Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Common Agricultural Policy

Barry Cowen

Question:

15 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will confirm when the proposals from the European Commission on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27929/11]

The formal legislative proposals for the future of the CAP are due to be published by the Commission on 12 October next. The publication of the proposals will be followed by an intense and lengthy period of negotiation that is likely to fall for completion under the Irish Presidency of the EU.

On 14 and 15 September last, I and my colleague Minister of State McEntee addressed this House during Private Members Business when we gave an outline of the CAP reform debate to date. We reiterated our key priorities in the CAP negotiations which are:

To ensure that the negotiations on the next EU budget framework deliver a well resourced CAP

To retain Ireland's funding both for direct payments and for rural development in any redistribution of CAP funds between Member States

To obtain flexibility for Member States with regard to payment models and transition arrangements for distribution of single payment funds to farmers

To ensure that rural development policy includes appropriate targeted measures to support competitiveness and sustainability and

To keep CAP processes as simple and as effective as possible and to minimise unnecessary bureaucracy for farmers and costs to the State

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter again in the House when the proposals have been presented to Member States.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 13.

Agricultural Colleges

Tom Barry

Question:

17 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide additional resources for agricultural colleges in view of the Food Harvest 2020 report and the push to increase production. [27696/11]

Under the Agriculture, (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988, Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the provision of education, research and advisory services to the Agriculture sector. It is a matter for Teagasc and its Board to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities. Accordingly, delivery of the Teagasc education and training programme is an operational matter for Teagasc and its Board.

It is acknowledged that the demand for agricultural education has reached unprecedented levels over the past four years with a further very significant increase in demand for places in the current academic year. Taking account of this, and in order to respond positively to student demand, Teagasc were granted exceptional approval in August to recruit six new teachers. This approval was conditional on further initiatives by Teagasc to maximise student intake and improve efficiencies in the delivery of education services.

I understand that Teagasc has successfully recruited the new teachers and redeployed a further six advisory staff into the colleges to teach certain modules. Teacher/student ratios have been increased and a mechanism of contracting out the teaching of certain modules/skills is also being pursued. As a result of these initiatives, all the Agricultural Colleges were able to take in additional students this September with an estimated 250 extra places made available to meet the growing demand. Over 1,000 new students enrolled in ‘further' level courses in agriculture and horticulture with a further 283 students studying ‘higher' level courses linked to Institutes of Technology and Universities. Additional part-time courses are also being provided through the advisory service and a further 130 students will attend courses delivered through the Teagasc Regional Education Centres. This brings the total number of students studying on Teagasc run courses to 3,300.

Teagasc has a key developmental role in improving the competitiveness of the agrifood sector, supporting sustainable farming and the environment and encouraging diversification of the rural economy. For this reason, they receive substantial Exchequer resources each year to fund the delivery of education, research and advisory services to the agricultural sector. Requests to provide additional resources must have regard to Government efforts to drive efficiencies and contain public service numbers. Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, the Government is committed to reducing public sector numbers to 294,700 by the end of 2014. Delivering the numbers reductions requires that the Moratorium applying to all public sector recruitment must remain in place. Therefore, when vacancies arise, public service organisations must re-allocate or re-organise work or staff accordingly. Any exceptions to this principle can only be considered in very limited circumstances in respect of mission-critical posts and in full compliance with annual ceilings on staff numbers.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 14.

Common Agricultural Policy

Billy Kelleher

Question:

19 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the greening measures to be introduced under the Common Agricultural Policy reform; if he raised this issue at his recent meetings in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27935/11]

Although the detailed proposals from the Commission on the future of the CAP will not be published until next week, we know from the Commission communication, the EU budget proposals and public pronouncements provided by the Commission in policy debates that the Commission is pressing for a 30% mandatory "green" component in direct payments for additional agri-environmental measures beyond current cross compliance. The "greening" measures being mooted include retention of permanent pasture, crop diversification and ecological set-aside.

Of course I fully support the idea of encouraging sustainable forms of agriculture and this is at the heart of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. However, we need to keep things simple and to avoid creating excessive bureaucracy. While the greening measure that would be predominant in Ireland — retention of permanent pasture — should not create major compliance problems, the existence of separate greening conditions would complicate our single payment scheme. We should also be mindful of the considerable greening already in place through cross compliance. There is a further complication for Ireland in that a 30% flat rate greening component would exacerbate the movement towards uniform national or regional payment rates. I believe we should consider whether there are alternative simpler approaches to achieving the Commission's objectives.

I have discussed this and other matters related to the CAP reform with the Commission and a number of my EU counterparts. Most recently, last week I met my French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire, and we agreed on a common set of priorities for the reform of the CAP which included a commitment "to ensure that future "greening" of the direct income support schemes should be simple to apply both for farmers and Member States administrations and should not entail additional costs for either; the scope of the greening should be pegged to the budgetary resources allocated to the CAP".

John Paul Phelan

Question:

20 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to consult with the stakeholders in the farming industry here in relation to the negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27709/11]

An initial consultation process was launched with stakeholders by my Department in July 2009 to obtain views on what EU agriculture policies would serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come. The responses received are helping to inform our position in the very important negotiations on the future of the CAP towards 2020.

In 2010, a Consultative Committee on the CAP was set up by my Department comprising all the major farming and agriculture related representative organisations involved in Social Partnership as well as a number of academics. The Committee have met on several occasions, most recently in June and also participated in the Stakeholder event organised by my Department during the visit of Commissioner Ciolos last autumn. It is planned to have the next meeting once the formal Commission proposals have been received. My officials and I will continue to consult with farming organisations and stakeholders as the negotiations progress.

Official Engagements

Heather Humphreys

Question:

21 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the bilateral meetings he has had with other EU agriculture ministers in relation to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27710/11]

Since I was appointed Minister on 9 March last, I have had formal bilateral meetings with my French, UK, Spanish and Danish Ministerial colleagues. I have also taken the opportunity to meet formally with my Ministerial colleagues from the other Member States and the EU Commission at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings held in Brussels and Luxemburg and also at the Informal Ministerial Councils held in Hungary and Poland. The main purpose of these contacts was to build up alliances with like-minded Member States regarding the upcoming reform of the CAP.

Most recently, I met my French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire, in Paris last week and we agreed a common set of priorities for the forthcoming negotiations, namely

To ensure that the negotiations for the next EU budget framework deliver at least a stable budget for the CAP, to support sustainable food production in the EU;

To obtain the necessary flexibility for Member States in relation to payment models and transition arrangements for distribution of single payment funds to farmers;

To ensure that future "greening" of the direct income support schemes should be simple to apply both for farmers and Member State administrations and should not entail additional costs for either; the scope of the greening should be pegged to the budgetary resources allocated to the CAP;

To ensure an appropriate market support framework for agricultural markets, including economic and sanitary measures, that is capable of responding flexibly as the need arises.

To keep CAP processes as simple and as effective as possible and to minimise unnecessary bureaucracy for the farmer and costs for the Member State.

Over the coming period, as negotiations intensify, I will continue to interact with my Ministerial colleagues and with the Commission and European Parliament.

Food Labelling

Denis Naughten

Question:

22 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the implementation of country of origin labelling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27698/11]

The enforcement of country of origin labelling of food is the responsibility of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), a body under the aegis of the Minister for Health. The FSAI will have responsibility for the implementation of the Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, covering most meats, which is expected to come into effect from late November 2011.

Sale of State Assets

Martin Ferris

Question:

23 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if any submission has been made regarding the McCarthy report recommendations on Coillte. [23954/11]

As the Deputy is aware, Coillte was one of 28 commercial state bodies reviewed by the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, chaired by Mr. Colm McCarthy, which reported in April 2011. There were three recommendations in the section dealing with Coillte, one of which was that the State should initiate the disposal of Coillte's forest and non-forest assets but not its forest land. My Department has considered the recommendations in the Report and I also asked Deloitte on apro bono basis to examine the recommendations in the McCarthy report as they apply to my Department, including Coillte. The analysis and possible outcomes from this work will be considered by the Government, along with the future of other state assets, in the context of the work of NewERA.

As I outlined to the House in an Adjournment debate on this issue in June, it is essential to maximise the information available to the Government in order to make an informed, sensible, well-thought out decision which will not compromise the State's core asset, which is the land Coillte manages on behalf of its shareholders, amounting to some 7% of our land mass. I believe that NewERA can play an important role in this process.

To assist in its examination of options for the possible disposal of State assets, the Government has requested the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in consultation with relevant line Departments and NewERA, to consider a number of possible assets for disposal. In addition, they will advise the Government in relation to the appropriate valuations to be placed on the assets in question, and on the most appropriate method of disposal, likely timeframe and economic impact of any such disposal, in order to inform any further decisions that the Government may wish to make in this regard.

Food Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

24 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which a full evaluation has been done of the food industry with a view to identifying the future prospects in the beef, lamb, pig meat and dairy sectors in the context of likely trends affected by the Common Agricultural Policy and World Trade Organisation; if due regard is likely to be had for the necessity to maintain maximum support for food production throughout Europe thereby ensuring continuity and security of supply together with a reliable income for producers and the retention the concept of the family farm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27920/11]

My Department continually evaluates the various livestock sectors in the context of markets and trade agreements. In particular, the Food Harvest 2020 report provides a roadmap for the various sectors over the coming decade. The strategies in the report were agreed by the sector and are being implemented. I recently produced a report called "Food Harvest 2020: Milestones for success", showing the level of progress with the Food Harvest Strategy and I am pleased that Action has already been taken on 92% of all the issues. Intermediate milestones have been targeted for 2013 and 2015, to ensure that the strategy has a continuous momentum.

I am aware of the significant changes being proposed to the CAP and in other global trade negotiations. I will continue to defend the need for Europe to maintain food production as part of the global requirement to increase production by 70% by 2050.

Agrifood Sector

Heather Humphreys

Question:

25 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way the agrifood sector can contribute to economic revival here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27718/11]

The agrifood sector is contributing to the country's economic recovery through its significant role in adding value to the economy and its contribution to the export led recovery. CSO data show that Ireland's agrifood exports increased by 11% in 2010, reaching almost €8 billion. This sector is continuing to improve in 2011 with current figures showing a 14% improvement in the first six months of 2011 vis a vis the same period in 2010 and final year projections are of the order of €8.9 billion.

The agrifood sector plays a particularly strong role in encouraging domestic expenditure. Analysis shows that more than 70% of its expenditure is on Irish goods and services. This, allied to its lower level of profit repatriation, means that its contribution to the Irish economy is significantly greater than that of other manufacturing industries.

The Deputy should also be aware of the embedded nature of this sector which according to the Census of Agricultural Production has

An annual turnover of €22 billion, which is 20% of industries turnover

Accounts for 18% of Ireland's total industrial output and

Provides an outlet for produce from Ireland's 128,000 farms and is the main employment for circa 135,000 people

The major policy initiative which I am pursuing to ensure that this important indigenous sector continues to contribute to our economic recovery is through the implementation of Food Harvest 2020. This provides a pathway to growth and specific targets to be achieved for the primary (33% increase), the value added (40%) and the export sectors (40%) by 2020.

I am personally driving progress on this report, and through the efforts of the High Level Implementation Committee, I consider that good progress has been made in the past year as illustrated by the above export figures. Details of all initiatives being pursued to date have been published in’Milestones for Success’. This, the first progress report on Food Harvest 2020 implementation, was published this July and is available on the Department’s website at www.agriculture.gov.ie. In summary, ’Milestones for Success’ indicates that action has already commenced on 91% of the 215 recommendations in FH2020 and the publication contains a link which details the progress made on all of these recommendations. It also itemises 54 actions already taken over the past year by my Department and relevant State Agencies on Acting Smart, Thinking Green and Achieving Growth; the key themes of FH2020.

In addition, I have set myself and the agencies working with me on this critically important project, a series of 40 tasks to be completed by end July 2012. To make sure that these plans remain on track, the HLIC and myself have agreed quarterly targets which will help monitor progress and I will assess the first report on progress at the first FH-HLIC meeting in 2012. Another monitoring mechanism was the decision to set interim milestones for 2013 and 2105 and all parties are committed to meeting these milestones.

Food Labelling

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

26 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which traceability, husbandry, processing or production standards and requirements in the food industry are applied equally here and throughout the European Union; the degree to which food imports continue to comply with such standards; the degree to which labelling is an adequate form of verification; if any improvements are contemplated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27921/11]

Food production and labelling in the countries of the European Union operates in accordance with harmonised rules and member states controls are subject to audit and supervision by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the EU.

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

The work to ensure compliance with the application of health and hygiene regulations and traceability within the remit of my own Department is carried out by staff from the Department. This work is subject to regular audit by both the FSAI and the FVO.

All imports of food products of animal origin into the EU are the subject of prior notification and my Department, in co-operation with the Customs Service, operate veterinary public health controls at EU approved Border Inspection Posts on all direct imports into Ireland coming from non-EU (or third) countries.

Food Industry

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

27 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his priorities for the next implementation phase of Food Harvest 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27711/11]

The priorities for the implementation of the next phase of Food Harvest 2020 are set out in’Milestones for Success’’ which was produced last July and is available on the Department’s website, www.agriculture.gov.ie.

This, the first progress report for Food Harvest 2020, gives the pathway towards reaching the 2020 targets by setting interim milestones for 2013 and 2015 and deciding on the 41 key initiatives which will be progressed by July 2012. At its September meeting, the Food Harvest 2020 High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) set itself quarterly targets towards achieving these 41 key actions, and next January I will monitor and assess the progress made on the targets set for September-December 2010.

Animal Welfare

Martin Ferris

Question:

28 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce policy and legislation governing welfare of race horses; when legislation will be introduced; if the legislation will bring Ireland in line with the race horse welfare provision of other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27915/11]

My Department currently has statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of farmed animals only i.e. animals normally bred or kept for the production of food or for use in or for the purpose of farming. The relevant legislation in this area is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act, 1984 and the European Communities (Welfare of Farmed Animals) Regulations 2010, S.I. No. 311 of 2010. With regard to animal welfare in general, the main statutes governing cruelty to all animals, including race horses, in this country are the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965. Responsibility for pursuing cases under this legislation rests with the Garda Síochána, who may on receipt of a complaint investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an offence under these Acts.

There are legislative commitments relating to animal welfare in The Programme for Government 2011, including a commitment to amend and strengthen legislation on animal cruelty and animal welfare. A draft Animal Health and Welfare Bill giving effect to this commitment is in the course of preparation. The Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation providing a broad basis for regulating the related areas of animal health and welfare. Drafting is ongoing with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and it is my intention to publish the Bill at an early date.

Seafood Industry

Joe McHugh

Question:

29 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the work that has been undertaken to retain and create jobs in costal communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27706/11]

Food Harvest 2020 identified a potential to increase employment in the seafood industry from 11,000 to 14,000 by 2020, mostly in coastal communities. The Report also saw the potential to increase the value of the seafood sector from €700 million to €1 billion by 2020. The strategy set out in Food Harvest involves both the processing and aquaculture sectors.

I am committed to continuing the path set out in Food Harvest 2020 for the development of the seafood sector in Ireland into 2012. My Department and its agencies have been working together on a twin track approach to overcoming existing constraints on the aquaculture sector, firstly through the comprehensive bay by bay environmental impact assessments required by EU Birds and Habitat Directives and secondly through development of the feasibility of locating aquaculture in less sensitive but more challenging conditions offshore. We are starting to see promising signs of progress in 2011 on the environmental assessments in Natura sites and I believe this will gather pace as the process is bedded-in. BIM provides certain support programmes for the sector, including capital grant support for shellfish production outside Natura areas and within Natura where compliance is delivered and an innovation and technology support scheme. The continuation of these programmes is subject to budget allocations.

