are budgets and procedures in place for the purchasing of IT equipment for each State agency under his remit for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23443/11]

The expenditure incurred by my Department's IT Unit in 2010 was €1.334m on capital and €1.783m on current. There is provision of €2m for capital and €2.395m for current expenditure in 2011.

The purchase of IT equipment by my Department is on the basis of a competitive tendering process, conducted in compliance with national and EU rules. There are framework arrangements in place, managed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and used by my Department, for the purchase of personal computers (including notebooks) and printers. These frameworks maximise volume discounts and allow government departments and agencies to operate much simpler procurement processes for such equipment. The method used to procure IT equipment not covered by the framework arrangements, is determined by the estimated value of the contract. It is recommended that three quotes be obtained for purchases less than €5,000. A minimum of three written quotes must be obtained in respect of purchases between €5,000 and €10,000. Contracts in excess of €10,000 are advertised on the eTenders website. In addition, contracts in excess of €125,000 must also be advertised on the Official Journal of the European Union website.

Bodies under the aegis of my Department have budgets for the purchase of IT equipment and are obliged to comply with national and EU procurement rules. In accordance with the 2009 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, the Chairperson of each state body must furnish to the relevant Minister in conjunction with the annual report and accounts of the body a comprehensive report to include an affirmation that ‘all appropriate procedures for financial reporting, internal audit, travel, procurement and asset disposal are being carried out'.

Expenditure Reviews

Sean Fleming

Question:

199 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will publish the details of his Department’s submission and all correspondence to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration as part of the comprehensive spending review. [23470/11]

Departmental submissions to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) are a central part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government. As such, release of these documents could not be considered in advance of Government decisions on the forthcoming Budget. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has already indicated that it is his intention to publish the Reports submitted as part of the CRE process following the finalisation of the budgetary process.

School Accommodation

Niall Collins

Question:

200 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an appeal by a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23534/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has made an application to my Department for funding towards the provision of additional accommodation at the school. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application has been approved and the school authorities have been informed in writing.

Schools Building Projects

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

201 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost per square foot of constructing school extensions and new school buildings in rural locations; the comparative cost to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23547/11]

A fundamental element of the building cost limits for all school building projects is the Basic Building Cost (BBC). The Basic Building Cost is expressed as a cost per square metre of the new build floor area. My Department keeps the Basic Building Cost under review in line with cost developments in the construction industry generally and the cost of school building projects in particular.

The current Basic Building Cost, effective from January 2011, is €930 per square metre, which equates to approximately €86 per square foot. This compares with the Basic Building Cost which applied in 2008 which was €1,230 per square metre (approximately €114 per square foot).

The Basic Building Cost extant at any particular time applies to both urban and rural areas and applies equally to new build areas in extensions and new schools alike.

Other elements which can affect the overall cost of a school building project include External Works, Abnormal Costs and site acquisition costs. These elements can vary from site to site and from project to project.

Departmental Funding

John O'Mahony

Question:

202 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding is available to a person with children who has been accepted to attend a post leaving certificate course to help with the cost of child care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23593/11]

My Department funds a provision for student support for learners attending PLC courses. Under the terms of the scheme, grant assistance is awarded to learners who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. The person should contact their local Vocational Education Committee (VEC) to establish their eligibility.

In addition, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs subsidises the childcare and preschool fees of disadvantaged and lower income families under the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme. Parents are charged the cost price of their childcare, less any subvention they qualify for. Subventions under the scheme depend on the level of service, and the level of disadvantage of the parents. The person can contact their local County Childcare Committee for more information.

School Transport

John O'Mahony

Question:

203 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person whose responsibility it is to inform parents that a school bus route has been withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23597/11]

Changes in the School Transport Scheme were announced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.

One of the changes announced included an increase from seven to ten in the minimum number of eligible pupils, residing in a distinct locality, required to establish or retain a school transport service.

In June, School Transport Section of my Department wrote to the Boards of Management of schools where the number of applications from eligible pupils had fallen below this minimum number requirement.

In addition, a list of the schools likely to be affected by this change was posted on my Department's website.

The situation in relation to the establishment, withdrawal or retention of school transport services changed frequently throughout the summer months as late applications and payments were received from eligible pupils. Some services that were identified for withdrawal were subsequently reinstated.

In light of this, it was not practical to communicate directly with individual families.

State Examinations

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

204 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of oral examinations at both junior and leaving certificate level; if proposals are in place to change the process of conducting oral examinations to lower the cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23615/11]

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.

Departmental Funding

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

205 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of funding teacher upskilling courses run by the National Centre for Technology in Education; the breakdown for funding each of these courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23783/11]

In 2010, the NCTE provided teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to 11,353 teachers via the education centre network and on-line. The cost of delivery of this CPD in 2010 was € 958,751.22. A wide range of courses is provided by NCTE consisting of standard, NCTE-designed courses, courses tailored to the needs of the school (known as Whole School Training), more informal support groups and on-line courses.

Course delivery costs are based on standard rates for all face to face courses in respect of tutor fees, venues, travel and subsistence, administration etc. Course costs therefore vary based on the course duration and the number of participants rather than on the course title.

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

206 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of funding from his Department for the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation run courses under the National Centre for Technology in Education; if he will provide a breakdown of these costs for each course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23784/11]

In 2010, the NCTE funded the INTO to provide 2 courses to 597 teachers in total. The total cost was €52,966.20 (including the cost of course updates, tutor training, administration and related fees). Courses for which the delivery was part-funded in 2010 were:

Supporting and Developing ICT as a Teaching and Learning Resource

Beyond 2020: Using Technology in the Primary School.

The funding is not currently broken down by course. A breakdown of the funding is as follows:

Course Development Costs:

1,200.00

Tutor Training Costs:

8,849.02

Face to Face Delivery Costs:

24,670.32

On-line Course Delivery Costs:

8,753.33

Administration, Auditing & Accounting fee:

9,493.53

Total

52,966.20

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

207 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of teacher training upskilling courses run by the National Centre for Technology in Education which are not alternatively provided by private sector education providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23785/11]

NCTE courses are unique in that they are designed and delivered by qualified teachers based on nationally and locally identified need and government priorities, such as literacy and numeracy. They are available throughout the year and are fully funded by NCTE, so that teachers do not have to pay course fees. Most courses are delivered face to face to ensure that teachers gain adequate hands-on practical skills combined with the knowledge of how to use ICT as an integral part of the curriculum. The "whole-school" orientation of many courses is also unique to NCTE/NCTE funded courses, allowing teachers to learn based on their specific needs and using the equipment in their own school.

Courses developed by the NCTE are run either by the NCTE, by the network of education centres or by non-profit educational partners.

In 2010, NCTE courses included the following:

Computer Maintenance & Useful Applications for Creating Teaching Resources (NCTE/T4)

Creating your School's Website using Scoilnet Blogs

Developing e-Learning in your School, ICT & Language in the Primary Classroom (NCTE/MLPSI)

Incorporating Computer Control into student work using a PIC Microcontroller (NCTE/T4)

ICT & Maths (NCTE/Project Maths)

Scoilnet & On-line Encyclopaedias

Scoilnet Maps

Supporting and Developing ICT as a Teaching and Learning Resource (NCTE/INTO)

TFC agus an Ghaeilge (NCTE/STDL Gaeilge)

Using the Interactive Whiteboard

Web 2.0 for Learning (Blogs, Podcasts & Wikis).

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

208 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools in County Mayo that have lost school transport services as a result of the changes introduced by him at the start of this term; and if he will provide a list for each school. [23811/11]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that four primary school transport services in Co. Mayo were withdrawn at the start of the current school year.

The list of services withdrawn and the schools involved are listed on my Department's website.

Vocational Education Committees

Jack Wall

Question:

209 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views regarding a submission (details supplied); the actions, if any, that are to be taken to address the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23863/11]

Officials in my Department have been in contact with Co Carlow VEC in relation to person referred to by the Deputy and I understand that the matter has been resolved.

Redundancy Payments

Seán Kenny

Question:

210 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a special needs assistant (details supplied) in Dublin 7, who was made redundant on 11 January 2011 after six years service, will be paid their full redundancy entitlements. [23904/11]

The redundancy application made by the person referred to by the Deputy is currently being processed and will be paid to her shortly.

Teacher Numbers

Seán Kenny

Question:

211 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who have graduated as a post-primary school teacher in each of the teacher training colleges in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and the number of students who have entered each of the colleges in each of these years. [23913/11]

Seán Kenny

Question:

212 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who have graduated as a primary school teacher from each of the teacher training colleges in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and to date in 2011; and the number of students who have entered each of the colleges in each of these years. [23914/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

The five state funded Colleges of Education offer the Bachelor of Education for primary teaching and four of the Colleges offer an 18 month post graduate primary education course. Hibernia College, a private provider, also offers a postgraduate course. There are 15 providers of Post Primary initial teacher education courses. Students follow one of two models of initial teacher education: a concurrent (three or four year degree course) or a consecutive model (a Bachelor degree and a one-year Higher Diploma in Education). Students following the concurrent route enter through the CAO and students following the consecutive model enter under the Post Graduate Applications Centre or apply directly to the provider.

My Department does not hold the detailed data for post primary entrants which the Deputy has requested. The following table sets out the data on entrants and graduates for the primary initial teacher education providers and graduates registered with the Teaching Council for post primary from 2007-2010 as well as estimated graduates for 2011.

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Estimated Entrants

Estimated Graduates

Entrants

Graduates

Entrants

Graduates

Entrants

Graduates

Entrants

Graduates

469

522

516

589

598

577

650

562

552

502

32

29

33

30

32

33

33

30

32

29

468

505

511

577

546

566

604

498

532

478

94

96

99

141

131

135

132

119

115

93

164

165

176

215

213

202

211

149

160

152

n/a

676

n/a

647

n/a

532

n/a

494

n/a

483

1,227

1,993

1,335

2,199

1,520

2,045

1,630

1,852

1,391

1,737

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Graduates Registered

Graduates Registered

Graduates Registered

Graduates Registered

Estimated Graduates

199

200

237

224

204

9

16

11

14

9

10

19

17

35

43

0

34

31

32

35

70

58

56

65

54

28

42

39

40

49

0

0

9

10

10

0

0

0

10

14

0

0

0

41

46

90

87

128

74

88

117

136

106

223

205

212

165

208

201

195

0

43

34

41

27

138

130

159

142

133

16

20

20

18

18

131

149

120

131

117

0

64

35

39

42

195

205

215

190

231

0

27

25

29

28

26

28

30

30

28

0

0

0

19

0

0

0

0

0

1,241

1,423

1,480

1,608

1,576

Special Educational Needs

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

213 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update in the need for appropriate numbers of special needs assistants to meet the needs of pupils at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23939/11]

Brendan Smith

Question:

231 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if additional special needs assistant posts will be approved in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24202/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 231 together.

The Deputy will be aware the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating 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, which now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

As set out in my Department's Circular 0042/2011, in order for the NCSE to complete the processing of applications for mainstream schools in the first instance, the existing 2010/11 level of SNA supports have been maintained in special schools for the coming school year, other than for schools with declining enrolments, with a review to take place in Autumn of the 11/12 school year. This review will also take into account the Policy Analysis and Value for Money Review of the SNA scheme and policy advice received from the NCSE on the Future of Special Schools and Classes.

Therefore, the existing level of SNAs in special schools, other than those whose enrolments have declined significantly, has been maintained in order to assist and protect the most vulnerable children in the education system.

The special school in Kildare, referred to by the Deputy, has therefore not experienced a reduction in SNA support over the level of SNA support provided at the end of the 2011 school year, but has maintained its existing high levels of SNA support.

The overall level of SNA support in this school is presently being reviewed by the NCSE. Notwithstanding the outcome of this review, it is the position of both my Department and the NCSE that given the exceptionally high levels of teaching and support staff which have been allocated to the school, that the school has sufficient support within its overall allocation to provide for the teaching and care requirements of all of the children enrolled to the school, pending the outcome of this review.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

214 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the need for appropriate numbers of special needs assistants to meet the needs of pupils at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23940/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

216 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staffing levels at a school. (details supplied). [24001/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 216 together.

The Deputy will be aware the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating teaching staff and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to special schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Departments criteria in allocating such support, which now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

As set out in my Departments Circular 0042/2011, in order for the NCSE to complete the processing of applications for mainstream schools in the first instance, the existing 2010/11 level of SNA supports have been maintained in special schools for the coming school year, other than for schools with declining enrolments, with a review to take place in Autumn of the 11/12 school year. This review will also take into account the Policy Analysis and Value for Money Review of the SNA scheme and policy advice received from the NCSE on the Future of Special Schools and Classes.

In relation to teaching posts, Circular 0042/11 states that there are a small number of special schools which have significant excess teacher posts and that the NCSE may therefore contact such schools to review the individual circumstances in these schools. The Circular indicates that the NCSE may suppress a post in schools which have excess teaching posts in order to create a post in a school which does not have excess posts and which has growing pupil numbers.

The overall levels of teaching and SNA support in the school referred to by the Deputy in County Cork, is currently being reviewed by the NCSE.

The school caters for pupils with severe/profound disability and ASD. The correct teacher allocation ratio for schools catering for children with severe and profound disability is 6:1. In 2010/11 the school had 7 approved class teaching posts and 3 supernumerary posts and 28 SNAs. The enrolment is 38 pupils, including the 9 new children enrolled for September 2011. One of the surplus teachers retired at the end of the last school year and the school is not eligible for a replacement. A further supernumerary post has been withdrawn leaving the school with 1 supernumerary post above its staffing allocation.

Notwithstanding the outcome of this review, it is the position of both my Department and the NCSE that given the exceptionally high levels of teaching and support staff which have been allocated to the school, that the school has sufficient support within its overall allocation to enable it provide for the teaching and care support requirements of all of the children enrolled to the school, pending the outcome of this review.

Departmental Funding

Damien English

Question:

215 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Education and Skills the competitive process that was undertaken in order for the Irish National Teachers Organisation to be given partial funding for teacher training courses given by the National Centre for Technology in Education; if other organisations or private sector education providers can apply to receive funding for courses given by the National Centre for Technology in Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23993/11]

The NCTE does not seek applications for funding in relation to the provision of courses as it is fully engaged in delivering its own training programme. However, if an application is received from an Education Partner body, it is considered in accordance with Department guidelines and in particular if the proposal will advance the ICT programme in schools. Approval is also subject to the availability of resources both financial and human to process the application and manage any resulting partnership.

In the instance mentioned the INTO applied for funding and was considered in accordance with the above guidelines.

Question No. 216 answered with Question No. 214.
Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 176.

Adult Education

Finian McGrath

Question:

218 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [24007/11]

The person referred to by the Deputy can contact the Adult Education Guidance service of his local Vocational Education Committee (VEC) in relation to options in further education. The person could also contact his local FÁS office in relation to training options. There are also a range of free part-time options available in Higher Education under the Springboard initiative — the person can checkwww.bluebrick.ie for more information.

Unemployed people who wish to undertake a course of education, including the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme referred to by the person, may be eligible to receive the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). The BTEA is administered by the Department of Social Protection and its terms and conditions are a matter for that Department and the Minister for Social Protection. The person should contact his local welfare office to determine his eligibility or otherwise for the BTEA.

The PLC programme operates on an academic year basis and is open to school leavers and adults returning to education, including those in receipt of welfare payments. My Department funds a student maintenance grant for learners attending PLC courses. Under the terms of the scheme, grant assistance is awarded to learners who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. The local VEC can advise the person on his eligibility or otherwise for the scheme. Budget 2011 provided for the introduction of a €200 annual PLC programme participant contribution for all PLC participants. The following categories of participants are exempt from paying the contribution:

Full medical card holders in their own right and their dependent children;

Those who are eligible under the student grant scheme;

Those in receipt of the BTEA or Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) allowances.

PLC participants may also be asked to pay for the following:

Books, uniforms/clothing or other equipment which becomes the personal property of the learner

Student Services

Registration charges by professional bodies

Examination fees

Schools Refurbishment

Patrick Deering

Question:

219 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills when payment for minor works grants in 2011 will be made. [24119/11]

No decisions have yet been taken regarding the payment of the primary school minor works grant in the current school year. Schools have been informed that they should not enter into any capital commitment in anticipation of the minor works grant being paid this year.

School Enrolments

Patrick Deering

Question:

220 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will allow roll book entries be made in English in view of the diverse culture of the children attending schools here. [24120/11]

It is a longstanding custom and practice in some schools at primary level that the roll books are completed through Irish and for schools to translate the names of pupils and in some cases the addresses, to Irish for this purpose. However, it is open to schools to use the English version if they wish.

Special Educational Needs

James Bannon

Question:

221 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give an update on the educational provision in respect of eight persons (details supplied), left without a school place suitable to their requirements, due to the lack of funding for Achieve ABA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24125/11]

The Deputy's question refers to a proposal for an academy for children with autism which was submitted to my Department for consideration by Achieve ABA. The Deputy will be aware that my Department had no direct funding arrangements with the group in question.

Consideration of this proposal took account of my Department's policy in this regard, which 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.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the provision of a range of educational services at local and national level for students with special educational needs. In particular, its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) co-ordinates special needs education provision at local level and arranges 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. SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children. The NCSE have been fully engaged in securing placements for the children in question. The NCSE has advised my Department that, irrespective of the assessed levels of ability of the children, there are placements available for these children. I also understand from my officials that the parents of the children have been advised of their placement options by the NCSE at the start of this week.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has approved additional home tuition for the children which will facilitate transitional arrangements when the school based placements have been accepted by the parents.

Institutes of Technology

Paudie Coffey

Question:

222 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give an update in relation to the commitment in the programme for Government for a technological university for the south east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24133/11]

Brendan Smith

Question:

229 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposals he has to develop a technological university in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24200/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 229 together.

The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, otherwise known as the Hunt report, lays out a clear possible development pathway for amalgamated institutes of technology, which meet specified performance criteria, to seek re-designation as technological universities. A small number of new technological universities, with their own legislative framework and a distinct mission that is faithful to the ethos of the technological sector, working with existing universities, institutes of technology and other education providers, can enrich the diversity and quality of the Irish higher education landscape.

I have asked the Higher Education Authority for its formal advice on performance criteria to be used in an independent assessment process for any future applications for designation as technological universities. A consultation process on draft criteria is being undertaken by the Higher Education Authority and will be completed early next month. It is understood that the Higher Education Authority hopes to sign off its formal advice to my Department at its November meeting of the Authority. I will expedite consideration of the advice with a view to publishing the criteria before the end of December.

All applications will be considered under an independent assessment process. Once a process is in place it will be open to institutes of technology to come together to make applications for consideration for re-designation, including those in the south east.

Grant Payments

James Bannon

Question:

223 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if financial assistance is available for a person (details supplied) in County Longford to enable them to complete the second part of a legal course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24140/11]

I understand that in the case referred to by the Deputy, an application for a grant made to the student's local authority was unsuccessful and that in a subsequent appeal made to the local authority the original decision was upheld. I also understand that a further appeal has now been made to the Student Grants Appeal Board. The board is independent in the exercise of its functions and is due to issue a determination within 60 days of receipt of the appeal.

Teaching Qualifications

Finian McGrath

Question:

224 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a bilateral agreement with New Zealand in regard to the mutual recognition of qualifications (details supplied). [24153/11]

In 2010, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) completed a project on the compatibility of the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. As part of this project, compatibility statements in relation to higher education major awards at NFQ levels 7-10 were made. The full report is available on the NQAI's website.

Compatibility statements in relation to awards on national frameworks provide a guide for individual education and training institutions and employers in considering foreign awards. In the absence of such statements, institutions and employers must consider the learning outcomes associated with the individual award concerned against their requirements. In general, this should not depend on the provider or type of provider which provided the programme of education and training which leads to that award.

State Examinations

Joe Costello

Question:

225 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will allow a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 to attend school and to complete their leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24160/11]

Based on the information provided by the Deputy, it would appear that the person in question has fully completed second level education and is therefore in the same position as any other person who finds that they need to take subjects in the Leaving Certificate Examination in order to pursue a particular course.

The State Examinations Commission facilitates people to take the Leaving Certificate as external candidates.

In general, people preparing for the Leaving Certificate examination would avail of any provision being made by VECs, as part of their adult education programmes.

School Transport

David Stanton

Question:

226 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a contract, currently held by Bus Éireann, for the rural school transport scheme terminates; if this contract was subject to public tendering process; if not, if he will advise if this is in contravention of European Union law and if future contracts will be subject to public tendering processes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24190/11]

Administrative arrangements exist between Bus Éireann (formerly CIÉ) and the Department since 1968 to provide the general school transport services, which were updated in 1975 and which have been adapted as required to meet evolving needs.

The Value for Money Review of the School Transport Schemes concluded that, particularly in the context of the complexities of deciding on eligibility for school transport, procuring school transport and developing networks for school transport, a single national organiser with a regional dimension to operate the scheme is required and that in the medium term this should continue to be Bus Éireann.

My Department is satisfied that the current administrative arrangements with Bus Éireann do not contravene E.U. Regulations.