In relation to the seafood processing sector, Food Harvest 2020 recognised that the sector was fragmented, lacking in scale, uncompetitive in terms of production costs, too focussed on export of commodity products and constrained by inconsistent supply of raw material. BIM, with Enterprise Ireland and Údarás is working to address each of these issues. Grant aid support under the Seafood Processing Business Investment Scheme was provided in 2011 to improve competitiveness and help the companies concerned develop export markets for high value added products. In the seafood sector a further tranche of investment under the Seafood Processing Business Investment Scheme administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) was announced today by the Taoiseach which will see a further €3.5 million in investment this year and generate 64 jobs. BIM launched a new Seafood Value Adding Scheme earlier this year to support seafood companies with developing added-value products. The scheme assists with concept development, including business planning, product development and packaging. The continuation of these programmes is, of course, subject to budget allocations.

Common Agricultural Policy

John Paul Phelan

Question:

30 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his priorities in the negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27708/11]

Martin Heydon

Question:

40 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an update on the latest negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27707/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 40 together.

The CAP debate has been ongoing since 2008 in preparation for the new Multi-annual Financial Framework for the EU budget from 2014 onwards. Policy debates on the future of the CAP have taken place at meetings of the EU Agriculture Council of Ministers and these have been augmented by a vast amount of informal discussion and analysis. A Commission communication setting out broad policy options for the future CAP "The CAP towards 2020" was presented on 18 November 2010. The communication, on which conclusions were agreed by the majority of Member States last March, was the first formal step in the negotiating process. Full legislative proposals are expected from the Commission next week. The publication of the proposals will be followed by an intense and lengthy period of negotiation that is likely to fall for completion under the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013.

Our key priorities in the CAP negotiations are:

To ensure that the negotiations on the next EU budget framework deliver a well resourced CAP;

To retain Ireland's funding both for direct payments and for rural development in any redistribution of CAP funds between Member States;

To obtain flexibility for Member States with regard to payment models and transition arrangements for distribution of single payment funds to farmers;

To ensure that rural development policy includes appropriate targeted measures to support competitiveness and sustainability and

To keep CAP processes as simple and as effective as possible and to minimise unnecessary bureaucracy for farmers and costs to the State.

Land Reclamation

Denis Naughten

Question:

31 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the new regulations covering the reclamation of land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27697/11]

On Thursday 8 September 2011, I signed into law the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Agriculture) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 456 of 2011) to address the findings of the European Court of Justice against Ireland in the manner that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (85/337/EEC), as amended, was transposed into Irish law. This followed intensive discussions held with the European Commission over the summer months.

The Court found that Ireland was over-reliant on size thresholds and did not take other relevant criteria, such as the cumulative impacts of development, the location of the development or activity relative to sensitive sites etc, into account.

The Regulations relate to three categories of projects—

restructuring of rural land holdings,

the use of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture, and

land drainage works on lands used for agriculture

These Regulations provide for a screening and consent system that will not only satisfy the requirements of the Directive but will also provide a practical and workable solution for farmers. They also ensure that Ireland should not be open to the imposition of very large daily fines for non compliance with the European Court of Justice finding.

There will be no cost involved in applying for a screening decision. It will be a relatively straightforward process and each application will be adjudicated upon on a case by case basis in a timely manner, taking into account the relevant criteria outlined in the Directive.

Mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments will only be required for larger projects which are above specific thresholds set out in the Regulations.

Activities under the screening thresholds set out in the Regulations that do not have an adverse impact on the environment, can proceed without having to be screened by my Department. Above these thresholds farmers will have to apply for screening to see whether the proposed activity can proceed or if it will require an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out.

The Regulations will be underpinned by a comprehensive guidance document, a draft of which has been published for public consultation. The closing date for the consultation phase is Friday 21 October 2011.

Animal Protection

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

32 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to reduce the number of seabird deaths caused by longline fisheries in view of the high number reported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. [27918/11]

The issue of catches of seabirds in long line fisheries is a cause of concern. I understand that the matter is being accessed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). I will examine any proposals from the EU Commission arising from advice received from ICES or other bodies. This form of fishery is not usually practised by the Irish fleet.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Ann Phelan

Question:

33 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to achieve a better targeting of aid in the form of less favoured areas payments to farmers who work within areas that have been deemed disadvantaged due to agricultural handicaps (details supplied); if there are new criteria for designating LFAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27699/11]

In relation to the funding of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, in common with all areas of Government spending, a comprehensive review is currently being undertaken, with a view to achieving the best balance between the recognised benefits of the Scheme, while working within the unprecedented financial constraints in which the country currently finds itself.

In addition, there is an EU-wide Review, which was undertaken in response to the strong criticism expressed by the Court of Auditors of the procedures for the designation of intermediate Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) in the European Union. These criticisms were based on the number and variety of criteria used to designate intermediate LFAs (Member States have used more than 100 criteria) and the lack of transparency.

Member States were asked to map areas of natural handicap against new biophysical criteria and send their simulations to the Commission, after which a reformed scheme can be drawn up. Member States, including Ireland, have submitted the requested simulations. It is intended that any new LFA proposals proposed by the EU Commission will form part of the wider proposals on CAP post 2013, which are due to be published shortly.

Grant Payments

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

34 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he intends to streamline the process of grants payments to avoid delays to farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27914/11]

My Department operates a number of grants and scheme payments for farmers. Funding for these schemes is provided by the Exchequer, the EU or a combination of both and all expenditure must be carried out in an appropriate manner that adheres to the principles of value for money and compliance with the regulatory requirements.

Area-based schemes under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-13, in particular, are subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications, including cross checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, to be completed before payments can issue. These rigorous procedures, including on-farm inspections, apply to payments under the Single Payment Scheme, the Disadvantaged areas, the Rural Environment protection Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS), to ensure that applications meet the scheme conditions and cross-compliance requirements.

I am, of course, conscious of the financial pressures on many farm families and of the importance of grant and scheme payments to their incomes and cash-flow. I have given the highest priority to the processing and payment of all scheme payments and to the elimination of all unnecessary delays. Payments under DAS and AEOS commenced in recent weeks and will continue as queries are resolved. I can also confirm that very substantial payments will issue between now and year end under the Single Payment Scheme and REPS. Grants payments in respect of on-farm investments are dependent on the completion of the project concerned and submission of a valid, documented claim. I am also committed to ensuring that all such claims are processed and paid without delay.

Food Industry

Áine Collins

Question:

35 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views of the role that agriculture and the agrifood sector can play in economic recovery here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27717/11]

Nicky McFadden

Question:

39 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the role that agriculture and the agrifood sector can play in economic recovery here with particular regard to the Food Harvest 2020 report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27713/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 39 together.

I consider that agriculture and the broader agrifood and fishing sector has the potential to play a significant role in this country's economic recovery. Specifically its capacity to assist the export-led recovery is illustrated by the CSO data which show that Ireland's agrifood exports increased by 11% in 2010 over 2009 and have also shown a 14% improvement in the first six months of 2011vis-à-vis the same period in 2010.

To ensure the continued development of the sector, I am personally leading the implementation ofFood Harvest 2020 which sets out the industry’s strategic vision for the next decade and which contains over 200 recommendations designed to assist the industry achieve its key growth targets. Fuller details on targets and policies being pursued are available in my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 25 of today’s date.

Dara Murphy

Question:

36 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to his recent trip to Algeria, if he will outline the opportunities for the Irish agrifood sector in that region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27714/11]

Having regard to the targets set in the Food Harvest 2020 Strategy, it is essential that we develop and grow our export markets for food and drinks to ensure that we have markets for the proposed growth in production in the dairy, meats, drinks and other sectors. Both the Algerian and African markets generally present many opportunities for Irish companies to expand their exports of food and drinks.

Algeria is a key target market for growth in Irish dairy exports. Irish food exports to Algeria have increased from €22m in 2009 to €39m in 2010 with the bulk of these exports comprising dairy exports with a value of nearly €38m in 2010. Cheese exports amount to nearly €27m. Algeria is now the second most important export destination for cheese exports after the UK. Exports of beef amounted to €1.13m in 2010.

The purpose of my visit to Algeria was to enhance trade and official relations with Algeria, to build relationships at governmental level and to raise some market access issues. In addition, in officially opening an Irish dairy packing and distribution plant which had relocated from France to Algeria, my visit provided an important signal to the Algerian administration of the long term commitment of Ireland to the Algerian market. I also officiated at the opening of an Irish Algerian retail outlet in Oran, again providing an important showcase for Irish products and for the Irish retail approach to the sale of quality products.

My meeting with the Algerian Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister Benaissa on 25 September was very constructive. In addition to a discussion on market access issues, we discussed the possibilities of partnerships with Algeria in the context of the development of its food industry. I extended an invitation to Minister Benaissa to visit Ireland and I would hope that as a result of that meeting he and his officials and some Algerian companies will visit Ireland. I also received an invitation and met with Mr Abdel Malek Boudiaf, the Regional Governor of Oran which is a key centre for administration and development in Algeria.

Áine Collins

Question:

37 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the most recent export figures for the agrifood sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27716/11]

The latest CSO data, covering the first six months of 2011, show a continued growth in Ireland's agrifood exports following on from an increase of 11% in 2010. The combined value of exports in the categories Food and Live Animals and Beverages during the first half of the year was €4.279 billion, an increase of more than 14% on the first half of 2010, showing the agrifood sector's continuing contribution to this country's economic recovery.

Food Safety Standards

Sandra McLellan

Question:

38 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the results of the consultation process on raw milk will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27917/11]

The proposed ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is not new. Sale of raw cows milk was banned for many years (from 1997 till 2006) by my Department; and previously by most local authorities. The ban lapsed due to a change in EU legislation in 2006.

A public consultation process was held in 2008 in relation to the proposed extension of the ban to goats and sheep milk. Seventeen submissions were received. I do not propose to release these submissions as they are regarded as confidential correspondence between the individuals and organisations concerned and my Department. The submissions were wide ranging and included requests to allow restricted sale of raw milk as well as a number of claims of perceived health benefits of drinking raw milk.

All the submissions were carefully reviewed by my Department's experts in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. They were satisfied that the claimed benefits from drinking raw milk did not outweigh the known health risks associated with drinking raw milk. These include diseases such as TB, Brucellosis, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. There have been incidences of these in Ireland and other countries in recent years. Resulting illnesses can be serious and on occasion fatal.

The FSAI has therefore recommended that the sale of unpasteurised milk from all farm animals which is intended for direct human consumption should be prohibited; and advises that the most effective way to protect public health is to ensure that such milk is pasteurised.

The proposed ban will not apply to the consumption of raw milk — e.g. a dairy farmer drinking milk from his/her own cows. Such a ban is not possible under the law and in any event would be unenforceable. However, it is recommended to avoid this practice for health reasons.

The proposed ban will not apply either to the use of raw milk to make cheese. The cheese making process takes time and this provides an opportunity to withdraw product from sale in the event of a problem arising with the source milk. The cheese making process also prevents growth of pathogens and in some cases encourages slow decline in numbers of some pathogens.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 35.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 30.

Food Industry

Dara Murphy

Question:

41 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an update on efforts being made to encourage trade links with new markets for agrifood businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27715/11]

The Food Harvest 2020 strategy envisages a significant increase in output and production in the dairy and meat sectors in addition to other areas of food and drinks production, with the ultimate aim of achieving an export target of €12billion in 2020, i.e. an increase from a figure of €8billion in 2008. I and my Department have identified the facilitation of trade and the development of mutual cooperation with key trading partners as a key focus of our work in the coming years to realise this strategy. We are working closely with industry, other government departments and agencies such as Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland and our embassies to identify new opportunities to grow and develop trade and to consolidate existing markets.

Bord Bia anticipates that exports of Irish food and drink in 2011 will reach a new all time high of €8.9 billion, an increase of more than 12%, or almost €1 billion, on 2010 levels. This follows growth of €700 million in 2010 leaving Ireland's food exports in 2011 some 25% ahead of 2009 levels. This confirms that the projected targets for Food Harvest 2020 are well on the way to being achieved.

Bord Bia has indicated that all major categories are expected to show growth this year, led by dairy and meat, which combined account for more than 60% of total food and drink exports. Strong global prices are driving export growth, with the FAO food price index 26% ahead of this time last year; however increased volumes of dairy products, pigmeat, whiskey, cider, confectionery, sauces/soups and mushrooms are also boosting revenues. It is estimated that volume growth across these categories will account for up to 30% of the total.

Against this background I am very conscious of the need to consolidate and grow existing markets but also of the valuable opportunities for increasing trade in agriculture products in new and emerging markets.

The Chinese market represents a huge opportunity for exports of food and beverages. Developing close working relationships is very important in progressing trade issues. In that connection, I hosted a visit by the Chinese Vice-Minister for Agriculture earlier this year. The Vice Minister and I signed an action plan on mutual cooperation mechanisms between our two countries in the agrifood and fisheries areas and on furthering trade between our two countries. This will result in Chinese officials working within my Department and the Marine Institute and in undertaking educational courses in Ireland. I hope to visit China shortly to further deepen other areas of cooperation with China which will ultimately help to facilitate trade and exports to China.

I have just returned for a very successful visit to Algeria, which is a key target market for growth in Irish dairy exports. Indeed Africa presents significant opportunities also for food exports. Irish food exports to Algeria have increased from €22m in 2009 to €39m in 2010 with the bulk of these exports comprising dairy exports with a value of €37.6m in 2010. The purpose of the visit was to enhance trade and official relations with Algeria, to build relationships at governmental level and to raise some market access issues. In addition I presided at the official opening of an Irish dairy packing and distribution plant and an Irish Algerian retail outlet.

I hope to visit the US next year, which is also a key market, and possibly some other key new emerging markets where we are hoping to grow our exports.

Overseas Development Aid

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

42 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the percentage of overall aid that goes to water sanitation and hygiene; his plans to increase funding for this sector which provides safe drinking water, proper sanitation, hygiene promotion and so on in Third World countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28141/11]

Approximately 2.5 billion people, roughly one-third of global population, lack safe sanitation facilities and 885 million people lack access to improved sources of drinking water. While progress has been made, only twenty six out of fifty four African countries are on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 7 "to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic drinking water and sanitation".

The 2006 White Paper commits Ireland to "support activities across the programme to increase access to water and sanitation”. Ireland, through the Government’s Overseas Development Programme, Irish Aid, works with central and local Government in its priority Programme Countries, with civil society groups and with multilateral organisations to make progress on the achievement of MDG-7.

Ireland recognises that sustained and equitable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is not only a life saving intervention in humanitarian responses, but is also critical to address the complex and multi-dimensional nature of poverty and vulnerability, especially relating to child mortality, food security and gender equality.

In its policy dialogues with partners, Ireland continues to focus on increasing access to safe drinking water through various channels; national development plans, advocacy and governance reforms, humanitarian and recovery programme and climate change adaptation. Ireland also recognises the existence of human rights obligations relating to access to safe drinking water and sanitation and has supported initiatives at the UN Human Rights Council, including the Resolution on human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted at the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2010 and co-sponsored by Ireland.

In 2010, Ireland allocated over €7 million to support water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. Additionally Ireland supports UN Agencies such as UNICEF which works across ninety countries to improve water supplies and sanitation facilities in schools and communities, and to promote safe hygiene practices.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

43 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28402/11]

My Department manages expenditure under two Votes — Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Co-Operation). In 2011, an allocation of €108,000 has been made for consultancy services and value for money and policy reviews in Vote 28. Most of this budget has been allocated towards the provision of specialised ICT consultancy services which are essential in order to maintain the security and integrity of the Department's ICT networks. In line with Government policy, the Department has significantly reduced its spending on consultancy services in recent years. Since 2008, this budget line has been reduced by 81%.

The Vote 29 consultancy budget for 2011 is €1.4 million. My Department, through Irish Aid (Ireland's official development assistance programme), commissions consultancy services where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department and where independent appraisal, audit, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects is required. Given the overall scale, range and diversity of the Irish Aid programme, it is necessary, from time to time, to complement our in-house capacity with specialised skills and advice. These commissions sometimes involve examination of value for money issues as part of a wider set of objectives for the project. In these situations it is not possible to separately identify the VFM element of the total costs.

The consultancy expenditure is constantly monitored to ensure that it does not exceed the level required for the proper management of the aid programme.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Gerald Nash

Question:

44 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if he is giving consideration to making provision for tax based incentives for urban renewal schemes across the State and with particular reference to towns in Border counties which have suffered disportionately for periods of the current recession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27994/11]

A wide range of property-based tax relief schemes were introduced up to the mid 2000s. These included area-based tax incentives such as urban renewal, town renewal, rural renewal and the living over the shop schemes. While many important developments were encouraged by these schemes independent reviews concluded that the tax costs of the initiatives were high relative to the outputs achieved. Independent reviews also assessed the success of the schemes in the economic and social development and regeneration of designated areas.

Following a number of reviews to assess the costs and benefits of property-based tax inventive schemes, these reliefs were wound down on a transitional basis so that virtually all such schemes have now been abolished. However, given the structure of these schemes there are ongoing legacy costs to the Exchequer as investors use their reliefs and capital allowances.

My Department is currently undertaking an economic assessment of the potential effects of restricting and/or abolishing these "legacy" tax relief schemes. The assessment includes responses to a public consultation and the results will be considered in the context of the Budget 2012.

While we are in the process of winding down existing schemes and given the current economic climate, it would be difficult to justify the allocation of resources to the introduction of new property-based tax relief initiatives. Indeed, in the current difficult budgetary circumstances, and given the requirement to reduce tax expenditures under the EU-IMF Programme it will be difficult to undertake any new tax incentive schemes. Rather, the Government through the Jobs Initiative is directing resources to assisting in employment generation, providing opportunities for those who have lost their jobs, and thus generating confidence in the economy. This initiative is focused on all counties including those in the border region.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Question:

45 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of dated subordinated bonds which matured and were repaid by the covered institutions during the lifetime of the two-year guarantee provided under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008. [27965/11]

The following information excludes any burden sharing activities, in the form of Liability Management Exercises, conducted with subordinated bondholders. EBS, IL&P, AIB and Anglo Irish Bank had no dated subordinated bonds which matured or were repaid during the period of the CIFS Scheme 2008. Bank of Ireland had two subordinate bonds that matured during the period of the CIFS scheme. The two bonds had a nominal value of €600 million and €750 million, and were repaid in December 2008 and February 2010 respectively.

Michael McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of unguaranteed senior bonds held by the covered institutions at the end of February 2011 or a date close thereto. [27966/11]

I assume that the Deputy is asking for the amount of unguaranteed senior bonds issued by the covered institutions. The Central Bank of Ireland has advised me that as of 18 February 2011, the total unguaranteed senior debt issued by the covered institutions was €36,452m of which €20,039m was unguaranteed senior secured and €16,413m was unguaranteed senior unsecured.

This information was published to the Central Bank of Ireland website in April 2011:http://www.centralbank.ie/press-area/press-releases%5CPages%5CClarification-SeniorDebtand SubordinatedDebtIssuance.aspx

Pension Provisions

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

47 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the airline superannuation scheme about the impact the pension levy will have on the individual pensioners’ payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28004/11]

I have not had discussions with representatives of an airline superannuation scheme about the pension fund levy.

The stamp duty levy of 0.6% applies to the market value, on the valuation date, of assets under management in pension funds and pension plans approved under Irish tax legislation. I am not in a position to comment on what the precise impact of the levy will be on individual funds, schemes, members or retired members as this depends on whether and to what extent pension fund trustees and Life Offices decide to pass on the levy to individual members, given the particular circumstances of the pension funds or pension plans that they are responsible for.

I can say that the Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 provisions which introduced the levy include certain safeguards in this area. The payment of the levy is treated as a necessary expense of a scheme and the trustees or insurer, as appropriate, will be entitled where needed to adjust current or prospective benefits payable under a scheme to take account of the levy. However, should the option of reducing scheme benefits be taken, it must essentially be applied in an equitable fashion across the different classes of scheme members that could include active, deferred and retired members. In no case may the reduction in an individual member's or class of member's benefits exceed the member's or class of member's share of the levy. The Revenue Commissioners are also afforded oversight authority to review instances where benefits are adjusted as a result of the payment of the levy to ensure that any such adjustment is made in accordance with the requirements of the levy legislation. In undertaking any such review Revenue may consult with appropriate experts as they see fit.

Tax Code

Peter Mathews

Question:

48 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding tax relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28007/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a proposal to introduce tax relief for construction work completed on private homes. Tax relief on interest paid is already available for qualifying home loans. A qualifying home loan is a loan used for the purchase, repair, development or improvement of an individual's principal private residence.

In addition, as part of the recent Jobs Initiative, the Government provided further funding for the grants available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for energy efficiency works completed in homes. These grants are only available where approved contractors are employed to complete the relevant works. I have no plans to introduce an additional tax incentive in this area.

National Asset Management Agency

Peter Mathews

Question:

49 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide contact details for the person in the National Assets Management Agency who interacts with prospective purchasers of incomplete buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28008/11]

NAMA informs me that the persons concerned are Mr. John Mulcahy, Head of Portfolio Management, and Mr. Michael Moriarty, Deputy Head of Portfolio Management. The agency also informs me that it is happy to provide information such as this to Deputies directly, either through the generic e-mail address, info@nama.ie, or the dedicated e-mail address OIR@nama.ie, to which communications may be directed by public representatives.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

50 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the 2% levy on insurance policies to be implemented once the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 is signed into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28029/11]

The Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 was signed into law on the 30 of September by the President. The Deputy should note that it is the Central Bank which is responsible for determining the commencement date of the 2% levy on insurance policies under Section 6 of the 1964 Insurance Act as amended by the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2011. I understand that the Bank will shortly publish a notice on its website and will also write out to each insurer which it believes will be required to pay the levy to inform them of their obligation to pay. The Bank has not yet decided what type of notice it will provide to companies but it is unlikely to be less than 60 days. Consequently the levy will commence later this year or at the start of 2012.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

51 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the measures open to him either through retroactive legislation or current legislation to claim back expenses that were paid to bank officials after the bank guarantee was granted by the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28054/11]

There are constitutional and legal difficulties to be addressed when considering whether to introduce retrospective legislation. In principle it is an area fraught with difficulty and not one to be pursued lightly. It is incumbent on any organisation where it has been alleged that expenses have been misappropriated to pursue the recovery of such funds by whatever means available taking all relevant matters into consideration, e.g. materiality, cost of recovery. Where appropriate this may involve the use of legal proceedings under existing legislation.

If the Deputy has specific evidence of alleged wrongdoing he should bring such matters to the attention of the relevant authorities.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

52 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the expenses claimed by the former chief executive of Irish Nationwide Building Society (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28059/11]

Following the merger of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, the bank wrote to Mr. Fingleton requesting repayment of a €1million bonus, received post the introduction of the Irish Government's Bank Guarantee Scheme, and the return of a watch given to him on retirement which was paid for by the Society. The bank has recently written again, following a response from Mr. Fingleton who declined the request, reiterating the call for action in those matters and has raised a further matter of inappropriately recorded expenses to the value of close to €88,000. The bank strongly believes that Mr. Fingleton needs to take the honourable course of action in the interest of the Irish taxpayer with regard to the Bonus and the watch regardless of whether there is any legal obligation to do so. With regard to the expenses that appear to have been inappropriately claimed by Mr Fingleton, the Bank will continue to pursue Mr Fingleton and will use legal means if he continues to ignore the Bank's requests.

The Government fully supports this endeavour. It is a matter for the Bank to decide on an appropriate course of action if these issues with Mr. Fingleton remain unresolved. The bank has informed me that the specific matter referred to by the Deputy forms part of the bank's investigation into all legacy matters relating to INBS following the merger of that institution with the Bank on July 1st of this year. The Bank will address all issues arising from this investigation once concluded.

Tax Reliefs

John Lyons

Question:

53 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will review an application for the job assist scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [28078/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, having reviewed the case, the Revenue Job Assist tax credit has been granted to this person. Revenue have arranged for the issue of an amended certificate of tax credits and have written to the taxpayer advising him of the position.

Departmental Reports

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

54 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if legislation will be needed to set up the proposed mortgage advice service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28094/11]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to media speculation in relation to recommendations which may be contained in the Report of an Inter-Departmental group which, prior to the Summer recess, was asked by the Economic Management Council to consider further necessary actions to alleviate the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness. The outcome of the work carried out by the group, which was chaired by my Department and comprised representatives from other relevant Departments, the Central Bank and expertise from the banking sector, has been presented to the Economic Management Council. I will be bringing the Report to Cabinet next week after which it will be published and I anticipate that the Dáil will be given an opportunity to fully debate the contents and findings soon afterwards. Until the report has been considered by Government and released into the public domain, I do not wish to make any comment on the contents.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

55 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28401/11]

The 2011 Estimate for my Vote includes the following provision for consultancy expenditure:

€ million

Administrative Budget

€0.028 million

Consultancy costs associated with the stabilisation of the Banking Sector

€3.515 million

At this point I do not envisage that the full allocation will be required but, due to the uncertain nature of the work, the final requirement cannot be predicted with reasonable certainty.

I do not envisage that any of this provision will be attributed to contract work related to value for money.

The following table contains the relevant information in relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Agency, Body, Office

Detail

National Treasury Management Agency

The projected costs of legal and consultancy fees for the NTMA for 2011 are €8 million. This amount includes fees in relation to banking system functions and takes account of fees incurred by the Department of Finance post the transfer of banking functions to the Department (5 August 2011). It excludes banking consultancy fees recoverable from the financial institutions. Under the Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the Department of Finance, the NTMA continue to pay the third-party consultancy fees of the Banking Unit until 31 December 2011.The above projected costs do not include consultancy fees incurred by NAMA which are paid out of NAMA’s operating income. In 2011, legal and consultancy fees for NAMA are expected to be €29.9 million.

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

The amount provided for in 2011 in the Revenue Commissioners Revised Estimates Volume under Consultancy Services and Value for Money and Policy Reviews is €108,000. The amount spent to date in 2011 is €31,365 (including €2,405 to those contracted to identify value for money). The projected total expenditure to the end of the year is c €45,000.

Office of the Appeals Commissioners

Nil expenditure on Consultancy in 2011

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General has an Estimate of €700,000 for 2011 in subhead A.7 Consultancy. Of this amount €500,000 is to provide specialist expertise in conducting the audit of the National Asset Management Agency and €200,000 is provided more generally for specialist expertise in connection with the reporting work carried out by the Office. The consultancy expenditure on NAMA related work is considered a cost of audit and is recouped from NAMA through Appropriations in Aid. To the end of September the Office has spent about €86,000, most of which is recoupable from the NAMA audit. To the end of the year it is expected that the Office will not spend more than about €100,000.

FÁS Training Programmes

Regina Doherty

Question:

56 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position on the waiting list for a FÁS training course in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath and when they are likely to hear from FÁS regarding same. [27995/11]

I understand from FÁS that the person in question wishes to do an apprenticeship with FÁS and wishes to establish when he might be called for his first block release (Phase 2). I also understand that a FÁS official has been in touch with the person and that he has been issued a letter inviting him to attend for an induction day tomorrow, 7th October. The person was also advised of his training options.

Community Training Centres

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

57 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if responsibility for the FÁS community training centres will transfer to him; when this will happen; the future for the centres; the implications of this transfer on staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28024/11]

FÁS Community Training Centres are the responsibility of this Department.

FÁS Community Training Centres are the vocational arm of the national YOUTHREACH Programme for early school leavers. They offer specific initial vocational skills training as an alternative to second level education with a view to re-engaging early school leavers in progressing their levels of skills, knowledge and competencies.

Participants in CTC are primarily young men and women between 16 and 21 years of age. During 2010 an average of 2,300 early school leavers were availing of training at any one time, and a total of just over 2,100 people finished their training. While there is a focus on ongoing improvement of services delivered by CTC, there are currently no plans to change the existing programme.

Special Educational Needs

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

58 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding for dyspraxia has been considered in budget 2012. [28045/11]

Firstly, I wish to reiterate this Government's commitment to the provision of resources for children with special educational needs. The Programme for Government sets out that education will be a priority for this Government and that we will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students.

Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department — some €1.3 billion — will be spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs this year. This provision is in line with expenditure in 2010 and shows that despite the current economic difficulties, funding for special education has not been cut.

The continued commitment of this Government to special education provision, at a time when savings are being required across a range of expenditure areas, will ensure that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to educational facilities in line with their requirements.

The funding allocation for the education sector for 2012 and for future years will be determined in the context of the overall Estimates and Budgetary process, a key element of which will be the results of the Comprehensive Reviews of Expenditure (CRE) undertaken by all Government Departments.

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that my Department provides a range of teaching and care supports for children of school-going age with special educational needs, including children with dyspraxia. The precise level of support is determined by the special educational needs of the particular child.

Children with dyspraxia may be entitled to additional provision in school, either under the terms of the general allocation system of teaching supports if the educational psychological assessment places the child in the high incidence disability category or through an allocation of additional resources if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's circular.

The Deputy is aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resources to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

Schools Refurbishment

Paudie Coffey

Question:

59 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make funding available under the jobs initiative for a school (details supplied) in order for the repairs to be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27973/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied to my Department for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand, it was not possible to grant aid all applications for funding under the Summer Works and Jobs Initiative Schemes.

My Department has no record of receiving an application from the school for funding under the Emergency Works Scheme for the works in question.

For works that are of a very urgent nature, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works in question, or part thereof, qualify for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and, in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Departmental Schemes

Paudie Coffey

Question:

60 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reintroduce the minor works grant for schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27974/11]

No decisions have yet been taken regarding the payment of the primary school minor works grant in the current school year. Payment last issued in November 2010 in respect of the school year 2010/2011.

Special Educational Needs

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

61 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on new proposals to expand a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5; when a permanent principal will be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27980/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for the establishment of special classes and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs.

The NCSE has sanctioned a new class for children with autism in the school in question. Furthermore I have been advised that the BOM of the school has successfully selected a person for the post of Principal and arrangements are under way to complete the appointment process.

Schools Building Projects

Dan Neville

Question:

62 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding extra classrooms in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27984/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers made an application recently to my Department for capital funding for major capital works. This application is currently being assessed and my Department will be in further contact with the school when this process has been completed.

The current status of all projects on the school building programme may be viewed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

63 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school building project (details supplied); when construction will resume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27991/11]

Officials in my Department are liaising with the relevant stakeholders in relation to the appointment of a completion contractor. While it is not possible at this stage to give a definite date, it is envisaged that construction will re-commence before the end of this year.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

64 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive a third level grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28002/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority i.e. the applicant's local authority or VEC.

As neither my Department nor the independent Appeals Boards has received an appeal from the student in question, it would appear that a decision on her application is still pending.

I would advise the student to make contact with her grant awarding authority to ascertain the position.

Caiteachas Caipitil

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

65 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén soláthar airgid chaipitil a cuireadh ar fáil i 2011 do bhunscoileanna agus do scoileanna dara leibhéal faoi seach; an méid atá caite faoi gach fomhír acu go dáta i mbliana; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28018/11]

Tá leithdháileadh caipitil 2011 i gcomhair bunscoileanna agus iarbhunscoileanna comhcheangailte in aon fho-mhírcheann amháin agus is fiú €418m é. Tá €240m de sannta go sealadach don earnáil bhunoideachais agus tá €193m de sin caite go dtí seo. Is é an sannadh sealadach don earnáil iarbhunoideachais ná €178m agus tá €106m de sin caite go dtí seo i mbliana.