School Staffing

David Stanton

Question:

227 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if resource hours are to be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24196/11]

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 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.

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.

In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the coming 2011/12 school year, an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy in Midleton, 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.

Schools have now 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 the receipt of all such applications, consideration will be given as to whether there is potential to revise the 90% allocation previously given to schools, and also the extent to which new Resource Teaching allocations can be made, taking into account the number of valid new applications received and in the context of my Departments Employment Control Framework obligations.

Question No. 228 answered with Question No. 176.
Question No. 229 answered with Question No. 222.

School Textbooks

Brendan Smith

Question:

230 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been made in relation to the need to reduce the cost of school textbooks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24201/11]

I recently met with educational book publishers, representatives of parents' organisations and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul regarding the cost of school textbooks. Subsequently, the publishers devised a voluntary Code of Practice and, while I welcome the Code as a significant step in the right direction, I believe that more should be done to reduce the price of textbooks.

Accordingly. I have proposed to the representatives of the textbook publishers: that the cover price of the most popular textbooks should be reduced; that a significant discount should be given to schools which purchase textbooks in bulk, in line with the discounts given to retailers of textbooks; that the practice of combining a conventional textbook and workbook in a single volume should be ended to allow students to re-use a textbook; and that support materials should be provided to teachers online, to minimise ancillary printing costs. While respecting the position that educational book publishers are independent private companies not under the direct control of my Department, I intend to meet with their representatives again to progress these issues.

I am also keen to examine if there are ways to encourage schools, via the book grant scheme, to establish or maintain book rental schemes as I believe this to be one of the most effective ways of lowering the burden of the cost of school books. I have invited the National Parents Councils at primary and post-primary levels to provide me with examples of good practice of book rental schemes. Drawing on these and other examples, I intend to publish advice to schools on how best to establish and maintain textbook rental schemes in schools well in advance of the beginning of the next school year.

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 213.

Legislative Programme

Tom Hayes

Question:

232 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the Construction Contracts Bill 2010; and when this Bill will appear before Dáil Éireann. [22683/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

236 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the Construction Contracts Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23575/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 236 together.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In addition, the Deputies may be aware that the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 was introduced by Senator Feargal Quinn and passed Committee and Remaining Stages in the Seanad on 8 March 2011. It is now before the Dáil.

In this regard, my colleague Minister of State, Mr Brian Hayes is working with Senator Quinn to continue a collaborative approach in regard to advancing the Bill. The Senator's Bill is a welcome initiative and I understand that Minister Hayes and Senator Quinn held a meeting with relevant stakeholders and opposition spokespersons on 28th June 2011. This consultation highlighted a number of matters relating to the Bill that required further consideration and that have been taken into account in the Regulatory Impact Assessment which is being finalised in my Department at present.

These steps will make it possible to bring proposals to Government about how to progress this legislation. It is intended to have the legislation progress in the Dáil in the current session.

It is important that a solution to the problem of non-payment in the construction sector must not place an unnecessary regulatory or cost burden on the parties to the dispute, other parties involved in the project, or the State.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

233 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding Oireachtas pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23002/11]

The Programme for Government contains a number of provisions relating to the matter referred to in the details supplied. The Government is reviewing how the Programme in regard to the benefits of Oireachtas Members will be implemented.

Departmental Funding

Joe Costello

Question:

234 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the contribution of the State to the recent works carried out to Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin 9; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the planned access to the Botanic Gardens has not been provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23018/11]

A scheme of restoration of Glasnevin Cemetery commenced in 2007. Funding for the works is being provided through the Office of Public Works. The Glasnevin Cemeteries Group is managing the works, with the Office of Public Works acting in an advisory capacity. The project is working towards completion in time for the centenary of the 1916 rising in 2016. To date €10.033 million has been contributed by the State by way of grant assistance to the project.

Works completed to date include: the relocation of the Sigerson Memorial; landscaping in the vicinity of the Round Tower and lighting of the base of this tower; cleaning of monuments close to the O'Connell Tower; cleaning of the Monaghan Chapel; replacement of railings around a number of monuments; provision of new foundations for headstones and reinstatement of damaged headstones. In addition, part of the ongoing work has been to remove many of the lower branches from the trees in order to provide better visibility for visitors to the cemetery. Removal of ivy from tree trunks and monuments has also been undertaken. The area at the eastern end of the cemetery has been grassed and the re-surfacing of the eight kilometres of paths has begun. Improvements have been made to drainage by sinking new manholes into the century-old drains.

Among the works planned to be carried out in 2011 are: preservation works to Prospect Lodge (listed building); further works to the road and pathway infrastructure; upgrading of works yard adjacent to the Crematorium; further bollard installation, wiring and electrical works; and further horticultural upgrading works.

The historic cemetery will be linked to the neighbouring National Botanic Gardens, providing an opportunity to mutually enhance both national institutions. The necessary preparatory design work for this link has been completed and it is expected to commence following planning consultation.

In addition to the works already mentioned, the programme of work included the provision of a state of the art heritage centre and museum at the entrance to the cemetery. The Glasnevin Trust Museum and Visitor Centre was formally opened on 8th April 2010. This project was managed and funded separately by the Glasnevin Trust. The museum has already won many prestigious awards.

Universal Social Charge

Pearse Doherty

Question:

235 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the return of the Exchequer from the health levy in the past full year before the introduction of the universal social charge. [23254/11]

Receipts in respect of the health levy in 2010, the last year prior to the introduction of the universal social charge, amounted to €2,017.656m.

Question No. 236 answered with Question No. 232.

Review of Expenditure

Denis Naughten

Question:

237 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the input suggestion scheme is still in operation; the savings that have been made to date as a result of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24169/11]

Members of the public were invited to submit suggestions to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure through my Department's websitewww.per.gov.ie. The period for suggestions to be put forward for consideration has now elapsed. All suggestions received as part of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure have been forwarded to the relevant parent Department for appraisal and, where appropriate, they will be included as part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government.

Pay Levels

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

238 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will establish a top pay commission to examine pay and compensation levels across the whole economy and establish key pay relatives across the public and private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22333/11]

I refer to my reply to Questions Nos. 248 and 249 of 21 July 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

239 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of money that was spent on taxis by his Department in the past year; the amount of money that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for his Department; the times that taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the amount that was used by staff members; the amount that was used by outsiders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22728/11]

Records for expenditure on taxis for my Department are from April 2011 only. Since that time a total of €2,991 euros has been spent on taxi fares. Taxis should be used for official business purposes only. While it is not Departmental policy to pay taxi fares for outsiders, occasionally a journey, which begins from this Department, will include outsiders along with a Departmental official. This would be done as a means of reducing overall expenditure for the public service.

National Monuments

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

240 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Staigue Fort in Castlecove, County Kerry is frequented by many visitors and Kerry County Council has a policy of not cutting hedges on roads; if, due to the volume of traffic on this road to the fort, the Office of Public Works will make an exception in this case and for the very small sum involved and in the interest of safety and cut the hedges to this national monument once a year as part of regular maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22894/11]

Staigue Fort, Castlecove, Co Kerry is a stone cashel in State guardianship. It is sited on privately owned lands and public access is granted through the goodwill of the landowner. The lands and approaches to the monument do not fall under the maintenance remit of the Office of Public Works. Budgetary constraints and limited resources will not allow the routine maintenance of hedging on the public roads.

Flood Damage

Seán Kyne

Question:

241 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works has condemned the house of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if the file on this issue has been sent to the Department of Social Protection in preparation for the relocation of said person. [22921/11]

At the request of the Department of Social Protection, the Office of Public Works carried out a technical assessment of a number of dwellings affected by the 2009 flood events, including that of the person referred to by the Deputy. Correspondence issued to the Department of Social Protection in May 2011. A copy of this correspondence was made available to the individual in question.

Consideration of applications for humanitarian aid, including relocation, is a matter for the Department of Social Protection.

Flood Relief

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

242 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a section of embankment along the River Laune (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22930/11]

The Office of Public Works is currently undertaking the necessary repair works to the stretch of embankment concerned. These works have been ongoing for a number of weeks and consist of the underpinning and reconstruction of concrete aprons. The works are expected to be completed later this month. An OPW official recently met with the landowner concerned in relation to the works.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

243 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount his Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years. [23302/11]

Records for expenditure on taxis for my Department are from April 2011 only. Since that time a total of 2,991 euros has been spent on taxi fares.

Shane Ross

Question:

244 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the details of spending using Departmental credit cards held by Department staff over the past four years; the numbers of persons in his Department who hold credit cards; the credit limits of said cards; and the amount that was specifically spent by his Department on entertainment provided using said credit cards. [23317/11]

Records on expenditure on credit cards for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are only available from April 2011. Since then a total of €823.40 has been spend on the cards and a total of €408.65 of this relates to expenditure on entertainment.

The credit card limit is €5,000 euros.

The total number of credit cards held within the Department is three.

Ministerial Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

245 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of his Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries to each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23347/11]

Since his appointment as Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Finance, Mr Brian Hayes, TD has appointed the following staff member to his office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Staff Officer

€33,070 — €43,906

John O'Mahony

Question:

246 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of special advisers and programme managers in his Department; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for each of the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23362/11]

Since my appointment as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 9 March 2011 the relevant details are as follows:

Name

Title

Salary (per annum)

Duties

Anne Byrne

Special Adviser

€83,337

Any duties which may be assigned to her from time to time as appropriate to the position of Special Adviser as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

Ronan O’Brien

Special Adviser

€114,000

Any duties which may be assigned to him from time to time as appropriate to the position of Special Adviser as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

John O'Mahony

Question:

247 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons employed in his private offices and constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23377/11]

Since my appointment as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 9 March 2011, the following staff have been appointed to my private office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

1 Private Secretary

€42,838 — €60,224

1 Executive Officer

€29,024 — €47,379

3 Clerical Officers (CO)

€23,177 — €37,341

The following staff are assigned to work on constituency matters.

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

1 Personal Secretary

€23,820 — €47,755

1 Personal Assistant

€43,715 — €56,060

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,177 — €37,341

1 Clerical Officer (CO)

€23,042 — €36,267

Departmental Expenditure

Simon Harris

Question:

248 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the budget available to his Department for IT expenditure in 2010 and 2011; the provisions within his Department for the purchasing of IT equipment; the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure value for money and cost reductions in this regard; if there are budgets and procedures in place for the purchasing of IT equipment for each State agency under his remit for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23450/11]

The information technology purchasing policy of my Department and agencies under its remit is to ensure that all procurements comply with procurement law, provide value for money, are fit for purpose, and comply with all applicable standards. All ICT expenditure is tendered in accordance with Circulars 2/09, 10/10 and 2/11 to ensure best VFM. Additionally my Department and all agencies procure, where appropriate, from centrally-negotiated Public Service-wide framework contracts for a wide-range of IT and telecoms products and services.

The budgets available for each were:

Dept/Agency

2010

2011

€’000

€’000

Public Expenditure & Reform

6261

Public Appointments Service

1,181

1,245

Commission for Public Service Appointments

55

34

Valuation Office

1,004

906

Office of the Ombudsman2;

256

196

State Laboratory

234

225

Footnotes:

1. This figure covers IT expenditure for both the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform as IT is now provided on shared service basis between them.

2. The IT Unit within the Office of the Ombudsman also provides shared IT services for the Offices of the Information Commissioner, Commissioner for Environmental Information, the Standards in Public Office Commission, and the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

Expenditure Reviews

Sean Fleming

Question:

249 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will publish the details of his Department’s submission and all correspondence for consideration as part of the comprehensive spending review. [23477/11]

Departmental submissions to the CRE are a central part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government. As such, release of these documents could not be considered in advance of Government decisions on the forthcoming Budget. I would envisage that the reports submitted as part of the CRE process can be made available publicly following the completion of the budgetary and Estimates process.

Heritage Sites

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

250 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will extend the public opening season of the Ceide Fields Interpretative Centre, County Mayo, which has been short-listed to be declared a world heritage site, to correspond with the tourist season to run from 17 March 2011 to after the Halloween mid-term break with effect from the remainder of this season. [23482/11]

All operations, including opening times and staffing levels, are reviewed annually in light of budgetary constraints. As a result, some centres may experience a change in the length of their season.

For the past number of years, the Easter holidays have marked the opening of this site. It is expected that the season up to 26 October will meet the visitor demands in the area.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

251 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the visitor numbers for a site (details supplied) in County Limerick operated by the Office of Public Works for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and during the season in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23483/11]

Visitor numbers to the Desmond Hall at Newcastle West, Co. Limerick are:—

2008

2009

2010

2011

2,410

2,823

3,324

3,702

Desmond Hall, Newcastle West is open between the end of May and the end of August annually. A guide service presents the site to visitors and has been actively promoting the site locally.

Public Sector Pay

Peter Mathews

Question:

252 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the legal status regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23796/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 made provision for a reduction in the salaries of public servants with effect from 1 January 2010. As with all legislation, the Act enjoys the presumption of Constitutionality and legality unless found otherwise by the Courts.

Departmental Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

253 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons employed by his Department by grade; and the pay scale by grade within his Department. [23920/11]

The following is a breakdown of Whole-Time Equivalents (WTEs) employed in my Department as at end August 2011:

Grade

Total

Secretary General PER

1.00

Second Secretary

1.00

Assistant Secretary

7.00

Principal

34.70

Assistant Principal

79.80

Administrative Officer

18.00

Higher Executive Officer

53.30

Executive Officer

29.00

Staff Officer

10.83

Clerical Officer

34.00

Chief Medical Officer

1.00

Occupational Physician

2.00

Nurse

3.00

Driver

2.00

Grand Total

276.63

The current payscales for general Civil Service grades and grades common to two or more Departments are outlined in Circular 28/2009 which is available on the Department's websitewww.finance.gov.ie

Civil Service Staff

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

254 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of retirements that are expected from the Civil Service at the levels of Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General, Principal Officer and Assistant Principal Officer in the remainder of 2011; the expected costs of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24037/11]

I understand that it is likely that one Secretary-General will retire before the end of this year.

The provision in the Book of Estimates for Vote 7 (Superannuation and Retired Allowances) was based on a projected 1,400 retirements and 600 deaths of pensioners or their surviving dependants.

The 2011 gross provision for Vote 7 is €450.025 million and it is estimated that the average pension cost is €27,000 per annum.

It difficult to predict with any certainty the number of retirements from the Civil Service in any year, as staff may retire at any time between 60 and 65 years of age, or indeed earlier than this with an actuarial reduction being applied to their pension.

The rate of retirements thus far this year is somewhat slower than originally estimated, but it is too early to make definite estimates of the end-year position on the Vote. The ending of the ‘grace period' at end February 2012 is a factor.

Professional Fees

Pearse Doherty

Question:

255 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the potential savings to the Exchequer by reducing professional fees paid by the State by 25%. [24276/11]

In the recently published 2011 Revised Estimates for my Department approximately €127,000 has been set aside for expenditure on consultancy and other services in my Department. If a 25% reduction applied to this allocation this would give potential savings of €31,750.

In relation to expenditure in 2010 on professional fees by agencies under the aegis of my Department the following outlines the position of each:—

Valuation Office

Based on the 2010 expenditure the potential savings of a 25% reduction in professional fees to the Valuation Office would be €57,860.

Office of the Ombudsman

In 2010 expenditure on professional fees (consultancy and legal) for the Office of the Ombudsman amounted to €505,000. A 25% reduction in fees paid would have resulted in savings of €126,250.

State Laboratory

In 2010 expenditure on professional services the State Laboratory was €13,243. A 25% reduction in fees paid would have resulted in savings of €3,311.

Public Appointments Service

Based on the 2010 expenditure if professional fees were reduced by 25%, the savings would be €2,530 (based on expenditure incurred for internal audit reports).

Commission for Public Service Appointments

Based on the 2010 expenditure there would be a saving of €16,000 if a 25% was taken by reducing professional fees in the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

Office of Public Works

The total paid by the Office of Public Works in respect of professional fees in 2010 was €20,906,305 (VAT inclusive). A 25% reduction in fees paid would have resulted in savings of €5,226,576.

The Deputy should be aware that the figures include fees some of which are determined by legislation, regulation, contract etc and a reduction of these fees may require agreement of the parties concerned.

The Deputy should also note, that expenditure in relation to professional fees in 2010 for my Department are covered by material provided by the Department of Finance in respect of that year given that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was not officially established until last July.

Departmental Funding

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the funding available from any Government Department that will assist a person (details supplied) in County Kerry to set up a new business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23237/11]

The role of my Department is to drive Ireland's competitiveness and productivity by creating the conditions where enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation can flourish and quality employment opportunities are grown and maintained. Funding is provided to a number of State Agencies under its aegis including that of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses. The CEB's role positions them as a first point of contact for persons wishing to set up in business.

The forms of financial assistance, which are available, subject to certain restrictions and conditions, include Priming Grants, Business Expansion/Development Grants, and Feasibility/Innovation Study Grants. The CEBs give priority to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector and must always give consideration to any potential for deadweight and displacement arising from a proposed enterprise. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow.

I would advise the promoter to contact their appropriate CEB; Kerry County Enterprise Board in the first instance to discuss what options may be available to them and their proposed business venture. The Board is located at the County Buildings, Rathass, Tralee, Co. Kerry; Phone No: 066 718 3522, Fax No: 066 712 6712: Email: kerryceb@kerrycoco.ie Website:www.kerryenterprise.ie

Employment Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the procedure to be followed to obtain a green card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23626/11]

The issue of any employment permit is predicated on a job offer from a prospective Irish employer who has made every effort to recruit an Irish or EEA national for the post. Applications, which can be submitted by either the prospective employee or employer, are considered under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006. Further information, guidelines on the different employment permit schemes and application forms for new permits are available on my Department's website atwww.djei.ie.

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;

where there is an officially recognized scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification.

Industrial Development

Seán Kenny

Question:

258 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the level of trade between Ireland and China in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011. [23917/11]

Seán Kenny

Question:

259 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the level of trade between Ireland and South Africa in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011. [23918/11]

Seán Kenny

Question:

260 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the level of trade between Ireland and Russia in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and top date in 2011. [23919/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, together.

While certain specific Trade Promotion functions have been transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, my Department, in addition to retaining lead responsibility for Trade Policy, also has responsibility for the compilation and editing of Trade Statistics.

Details of Ireland's trade (both Merchandise and Services) with China, South Africa and Russia, from 2007 to date (to the extent available), are set out in the following tables:

Ireland's Trade with China (€million)

Merchandise Exports

Merchandise Imports

Merchandise Trade Deficit

Services Exports

Services Imports

Services Trade Surplus

2007

1,320

4,782

-3,462

1,233

131

1,102

2008

1,609

3,902

-2,293

1,425

430

995

2009

1,632

2,591

-959

1,512

237

1,275

2010

1,673

2,524

-851

*

*

*

Jan-May 2010

709

836

-127

*

*

*

Jan-May 2011

605

1,102

-497

*

*

*

Ireland's Trade with Russia (€million)

Merchandise Exports

Merchandise Imports

Merchandise Trade Surplus

Services Exports

Services Imports

Services Trade Surplus

2007

327

78

249

1,165

166

999

2008

344

134

210

1,244

254

990

2009

243

81

162

964

130

834

2010

373

160

213

*

*

*

Jan-May 2010

152

87

65

*

*

*

Jan-May 2011

231

63

168

*

*

*

Ireland's Trade with South Africa (€million)

Merchandise Exports

Merchandise Imports

Merchandise Trade Surplus

Services Exports

Services Imports

Services Trade Surplus

2007

369

166

203

590

308

282

2008

312

148

164

536

275

261

2009

214

103

111

547

210

337

2010

283

87

196

*

*

*

Jan-May 2010

93

22

71

*

*

*

Jan-May 2011

105

46

59

*

*

*

* Country-specific Services Trade data not yet available from Central Statistics Office

EU Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

261 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has facilitated a microcredit provider to access the progress microfinance facility in order to issue guarantees to small and medium enterprises or to provide funding to increase microcredit lending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24151/11]

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. The EIF does not provide direct financing to micro-entrepreneurs, micro-businesses or individuals.

Financing is made available through intermediaries participating in the Facility. Eligible intermediaries are any public and private institutions that provide microfinance loans and/or guarantees to individuals, or micro-enterprises established in the EU Member States. Applications for participation do not require State involvement.

EIF provides to selected intermediaries, capped guarantees partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or guarantees on micro-loans granted to micro-enterprises, including self-employed people, female entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs belonging to a minority group, entrepreneurs with a disability and sole traders. To apply to become an intermediary, interested institutions must submit a formal application for Progress Microfinance micro-credit guarantee directly to the EIF. Applications can be made until 31 December 2013.

As the Deputy will be aware, work is under way within my Department on the establishment of a Microfinance Fund as set out in the Programme for Government which is intended to provide loans to micro-enterprises. The Fund, including scheme design and appropriate delivery mechanisms, will be developed with a view to formalising proposals in the context of Budget 2012.