Oibreacha Feabhsúcháin do Scoileanna

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

66 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén uair a thabharfar cead do Ghaelscoil Chaitlín Maude, uimhir rolla 19872P, ocht seomra ranga nua a thógáil, ar seomraí iad atá ag teastáil go géar de bharr chomh mífheiliúnach agus atá an chóiríocht atá ar fáil ag an scoil faoi láthair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28019/11]

Tá an scoil dá dtagraíonn an Teachta tar éis iarratas a chur faoi bhráid mo Roinne le déanaí ar oibreacha móra feabhsúcháin caipitil. Táthar ag measúnú an iarratais faoi láthair agus beidh mo Roinnse i dteagmháil arís leis an scoil nuair a bheidh an próiseas seo curtha i gcrích.

Is féidir amharc ar stádas reatha gach uile tionscadail ar an gclár tógala scoile ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne agwww.education.ie agus nuashonrófar é seo go rialta i gcaitheamh na bliana.

Community Training Centres

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

67 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements being made by her for the FÁS community training centres; their future role; the implications for staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28025/11]

FÁS Community Training Centres are the vocational arm of the national YOUTHREACH Programme for early school leavers. They offer specific initial vocational skills training as an alternative to second level education with a view to re-engaging early school leavers in progressing their levels of skills, knowledge and competencies.

Participants in CTC are primarily young men and women between 16 and 21 years of age. During 2010 an average of 2,300 early school leavers were availing of training at any one time, and a total of just over 2,100 people finished their training.

While there is a focus on ongoing improvement of services delivered by CTC, there are currently no plans to change the existing programme.

Student Support Schemes

Jack Wall

Question:

68 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views regarding a submission (details supplied); if there is any means available to the person to allow them complete their studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28027/11]

I regret that 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 scheme announced in Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government. These changes include the removal of the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of grant, which is the subject matter of the submission to which the Deputy refers.

However, it might be helpful for the student in question to know that she can apply for assistance under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. The access offices themselves will also provide support and advice to students to help them to continue with their studies.

Schools Building Projects

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

69 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to open a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 6. [28046/11]

In June of this year I announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established within the next six years, comprising of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools to cater for the increase in school going population across these identified locations. It is not proposed to open a new primary school in the general Dublin 6 area as the demographics of the area do not support the need for a new school.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

70 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if assistance will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28066/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for a student's grant awarding authority. The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form in relation means, residency, nationality and previous academic attainment, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant.

For example, from the description in the details supplied by the Deputy it is not clear if the course being pursued is a further or higher education course or if the institution is an approved institution for the purposes of the student grant scheme.

To have her eligibility for a grant assessed, the student must submit a fully completed grant application form to her grant awarding authority.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

71 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the review of the higher education grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28076/11]

The outcome to the student grant appeal to which the Deputy refers was communicated by my Department to the student on 7 June 2011. Further correspondence was subsequently received and a response to this issued on 4 October 2011.

Schools Building Projects

Patrick Deering

Question:

72 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the minimum requirement or criteria necessary to get on the tender list for school building projects. [28088/11]

There are two alternative methods of tendering (the Restricted procedure and the Open procedure). In both procedures there are minimum standards for participation (including previous experience, turnover, insurances, capacity to obtain a bond etc). The minimum standards for participation are stated in the Contract notice/eTenders advertisement.

For less complex projects of a small to medium scale, the open procedure is generally used and all contractors meeting the minimum standards are entitled to submit a tender (thus facilitating the inclusion of small to medium enterprises and those with no experience in educational projects).

For larger or more complex projects, where it is considered that pre-qualification of contractors is warranted, the Restricted procedure is normally used. In the Restricted procedure, there is an intermediary qualification stage during which the numbers of applicants is reduced (or restricted) to a specified amount (normally 10). The criteria for suitability assessment, which are taken from the Department of Finance Capital Management Works Framework, include company turnover, insurances, capacity to obtain a bond, personnel for the project, previous experience, and Health and Safety competence.

Guidance on this process and standard questionnaires used by the Department are available on my Department's website.

Special Educational Needs

John Lyons

Question:

73 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if a solution can be found as quickly as possible. [28092/11]

John Lyons

Question:

74 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of a special needs assistant for a child (details supplied) in County Louth; and if a solution will be found quickly. [28140/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 74 together.

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 has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school. The NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of Special Needs Assistant posts and resource teaching hours to Primary Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website atwww.ncse.ie.

The school, to which the child referred to by the Deputy, is attending has an allocation of 12 SNA posts and 33 Resource Teaching Hours.

It is considered that, with equitable and careful management and distribution of these resources, there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such care support to attend school, in accordance with Departmental criteria.

I wish to 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 a 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.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

75 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28400/11]

One Value for Money Review on Small Primary Schools is currently underway and is expected to be completed by year end. However, no costs have been incurred to date in 2011 and none are envisaged.

The estimated figure for expenditure on consultancies by my Department in 2011 is in the region of €429,000.

Irish Language

Joe Costello

Question:

76 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to have all legislation passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas translated into Irish; the number of Acts awaiting translation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28012/11]

I have no responsibility for this area. I am informed by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission that it will reply directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

77 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number, shown by relevant category, such as former Minister, former Attorney General, former President, former Taoiseach, of ex-office holders currently in receipt of a State pension in respect of their service as an office holder; for each category, the amount paid per month and per annum; and for each category, the number of the ex-office holders who have put an arrangement in place with the State whereby part or all of their pension is waived and the estimated annual amount saved for the Exchequer as a result of such voluntary waiver arrangements being in place. [28030/11]

It has not been possible to collate the data as requested in the time available. I will however supply the data to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Lottery Funding

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

78 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the percentage of national lottery money spent on health; and the percentage of European lottery money spent on health each year. [28043/11]

The total allocation in the REV for 2011 for the subheads in the Health Votes (39 and 40) which are part-funded by Lottery proceeds is €13.3 million. As Lottery funding is treated as an item of non-tax revenue to the exchequer, it is not possible to indicate the amount or percentage of Lottery funding provided to any particular Vote or subhead. However, it is estimated that in 2011 total funding from the Lottery will represent 66% of the overall allocation for all subheads which are part-funded by the Lottery.

No distinction is made between funds raised by the National Lottery from European lottery games and from other lottery games.

Heritage Sites

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

79 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of visitors to a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo in each of the past five years in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28049/11]

The Visitor numbers to the Ceide Fields for the past five years are as follows:—

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

30,806

33,610

31,477

28,253

26,196

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. This review attempts to keep all sites with a guide service open, albeit with a restricted service at seasonal sites.

The 2010 and 2009 seasons were similar in length and in general it is felt that the reduction in visitor numbers in 2010 is due to the current economic climate.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

80 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28406/11]

The 2011 Estimate for my Vote includes the following provision for consultancy expenditure:

Administrative Budget

€7k

Programme Consultancy Costs

€75k

At this point I do not envisage that the full allocation will be required but the final requirement cannot be predicted with reasonable certainty.

I do not envisage that any of this provision will be attributed to contracts to identify value for money in my Department.

The following table contains the relevant information in relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department:

Agency, Body, Office

Detail

Office of Public Works

The estimate in administration subheads for consultancy fees and value for money on Vote 10 for OPW in 2011 is €54,000. Of this amount €33,000 relates to Value for Money and Policy Review consultancy contracts.Additional Information:In the course of its normal business activity, the Office of Public Works engages technical consultants on many of its projects, primarily architectural and engineering. The costs of these consultancies would be included in the overall project.

State Laboratory

The State Laboratory intends to spend €12,000 on consultancy fees in 2011. This spend relates to Internal Audit services only.

Commission for Public Service Appointments

The Estimate for 2011 includes a provision for Consultancy spend of €158,000. To date in 2011 total spend amounts to €25,000 and it is not envisaged that the full amount of the provision will be required to the end of the year. None of this is attributable to contracts related to identifying value for money.

Public Appointments Service

Nil spend on consultancy in 2011.

Valuation Office

The Valuation Office envisages spending €70,000 approximately on consultancies in 2011. None of the consultancies are specifically geared towards the identification of value for money.

Office of the Ombudsman

Total consultancy expenditure for 2011 will be approximately €75,000. None of the consultancies are specifically geared towards the identification of value for money.

Job Creation

Peter Mathews

Question:

81 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the grants or subsides that are available to an Irish owned call centre based in County Cork that is trying to expand and create an extra 30 jobs; if he will provide contact details of the person responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28009/11]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State Agencies, including the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland, through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) is the Government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the indigenous business sector. The agency's mission is to accelerate the development of world-class Irish companies to achieve strong positions in global markets resulting in increased national and regional prosperity. Enterprise Ireland works closely with individual companies and sectoral groups, offering a wide range of services.

Through its network of 13 Irish offices and 32 international offices, Enterprise Ireland works with clients to assist them to compete and to grow. Enterprise Ireland assists client companies by ensuring that suitable supports are available across those areas critical to business functions namely: Strategy, Finance, Research and Development, Marketing, Human Resources and Production.

Financial and non-financial supports are provided to companies with a business strategy that encompasses all elements required for business success. Enterprise Ireland's range of financial and non-financial supports to Irish-owned companies are designed to help them compete in the most challenging competitive environments, to help them achieve greater efficiencies and to improve overall business performance across a range of areas.

Enterprise Ireland has a very clear mandate in terms of the type of companies with which it works. Agency client companies must be Irish-owned, be a Manufacturing or an Internationally Trading Services enterprise or be an overseas company in the food, drink and timber sectors seeking assistance to locate in Ireland. Qualifying entities must also employ more than 10 people or be a high growth start-up according to criteria defined by the Board of EI. All projects must be commercially viable and supported by a suitable company development plan. Any assistance is provided on the basis of identified needs of the company.

Enterprise Ireland has an office in Cork located at Industry House, Rossa Avenue, Bishopstown, Cork, Telephone: 021 480 0200 Fax: 021 480 0271. Enquiries should be directed as follows: General Enquiries: Kaye Drake 021 480 0232 — Start-Up Enquiries: Jacqui Norton 021 480 0228

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) throughout the country is to provide a source of 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 Boards give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services, and support micro-enterprise businesses provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability.

Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, the CEBs remain central in assisting many micro-enterprises in developing their growth potential. Such supports include business related training courses for owner-managers and their staff, one-to-one mentoring provided by business specialists, in company training and start your own business courses. There are four CEBs currently situated in Cork. For contact details for the appropriate Board the promoter should go towww.enterpriseboards.ie.

Employment Rights

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

82 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the agency workers regulation legislation; and if he is engaging with or consulting agencies as the legislation is being drafted. [28042/11]

The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers (2008/14/EC) is due to be transposed into Irish law by 5 December 2011 and my Department is working to meet this deadline. A central aim of the Directive is to ensure protection of temporary agency workers by applying the principle of equal treatment in their basic working and employment conditions.

Of course a key feature of the Directive, is that it provides the possibility for the social partners, at the national level, to conclude an agreement which would, while respecting the necessary protections to be afforded to agency workers, allow for some variation in the application of the equal treatment principle such as in relation to the operation of a "qualifying period" before equal treatment would apply.

My Department is currently engaged with the national social partners in discussions on the possibility of concluding a framework agreement in time to meet the legislative deadline and I am pleased that these discussions are very constructive. Given the tight legislative timeframe of 5 December 2011, there are considerable pressures to conclude these discussions and it is my sincere hope that agreement can be achieved between both sides. Government places considerable value on agreement being reached with the national social partners on this issue given the very difficult labour market challenges currently facing this country and the need for all of us to play our part in improving our competitiveness in the global market with every measure possible to sustain existing jobs and grow employment. This ability for Irish businesses to be able to compete in the global marketplace is particularly relevant given that in the UK, our leading trading partner, a 12-week "qualifying period" before equal treatment is accorded to agency workers has been agreed.

A public consultation on the transposition of the EU Directive on temporary agency work into national law was undertaken by my Department in October 2010 and this drew responses from a number of stakeholders and interested parties, including from a number of recruitment agencies. In the case of a number of respondents, follow-up meetings have taken place with officials of my Department to provide more in-depth information to inform the preparation of the draft legislation. Contact in this regard with key stakeholders is ongoing.

In terms of progressing the legislation, it is my intention, very shortly, to seek Government approval for the formal drafting of the Scheme of a Bill to transpose the Directive that will be capable of taking on board the outcome of the discussions with the national social partners as earlier described, if these are successful.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

83 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular fees pertaining to those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28404/11]

Proposed expenditure by my Department, its Offices and Agencies on Value for Money consultancy exercises in 2011 is €119,000.

Social Welfare Appeals

Finian McGrath

Question:

84 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [28015/11]

The application for rent supplement by the person concerned was disallowed on the grounds that he did not have a housing need when assessed by the Local Authority and the rent was in excess of the rent limit for his area. The person concerned was notified of this decision in writing on 1st March 2011. No appeal against this decision has been received to date.

Finian McGrath

Question:

85 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent support in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [28016/11]

The application for rent supplement by the person concerned was refused on the grounds that she did not meet the qualifying conditions of the scheme and that the rent being paid was in excess of the prescribed limit for her circumstances. This decision has been upheld by the designated Appeals Officer and the person concerned was notified by letter which was issued on 22nd September 2011.

Departmental Staff

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

86 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that overtime has been approved for senior community welfare officers in the rent unit in order to bring rent applications up to date; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that this is at a higher cost than maintaining those staff on a lower wage who have recently been made redundant and who are now applying for welfare benefits. [28041/11]

Late last year agreement was reached between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and unions representing the Community Welfare Officers that the staff of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) would transfer to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1st January 2011 on a secondment basis initially. The period of secondment lasted for 9 months until the end of September 2011. During this period these staff remained employees of the HSE but were subject to the general direction and control of the Minster for Social Protection.

From 1 October 2011 these staff are transferred fully to the Department as civil servants and are accountable to the Minister in the same way as other civil servants.

I have been advised that a number of staff in the CWS were employed in a temporary capacity by the HSE in 2010 for a period of six months, including some of the staff in the rent unit in question. These contracts were subsequently extended to June 2011 from when they were gradually withdrawn. It was never intended that these staff would be retained on a permanent basis or that they would transfer to this department. They remain employed elsewhere in the HSE.

In the context of the transfer of functions from the HSE to the Department a number of Transition Managers were appointed from within the Community Welfare Service, to work with the Department of Social Protection to oversee the transfer of the service to the Department. The relevant Transition Managers are currently in the process of examining the service implications arising from the loss of these temporary staff.

Due to the high volume of applications received and the loss of these staff a short term backlog of applications arose. Overtime working was approved to clear this backlog.

The backlog is currently being processed and it is expected that there will be no backlog by the middle of October. Thereafter it is not envisaged that overtime will be required to maintain the day-to-day operation of the unit. Applications received up to the middle of September have been assessed for entitlement.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Pearse Doherty

Question:

87 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding his programme for Government commitment to convert the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened personal debt management agency with strong legal powers. [27660/11]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) assists people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems.

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

Responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) transferred to the Citizens Information Board (CIB) in 2009 to provide strong management support to the local voluntary MABS companies.

The future role of MABS is currently under consideration in line with commitments in the Programme for Government and recommendations contained in the reports of the Law Reform Commission on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement, and the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. In addition, my Department has contributed to the Economic Management Council mortgage arrears working group, chaired by the Department of Finance, which is due to report shortly.

I will be examining the contents of this report to identify to extent to which commitments contained therein will influence the future direction of MABS.

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

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

88 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision been made on an appeal for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27962/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 08 February 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 21 June 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 12 September 2011 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Code

Paudie Coffey

Question:

89 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to amend the current welfare system for self-employed persons in order that they would be entitled to benefits if they were to become unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27975/11]

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 the employee, resulting in the combined payment of 14.75% per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less that €356, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

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). 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 payments 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 and they become unemployed 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.

The Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare was established in August of this year in fulfilment of the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will, inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. It is intended that the Advisory Group should consider any proposals for change to existing arrangements in a cost-neutral or cost-reducing context.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paul Connaughton

Question:

90 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in relation to illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27979/11]

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

An appeal was registered on 29 August 2011 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be notified when arrangements for the examination have been completed.

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

Joe Costello

Question:

91 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent supplement ceased in April 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27989/11]

The Community Welfare officer dealing with this case has advised that the person concerned was not previously awarded a rent supplement.

The person concerned has been requested to either furnish an assessment of housing need by her local housing authority or documentation proving that she has been in private rented accommodation for a period of 183 days within the 12 month period prior to her rent supplement application.

A decision on her entitlement will be made when the information requested has been provided.

Social Welfare Fraud

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

92 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has conducted any feasibility studies into co-ordinating databases with the Revenue Commissioners as a means to reduce fraud in the social welfare payments by cross referencing PPS numbers; if she will name reports that she has written that investigate this feasibility; if there has been any communication between her Department, the Department of Finance and the Revenue about such co-ordinators; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28000/11]

The Department has a wide ranging programme to combat social welfare fraud and abuse. In this context, I launched a new strategic fraud initiative in early September which takes a revised and renewed approach to the challenges posed by social welfare fraud. The ambition is to ensure that the public have confidence and trust in this Government's response to combating fraud and abuse in the social welfare system. The new plan is designed 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 services.

The Department has, in the last number of years, been engaged in data matching with a number of other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes. Data matching is viewed as a very efficient and effective mechanism to target control-related activity.

The legislative provisions that allow for the specific sharing of data are contained in section 261 (1) of the Social Welfare Act 2005. Information held by the Department for the purposes of the Act (including the purpose of collection by the Revenue Commissioners of employment and self-employment contributions) may be transferred by the Department to the Revenue Commissioners. Similarly, information held by the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of this Act or the Income Tax Acts, relating to employers, the reckonable earnings of employed contributors or reckonable income or reckonable emoluments of self-employed contributors or of any payments made under this Act, may be transferred by the Revenue Commissioners to the Department.

Since 1997, the Department matches Revenue Commencement of Employment data against jobseekers data held by my Department on a monthly basis by cross-referencing PPS numbers. Where matches exist, employers are contacted and based on the information received, possible overlaps or cases involving concurrent working and claiming social welfare are identified and are referred for investigation.

In 2010, over 1.2 million records of commencement of employment were received from the Revenue Commissioners and nearly 75,000 were matched, by cross referencing PPS numbers with data held by the Department.

In conjunction with other agencies and in particular with Revenue, the Department tackles the shadow economy by a combination of data sharing, intelligence collation, assurance checks and outdoor operations including inspections and direct investigations. Policing what is conventionally viewed as hidden economy activity is as much about ensuring a level playing field for compliant businesses as it is about combating social welfare fraud. The Department's control programmes are regularly adjusted to concentrate on the areas of greatest risk, including risks from growth of the hidden economy.

Question No. 93 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Terence Flanagan

Question:

94 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a back to school clothing and footwear allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28006/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

Departmental records show that no application form was received from the person concerned. A duplicate application form has been forwarded to the person concerned which he should complete and return immediately to Department of Social Protection at PO Box 131 Letterkenny, Co. Donegal in order that his entitlements under the BSCFA scheme can be examined.

Peter Mathews

Question:

95 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding prepaid debit cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28010/11]

The range of payment options currently offered by the Department to pay customers includes electronic information transfer (EIT) through the post office network, electronic fund transfer (EFT) to the customer's account at a bank, building society or certain credit unions that have been authorised by the banking and credit union regulators. Cheque payments are also provided.

Government policy aims to facilitate the greater use of electronic payment systems in the economy in the interests of developing a modern payments environment in Ireland. This would ultimately reduce the amount of cash required in the economy and would reduce overhead costs borne in the first instance by retailers, such as insurance. In this regard we are currently developing a new Payments Strategy to enable the Department to continue to modernise the payment of welfare benefits in line with wider Government policies such as the National Payment Strategy.

As part of the development of this strategy, my Department issued a request for information (RFI) and received information on potential alternative payment solutions from a large range of companies and agencies. The options included prepaid debit cards and other card options as well as payment by EFT or by mobile phone, so called m-payments. The efficiency and costs associated with various payment channels are being considered as part of this process and will inform the development of the strategy. The strategy also takes into account international developments in delivering welfare payments and the need for good and effective controls. I expect to publish the strategy by the end of this year.

Pension Provisions

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

96 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has any role in requesting and or obliging the private sector to increase the retirement age for their workers in order that they are not left without income in the years between 65 years and the new pension entitlement age as that increases up to 2028; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28050/11]

The responsibility for setting retirement age in employment in the private sector rests with the individual employer who, in the main, sets retirement age under the contract of employment. Overall State responsibility for employment matters is held by my colleague, Mr Richard Bruton, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

However, my Department is working with the relevant agencies of State who have a role to play in identifying and breaking down barriers to remaining in work past the age of 65.

The continued participation of older people in the labour market must be encouraged and facilitated to meet the challenge of an ageing society. Employees and employers need to be persuaded to change their attitudes to working longer. In the workplace, employers should try to retain older employees and create working conditions which make working longer both attractive and possible for the older worker.

Where this is not possible and people leave paid employment before State pension age, they may be entitled to apply for another social welfare payment until they become eligible for a State pension. Opportunities for older people to participate in education, employment and other aspects of economic and social life must be maximised.

The standardisation of State pension age at 66 in 2014 and the abolition of State pension (transition) removes the retirement condition associated with State pension (transition) which acts as an incentive to leave the workforce and has been widely criticised as a barrier to older people remaining in employment. There is no retirement condition attached to the State pension (contributory) which is currently payable from age 66.

For the future, arrangements are being examined which would enable people to postpone receipt of State pension and receive an actuarially increased pension at a later date. In addition, changes are also being considered which would allow people with a shortfall in their PRSI contribution record at pension age to continue to make contributions beyond State pension age, if they continue in employment or self-employment.

Raising State pension is a necessary step in ensuring the sustainability of pensions into the future. There is an important and significant policy background to these changes which is that with increases in life expectancy, more people are living to pension age and living longer in retirement. This has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision. The fundamental principle involved here is that people need to participate in the workforce for longer 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 Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a review of the entitlement to rent support will take place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28069/11]

The answer remains as previously advised in Question Number 71 which I provided to the Deputy on 21st September 2011. I have been advised that on 24th May 2011, the designated Appeals Officer upheld the decision of the Community Welfare Officer not to award a rent supplement to the person concerned on the grounds that the rent payable was in excess of the prescribed limit for a single person.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

98 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28071/11]

The decision to reduce the rent supplement payment to the person concerned was upheld by the designated Appeals Officer. The person concerned has now appealed the decision to the Chief Appeals Office. The person concerned will be notified of the outcome of the appeal in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 409 of 14 September and 202 of 27 of September 2011, if any clarification has been sought as to whether carer’s allowance was actually awarded and or paid to a person or persons who legitimately provided the care in accordance to the regulations and guidelines laid down for the carer’s allowance scheme; the efforts if any made to ascertain the veracity of the claim; if normal procedures were adhered to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28075/11]

As previously outlined, decisions in respect of all carer's allowance claims are based on the relevant legislation in the Social Welfare Acts.

Regarding your question about the validity of a specific application for carer's allowance, my department is endeavouring to identify the application in question from the details supplied so that a review can be carried out. If it transpires upon review that a claim was paid incorrectly the Department will take appropriate action.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

100 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 has to wait 12 to 18 months for a review of their application for disability allowance with her appeals department; and if she will expedite the application. [28084/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officers decision on 27 Jun 2011.

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

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

Social Welfare Code

David Stanton

Question:

101 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider amending the qualifying criteria for community employment and Tús schemes to allow those signing for credits and not receiving a jobseeker’s or other payment to be eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28086/11]

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

Eligible persons are being identified by the Department of Social Protection by applying the following conditions:

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

Currently be in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, and

Be fully unemployed.

The criteria for participating on the community employment (CE) programme are similarly based on age and length of time in receipt of specified social welfare payments.

Persons signing for credits are not eligible for participation on Tús or CE. They do, however, have access to the National Internship Scheme subject to meeting the criteria for the scheme.

David Stanton

Question:

102 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any flexibility for local deciding officers regarding the length of time for which applicants must be receiving qualifying payments when making decisions on eligibility for community employment, Tús, JobBridge and other work placement and employment training schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28087/11]

The purpose of the various work placement and employment training schemes is the provision of quality work and training opportunities for those who are unemployed in order to assist them in updating their skills and to improve their opportunities in the labour market.

The eligibility criteria for the various schemes have been specifically constructed so as to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by unemployment. Deciding Officers have prescribed powers within social welfare legislation that relate to entitlement to certain statutory social welfare schemes and would not have a function in relation to determining eligibility criteria for the schemes referred to in the question.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Question:

103 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if the approved payment of rent supplement will continue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [28095/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of rent supplement. This case is currently under review and the Community Welfare Officer involved has advised that the person concerned has recently submitted a duly completed review form as requested. The Community Welfare Officer will contact the person directly when his review has been completed.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

104 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will arrange an early and positive review of an application under the back-to-school clothing and footwear scheme 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [28096/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

A person may qualify for a BSCFA payment BSCFA if he or she is in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment, is participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education or training course, and has household income at or below certain specified levels.

The persons concerned were refused BSCFA as their income exceeded the limit allowable for their family composition. BSCFA Review Section have confirmed that a request for a review of this decision has been received from the person concerned.

However, due to the large volume of applications and requests for review received, information regarding the progress of individual reviews will not be available until such time as the applications have been examined and a decision taken.

Social Welfare Fraud

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

105 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 377 of 20 September 2011, if she has invoked section 8 of the Data Protection Act 1988 as amended by the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003 as a means to combat social welfare fraud. [28167/11]

In line with data protection requirements, the Department has, in the last number of years, been engaged in extensive data matching exercises with a number of other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes. Data matching is viewed as an efficient and effective mechanism to target control related activity.

Data matching acts as an important preventative and detection control. The Department has an extensive legal structure to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits. The legislative provisions which allow for the specific sharing of data are contained in section 261(1) of the Social Welfare Consolidated Act, 2005. Information held by the Department for the purposes of the Act (including the purpose of collection by the Revenue Commissioners of employment and self-employment contributions) may be transferred by the Department to the Revenue Commissioners. Similarly, information held by the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of this Act or the Income Tax Acts, relating to employers, the reckonable earnings of employed contributors or reckonable income or reckonable emoluments of self-employed contributors or of any payments made under this Act, may be transferred to the Department.

Under the provisions of section 261(2) of the 2005 Act, information held by the Department for the purposes of the Act or the control of schemes administered by or on behalf of the Department may be transferred to another Department or a specified body. The converse also applies. These provisions are in accordance with the data protection provisions. The legislative provisions governing data protection are contained in the Data Protection Act, 1988 and Data Protection (Amendment) Act, 2003 and have regard to EU Directives which have been transposed. Notwithstanding the provision of the 2005 Act, as outlined above, the Department must operate in accordance with and be in compliance with the basic principles underpinning the data protection legislation.

The restriction on processing of personal data (including disclosure to a third party) is lifted in limited circumstances, as specified in section 8(b) of the Data Protection Acts, where the right to privacy must be balanced against other needs, i.e. where criminal investigations are being undertaken. Typically these provisions would apply in instances where the Department's Special Investigation Unit investigators are dealing with cases of multiple claiming and personation with the Gardaí. In addition, they apply where this Department requests and obtain data from other Government departments and agencies for the control of schemes.

The Department liaises with the Data Protection Commissioner on a regular basis and will, where Social Welfare legislative proposals have data protection implications, consult with the Commissioner on such matters.

The Department undertakes a number of existing data matches with other Government Departments & Agencies on a systematic basis, including the following the Irish Prison Service, Third Level Institutions, General Register Office, Commission on Taxi Regulation, Revenue Commissioners, Department of Work & Pensions (UK State Pensions Match) and the Probate Office. These matches are in compliance with the data protection regulations.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

106 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount she intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular, those contracted to identify value for money in her Department. [28407/11]

The procurement of services is essential to support the Department in providing high quality service to the public in a cost effective and efficient manner and is governed by a comprehensive regulatory, legal and procedural framework. The Department is focused on ensuring that all work is carried out in a fashion designed to achieve best value for money in the use of public funds to achieve its objectives.

The Department engages consultants (individuals or organisations) to provide intellectual or knowledge based services (e.g. expert analysis and advice) including the delivery of reports, studies, assessments, recommendations and proposals that contribute to decision making or policy making.

In this regard, the Department expects to spend some €1,100,000 for the engagement of consultants, including business, social inclusion and I.T., in 2011.

The Department is not at present carrying out any Value for Money (VfM) reviews as a result of the Government decision to defer the selection of the 2011 Value for Money reviews, which are agreed by Government each year, pending the outcome of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Comprehensive Review of Expenditure currently being completed.

Wildlife Conservation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

107 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when a decision will issue on a deer hunting licence application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27988/11]

I understand that a licence will be issued to the person concerned in the next week.

Architectural Heritage

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when funding will be allocated to local authorities under the conservation grant for protected structures and structures at risk scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28077/11]

Due to the significant reduction in the budgetary allocation to the built heritage within the Vote of my Department, the operation of the Local Authority Conservation Grants Scheme has been suspended. Limited funding is being provided through a "Structures at Risk Fund" in 2011, to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. 23 local authorities have been issued with and accepted grant offers for a total of 31 projects under the fund.

Funding in future years for these purposes will be subject to the normal Budgetary and Estimates processes.

Wildlife Conservation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

109 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on Larsen traps and the threat that they pose to protected birds particularly after the recent disturbing report (details supplied) regarding use of these traps to capture and then torture birds. [27990/11]

My Department has responsibility for regulating the use of traps, snares and nets for catching wildlife. This is done in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2010 and the Wildlife Act 1976 (Approved Traps, Snares and Nets) Regulations 2003. The use of Larsen Traps complies with the provisions of these regulations and is acceptable when carried out with due care.

An Ghaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

110 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé i gceist aige maoiniú a chur ar fáil ó Chiste na Gaeilge do Chumann na bhFiann de bharr na hoibre tábhachta atá ar bun acu leis an óige, de bharr na béime atá ag an Straitéis 20 Bliain ar mhúineadh na teanga agus ar ghréasán imeachtaí taobh amuigh den scoil do dhaoine óga, más rud é go dtarraingíonn Foras na Gaeilge siar an maoiniú a bhí á chur ar fáil acu don Chumann; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28020/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

111 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndearna an Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh/Theas faomhadh ar phlean cistíochta Fhoras na Gaeilge don earnáil dheonach Gaeilge, cén uair a ndearna siad faomhadh air agus an bhfuil sé sásta go bhfuil an scéim ag obair go sásúil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [28021/11]

Tógfaidh me Ceisteanna Uimh 110 agus 111 le chéile.

Dírím aird an Teachta ar fhreagraí atá tugtha agam ar Cheisteanna Dála le gairid faoin ábhar seo (Ceist Dála Uimh. 163 ar 22 Meán Fómhair 2011, Ceist Dála Uimh. 126 ar 28 Meán Fómhair 2011 agus Ceist Dála Uimh. 487 ar 4 Deireadh Fómhair 2011).

Mar chúlra, tuigfidh an Teachta go gcuireann Foras na Gaeilge bunmhaoiniú ar fáil faoi láthair do 19 n-eagraíocht, lena n-áirítear Cumann na bhFiann. Déanann mo Roinn féin agus an Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta ó thuaidh maoiniú ar Fhoras na Gaeilge, a thagann faoi choimirce na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas.