In the context of developing a Microfinance Fund, there has been contact with the EIF to explore the possibilities of accessing the Progress Microfinance Facility to support any national Fund being established. This matter will be pursued further with the EIF when arrangements for a national Microfinance Fund are being finalised.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

262 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of money that was spent on taxis by his Department in the past year; the amount of money that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for his Department; the times that taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the amount that was used by staff members; the amount that was used by outsiders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22722/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

270 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount his Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years. [23301/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 270 together.

My Department operates a taxi account through National Radio Cabs whereby staff use taxis on account as necessary for business purposes. The taxi costs for staff and for non-staff members for the past four years are set out in the following table.

Year

Staff costs

Non-staff members

Total

2008

€63,873

€122

€63,995

2009

€19,211

€238

€19,449

2010

€16,744

€338

€17,082

2011 to date

€8,938

€357

€9,295

The data in the table does not include expenditure where taxis other than National Radio Cabs are used by officials of the Department/Offices while on official business in Ireland or abroad. In these instances taxi costs are included with other forms of transport costs on my Department's financial management system and it is not feasible to identify such taxi costsseparately.

My Department recognises that the use of public transport is normally the most economical means of transport available and should be availed of by staff wherever possible. As a general rule, the use of taxis — either in Ireland or abroad — should arise only where no suitable public transport is available, or where the use of public transport is not feasible.

The following is the instruction to staff concerning the use of taxis:—

Every effort should be made to minimise the use of taxis, whether on the Department's Corporate account, or through personal hire for which a refund is subsequently claimed. Staff are reminded that the bus service, which passes close to most of the Department's Dublin offices, should be used for journeys to and from the airport where possible. This service is frequent, reliable and considerably cheaper than taxis.

Whether a taxi is being charged to the account or being reimbursed on foot of a receipt, staff are regularly asked to explain the reason a taxi was required or are asked for an explanation in regard to the cost. My Department is housed in six separate offices in Dublin city and taxis are used by staff to move IT equipment, lodge cash in the bank or to move boxes, crates and in some cases small items of furniture.

Staff may also use taxis where there is a perceived risk to personal safety (e.g. when arriving/departing at unsociable hours), or where there is a likelihood of missing a flight or where it is not practical to use public transport due, for example, to the location of the hotel or meeting room.

The Department's Administrative Budget, which will contain the provision for taxi services for 2012, will be announced on Budget Day.

Industrial Development

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

263 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the Industrial Development Agency plans for the development of a technology park at its site on the Sligo Road, Ballina, County Mayo; his plans to attract a significant employer to the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22818/11]

The management of IDA's property portfolio including the development of Business & Technology Parks is a day to day operational matter for the Agency and not one in which I have a function.

I am informed by IDA that, in 2008, it acquired approximately 11 hectares of industrial zoned land on the Sligo Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo for the development of a Business & Technology Park. Perimeter landscaping works on the site have been completed. Capital works for a new park entrance, access road and associated services were also planned, but due to current budgetary constraints these works have not yet taken place. IDA's Strategy "Horizon 2020”, which was published in March 2010, sets a key goal of attracting 50% of investments to Gateway locations excluding Dublin and Cork by 2014.

However, the challenge in achieving an even spread of investment across the country is intensified as the sophistication of investments increase. These investments require a concentration of highly qualified and educated workers, supporting infrastructure and high level business services. Frequently, competition for FDI comes from city regions with populations in excess of one million people. Dublin is the only recognised city region of scale in Ireland.

In selecting locations to show companies, IDA Ireland seeks to include locations which have been affected by closures/job losses. Typically, a company is shown three or four selected towns, which can meet its requirements for skills, labour, site and/or buildings, infrastructure, etc. The lands in Ballina are available to any potential client company and while IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on which location a company will visit and locate in is made by the promoting company.

There are 18 IDA client companies in Mayo employing 3,500 people of which 5 are located in Ballina; Hollister, Ballina Beverages (Coca Cola), Charles River Laboratories, Heyco and Lionbridge.

Company Closures

Noel Harrington

Question:

264 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the closure of a plant (details supplied) in County Cork; if all funds that are due to be repaid have been repaid to the State and its agencies by this company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22825/11]

The company in question went into examinership in November 2008 and into liquidation a few weeks later in December 2008. Following receipt of a letter from the liquidators of the company in question, stating that no funds were available, Enterprise Ireland issued a claim to the guarantor of the grants and equity. The agency continued to pursue the recovery of funds due from the guarantor and the State has since received repayment in full in respect of all amounts owing to Enterprise Ireland. There are no other repayments due.

John Halligan

Question:

265 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will make a statement in relation to the recent announcement by a company (details supplied) that it is to move 130 jobs, currently engaged in providing customer care services, to off-shore locations within the company group to Egypt and India; his views on allowing this company to relocate these jobs out of Ireland would make a mockery of his jobs initiative. [22892/11]

The recent announcement by Vodafone Ireland to offshore 139 jobs from its Irish call centres is part of a review of the company's European operations, which will also impact on its operations in other EU Member States. Vodafone state that in the current market environment cost efficiencies are a prerequisite so as to ensure their continued ability to compete in the Irish market where they employ over 1,000 people.

The announcement will impact 45 Vodafone roles and 139 in Rigney Dolphin, Vodafone's Irish call centre contract partner. The 139 staff are employed by Rigney Dolphin but are in-sourced to Vodafone and are based at its sites in Dublin and Dundalk. Rigney Dolphin have given assurances to the Minister that they will work through the implications of the redundancies with their employees.

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

I recently met with representatives from the company. Vodafone sees Ireland as an important strategic country and says it is committed to Ireland for the long-term. Vodafone's restructuring of its Irish operations was necessary for the company to continue operating in the Irish market, and to ensure future investment by the company in its Irish operations. This investment is vital for maintaining up-to-date infrastructure to meet the service demands.

Job creation is central to economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. Enhancing our competitiveness and getting our cost base back into line with key competitors will be vital. Enhancing productivity through innovation and research is also critical. The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies are focused on achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving sustainable job creation.

Job Creation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

266 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will comment on a financial proposal (details supplied). [22979/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

267 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will examine a proposal on job creation (details supplied). [23005/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

I have examined the proposal in question, which envisages the placement of 200,000 unemployed people back in the workforce while retaining their unemployment payments and receiving a fixed salary of €270 per week from their employer.

The question of workers retaining unemployment payments is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection, Ms. Joan Burton, T.D., and her view, on the proposal should be sought. However, I can foresee a number of difficulties with the proposal, including implications for the principles underpinning unemployment payments and difficulties with EU State Aid rules as the measure could be construed as a subsidy to enterprises.

There are already a number of schemes in existence which create very generous incentives for businesses to employ people who are on the Live Register.

For example, Revenue Job Assist allows employers a double wages deduction in their accounts if they employ a person who has been unemployed for 12 months or more. The double wages deduction may last for 3 years and applies to wages paid to a qualifying employee and to Employers' PRSI contributions paid in respect of those wages.

The Department of Social Protection also operates an Employer's PRSI Incentive Scheme. This scheme exempts employers from paying PRSI for 12 months in respect of certain qualifying employees.

The Government also recently launched the National Internship Programme — Job Bridge — which will provide work experience placements of 6 to 9 months for those who have been on the Live Register for at least 3 months. The aim of the National Internship Programme is to assist in breaking the cycle of jobseekers being unable to obtain a position in the absence of experience. The scheme will provide for up to 5,000 work experience placements in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

My Department's website includes information and links to a range of financial and non-financial supports available from Government Departments, Offices and agencies to assist companies to grow, improve competitiveness, create employment and improve productivity. Details are available at:http://www.djei.ie/enterprise/businesssupport.htm.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

268 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps that are being taken by job creating agencies with regard to providing a viable business in the compound of the former Pretty Polly factory in Killarney, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23017/11]

The role of Government is to create the conditions where enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation can flourish and quality employment opportunities can be grown and maintained. Two Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with the Kerry County Enterprise Board (CEB) support enterprise development in Co. Kerry.

IDA Ireland promotes Co. Kerry for new inward investment across the ICT, International Financial Services and Globally Traded Business sectors. As well as attracting new foreign direct investment, IDA works closely with its existing clients in Kerry to encourage them to expand their operations in the County. IDA continues to market all available land and buildings in the county, including its Business & Technology Park in Killarney. As regards the site in question, I understand that IDA Ireland has requested details of the specification of the building from Killarney Town Council, which owns the building. However, as most potential is in the services sector, whose requirements differ from those of manufacturing, the opportunity to source a prospective FDI tenant for this building may be limited due to its current layout.

Enterprise Ireland's activity as regards job creation is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs to set up new high potential start-up companies, and on the retention and creation of jobs in existing companies through the support of company development plans. In Killarney and Co. Kerry as a whole, Enterprise Ireland actively engages with its client companies and has a number of supports and initiatives in place to assist companies. A number of local seminars and workshops on a variety of subjects take place throughout the year.

In addition to its existing supports for Irish companies, Enterprise Ireland has launched a newJobs Expansion Fund, which can provide grant support up to a maximum of €150,000 towards the recruitment of new employees. In 2011, in addition to its existing offer for innovative high potential start-up businesses, Enterprise Ireland also launched a series of Competitive Start Funds geared towards start-up businesses in target sectors, with the most recent focusing on the lifesciences, cleantech and industrial sectors. These initiatives are expressly directed at business projects which can generate new jobs in the short to medium term.

Kerry County Enterprise Board provides support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The Board has concentrated efforts on the on-going development of the Killarney Technology Innovation Centre (KTI), which has received funding from Enterprise Ireland, in Deerpark close to the Pretty Polly building. In addition, I have been informed that a meeting is expected to take place between the Chief Executive Officer of Kerry County Enterprise Board and representatives of the Killarney Town Council to discuss the Pretty Polly issue further in relation to what advice and/or assistance the Board would be in a position to offer.

Work Permits

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

269 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of work permits that were granted by his Department in 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23074/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits (Green Cards Permits, Work Permits, Spousal/Dependant Permits and Intra-company Transfer Permits). All applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;

where there is an officially recognized scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification.

I wish to advise the Deputy that in 2010 a total of 7,501 employment permits issued, of which 3,555 were new and 3,946 were renewals. To-date in 2011 a total of 3,968 permits issued, of which 2,383 were new and 1,585 were renewals.

Detailed statistics on the numbers of permits issued over the last few years, broken down by sector, nationality and county, can be found on my Department's website athttp://www.djei.ie/labour/workpermits/statistics.htm.

Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 262.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

271 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the details of spending, using departmental credit cards held by Department staff over the past four years; the numbers of persons in his Department who hold credit cards; the credit limits of said cards; and the amount that was specifically spent by his Department on entertainment provided using said credit card. [23316/11]

I interpret the Deputy's question as relating to credit cards held by my Department where any costs incurred on the cards are paid directly by the Department. My Department does not operate credit cards of this nature.

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

Staff who are issued with corporate charge cards under this arrangement hold individual accounts with the issuing credit card company. Each cardholder is responsible for paying any balances due on his/her account directly to the credit card company as and when they arise.

Staff are entitled to reclaim from my Department travel, subsistence and other official expenses incurred in connection with their official duties, in accordance with Department of Finance regulations and applicable rates. Reimbursements of this nature are paid directly to the officers concerned who may use the refunds to settle their charge card accounts.

At present, 6 staff of my Department hold corporate charge cards under the arrangement outlined. Provided the individual cardholder has settled his/her account with the credit card company in full and on time each month, no pre-set limit is placed on the card by the provider. However, the card company monitors the spend on the cards, and any out-of-pattern spend or ramp-up in spend on a card is blocked at the point of sale. In addition to these controls, my Department monitors and regularly reviews activity and monthly balances on accounts.

Some other staff of my Department choose to use personal credit cards for business-related transactions and claim reimbursement of these expenses in accordance with Department of Finance regulations.

My Department pays Government Stamp Duty on all corporate and personal charge/credit cards used for official transactions. The total cost of Stamp Duty paid on these cards from 2008 to the present is set out on the following table:

Year

Amount

2008

€1,944.50

2009

€1,470.00

2010

€1,420.00

2011 to date

€1, 230.00

Official entertainment includes the hosting of official lunches, dinners and receptions and is governed by Department of Finance guidelines. It is not feasible to provide the amount that was specifically spent by my Department on entertainment using a corporate charge card. Details of my Department's spend on official entertainment over the last four years is on the table following:

Details of Expenditure on Official Entertainment 2008 to 2011

Year

Amount

2008

€39,116.90

2009

€8,922.52

2010

€7,932.05

2011 to date

€2,428.80

Ministerial Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

272 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of his Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries to each office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23346/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

273 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of special advisers and programme managers in his Department; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for each of the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23361/11]

John O'Mahony

Question:

274 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons employed in his private offices and constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23376/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 to 274, inclusive, together.

The tables outline the number of persons employed in each of the private offices and the constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State at my Department for 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011. This includes the number of persons currently employed in my private and constituency office and also includes all special advisers employed since 2009.

Ministers and Ministers of State in 2009

Office

Private Office Staff Numbers

Constituency Office Staff Numbers

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment 2009 to 23rd March 2010

2 Special Advisers1 Press Adviser1 Private Secretary2 Executive Officers5 Clerical Officers

1 Executive Officer2.8 Clerical Officers1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Temp. Clerical Officer

Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Special Adviser (up to 21/4/09)1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Labour Affairs

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer3 Clerical Officers

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Trade & Commerce

1 Private Secretary1 Staff Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Secretarial Assistant1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Ministers and Ministers of State in 2010

Office

Private Office Staff Numbers

Constituency Office Staff Numbers

Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment 23rd March 2010 to 20th January 2011

2 Special Advisers1 Private Secretary2 Executive Officers5 Clerical Officers

1 Executive Officer2.8 Clerical Officers1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Temp. Clerical Officer

Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Labour Affairs

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer2 Clerical Officers

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Trade & Commerce

1 Private Secretary1 Staff Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Ministers and Ministers of State in 2011 up to the formation of the new Government on 9 March 2011

Office

Private Office Staff Numbers

Constituency Office Staff Numbers

Minister forEnterprise, Trade & Employment

2 Special Advisers1 Private Secretary2 Executive Officers5 Clerical Officers

1 Executive Officer2.8 Clerical Officers1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Temp. Clerical Officer

Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Executive Officer1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Labour Affairs

1 Private Secretary1 Executive Officer2 Clerical Officers

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Trade & Commerce

1 Private Secretary1 Staff Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Ministers of State in 2011 after the formation of the new Government on 9 March 2011

Office

Private Office Staff Numbers

Constituency Office Staff Numbers

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

2 Special Advisers1 Private Secretary2 Executive Officers5 Clerical Officers

1 Clerical Officer1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Research & Innovation

1 Private Secretary2 Clerical Officers

1 Personal Assistant1 Personal Secretary1 Clerical Officer2 Civilian Drivers

Minister of State for Small Business

1 Private Secretary1 Staff Officer1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal AssistantPersonal Secretary (0.5% x 2)2 Civilian Drivers

The following tables set out the costs in respect of Salaries, Wages and Allowances and Travel and Subsistence for the Offices of each of the Ministers and Ministers of State for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 to the end of August. These figures include Ministerial salaries and expenses.

Previous Government

Office of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment/Innovation

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

Year 2009*

€1,090766.57

€38,291.96

€1,129,058.53

Year 2010

€882,924.40

€13,896.79

€896,821.19

Year 2011**

€213,948.22

€1,956.55

€215,904.77

* Includes severance pay

** Represents payments in respect of the period of service up to 8 March 2011 including severance pay and statutory redundancy.

Office of the Minister for Labour Affairs

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

Year 2009

€443,734.50

€76,779.28

€520,513.78

Year 2010

€384,957.88

€33,899.02

€418,856.90

Year 2011*

€110,571.04

€7,912.66

€118,483.70

* Represents payments in respect of the period of service up to 8 March 2011 including severance pay.

Office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

Year 2009*

€504,449.73

€84,484.95

€588,934.68

Year 2010

€435,114.23

€45,732.91

€480,847.14

Year 2011**

€108,564.88

€14,680.24

€123,245.12

* Includes severance pay

** Represents payments in respect of the period of service up to 8 March 2011 including severance pay and statutory redundancy.

Office of the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

Year 2009*

€546,044.35

€54,276.00

€600,320.35

Year 2010

€436,715.12

€36,399.37

€473,114.49

Year 2011**

€218,846.29

€5,553.83

€224,400.12

* Includes severance pay

** Represents payments in respect of the period of service up to 8 March 2011 including severance pay and statutory redundancy.

Current Government:

Office of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

9/03/11 to date

€310,841.02

€4,849.57

€315,690.59

Office of the Minister for Small Business

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

9/03/11 to date

€140,244.75

€21,698.25

€161,943.00

Office of the Minister for Technology and Innovation

Period

Salaries, Wages and Allowances

Travel & Subsistence

Total

9/03/11 to date

€149,797.34

€16,735.00

€166,532.34

Industrial Relations

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

275 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if it is envisaged that the community sector will be given the right to recognition for the purpose of collective bargaining. [23427/11]

While Article 40 of the Irish Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to form associations and unions, it has been established in a number of legal cases that the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of association does not guarantee workers the right to have their union recognised for the purpose of collective bargaining. No differentiation is made in this regard between workers employed in the community sector and those employed in the private and public sectors.

I would recommend that voluntary and community organisations engage with their employees and the trade unions representing their employees on all aspects of good employment practice, including recruiting the right person, managing a diverse workplace, preparing model employment contracts or devising essential human resource management policies. The services of the Labour Relations Commission are available to management and to trade unions representing employees in the community and voluntary sector, just as they are available to those engaged in the public and private sectors, to help solve human resource related problems and improve performance, and to develop effective industrial relations practices, procedures and structures so as to best meet the needs of their respective organisations.

Departmental Expenditure

Simon Harris

Question:

276 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the budget available to his Department for IT expenditure in 2010 and 2011; the provisions within his Department for the purchasing of IT equipment; the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure value for money and cost reductions in this regard; if there are budgets and procedures in place for the purchasing of IT equipment for each State agency under his remit for 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23448/11]

Total IT expenditure in my Department and its Statutory Offices in 2010 was €6,334,328 and the budget for this expenditure for 2011 is €6,450,921. The amounts include purchase of IT hardware, software and services but do not include cost of telecommunication services.

All IT purchasing within my Department and in all Offices and Agencies under my remit is subject to general public procurement rules, including requirements for competitive tendering. My Department and the Offices and Agencies under my remit are subject to a number of additional policy provisions to ensure best practice and value for money in IT procurement. These include a requirement to prepare an ICT Start of Year Statement and corresponding End of Year Statement, detailing all IT expenditure, which is subject to approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. My Department has appropriate governance and project management processes in place; and this is achieved by having an ICT Steering Committee and through the use of project management methodology. Also, under Department of Finance Circular 02/09 on Arrangements for ICT Expenditure in the Civil and Public Service, public bodies must implement measures to reduce reliance on external service providers, and my Department has taken steps to achieve this, including bringing forward proposals to deliver IT helpdesk services in-house.

Expenditure Reviews

Sean Fleming

Question:

277 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will publish the details of his Department’s submission and all correspondence to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration as part of the comprehensive spending review. [23475/11]

Departmental submissions to the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure are a central part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government. As such, release of these documents could not be considered in advance of Government decisions on the forthcoming Budget. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has already indicated that it is his intention to publish the reports submitted as part of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure process following the finalisation of the budgetary process.

County and City Enterprise Boards

Terence Flanagan

Question:

278 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding the assistance available for small to medium-sized enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23486/11]

The role of my Department is to drive Ireland's competitiveness and productivity by creating the conditions where enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation can flourish and quality employment opportunities are grown and maintained. Funding is provided to a number of State Agencies under its aegis including that of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland, through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

The role of the CEBs is to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at a local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small and micro-enterprises. The Boards form a nationwide support network for small business and are considered to be a first point of contact for persons wishing to set up in business.

Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing micro-enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of priming, expansion/development and feasibility/innovation grants. The CEBs give priority to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector and must always give consideration to any potential for deadweight and displacement arising from a proposed enterprise. In addition, the CEBs deliver non-financial supports such as one-to-one mentoring and a range of business advice and training programmes to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow, which may be available as appropriate to the needs of the promoter's business. The promoter may therefore wish to contact their most appropriate CEB; the Dublin City Enterprise Board, in the first instance, to discuss what options may be available to them and their proposed business venture. The Board is located on the 5th floor, O'Connell Bridge House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2; Phone No: 01 6351144, Fax No: 01 6351811; Email: info@dceb.ie; Website:www.dceb.ie.

In addition to the CEBs, the role of Enterprise Ireland is to support the development of manufacturing and internationally traded services companies. They provide funding and supports for companies ranging from entrepreneurs with plans for a high potential start-up through to large companies who are seeking to expand their activities, improve efficiency and grow their export sales. Enterprise Ireland are located at The Plaza, East Point Business Park, Dublin 3 and may be contacted by telephone at 01 727 2000 or through their websitewww.enterprise-ireland.com.