Mar thoradh ar athbhreithniú seachtrach ar na heagraíochtaí bunmhaoinithe a rinneadh d'Fhoras na Gaeilge, d'aontaigh an Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas gur chóir an cur chuige bunmhaoinithe a athrú chun cur chuige níos sruthlínithe agus níos cost-éifeachtaí a chur i bhfeidhm. Go bunúsach, tá sé i gceist go mbeidh Foras na Gaeilge ag athrú ó mhúnla bunmhaoinithe do 19 n-eagraíocht go múnla iomaíoch, bunaithe ar scéimeanna faoina ndéanfar tosaíochtaí straitéiseacha éagsúla a sheachadadh. Ar ndóigh, beidh sé oscailte do Chumann na bhFiann, mar aon leis na heagraíochtaí bunmhaoinithe eile, iarratas a dhéanamh faoin gcóras nua scéimeanna.

Is é an staid reatha ná go ndearna Bord Fhoras na Gaeilge ocht ndréachtscéim a fhaomhadh ag a chruinniú ar 23 Meán Fómhair 2011. Tá na dréachtscéimeanna sin faoi bhreithniú ag na Ranna Urraíochta faoi láthair mar ullmhúchán don chéad chruinniú eile den Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas ar 12 Deireadh Fómhair 2011. Tá sé aontaithe ag an gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas cheana go leanfar le bunmhaoiniú eatramhach a chur ar fáil do na heagraíochtaí go dtí 30 Meitheamh 2012.

Maidir le maoiniú a chur ar fáil do Chumann na bhFiann trí Scéimeanna Tacaíochta Gaeilge mo Roinne (ar ar tugadh Ciste na Gaeilge roimhe seo), feictear dom nach mbeadh sé ag teacht le cuspóirí an athbhreithnithe atá idir lámha ag Foras na Gaeilge, le treoir ón gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas, dá mbeadh mo Roinnse chun plé le réimsí oibre mar seo atá mar chúram ar Fhoras na Gaeilge.

Turbary Rights

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

112 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when a decision on landowners involved in a bog (details supplied) will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28139/11]

At the request of the Deputy, I met with a number of the landowners involved and undertook to have their case reviewed. My Department is nearing completion of this review and will be in contact with the landowners in question in the near future in regard to this case.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

113 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28396/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on the 2nd of June 2011. The 2011 REV provides my Department with an allocation of €211,000 under subhead A.7 Consultancy Services and Value for Money Policy Reviews. Of this allocation, some €32,764 has been expended to October 1st 2011. My Department is keeping the need for consultants under close review in order to control expenditure and ensure value for money.

It should be noted that this figure does not include any expenditure on consultancy related work which may form part of general programme expenditure. This expenditure is presently under review and, for completeness, I will write to the Deputy separately when this review is finished.

Telecommunications Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

114 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding broadband (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28074/11]

The provision of broadband services here is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e. over telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, fibre and satellite. In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The Group Broadband Scheme, National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and Rural Broadband Scheme are all examples of where Government has intervened to ensure broadband availability in areas, particularly rural ones, where commercial investors have failed to provide services.

Accordingly, 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. In addition to the NBS, the Rural Broadband Scheme, which recently closed for applications, aims to identify the remaining individual premises in rural Ireland, outside the NBS areas that are unable to obtain a broadband service and to provide a basic broadband to those premises, where requested. Almost 5,000 applications have been received under the Scheme and work is continuing on the processing of approximately 1,200 of these applications where address details need to be clarified. A total of 237 applications have been received from County Kerry — this number is provisional and may change once all addresses have been clarified.

The challenge now is to accelerate the delivery of next generation broadband. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair, aims to assist in developing a roadmap for the delivery of such services 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 recently and will meet again in December. In the interim, the four working groups will continue their work. I expect that the Taskforce 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.

Alternative Energy Projects

Michael McCarthy

Question:

115 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding applications from him to the European Commission for State aid approval for the REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 schemes; when he expects a decision on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28098/11]

There are separate State Aid clearance processes under way with the European Commission in respect of the extension of the REFIT Scheme for the renewable energy technologies of onshore wind, landfill gas and hydro technologies and a new REFIT Scheme covering biomass technology categories. The Commission is currently completing assessments on these applications and I am advised that decisions should be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

116 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28398/11]

The allocation for consultancy services in my Department in 2011 is €1.980m. The identification of value for money is a core value underpinning all consultancy activity under the aegis of my Department.

Social and Affordable Housing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

117 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has undertaken any assessment of the viability of social housing bonds as discussed in the programme for Government. [27678/11]

With levels of capital funding for social housing reduced by some 66.23% since 2008, the financial parameters within which we are operating, and will be operating over the coming years, rule out a return to very large capital-funded construction programmes by local authorities. Accordingly, delivery of social housing will be primarily facilitated by more flexible funding models, with the social housing leasing initiative and, in particular, the Rental Accommodation Scheme, playing their parts as long-term housing supports.

The Programme for Government listed some of the options we are exploring to facilitate the increased provision of social housing, including social housing bonds and the viability of utilising the value of existing social housing stock as a means of leveraging further funding for the provision of social housing. The Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. Under the latter option, approved housing bodies will be able to build or acquire new social housing, remunerating their borrowings with funding provided by the Department under the leasing scheme. At the end of the loan period the approved housing body will own outright the units which will either continue to be made available for social housing purposes or may be sold to sitting tenants.

The first scheme of this nature, involving loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency being used by an approved housing body to purchase housing units from NAMA, was launched in July 2011. I expect this facility to be a critical source of new social housing provision in the years ahead. A range of other funding options remain under examination with a view to maximising the delivery of housing supports.

Waste Disposal

Robert Dowds

Question:

118 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of current bin waivers for certain local authorities (details supplied). [27976/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

119 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the most up to date annual cost of providing bin waivers in certain counties (details supplied); and whom pay for same. [27978/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 119 together.

Details of the numbers of households qualifying for waiver schemes and the annual cost of operating those schemes are not compiled by my Department; these are matters for the relevant local authority.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers will bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service. A public consultation on the issues involved, designed to inform the policy development process, has recently concluded. The responses received are being examined and I intend to bring policy proposals to Government before the end of the year. The issue of waivers for low income households will be among the issues for consideration in this context.

Water Services

Paudie Coffey

Question:

120 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the effect the establishment of the State company Irish Water will have on investment in our infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27981/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure and to manage the domestic water metering programme. The Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the EU/IMF commits Ireland to undertaking an independent assessment of the establishment of such an authority.

Work on the independent assessment is underway. The assessment will examine the optimal organisational structures for Irish Water, including its proposed powers and responsibilities, and will consider in detail the legal, financial and organisational structures together with an implementation plan. This plan will take account of the need to ensure that this critical public service is delivered efficiently during the transition and that there is no loss of momentum in the delivery of key projects.

It is intended that the outcome of the assessment will be considered by Government together with proposals for the establishment of Irish Water before the end of 2011.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will approve the contract documents to allow Roscommon County Council to proceed with the upgrading of the treatment plants on its four regional water schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28035/11]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Roscommon. The Four Roscommon Regional Water Supply Schemes — Arigna, Boyle/Ardcarne, Roscommon Central and South Roscommon Regional Water Supply Scheme are included in the Programme amongst the list of contracts in the county to start in the period 2010-2012.

My Department is finalising its examination of Roscommon County Council's Contract Documents for the schemes and a decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible. Once approved, the Council can then proceed to invite tenders for the construction of the schemes.

Public Toilet Facilities

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

122 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the provisions in place to ensure that all public toilets are in working order and well maintained; and if there are any proposals to increase the number of public toilet facilities. [28038/11]

Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that a local authority may take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things (including the incurring of expenditure) as it considers necessary or desirable to promote the interests of the local community in relation to matters, including inter alia, the public use of amenities such as sanitary accommodation.

It is a matter for each local authority to determine the extent to which these facilities should be provided and to allocate resources accordingly.

Local Authority Charges

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

123 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 524 of 14 September 2011, if any decision has been made on how the household charge will be implemented. [28039/11]

Further to the reply to Question No. 524 of 14 September 2011, the legislation to underpin the household charge will contain the precise details of the charge and will be published and brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.

It is intended that the legislation will provide that the household charge will be administered on a self assessment basis and it will be a matter for owners of residential property to register and pay the charge by the due date. In the event of non-payment, penalties will apply and unpaid household charges will remain as a charge against the property concerned.

I recognise that the charge, although modest at €100, represents an additional cost for homeowners and it is proposed to facilitate homeowners by allowing it to be paid in four instalments.

Similar to the charge on non-principal private residences, an online system is being developed by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to enable homeowners pay the household charge by credit card/debit card. In addition, homeowners will be able to make payments by cheque, postal order, etc through the post to the LGMA. A bureau will be established in the LGMA to administer the charge on a shared service/agency basis for all local authorities.

Departmental Schemes

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

124 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that decisions made under the rental allowance scheme cannot be appealed to the Ombudsman for Public Services, unlike decisions made by other local government agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28040/11]

In general, decisions made by public bodies, including housing authorities, can be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

In relation to tenancies under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, all such tenancies are residential tenancy agreements governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Where disputes arise between the landlord and the tenant each has recourse to refer the matter to the Private Residential Tenancies Board under the provisions of the Act.

Environmental Policy

Niall Collins

Question:

125 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if door-to-door coal distributors are regulated by permit; if not, his plans to introduce such regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28058/11]

On 7 June 2011, I signed the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2011. These Regulations require that all bituminous coal placed on the market for residential use must have a sulphur content of no more than 0.7%.

The Regulations also require all coal bagging operators and fuel suppliers to register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All persons or bodies whose sole or main business involves retailing bituminous coal (which includes door to door distributors) must register with the EPA. There is no charge for registration. The EPA will maintain registers to support intelligence led enforcement by local authorities. Persons required to register can contact the EPA at the address below:

Solid Fuel Suppliers Registration

Resource Use Unit

Environmental Protection Agency

Johnstown Castle Estate

P.O Box 3000

Wexford

Phone: 053 9160600 Email: FuelRegistration@epa.ie

Bagging operators and fuel suppliers must hold a record showing that all bituminous coal placed on the market for residential use has a sulphur content of no more than 0.7%. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), at the request of my Department, has prepared an annual traceability audit system, known as SWiFT 7, that is considered to demonstrate compliance with the new Regulations. SWiFT 7 was prepared in consultation with key stakeholders, which included the EPA, local authorities, the Solid Fuel Trade Group and other industry representatives. Such a record is required to fulfil the EPA registration obligations set out above.

Under Section 10 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, local authority authorised persons may now issue fixed payment notices for breaches of the Regulations. Fuel suppliers who have still not registered with the EPA after 31 December 2011 will be liable for a fixed payment notice of €500 if found to be selling or placing bituminous coal on the market.

Proposed Legislation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

126 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding his programme for Government commitments on fast-tracking personal bankruptcy reform. [27660/11]

In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government a Personal Insolvency Bill is in the course of being developed in my Department to provide for a new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency. The commitment under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is to publish the Bill in Quarter 1 of 2012. It is my objective to publish the measure ahead of the EU/IMF deadline, if possible.

In developing the Bill, account is being taken of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its recent Report on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement.That report provided an in-depth review of the personal debt regime. The economic and financial effects of certain of the new arrangements that are in contemplation are being carefully assessed to ensure that all relevant issues are addressed and their impact is fully anticipated and understood.

I should inform the Deputy that the Government has already introduced some important early reforms to our bankruptcy laws. These were provided for in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011. The most noteworthy of these provisions will come into force on 10 October and provide (i) for the reduction of the application period to the court for discharge from bankruptcy from 12 years to 5 years, subject to the same conditions that exist at present, and (ii) for the first time in Irish law, for the automatic discharge of bankruptcies on the 12th anniversary of the bankruptcy adjudication order. A number of other, mainly technical, improvements to bankruptcy law contained in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 are already in force since 2 August 2011.

Residency Permits

Ciara Conway

Question:

127 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) in County Waterford, whose previous residency in the State expired in November 2010 and who has not been directly corresponded with by him since 5 April 2011, will learn the outcome of the application he has made to the INIS Repatriation Section for his right to reside here to be renewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27963/11]

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State under the IBC/05 Scheme for a two year period, valid to 17th November, 2007. The person concerned applied to have this permission renewed but this was refused as he did not meet the Scheme's continuous residency requirement. He was notified of this decision by letter dated 8th October, 2008.

The position in the State of the person concerned now falls to be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. In advance of a final decision being made, the case of the person concerned will be examined to determine what, if any, impact the recent European Court of Justice Judgment in the Belgian Zambrano case may have on his case. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Having due regard for the high volume of cases awaiting a decision, the Deputy can be assured that the case of the person concerned will be processed to completion as soon as possible.

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

Garda Complaints Procedures

Joe Costello

Question:

128 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will respond to allegations in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27999/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matters referred to relate to civil proceedings which are before the courts.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment further.

Citizenship Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

129 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [28013/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in November, 2009.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

On the processing of naturalisation applications generally, the Deputy may be aware that I have introduced a series of measures within my Department to provide for speedier processing of citizenship applications to bring about a substantial reduction in the processing timescale and in particular to address the backlog of applications awaiting a decision.

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

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

130 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current timeframe for Garda vetting in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4. [28036/11]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that a vetting application in respect of the person referred to was received by the Vetting Unit. The application is being processed by the GCVU at present. The GCVU will be in contact with the registered organisation when that processing is completed.

Proposed Legislation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

131 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he anticipates the new legislation on entrepreneurs and investment visas to be tabled in Dáil Éireann. [28037/11]

I can confirm that my Department has been working on new immigration schemes in the area of entrepreneurship and investment. I believe there is scope for dynamic initiatives from my Department to contribute to our national recovery and the area of entrepreneurship and investment is a prime opportunity. I am currently considering recommendations for a scheme which will not require legislation to be tabled before the Oireachtas.

Citizenship Applications

Robert Troy

Question:

132 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will expedite a naturalisation application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [28051/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in August 2011.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Garda Stations

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

133 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to close Garda stations in Cork city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28052/11]

I wish to make it clear at this juncture that no decisions have been made in relation to the closure of Garda stations.

The Commissioner is currently carrying out a review of the entire Garda organisation in the context of ensuring that the Force will be in a position to match the deployment of resources to its policing commitments as effectively as possible.

Clearly, an examination of the opening hours and in some cases the viability of Garda stations will form part of this review. The Commissioner may have to consider in appropriate cases whether a better policing service could be delivered to a local community by having Gardaí out on patrol instead of in a station.

I look forward to receiving the Commissioner's proposals, which will be aimed at maximising the efficiency of the Garda Síochána, and prioritising the resources available to operational front-line policing services.

Prison Committals

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

134 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the need to reduce the number of persons imprisoned for non-payment of fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28055/11]

I can inform the Deputy that the number of such persons actually held in custody at any one time is a small fraction of the overall prisoner population. To illustrate this point, 14 prisoners out of a total of 4257 in custody or 0.3% of the prison population on 5th October 2011 fell into this category.

The Fines Act 2010 makes provision for alternatives to imprisonment in the event of default on payment of a fine. Specifically, the legislation provides for the recovery of the fine by an authorised person (receiver) and the use of community service as a sanction, where a receiver has been unable to recover the fine or its value in seized goods. The Courts Service is progressing work on implementation measures to facilitate the commencement of the remaining provisions of the Act as quickly as possible.

Section 14 of the Act has been commenced with effect from 4 January, 2011. This requires the court to take into account the person's financial circumstances before determining the amount of the fine, if any, to be imposed. This means that no person should be sent to prison for default solely because they cannot afford to pay a fine.

I intend to bring forward new legislative proposals to introduce a system of "attachment orders" allowing a small amount of money to be taken from wages or social welfare facilitating the payment of the debt or fine over time.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent of consideration that he has given to the appeal in respect of the issue of Stamp 4 residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28133/11]

The person concerned, a failed asylum applicant, applied to remain in the State on the basis of his marriage to an EU citizen. This application was approved, for an initial one year period, on 13th September, 2006. An application from the person concerned to have this permission to remain renewed was refused on the basis that the person concerned was no longer residing with his EU citizen spouse and consequently his entitlement to be in the State pursuant to the exercise of EU Treaty rights had ended. The decision to refuse to renew his permission to remain in the State based on marriage to an EU citizen was upheld following an internal review of that decision and the outcome of this comprehensive review was notified to the person concerned by letter dated 4th March, 2010.

Arising from the refusal of the internal review of the decision to refuse to renew his permission to remain based on marriage to an EU citizen, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 12th August, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. He was also notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the determination of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28134/11]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 22nd September, 2009, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

It is noted that the address supplied in the Deputy's Question does not match the address currently on record in my Department. If, as it appears, the person concerned has changed address, she is legally obliged to communicate such an address change to my Department.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 15 September 2011, if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can apply for long-term residency in their own right; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28135/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 135 of 15th September 2011. The position remains as stated.

If the person concerned wishes to apply for Long Term Residency in her own right, a prospective employer must first obtain a work permit for her and she must accumulate five successive work permits. The issuing of work permits is the responsibility of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Davitt House, Adelaide Road, Dublin 2. Further information is available atwww.deti.ie.

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

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

138 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28405/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that the estimated spend by my Department on consultancy in 2011 is in the region of €53,000 and the estimated spend on Value for Money reviews for 2011 is in the region of €2,000. It should be noted that all Value for Money reviews are now carried out in — house by Departmental staff.

Irish Red Cross

Finian McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence his views on correspondence sent to him recently by a former senior manager at the Irish Red Cross in relation to a chapter of the recent Comptroller and Audit General report on the affairs of the Irish Red Cross; if he is satisfied as to the purpose his substantial grant in aid to the IRC is put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28014/11]

As the correspondence was addressed to an independent office holder, the Comptroller and Auditor General, it would not be appropriate for me to express any views on the particular issues raised in relation to his recently published 2010 Annual Report and Appropriation Account. However, at a general level, I welcome the Report's conclusions and I am satisfied that good progress in relation to governance reform of the Society is being made.

In relation to my Department's annual grant to the Society, I am satisfied that nothing has come to light to indicate that the grant has not been properly accounted for, or used for purposes other than which it is provided. However, in light of recent controversies, I recently asked the Chairman of the Society for assurances in this regard and for information about how the grant is utilised. Comprehensive and satisfactory answers were provided by the Chairman.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

140 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28399/11]

It has not been possible in the time available to compile all the necessary information requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Organic Farming Scheme

Tom Hayes

Question:

141 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the organic farming scheme will be kept in place for the next year; if so, will the lever of funding remain the same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27967/11]

The Government's National Recovery Plan sets out the expenditure ceilings for my Department for the period 2011 to 2014 and future funding for the Organic Farming Scheme will have to be considered in the context of these budgetary constraints. Furthermore, my Department is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of expenditure and will be engaging in the 2012 Estimate process. No decision on the level of funding of the Organic Farming Scheme will be taken pending the outcome of these deliberations.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

John O'Mahony

Question:

142 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason farmers in disadvantage areas are only allowed one payment per partnership in view of the stated policy of promoting milk production partnership by him to support the food harvest 2020 targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27982/11]

Under current EU regulations governing the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme there is no provision for making more than one payment in the case of partnerships. However, in line with the need to improve scale and increase efficiency as identified in Food Harvest 2020, the Department is looking at ways to encourage more collaborative working,, including partnership formation, and is seeking to minimise any impediments to these newer models of farming.

Departmental Agencies

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

143 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made on the management agreement between him and the Loughs Agency to transfer authority to them to control aquaculture in the Foyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27983/11]

My Department is working with the Loughs Agency and other relevant Departments and agencies to address the issues involved which are complex in nature.

Every effort is being made to bring the process to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Question:

144 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has had a deduction from their single farm payment; if he will review this case and refund the withheld money in view of the fact that they are now compliant with environmental regulations and have recently built a slurry holding tank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28011/11]

The person named was the subject of a Nitrates inspection by the Integrated Controls Division of my Department acting on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on the 2nd of March 2011. This inspection uncovered discrepancies that were deemed to be intentional and a penalty of 20% was recorded against the 2011 Direct Payment for the person named.

The person named was informed of this decision on the 6th of April 2011 and of his right to seek a review. He was also informed of his right to appeal the outcome of any review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals office. To date, no request for a review has been submitted, however, your question will now be taken as a request for review which will now be carried out. As part of this review any new facts or evidence will have to be supplemented with supporting documentation.

Forestry Sector

Martin Ferris

Question:

145 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide statistics for the full amount of trees, full amount of forests and the full amount of land that Coillte has sold to pension funds and banks since 1989. [28031/11]

The statistics sought in respect of the period since 1989 are currently being compiled and I will respond to the Deputy directly as soon as possible.

Martin Ferris

Question:

146 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide the figures regarding the extent of forest harvesting in Ireland since 2007; and the way that is being balanced by planting, as per the sustainable yield promised by the strategic forestry plan. [28032/11]

To facilitate forest harvesting, a total of approximately 33,700 hectares of forestry was licensed for felling since 2007. Each licence to clearfell, issued under the Forestry Act 1946, carries a compulsory replanting condition obliging the licensee to replant the cleared area within 12 months of the expiry of the licence. In addition to the replanting required as a consequence of harvesting, a further 33,059 hectares of new forestry have been planted since 2007 under the Afforestation Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

147 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a full list of forestry grant recipients since 2007. [28033/11]

Council Regulation No. 1290 of 2005 requires the Department to publish on its website certain details on beneficiaries of schemes funded or co-funded by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) or the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Following a European Court of Justice Judgement in 2010 only data relating to beneficiaries who are legal persons are being published. Details of natural persons cannot be published as a consequence of this Judgement. As forestry grant payments are fully State funded there is no obligation on the Department to publish details of recipients, whether they are natural or legal persons.

Grant Payments

Sean Fleming

Question:

148 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the agri-environment options scheme application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; when same will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28057/11]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 November 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, had to be completed before any payment could issue. These checks have now been successfully completed and payment will issue shortly.

Departmental Reports

Terence Flanagan

Question:

149 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a timeframe for the implementation of the McIver and Burke report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28060/11]

Business Plans for the Development of the Fishery Harbour Centres were published in 2009 and provide a blueprint for the future development of the Fishery Harbour Centres. The Business Plans set out a five year timeframe for implementation of the recommendations. I can confirm that in the two years since their publication my Department has been actively engaged in the implementation of the recommendations made in the Business Plans and will continue to do so within the resources available to it.

Departmental Expenditure

Terence Flanagan

Question:

150 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount spent by him on legal fees in 2010 taking fishermen aquaculturists to court. [28061/11]

The Minister did not take fishermen aquaculturists to court in 2010.

Fisheries Protection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the degree to which conservation measures already adopted in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy or otherwise have improved fish stocks in traditional Irish fishing waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28100/11]

As part of Ireland's obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy, the Marine Institute collects data on the status of quota stocks in Irish waters. This data contributes to the ICES advice to the European Commission and is intended to inform the Commission's proposals for total allowable catch of quota species each year. The ICES advice to the Commission is specific to individual species and ICES areas. The ICES advice is published.

The Marine Institute also publishes annually its ‘stock books' for demersal and pelagic fisheries and for shellfish. The stock books are the principal annual publication of the Marine Institute's Fisheries Science Services and provide the latest impartial scientific advice of the Institute on commercially exploited fish stocks in Ireland. The stock books include analysis of the status of fish stocks, including the impact of existing or proposed conservation or management measures. The Stock books are available on the Marine Institute web site www.marine.ie.

Fishing Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the total catch of all species landed in this jurisdiction in each of the past five years to date in 2011; the extent to which such catches were processed here and the extent of employment created; the extent to which fish caught in Irish waters were landed and processed in other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28101/11]

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority has statutory responsibility for collection of data on landings by Irish vessels and is independent in the performance of its functions. I have no role in the matter. However, I have referred the Deputy's question to the SFPA for direct response on this matter.

Data on landings by non-Irish vessels are a matter for the Member State of registration of the vessel, regardless of where the fish were caught. Data is not compiled on the extent to which fish landed into Ireland are processed here. Some landings are exported directly without processing. However, overall Irish traded seafood for 2010 was worth €711 million, with Irish production accounting for €537 million of that total. The balance of €174 million would be accounted for by imports. Data is being currently compiled on employment in the seafood processing sector by BIM and I have asked them to forward the data to you directly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which fish caught within 100 km of our shores are landed and processed here or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28102/11]

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority has statutory responsibility for collection of data on landings by Irish vessels only and is independent in the performance of its functions. I have no role in the matter. However, I understand that data on landings is not collected by reference to distance from shore. I have referred the Deputy's question to the SFPA for direct response. Data on catches by non-Irish vessels are primarily a matter for the Member State of registration of the vessel, whether landed into Ireland or elsewhere.

Fish Quotas

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which all EU countries including Ireland enforce fishing quotas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28103/11]

Each member State has a role to enforce the fishing quotas determined by the EU Council. The EU Commission has overall responsibility to evaluate the application of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy by the Member States and to apply deductions of quota where a Member State exceeds its quotas in a particular year. The monitoring and control of fishing activities in Irish waters and landings into Ireland is the responsibility of the Irish Control Authorities.

Fishing Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will indicate, if known, the extent to which fish and fish products, fresh, tinned or smoked, available here have been caught by Irish fisherman and are processed here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28104/11]

My information is that approximately 48% of domestic sales are Irish in origin. Imports are understood to be mostly canned fish and frozen fillets for the fast food trade, as well imports of fresh cod and salmon to balance shortages of domestic supply. An Bord Bia promotes the consumption of local fresh fish, including hake, haddock, whiting and mackerel and shellfish species such as crab, mussels and prawns and there is plentiful domestic supply of these species. In addition, BIM makes available a range of supports to the Irish processing industry to help it modernise, become more competitive and consumer oriented and increase output capacity and thus both increase exports and compete with imported processed seafood products.

Common Fisheries Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which he and his colleagues through out the EU have studied the fish catches in each member state with particular reference to observance of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28105/11]

Member States have no oversight role in relation to the observance of fishing quotas by other Member States. The EU Commission has overall responsibility to evaluate the application of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy by the Member States. It is a matter for the EU Commission, as set down in EU Regulation, to apply sanctions in the event of any quota breaches.

Food Safety Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which food labelling and traceability continues to be enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28106/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the degree to which all food products here comply with Irish and EU traceability, husbandry, production and health standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28107/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

Food production and labelling in the countries of the European Union operates in accordance with harmonised rules and member states controls are subject to audit and supervision by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the EU. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) under the aegis the Minister for Health has overall responsibility for the enforcement of food safety in Ireland. It carries out this remit through service contracts with my Department and other agencies including the Health Service Executive (HSE), Local Authority Veterinary Service and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

The work to ensure compliance with the application of health and hygiene regulations and traceability within the remit of my own Department is carried out by staff from the Department. This work is subject to regular audit by both the FSAI and the FVO. All imports of food products of animal origin into the EU are the subject of prior notification and my Department, in co-operation with the Customs Service, operate veterinary public health controls at EU approved Border Inspection Posts on all direct imports into Ireland coming from non EU (or third) countries.

Agrifood Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his intentions to ensure that farming and food production remains an attractive option for farm families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28108/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take, in conjunction with his EU colleagues, to protect the concept of the viability of the family farm enterprise throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28109/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

The Government's strategy for development of the agrifood sector, Food Harvest 2020, is built on the premise of sustainable food production by family farms. This is also the basis of the European Model of Agriculture, supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, which combines the goals of sustainable and competitive food production with management of our natural resources and balanced rural development. It is my intention in the upcoming negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to ensure that the reform delivers the environment in which Irish agriculture and food production can develop and prosper based on viable family farms. My priorities in the negotiations are:

To ensure that the negotiations on the next EU budget framework deliver a well resourced CAP;

To retain Ireland's funding both for direct payments and for rural development in any redistribution of CAP funds between Member States;

To obtain flexibility for Member States with regard to payment models and transition arrangements for distribution of single payment funds to farmers;

To ensure that rural development policy includes appropriate targeted measures to support competitiveness and sustainability; and

To keep CAP processes as simple and as effective as possible and to minimise unnecessary bureaucracy for farmers and costs to the State.

National Herd

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which the numbers in the single suckler cow herd have fluctuated over the past 12 years to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28110/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which the numbers in the beef and dairy herds have varied on an annual basis over the past 12 years to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28111/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

Data on the national herd are published twice yearly by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on the basis of two categories; dairy and other cows. The former are kept principally to produce milk for human consumption and the latter are essentially used for beef production. Data to December 2010 are presented in tabular format below. Results in respect of June 2011 are not yet available but that information will be released on the CSO website in due course.

It can be seen that the size of dairy and suckler cow herds has remained relatively stable over the last 12 years albeit with a gradual decline in overall herd populations. The numerical strength of both herds is closely interlinked. With the impending abolition of milk quotas in 2015, it is projected that dairy cow numbers in Ireland will increase substantially. This will result in a greater number of dairy male calves becoming available for beef production.

Year

Dairy Cow Herd ‘000 head

Beef / Suckler Cow Herd ‘000 head

1999

1,173.8

1,166.8

2000

1,152.8

1,155.2

2001

1,148.0

1,159.7

2002

1,128.7

1,150.8

2003

1,135.7

1,144.2

2004

1,121.8

1,150.8

2005

1,101.1

1,150.0

2006

1,087.1

1,128.8

2007

1,087.5

1,117.4

2008*

1,024.1

1,175.0

2009*

1,022.4

1,134.9

2010

1,027.0

1,070.7

Source: CSO December livestock data.

*Revised data sourced from administrative records.

Sugar Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which discussions have taken place with EU colleagues on the prospect of reintroducing the growing of sugar beet here for commercial purposes in view of the fact that the cessation of the industry was based on outdated data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28112/11]

As part of the reform of the EU sugar regime in 2006, a temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry, was introduced with the aim of reducing EU sugar production in order to comply with WTO and other international obligations. The scheme provided an incentive for sugar processors to voluntarily renounce sugar quota and dismantle the associated sugar processing plant and it provided compensation for affected stakeholders. Prior to the commencement of the negotiations the Commission carried out an exercise in 2005 to assess the possible impact of the reform proposals on sugar production in Member States and it indicated that the Member States most likely to be affected adversely by the reform measures were Ireland along with Portugal, Greece and Italy. During the EU discussions on the restructuring scheme Ireland would have provided the most up to date information concerning the Irish sugar industry.

There is no mechanism under the present Regulations which are in force until 30 September 2015 which would allow for the re-instatment of the sugar quota for the growing of sugar beet in Ireland for the production of sugar. The EU Commission's forthcoming proposals, due to be unveiled later this month should provide a clearer view of the prospects for the future direction of this regime after 2015. I and my officials have met with two separate groups who have conducted feasibility studies into the possibility of establishing a sugar/bioethanol facility. Any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility would have to be a commercial proposition financed in total by investors and interested parties and would need to be based on solid commercial criteria that makes sound economic sense.

Purchase for Destruction Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the total number of animals slaughtered during the beef destruct scheme of some years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28113/11]

The Purchase for Destruction Scheme was introduced on 1 January 2001 in response to the EU BSE crisis and ran for a period of six months. The scheme was highly successful in removing surplus product from the market, removing a total of 278,000 animals or 90,500 tonnes of carcase beef and contributing significantly to a much more stable international market in 2002.

Sheep Stock

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which the numbers in the national sheep flock have varied over the past five years to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28114/11]

The results of the National Sheep and Goats Censuses for the years 2006 to 2010, which are available on the Department's website, are summarised in the table below (data for 2011 is not yet available). They show that there was a decline in the national sheep flock between 2006 and 2009 but that the decline appears to have bottomed out with a modest increase in 2010. This modest increase also applies to the breeding flock for 2010. This reversal of the trend in sheep numbers is both welcome and necessary in order to ensure the survival of the sheep industry as an important part of the Irish agricultural sector and it shows that the sector has responded positively to the price improvements in the market which occurred over the past two years and to other measures which have been introduced to help the sector. I am confident that the recovery in the sector will continue, given a continuation of favourable returns from the market.

Sheep Numbers as at December according to the National Sheep and Goat Census (conducted in month of December each year)

Year

Breeding Ewes over 12 months

Rams

Other Sheep

Total

2006

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

3,600,715

2007

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

3,269,876

2008

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

3,090,466

2009

2,189,504

69,162

816,131

3,074,797

2010

2,200,526

70,118

845,588

3,116,232

N.A. = Not Available

Agrifood Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which new markets have been established for Irish-produced beef, lamb and dairy produce; the number of any such markets that have been lost for whatever reason over the past five years to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28115/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the anticipated extent of any new markets for Irish beef, lamb or dairy products likely to emerge over the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28116/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

Irish exports of beef and lamb in were valued at almost €1.7 billion in 2010, representing an increase of almost 8% on the previous year, and these figures are continuing to grow in 2011. The vast majority of Irish exports of beef and lamb are directed to other EU countries. However, it is always advantageous to have alternative outlets available for our produce and my Department is working actively, with the co-operation of Bord Bia and the Department of Foreign Affairs to secure access to more third country outlets for Irish produce.

Already this year we have reached agreements with the authorities in Turkey, Egypt and Singapore which allow for the export of beef to those countries. We have also hosted a visit by an official delegation from the Philippines and we are hopeful that this will lead to the opening of that market to Irish beef. The European Commission is having discussions with the authorities in the Russian Federation which, it is hoped, will allow for the export of sheepmeat from EU counties, including Ireland, in the future. Ireland already has access to the Russian market for exports of beef and beef offal, and my Department is actively engaged, in consultation with the industry, in developing market access in a range of other countries.

Long term targets include China for beef and lamb, and Japan for beef and my Department is engaging actively with the authorities in these countries in order to secure access for these products. Indeed earlier this year I hosted a visit from the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture and signed a mutual co-operation agreement in the agrifood sector which I hope will help to build the kind of confidence in Irish agrifood production and control systems which will provide a platform for improved trading relationships into the future. My Department is also making enquiries about possibilities for access for our beef and lamb in the Middle East region. There is a strong demand for meat globally at present and my department is working, in consultation with the industry, to ensure that Irish exporters are able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.

In so far as dairy products are concerned, exports in 2010 were valued at almost €2.3 billion, which is an increase of 17% in the previous year. Ireland already has access to markets worldwide. Nonetheless I am working with industry to raise the profile of the Irish dairy sector, and the Irish agrifood sector generally in emerging markets. In this context I recently visited Algeria to meet my counterpart, Minister Rachid Benaissa and to open a new Irish Dairy Board Office and Packing Centre in what is already a significant, but expanding market for Irish dairy products, and I am confident that my continuing work in this area will ultimately pay dividends for the dairy and other sectors.

Finally, on the question of markets lost, it is the case that once my Department has obtained access to markets for beef or other agrifood products, the extent to which those markets are exploited by Irish agrifood businesses is determined by the usual commercial considerations, including demand, supply and price. For my part, I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work closely with industry, through Bord Bia and with the assistance of the international network of Irish Embassies, to raise the profile of Ireland and the Irish agrifood sector, and to build the kind of confidence in our production and control systems that forms the bedrock of successful international trade, so that Irish agrifood businesses can continue to develop a strong international profile and increase exports in traditional and emerging markets.

Herd Numbers

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the fact that ownership of the lands at Dromonig, Kilnamartyra, Macroom, County Cork, has been established beyond doubt having been transferred to its present owner in 1998, it is intended to take action to ensure that the operation and management of the herd and/or herds there is brought into line with all the necessary established practices and guidelines; if any examination of probate of the will of the deceased person was sought to clarify if the executor was the sole beneficiary of the estate or the estate including lands; if these issues have been clarified or confirmed in view of the need to ensure the veracity of the details in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28117/11]

As indicated in my reply to his questions on 20th July 2011 and 27th September 2011, the DVO has been aware for some time that there was a dispute over the ownership of the land and it was decided that no change in registration of the herd number should take place pending clarification of this issue. In the meantime, the herd keeper role, which assigns responsibility for the care and maintenance of the cattle to a nominated person, and does not denote ownership of the cattle or lands in question, was assigned to the son of the deceased person in whose name the request for transfer of the herd number had been received. Further action on the registration of herd owner cannot take place until evidence has been provided to the DVO that the land ownership issue has been resolved. The DVO is endeavouring to have the position relating to the ownership of the lands clarified.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

169 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28395/11]

I engaged three consultancy firms on a pro bono basis earlier this year as part of the Departments Comprehensive Expenditure Review. Consultants are not generally engaged on value for money exercises as the Department has trained staff capable of performing these exercises as required.

Youth Services

Michael McCarthy

Question:

170 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there is funding available for a programme (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27996/11]

The 2011 budget allocation for the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department is €60.154m on current expenditure and €800,000 on capital expenditure. This funding supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities through grants-in-aid. Foróige is currently in receipt of €6.037m from Youth Affairs Unit for projects run under a number of schemes including the Youth Service Grant Scheme, Special Projects for Youth Scheme, four (4) Youth Information Centres and for a number of projects under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (Rounds 1 and 2).

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department is aware of the Big Brother Big Sister Programme which is run by Foróige. However, having regard to the reductions in public expenditure that must be achieved by Government Departments and State Agencies and the limited funding available, it was not possible to consider funding for the programme in 2011. In light of expected budgetary constraints in 2012, it is unlikely that any new applications for funding will be considered next year.

Gerald Nash

Question:

171 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to issue youth information centre grants in 2011; when this process will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27998/11]

My Department has allocated €1.862 m in 2011 to support Youth Information Centres around the country. The programme funds 31 centres which are used by some 175,000 young people. The majority of the centres also act as relays for a European Information Service, Eurodesk. To date, three of the four annual instalments have been made to these centres through the grant administering agencies. The final instalments of the 2011 allocations will be made by the end of this month provided audited accounts have been provided to my Department in respect of 2010.

Adoption Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she or another group or agency now has responsibility for the regulation and operation of adoptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28067/11]

Following the commencement of the Adoption Act, 2010, which took place on 1 November 2010, adoption in Ireland is now regulated by the Adoption Authority of Ireland which is an independent quasi-judicial statutory body appointed by Government. The functions of the Authority are set out in Section 96 of the Adoption Act, 2010. These include functions of an operational, judicial and quasi-judicial nature in relation to the adoption process itself, as provided for under the Act and relating to the Authority's designation as the Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Other functions of the Authority include registration, regulatory and standard setting functions in respect of all agencies providing adoption services in accordance with Part 13 of the Act and the relevant regulations. The Authority also undertakes and promotes research and publishes information about adoption and related services; provides information directly to the general public; supports others in the provision of information on adoption services.

Departmental Staff

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding recruitment for a new panel of social workers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28072/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of her previous commitment to give approval to recruit an additional 60 social workers in 2011, the number of these posts that will be allocated to County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28073/11]

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

The Ryan Report Implementation Plan committed to the recruitment of an additional 270 social workers. 200 of these new posts were in place by the end of 2010 in addition to the backfilling of other vacancies which occurred. An additional 60 social workers are due to be recruited by the HSE in 2011. These posts are at various stages of recruitment. The HSE, in reviewing its overall approach to recruitment has prioritised some key development posts and is processing the recruitment of these staff with a view to their taking up employment before the end of the year.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the 60 additional social workers have all been prioritised and included in this category of staff to be recruited by year end. Social work recruitment is managed centrally by the HSE's National Recruitment Service in Manorhamilton with a single national panel. The assignment of successful candidates from this panel is a matter for HSE management. Accordingly the HSE has been asked to respond directly to the Deputy on the specific queries raised regarding social worker recruitment and allocation in the Kerry area.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

175 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount she intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in her Department. [28397/11]

My Department expects to spend approximately €24,000 on consultancy fees in 2011.

Health Service Staff

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 425 of 5 April 2011, the number of vacant posts in psychology services in County Roscommon which have been filled since that date; the number of posts currently filled; the number which are vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27969/11]

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

Fast Food Outlets

Gerald Nash

Question:

177 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health his views on placing an onus on takeaway food outlets to provide toilet facilities for patrons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27971/11]

There is a general requirement for food businesses who sell food and drink to the public and who provide sit down facilities in this regard to also provide patrons with toilet facilities. I do not consider that it would be reasonable or, indeed, feasible to require all takeaway food outlets to provide such toilet facilities to patrons given that the type of food business involved is a take away service.

Hospital Accommodation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

178 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the proposed extension to the Bandon community hospital, Cork; if he will provide a timeline as to when he expects that this project will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28001/11]

The management and delivery of the health capital programme is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

179 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will receive an appointment for surgery at St. Columcille’s Hospital,Loughlinstown, Dublin; if he will expedite the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28028/11]

The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Departmental Staff

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

180 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the number of absenteeism days in each office of the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive that operates in Dublin north east HSE region; the number of absenteeism days per each office; the estimated amount lost to the Exchequer through lost work; the amount that has been paid out in agency fees to cover those absent days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28048/11]

Based on the most recent analysis carried out by my Department, the number of days lost to sick leave (excluding a small number of staff on medically certified long term sick leave) for the period 1st January 2011 to 3rd October 2011 is 2,706. This equates to a lost time rate of 3.48%. The cost to the Exchequer of this is approximately €442,000. My Department does not pay agency staff to cover the sick absences of its own staff.

In relation to the Health Service Executive, the July Performance report shows that absenteeism for June 2011 was 4.87% nationally, with a rate of 4.10% in Dublin North East. The more detailed aspects of the Deputy's question have been referred to the Executive for attention and direct reply.

Hospital Accommodation

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

181 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health if accommodation will be found in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28053/11]

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

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 1032 of 14 September 2011, the qualification guidelines for orthodontic treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28070/11]

Patients are assessed by the HSE Orthodontic Service under the modified Index of Treatment Need (IOTN). Patients with the greatest level of need, i.e. Grade 5 or Grade 4 are provided with treatment by the HSE.

Hospital Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

183 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for an operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28093/11]

The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

John McGuinness

Question:

184 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange an early date for assessment for an operation in respect of a person (details supplied) [28097/11]

The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Qualifications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the procedures to be followed to enable a person (details suppled) practice as a doctor here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28118/11]

Registration of medical practitioners is a matter for the Medical Council. Full details on the requirements for registration can be found on the Medical Council website atwww.medicalcouncil.ie/registration.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical card, applied for two years ago, will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28119/11]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the basis on which psychiatric outpatients who are also medical card holders are being required to pay for their medication, in view of the ongoing difficulty in ensuring that such patients actually take their medication and the likely danger to patients in such circumstances whose families may have other financial pressure; if he will review this position; if this decision was made by the Health Service Executive of its own volition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28120/11]

Under the former Eastern Health Board, it was the practice to provide psychiatric medicines free to all patients who attended an outpatient clinic for services regardless of their eligibility status. Such arrangements were unique to the greater Dublin area. In all other former Health Board Areas, patients used either their medical card or Drug Payment Scheme card to access psychiatric medicines.

In 2009, the HSE decided to bring the arrangements for the supply of medicines to patients attending mental health outpatient clinics in the greater Dublin area into line with those operating in the rest of the country. These changes were introduced on a phased basis, starting on 1 October 2010 when medical card holders in the HSE Dublin North East area requiring psychiatric medicines were referred to their own GP for a GMS prescription. This arrangement is being extended to the Dublin Mid Leinster area from 1 November 2011. At the same time, Drug Payment Scheme cardholders will be required to pay for their prescription up to the co-payment threshold of €120 per month. Medical card holders will continue to receive their medication free of charge, subject to any applicable prescription charge. These arrangements will be kept under review.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

188 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Health the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28403/11]

The Department has significantly reduced its spend on consultancy in recent years and all projects which involve the engagement of external consultants are approved by the Minister prior to the issuing of public tenders. Once initiated, the spend profile of each project is monitored by the Department on a monthly basis. It is expected that the total expenditure on consultancy fees for 2011 will be approximately €760,000, none of which relates to value for money initiatives.

The Department has put in place its own dedicated resources to undertake reviews under the auspices of the Value for Money & Policy Review Initiative 2009-2011. Last year, the Department completed a value for money review of private and semi-private treatment services in public hospitals. It is expected that implementation of the report's recommendations will result in increased revenues to the health service of approximately €75m in 2011 and approximately €18m in 2012. In addition to participating in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure as part of the overall pre-budget deliberations of the Government, the Department is also currently engaged in two further value for money reviews in the areas of disability services and immunisation programmes, both of which will further help to drive efficiency and effectiveness in the health sector.

Rail Services

Seán Kenny

Question:

189 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on a rail-based alternative (details supplied) to the A5 motorway that the State is committed to contributing funding towards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27964/11]

As outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 536 of 20th September 2011, in the context of the March 2007 agreement between the Irish and British Governments on a funding package to support the restored Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government made a commitment to provide funding for a roads investment package for Northern Ireland to contribute to the upgrading of the A5 road from Aughnacloy to Derry/Londonderry to dual-carriageway status.

As the Taoiseach recently indicated, the Government remains committed to the upgrade of the A5 road in the context of the North West Gateway Initiative designed to develop the economic potential of the North West. There are no plans to fund a rail-based alternative.

Bus Services

Gerald Nash

Question:

190 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on placing responsibility on the providers of bus services to introduce toilet facilities on their vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27970/11]

The responsibility for the provision of toilet facilities on bus services is a matter for the providers of such services and not one in which I have any function.

As the Deputy may be aware, the licensing of commercial bus passenger services was transferred to the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Public Transport Regulation Act, 2009. The NTA issued Guidelines for the licensing of public bus passenger services in November 2010, which are available on the NTA's website (www.nationaltransport.ie).

Rail Services

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

191 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to meet 50% of the cost of the A5 dual carriageway from Derry to the border at Aughnacloy, estimated at £400 million, as per the St. Andrews Agreement; if not, if he will give consideration to provide £37.5 million to meet 50% of the cost of the relay of the rail line from Derry to Coleraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27972/11]

As outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 536 of 20th September 2011, in the context of the March 2007 agreement between the Irish and British Governments on a funding package to support the restored Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government made a commitment to provide funding for a roads investment package for Northern Ireland to contribute to the upgrading of the A5 road from Aughnacloy to Derry/Londonderry to dual-carriageway status.

As the Taoiseach recently indicated, the Government remains committed to the upgrade of the A5 road in the context of the North West Gateway Initiative designed to develop the economic potential of the North West.

Public Transport

Gerald Nash

Question:

192 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress made on the “go smart” scheme in Dundalk, County Louth; the extent to which the project will be completed in accordance with the original plans and in the context of a restricted resource environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27992/11]

A decision has yet to be announced regarding the outcome of the Smarter Travel Areas Competition. The future of this programme will be considered in the context of the available budget for 2011 and beyond. The size and availability of funding for the delivery of a Smarter Travel Areas programme must be considered in the context of the Government's and my Department's overall priorities. Dundalk County Council will be notified of any decision in due course.

Cycle Facilities

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

193 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered opening bike parks in the city centre to provide commuters with a safe place to leave their bikes, thus encouraging more persons to cycle to work. [28047/11]

The provision of public bike parking is a matter in the first instance for the local authority concerned utilising either their own resources or financial assistance that may be available from either my Department or the National Transport Authority. A good example of local authority provided city centre bike parking is the secure bike parking made available by Dublin City Council on the ground floor of Drury Street multi-storey car park in Dublin 2.

Consultancy Contracts

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

194 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department. [28408/11]

The latest estimate of expenditure by my Department on consultancy fees for 2011 is €463,000. Much of the expenditure is related to policy reviews which are broadly oriented towards the objective of achieving improved economic outcomes in the transport, tourism and sport sectors. Expenditure on specific studies under the value for money review programme for the year is €2,800.