Legislative Reviews

Willie O'Dea

Question:

279 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has completed his consultation on the review of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000; and if he has contacted all relevant parties including IRMA. [23992/11]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the recent public consultation in relation to the proposed amendment to the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 arising from the High Court judgement in the case of EMI Records (Ireland) Ltd and others v. UPC Communications Ireland Ltd.

Over 50 submissions have been received in respect of that consultation and all of these (including that made by IRMA) have been acknowledged and will be taken into account in considering further action in the matter.

Industrial Development

Paudie Coffey

Question:

280 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he intends to issue a directive or instruct the Industrial Development Agency to set up a dedicated presence in Waterford city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24132/11]

During my visit to Waterford on 12th September, I announced that I had requested the State development agencies under my remit, including IDA Ireland, to present plans and proposals to me, within 30 days, for increased actions and activities in the South-East region. This will include an assessment of the causes of the particular unemployment problems in the South-East Region. In that context, I will consider agency presence and other actions for the region. I would point out that there are six IDA staff in its Waterford office. I understand that two of these are engaged in regional development and marketing of the South-East Region with other staff assigned to attracting and developing companies in specific sectors.

Health and Safety Regulations

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

281 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the draft standards promised in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 14 July 2011 have been published; the further action he will take on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24187/11]

As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 14 July 2011 it is proposed that a national standard, more comprehensive than the European standard, will be published late in 2011 on providing guidance for manufacturers and installers as well as consumers on safe window blind products.

On 10 August 2011 a draft standard was issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) for public comment. Interested parties have until 23 September 2011 to make submissions. All submissions will then be reviewed by the NSAI's Technical Committee on the Safety of Internal Window Blinds. I am informed that it is still expected that the standard will be published late in 2011.

Departmental Bodies

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff and respective budget of each regulator under his responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24232/11]

The information requested is as follows:

The Health and Safety Authority

Number of Staff

Budget

182.1

€20.556m

The National Consumer Agency

Number of Staff

Budget

43.6

€6.366m

In addition, under the Central Bank Reform Act 2010, the consumer information and education functions carried out by the Financial Regulator were formally transferred to the Agency with effect from 1 January 2011. The cost of Agency's financial services function is exchequer neutral as it is funded by a levy on regulated financial service providers. The Central Bank has agreed to collect the levy on the Agency's behalf for administrative reasons. The levy is due for collection in September/October 2011. In the interim, the Department is paying non-pay costs through Subhead R02 and the Central Bank is funding pay costs. The Department will be reimbursed when the levy is collected by the Central Bank later on in the year.

Financial Information and Education Functions

Number of Staff

Budget

20

€2m

The Competition Authority

Number of Staff

Budget

38.1

€5.116m

It should be noted that the Government intends to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority.

Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

Number of Staff

Budget

14

€1.598m

The National Standards Authority of Ireland

Number of Staff

Budget

166.55

€6.836m

The National Employment Rights Authority

Number of Staff

Budget

108.03

€6.946m

The Companies Registration Office/ The Registry of Friendly Societies

Number of Staff

Budget

115.35

€7.428m

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Number of Staff

Budget

39.7

€5.967m

Question No. 283 withdrawn.

Pension Provisions

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

284 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the introduction of mandatory pension for middle and lower income workers in the private sector; if she will give details of the proposed amount that employers would pay towards this scheme, on behalf of their employees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23107/11]

The most recent coverage figures available from the Central Statistics Office indicate that just over half of workers aged between 20 and 69 had a pension at the end of 2009.

The fact that supplementary pension coverage continues to be relatively low is of major concern to the Government. That is why the Programme for Government includes a commitment to achieve universal coverage, with a particular focus on low to middle income groups.

A soft-mandatory approach such as that envisaged by an auto-enrolment scheme is a very proactive way in which we can increase pension coverage. This proposal is set out in the National Pensions Framework and describes a scheme with contributions from employees, employers and the State. Contributions will only be in respect of earnings above a certain minimum level and below a certain maximum.

An Implementation Group, chaired by my Department, has been working on the development of the details of the scheme including consideration of the contribution rate.

The National Pensions Framework indicated that this scheme would be implemented in 2014 but only if this would be prudent given the economic conditions prevailing at that time.

Social Welfare Benefits

Terence Flanagan

Question:

285 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to raise the level of income support for families with children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23185/11]

The query referred to by the Deputy asks whether the Government has any plans to raise the level of income support for families with children in the context of a named person's concerns that it is necessary for the Government to make efforts to support middle income families with children and to make efforts to support families with the cost of child-care.

The Department of Social Protection makes a number of payments to families with children including child benefit, qualified child increases to primary social welfare payments (QCIs), family income supplement (FIS), and the back to school clothing and footwear allowance. These family and child income support payments both assist parents in contributing to the costs associated with raising children and play a very important role in the objective of reducing child poverty. The Government is conscious that these payments are an important source of income for all families, particularly during a time of recession and unemployment. Decisions on the rates for these family and child income support payments are a matter to be decided in a budgetary context.

The issue of family and child income supports is currently being examined by the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, which was established in June. The Group has been tasked with recommending cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes achieved, particularly child poverty outcomes.

Child-care issues are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Civil Registration

Catherine Murphy

Question:

286 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in addition to the civil registration indexes, she will complete the project of digitising the records themselves; if so, the timeframe involved; the work that has taken place to date; the locations of the work that is being done; the cost of same; the way she plans to offer it to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23208/11]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

287 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection when the civil registration indexes which have been digitised will be available through the CRO website; the reason they were made available to the Church of Latter Day Saints in advance of going live nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23209/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 287 together.

The position in relation to the digitisation of historic civil registration records is that all the records are in digitised format and all index records are in electronic format. All birth records from the commencement of the registration of births in 1864 are available on the live computer system. Marriages from 1920 and deaths from 1924 are also available on the live system. The remaining records — marriages from the commencement of registration in 1845 to 1919, and deaths from the commencement of registration in 1864 to 1923 — are currently stored on a separate database at the headquarters of the General Register Office (GRO) in Roscommon. These records require a substantial amount of data cleaning and the linking of marriage index records with the digitised image of the register entry pages before they can be migrated to the live system. Preparations for the completion of this project are currently underway, including upgrading of the ICT infrastructure which hosts the data and the applications required to work with the data. The completion of the historic data project is an extremely labour-intensive task requiring a high level of skill, great attention to detail and extensive quality control. As the Deputy will appreciate, resources are very limited and preliminary estimates suggest that the completion of this project using the available resources will take approximately four years. All of this work will be done at GRO headquarters in Roscommon. The cost of the project to date is of the order of €10 million. Initial indications are that the costs of completing the project are of the order of €1.5 million.

The question as to whether the civil registration indexes will be made available through a website will require careful consideration, both from an ICT viewpoint and a legal viewpoint. Currently, access to indexes is governed by section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 and there are conditions surrounding such access. Any relaxation of these conditions will involve consideration of data protection, privacy and identity fraud issues.

Access to civil registration records by the Church of the Latter Day Saints began in 1960 on foot of an agreement between the church and the GRO and is entirely unrelated to the GRO modernisation programme. The church required access for religious reasons and the ‘quid pro quo' was that the church would give the GRO a microfilm copy of the records for its own use. This arrangement was discontinued in the 1980s when microfilm technology became more widely available.

Exchequer Savings

Pearse Doherty

Question:

288 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the return to the Exchequer from abolishing the PRSI ceiling. [23255/11]

The employee PRSI annual earnings ceiling of €75,036 was abolished in the 2011 Budget. It is estimated that this measure will provide a return to the Exchequer of €100m in 2011 and €145m in a full year.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

289 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for back to education allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23601/11]

The person concerned applied for Back to Education Allowance at the start of August 2011. The application is currently with a Local Officer for decision and this will issue as soon as possible.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

290 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of people who are estimated to begin drawing down additional social welfare payments as a gap solution between reaching retirement at age 65 years and receiving the State pension at age 66 years; the cost of same to the Exchequer. [23721/11]

State pension (transition) (SPT) is currently paid to people aged 65 who have a minimum yearly average of 24 social insurance contributions and who have retired from work. Currently it ceases at age 66 when the claimant transfers to State pension (contributory) (SPC).

In 2010, there was an average of 8,955 recipients of State pension (transition) with expenditure of €108 million. This compares to 273,005 SPC recipients at a cost of €3.45 billion. Less than 25 per cent of the SPT customers were in employment at the time of claim while 44 per cent were on a social welfare payment prior to receiving SPT. A further 25 per cent were retired from work at the time of claim.

This means, based on recipients in 2010, that approximately 2,200 customers may be impacted (for one year) by the abolition of SPT. They may be in a position to remain in employment or qualify for another social welfare payment. They may (the following year) be able to qualify for SPC at age 66.

As announced in the National Pensions Framework, State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the standardisation of State pension age at 66. State pension age will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. It is worth noting that, until the early 1970s, the qualifying age for State pension (contributory) was 70 years of age. By gradually increasing the qualifying age for State pension, people will be further encouraged to remain in employment beyond 65 years of age.

The Quarterly National Household Survey Q4 2010 showed that the numbers currently at work drop dramatically at 65 years of age. While 77.2 per cent of people aged 45-54 years are in employment, this drops to 64.3 per cent for 55-64 year-olds and to just 8.7 per cent for people aged 65 years or older. It is clear, therefore, that the challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. Increases in life expectancy mean that more people are living to pension age and living longer in retirement. While this is to be welcomed, this has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision. The fundamental principle that people need to participate in the workforce for longer needs to be emphasised and they need to contribute more towards their pensions if they are to achieve the income they expect or would like to have in retirement.

Social Insurance

Terence Flanagan

Question:

291 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will deal with a matter regarding PRSI contributions in respect of a person (details supplied in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23742/11]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

320 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding self-employed people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23089/11]

Brendan Griffin

Question:

412 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the measure he will take to improve social welfare entitlements for the self-employed when their business fails; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24021/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 291, 320 and 412 together.

These questions address the issue of access to unemployment payments, such as Jobseekers Benefit, for self-employed individuals or those who were previously self-employed. Self-employed workers are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social welfare benefits, including jobseeker's benefit, pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

Any proposal to extend short term benefits such as jobseeker's benefit to the self-employed would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable.

PRSI coverage is related to the risks associated with employment or self-employment, the annualised system of contributions for self-employed people and the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payment for self-employed people. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate account is taken of the downward trend in the economy.

Social Welfare Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

292 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the recognition the State gives to emigrants forced to work abroad due to the economic situation here; if contributions paid abroad will be recognised here for social welfare purposes on return; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24018/11]

The extent to which social insurance contributions made in other countries are taken account of when eligibility for Irish benefits is being considered depends on where the contributions were made and if there are bilateral social security agreements in place.

In relation to EU countries the social security rights of people living and working in these countries are governed by EU Regulations 883/04 and 987/09. The Regulations co-ordinate social security systems and are designed to ensure that people are not disadvantaged by moving within the EU to take up work. These arrangements also extend to EEA countries and Switzerland.

The Regulations set out the rules as to which State's social security system a person will pay contributions to when they move from one Member State to another to take up work, or where they live in one State and work in another. In addition, the legislation also sets out the rules as to which State will pay benefit in the event of the usual contingencies arising, e.g. unemployment, sickness, old-age etc. The general rule is that a person is insured in the State in which they are employed.

With few exceptions, the State of last employment is responsible for paying benefits when, for example, a person becomes unemployed. The Regulations also provide that when entitlement to benefit is being examined insurance contributions made in any Member State where the person has worked or lived must be aggregated. Accordingly, a person who has worked in any other EU Member State will have any contributions they have made in those countries aggregated with their Irish contributions when claiming benefits here.

Ireland has social security agreements with a number of other countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom covering the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, and the USA. There is also an agreement with Quebec. These agreements came into effect between 1989 and 2010 and protect the social welfare pension entitlements of Irish people who go to work in these countries and protect workers from those countries who come to work in Ireland. They allow workers to combine periods of Irish social insurance and, where provided for, periods of residence or contributions in the second country when applying for a pension.

Subject to conditions, it is also possible for a person who is posted abroad by their employer to remain attached, for a limited period, to the Irish social welfare system. In such circumstances, PRSI contributions continue to be paid here and the person can qualify for Irish benefits.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

293 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will deal with the following matter (details supplied) regarding pension cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24054/11]

The appropriate level of overall expenditure by my Department in the years ahead will be considered in the context of Budget 2012 and subsequent Budgets. This consideration will be informed by the commitment in the Programme for Government to maintain social welfare rates.

Sustainable public finances are a prerequisite for future economic stability and growth. To this end, the State must pursue a determined deficit reduction strategy. Accordingly, there will be an on-going requirement to curtail expenditure in 2012 and in later years.

There are considerable challenges ahead including the need to protect, as far as possible, the key income supports and services, including those for pensioners, operated by my Department. This process will be informed by the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, with the key decisions being made in the context of framing the Budget for 2012.

Social Welfare Benefits

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

294 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection the annual amounts paid out to private landlords via the Health Service Executive and local authorities in the form of rent allowance payments; the number of such payments or arrangements; and the average amount of these payments on an annual and monthly basis. [24245/11]

Under the legislative provisions governing rent supplement, the Department's relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their temporary accommodation needs.

Legislation provides for the making of a rent supplement payment to another person (e.g. a relative, a landlord or landlord's agent) on behalf of the recipient. This is at the tenant's request and is subject to the consent of the Community Welfare Service. Approximately 20% of rent supplement payments are currently paid to a person other than the tenant.

Rent supplement expenditure in 2010 was in the sum of €516 million. A table gives a breakdown of rent supplement by recipients, expenditure and average payments for 2011.

Rent Supplement by Recipients, Expenditure and Average Payment by month, 2011

Period

Recipients(1)

Expenditure(2)

Average Payment(3)

€m

€m

January 2011

96,532

39.51

99.75

February 2011

96,899

41.84

99.69

March 2011

97,288

44.32

99.52

April 2011

97,430

41.75

99.22

May 2011

97,323

41.60

99.18

June 2011

96,809

42.42

99.14

July 2011

96,823

41.50

98.92

August 2011

95,896

40.73

98.86

(1) At end of month

(2) During month

(3) Average figures based on extracts of relevant rent payment files, May 2011 estimated.

Social Welfare Appeals

Tom Hayes

Question:

295 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal of a decision to disallow a claim for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22653/11]

In the case in question an application for domiciliary care allowance was received on the 20th April 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 2nd July 2011 advising of the decision.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The person concerned requested a review of the decision. The application was reviewed by one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible. A letter issued on the 9th August 2011 advising of the outcome of the review.

Question No. 296 withdrawn.

Jim Daly

Question:

297 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22659/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received for the person concerned on the 18th October 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 17th January 2011 refusing DCA. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against the decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on the 21st June 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jim Daly

Question:

298 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22669/11]

In the case in question an application for domiciliary care allowance was received on the 20th June 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 26th July 2011 advising of the decision.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The person concerned has appealed the decision and submitted further information. An appeal was registered by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on the 2nd September 2011. As part of the appeals process this additional information will shortly be reviewed by a Medical Assessor before being forwarded to the appeals office for decision if necessary.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

299 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22675/11]

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

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

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

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

300 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent supplement has ceased in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22676/11]

The HSE has advised that the rent supplement payment to the person concerned ceased due to a change of address. The HSE has further advised that arrears of rent supplement were paid to the person concerned on 21st of July and that a rent supplement claim is currently in payment in respect of her new address.

Social Welfare Fraud

Robert Troy

Question:

301 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she will take regarding social welfare fraud in view of the recent announcement that Ireland has issued in excess of 6 million PPS numbers for a population of 4.3 million. [22684/11]

The PPS No. is the individual's unique reference number for all dealings with Government Departments and public bodies. This covers its use for DSP purposes as well as use by other agencies (in accordance with legislation — Section 262 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides the basis for the allocation, use and sharing of the PPS No.).

These numbers are issued by my Department following checks on an individual's identity. The checks vary depending on the type of individual concerned — we accept notification via the General Register Office of births but for the last number of years (since 2000) insist on a face to face interview before issuing a PPS number to a resident of working age.

There are some 7.4m records on my Department's central database, each identified by a PPS number. These records are for all PPS numbers ever issued so, the PPS numbers issued, and the population figure should differ. As well as all individuals currently resident in the State who have been issued with a PPS number, the figure also includes any individual who:

since 1979, required a PPS Number and has died,

has been resident in the State but has subsequently left the jurisdiction (including those born in the State since 1971) or

has not been resident in the State but has, for instance, benefited from an Irish Estate (the Revenue Commissioners have a requirement that all beneficiaries of Irish Estates should have a PPS Number).

It is not possible for me to describe all uses that other agencies have for the PPS Number, but it is worth remarking that my Department uses the number to identify an individual's PRSI contributions while they are working in the State. This means that, even after they have left the State, the number allocated to them remains valid. The PRSI contribution information will be relevant to calculating pension entitlements in other jurisdictions as well as this one.

I will also make the point that possession of a number, in itself, does not convey any entitlement. While it can make identifying a person easier for both the individual and the agency, checks on identity and meeting the qualifying conditions for any scheme must be carried out.

My Department takes its stewardship of the individual's data very seriously and, although any database containing the volume and historical content of its client records will contain incomplete and incorrect data, we have processes in place to monitor, correct and enhance the data that we hold. Most importantly, we also continue to enhance the processes associated with collecting the data in the first place.

I am committed to a zero tolerance approach to social welfare fraud, regardless of the scheme involved or the position of the person claiming it. It is a crime and persons defrauding the social welfare system will be pursued relentlessly by my Department.

The reorganisation of Departmental responsibilities along with the addition of almost 2,000 Community Welfare Staff (CWS) and FÁS staff to my Department will enhance our ability to interact directly with all our customers in more effective ways. The transfer of functions brings together employment supports and associated income support services in one organisation, the National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES). Arising from this, a more integrated approach to fraud control can now be realised. A single customer view for control purposes will be created.

I have launched a strategic fraud and control plan earlier this week to ensure a targeted response to high risk sectors and to ensure an integrated approach to the prevention, deterrence and detection of social welfare abuse across the Department's schemes and services.

Ensuring that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department of Social Protection. My Department processes in excess of 2 million claims each year and it makes payments to over one million people every week. The majority of payments issue to people who are fully entitled to their payment.

For 2011, the Department of Social Protection has a target of reviewing 780,000 individual welfare claims and to achieve €540m in control savings. This figure is the value of the control activity in the Department and if this work did not take place there would, over time, be a similar increase in total social welfare expenditure. To the end of July, my Department has carried out reviews on over 350,000 individual claims and have achieved control savings totalling almost €345m.

The control emphasis under the new control plan will be on increasing home visits by investigators and comprehensive face to face interviews of persons suspected of fraudulent activity. There will be a re-emphasis towards onsite inspections to increase a visible Departmental presence across those sectors of the economy where social welfare fraud is prevalent.

The Department has introduced a number of new measures to target control activity at high risk categories of claimants. In excess of 450,000 reviews will be undertaken in the working age cohort. The Department supplements reviews of entitlement by the frequent use of direct mail shot letters, particularly in relation to eligibility for child benefit.

In the case of persons receiving illness and disability payments, recipients are reviewed on a systematic basis through medical assessments and examinations, the frequency of which relates to the nature of the illness of disability. Residency checks on social welfare claims of specific cohorts of customers are undertaken nationwide in order to determine whether their residency status in the State is fulfilled.

The Department's Special Investigation Unit will undertake a series of targeted national projects aimed at the prevention and detection of social welfare fraud in high risk sectors, schemes and client cohorts. The unit will also work closely and collaboratively with other compliance and fraud investigation agencies to ensure that Social Welfare abuse is comprehensively deterred and detected (i.e. Revenue, NERA, and Garda Siochána).

A key aspect of control policy is to ensure that appropriate deterrents and sanctions are applied in instances where social welfare fraud has been detected. Where people have been overpaid the Department will take appropriate steps to recover this debt, including deductions being made from ongoing social welfare payments, lump-sum recoveries, or the instigation of civil proceedings where appropriate. It is the Department's policy to consider for prosecution all cases of fraud against the social welfare system.

Public Service cards are to come into use later this year. The PSC will include a photograph and signature. One of the anticipated advantages of the new card is that it will help to reduce fraud and error which result from the incorrect identification of benefit claimants.

My Department is very conscious of its obligation to protect public money and is determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

302 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is not entitled to back to school allowance. [22707/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

304 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is not entitled to back to school allowance. [22747/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302 and 304 together.

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

A BSCFA is not payable in respect of foster children. The financial support available to foster parents from the Department of Children & Youth Affairs includes assistance with the cost of clothing and footwear for the foster child.

Departmental Expenditure

Shane Ross

Question:

303 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money that was spent on taxis by her Department in the past year; the amount of money that has been provided for in the next year for taxi services for her Department; the times that taxis can be used by staff members; the terms under which staff members can use taxis; the amount that was used by staff members; the amount that was used by outsiders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22729/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

338 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount her Department has spent on taxis for staff and for others in each of the past four years. [23303/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 and 338 together.

The annual expenditure on taxis for the last number of years is as follows: