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 18, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 19 to 44, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 45 to 53, inclusive, answered orally.

Disposal of State Assets

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

54 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has moved any further towards a decision on which State assets to sell under the EU-IMF deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37391/11]

The EU/IMF Programme for Ireland contains a commitment that the Government will outline methods to raise funds through disposals of State owned assets.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to finance investment in specific areas of economic infrastructure from the proceeds of the sale of certain non-strategic State Assets.

The Government has already demonstrated its commitment with regard to State Asset disposal by its decision to proceed with the sale of a minority stake in the ESB as an integrated utility. That process, involving a full evaluation of the optimum approach to be taken to the sale of a minority stake, is being progressed by a group co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Group will report back to Government in the coming weeks.

A separate Group, representing my Department and other relevant Departments and NewEra, and chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is evaluating the approaches to developing a programme of disposal of non-strategic State Assets. The Group will also report back to Government in the coming weeks.

The Government is continuing its discussions with the Troika of EU, IMF and ECB on the scope for utilising proceeds from any future disposal of assets to invest in economic renewal. The Government will consider its approach to the divestment of State assets on receipt of the report of the inter Departmental Group.

Natural Gas Grid

Denis Naughten

Question:

55 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the Western Development Commission paper, Why Invest in Gas, which outlines the clear benefit of extending the natural gas distribution network to the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37210/11]

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is a statutory, independent body, has, since 2002, been charged with all aspects of the assessment and licensing of prospective operators who wish to develop and/or operate a gas distribution system within the State under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. I have no direct statutory function in relation to the connection of towns to the gas network.

The CER, in 2006, approved a new network connections policy, which created the opportunity to reassess the feasibility of connecting certain towns to the gas network. In order for any town to be connected to the gas network, certain economic criteria need to be satisfied as a prerequisite. The policy allows for the appraisal of a town either on its own or as part of a regional group of towns.

This policy ensures that, over a certain period, the costs of connecting the town, or group of towns, to the network are recouped through the actual economic consumption of gas and the associated tariffs. Otherwise, uneconomic projects will increase costs for all energy consumers.

Having regard to the CER policy on new towns connections, Bord Gáis Networks, and more recently Gaslink, have carried out a comprehensive review of towns not connected to the national gas network. In April 2010, Gaslink published its New Towns Analysis Phase 3 report. The study included a review of the feasibility of connecting 11 towns in the West and North West region which are the focus of the Western Development Commission paper, "Why Invest in Gas". However, the Gaslink report found that none of the towns qualified for connection on economic grounds.

Nevertheless, Gaslink continues to review towns which did not qualify for connection under the Study and other towns on an ongoing basis. The key factor which would qualify a town or group of towns in any future review would be a significant increase in demand for natural gas, probably resulting from the addition of a new large industrial or commercial facility.

Electricity Generation

David Stanton

Question:

56 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Question No. 9 of 19 October 2011, the further progress that has been made with the ESB microgeneration programme and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland 18-month pilot programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37389/11]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

69 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in view of the recent agreement between the ESB and the European Investment Bank on partial funding towards a large-scale smart-metering project in Ireland, he proposes to quickly advance plans for a widespread subsidised microgeneration scheme here; if so, the details and expected timeline of such a scheme; the projected investment cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37351/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 69 together.

ESB has been operating a micro-generation feed-in-tariff scheme for the domestic sector for the past number of years, which has 387 customers signed up to date. The available tariff is 19c kWh, made up of a 10 cent kWh, tariff offered by ESB Networks and a 9 cent kWh, tariff offered by ESB Electric Ireland (formerly Customer Supply). Despite being invited to do so by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), no other supply companies have chosen to introduce a tariff to date, although in the fully liberalised market that now exists, it is open to them to do so.

When the scheme was initially announced, ESB Networks announced that an import/export meter would also be provided to the first 4000 micro-generation installations countrywide over 3 years.

The Programme for Government commits to the introduction of a microgeneration feed-in-tariff at a tariff rate that will not be significantly above single energy market (SEM) price for electricity. The experience from the ESB tariff (at a combined tariff of 19c per Kilowatt hour) as well as from studies undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are that a combined tariff not significantly above the SEM price (currently around 7.2 cent per Kilowatt hour) would be unlikely to stimulate take-up of microgeneration.

I will shortly be considering advice from SEAI and my Department on fully costed options for encouraging microgeneration with a view to determining appropriate directions not least in the present budgetary circumstances. I am acutely aware of the cost of electricity to both domestic and commercial customers and as any extension of the feed-in tariff support scheme would have a knock on effect on the retail price of electricity; this needs very careful consideration before it could take place.

SEAI has been running a microgeneration awareness programme since 2009. Ongoing monitored field trials are a significant component of the programme and provide robust data on the performance of installations and the actual levels of output the various technologies achieve in actual conditions, which will allow for better evidence based policy and regulation relating to small- and micro-scale generation.

The traditional electricity meter is not capable of operating in reverse and as a result is incapable of giving credit for electricity exported to the grid. A smart meter can measure the consumption of energy, and can transmit data using a form of electronic communication. A key feature of a smart meter is the ability to provide bidirectional communication between the consumer and the supplier/operator. Smart meters also facilitate greater energy efficiency by providing consumers with more detailed, accurate and timely information regarding their energy consumption and costs, thus helping consumers reduce any unnecessary energy usage and shift any discretionary electricity usage away from peak consumption times.

The CER, is overseeing the national programme to develop smart meters working with my Department, ESB Networks and Bord Gáis Éireann. Pilot trials are under way and a comprehensive cost benefit analysis has been completed, which quantifies the benefits for consumers and the energy system.

Micro-scale electricity generators seeking to export excess generation to the grid would require smart meters. In the meantime, with regard to smart meters, I understand that the CER is shortly due to issue a public consultation seeking views on smart metering and a potential full national rollout. There will be an opportunity for all those interested, including microgenerators, to make the case as part of that consultation as to their views on any future rollout programme.

Clare Daly

Question:

57 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will abandon dependence on the private sector and instruct the ESB to prepare plans to develop offshore wind energy generation, including the necessary grid from the offshore west coast, graving dock in Irish ports and other basic necessities to enable development of this significant national resource and create thousands of sustainable jobs (details supplied). [37360/11]

Clare Daly

Question:

62 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will approach the Norwegian Government to participate in a public-public partnership to develop Ireland’s offshore wind energy generation and create thousands of sustainable jobs (details supplied). [37361/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 62 together.

Offshore wind is a rapidly maturing technology worldwide however it is still not commercially viable at the open wholesale market price of electricity and is dependant on high public subsidies to underpin a developers financial business case.

The electricity sector, including the renewable energy sector, operates in an open liberalised market. European policy is to move towards a wider single electricity market by mid decade. I have no intention to instruct ESB or any other State company operating in the electricity sector here to get involved in any particular technology.

While the Hywind floating turbine technology referred to is very promising it is still not commercially operational and is only one of many promising developments in turbine technology for deeper water deployment.

Recent years have seen a growing number of offshore wind turbines installed, particularly in European waters. Every Member State of the European Union has a specific renewable energy target and these developments are being supported by Governments in order to achieve their own domestic targets.

Countries that have seen installation of offshore wind in recent years have incentive schemes in place, which essentially subsidise offshore wind through a variety of support mechanisms such as tradeable renewable energy certificates or feed-in-tariff mechanisms. These subsidise offshore wind for a fixed period of between 15 and 20 years in order to provide sufficient certainty to private developers to obtain the necessary finance for their projects. Offshore wind has a capital cost in the region of €3 million per megawatt to install. By comparison, onshore wind would typically cost less than half of that.

Ireland operates a feed-in-tariff support scheme for onshore wind generation, which is funded through the PSO levy on all electricity consumers, domestic and commercial. Currently, the onshore wind feed-in-tariff is fairly close to the market price, so any subsidy required is relatively modest. International evidence, including from the UK, would suggest that offshore wind requires at least double the current market price (€72 MWh) for electricity, hence a feed-in tariff for offshore wind would require electricity consumers to fund a much larger subsidy. In this context, the Government, while recognising that there may be industrial opportunities available, will need to decide from a policy perspective whether to pursue offshore wind for the domestic market. I am acutely aware of the impact of electricity prices on homes and businesses and I need to balance the wish to develop expensive new technologies with the cost effect on electricity consumers.

There are however export market possibilities provided for in the Renewable Energy Directive whereby renewable generation produced on the territory of one country may be used (when a bilateral agreement is in place) to count towards the target of another country. This ability to trade the renewable value of electricity between countries is enormously beneficial, as essentially the additional premium that may be required for offshore wind or other renewable generators is a reward for the renewable nature of the electricity.

One of the key issues in this regard is whether electricity destined for export feeds into the national electricity grid or not. If it does grid reinforcements and interconnectors and additional grid management tools to cope with increased intermittency would be required, which adds to costs in Ireland. However, there are also possibilities particularly around offshore renewable developments for connecting directly from the offshore to another market without feeding into Ireland's grid.

In the context of the British Irish Council, I have been speaking with my UK counterpart on renewable trade and we issued a Joint Communiqué in June on the islands working together in this field to explore the possibilities around maximising trade in renewable energy. In such a scenario, any additional premium required by offshore wind would be paid for by British consumers, if it is their market which is gaining the renewable value.

At present, there is no renewable cross border trade anywhere in the EU and we are actively working with the UK Government to be one of the first regions in Europe to introduce such a market. The Irish market is a small electricity market by European standards and the key to being able to make use of the major renewable energy resource we have here is to be able to gain access to larger European renewable energy markets, starting with access to the UK market.

Together with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Commission for Energy Regulation and EirGrid, my Department is involved in a study that has been commissioned on this topic which is exploring the viability, costs and benefits to Ireland of using the cooperation mechanisms in the Renewable Energy Directive to export renewable electricity. My Department is also finalising an offshore renewable energy development plan, on which a strategic environmental assessment has been undertaken on low, medium and high development scenarios. This can help to inform coherent development of the sector going forward.

Petroleum Exploration

Martin Ferris

Question:

58 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will make available the 2003 MacKenzie Wood report on the likely return to the Exchequer from oil and gas exploration companies under existing tax structures. [37341/11]

I understand that Wood MacKenzie is a commercial service provider for the energy, mining and metals industry, that it evaluates economic indicators as well as market supply and demand price trends, and that it publishes its findings annually which are available to its subscribers for a fee.

As neither I nor my Department subscribe to this service, I do not have a copy of the report referenced by the Deputy. I have been advised in any event that the intellectual property rights to these reports belong to Wood MacKenzie and that contractually the reports cannot be shared by their clients with any third party.

Public Sector Remuneration

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

59 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if permission has been given to semi-state companies under the aegis of his Department to exceed the salary cap of €250,000 laid down by the Department of Finance for the remuneration of chief executives of State companies; the details of any permission sought; the details of any request or recommendation made by him for such permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37213/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, in June 2011, the Government agreed the introduction of general pay ceilings for future appointments to senior posts across the public service and for CEO posts in Commercial State Companies. A general pay ceiling of €250,000 was agreed for future CEO appointments to Commercial State Companies.

In capping the pay of new appointees, the Government's view was that applying a basic €250,000 cap would only affect pay rates above that figure. Consequently, the Government also decided to reduce the salary ranges that apply to CEOs, the effect of which is to moderate salaries in a proportionate manner while maintaining the "weightings" between each Company.

This approach has the effect of reducing the CEO starting salary for future appointments of all but one of the commercial bodies under the aegis of my Department to within the €250,000 salary ceiling. In this context, the starting pay for a new appointment to the post of CEO of ESB was set at €318,083.

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

I have not made any recommendations or sought permission to exceed the salary levels agreed by Government in respect of any commercial bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Telecommunications Services

John McGuinness

Question:

60 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress he has made in developing a policy for the provision of high-speed fibre and wireless broadband throughout the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37243/11]

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

The Taskforce, which I chair, also comprises Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, and the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, spectrum policy, private sector investment plans, and the removal of barriers (for example local authority way leave processes) in order to facilitate investment. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Taskforce, which had a further meeting yesterday, will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

State Agencies

Catherine Murphy

Question:

61 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the proposed merger of the Commission for Communication Regulation and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland announced in the Public Service Reform Plan; if he foresees any loss of independence in the commission’s role as independent regulator of the electronic communications sector here after the merger; if he anticipates any potential conflict of interest arising from this merger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37379/11]

The Government has taken no decision to merge the Commission for Communication Regulation and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It has however, directed that the proposal be critically reviewed and reported and reported on before mid 2012.

In this context I intend to set up a Group to examine the feasibility or otherwise of this proposed merger. The Group will be mandated to address both the policy and operational issues pertaining to a merged Body. The Group will be established prior to the end of 2011 and its report will be presented to me in good time to enable the review to be completed within the timeframe set by Government.

Matters for consideration in respect of this review will encompass a number of areas, chief among them being efficiency savings and related structural, funding, legislative and staffing issues. It is particularly important that any new merged body would continue to encompass effective regulation of both the communications and broadcasting sectors. There are potential policy synergies in a new merged body. The telecommunications and broadcasting sectors are experiencing increasing convergence, as content is delivered over the internet platform. There is a need to maximise the opportunities this presents in the context of an increasingly digital society. Any merger must also lead to organisational efficiencies and produce cost savings.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 57.

Broadcasting Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent if any, to which amending legislation is required in the wake of a recent settlement entered into by the national broadcaster wherein a liability was incurred and a settlement made; if any similar settlements have been made by other bodies, groups or agencies under his Department’s remit; his views on the interest of the taxpayer and the general entitlement of members of the public to an understanding of the right to protection of their good name unless and until substantive evidence exists which suggests a guilt or culpability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37377/11]

I am responding to the Deputy's Question in so far as my own Department is concerned.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is established as an independent statutory body under the Broadcasting Act 2009. The Act also outlines the codes governing standards and practice to be observed by broadcasters. The Compliance Committee of the BAI is charged under the Act with ensuring that all broadcasters, whether public or private, comply with their licence conditions and with the standards set out in the broadcasting codes and rules.

With reference to the specific case cited by the Deputy, It was decided by Cabinet that there should be an independent inquiry to determine the facts and circumstances which led to the particular programme being broadcast by RTÉ.

As the Deputy is aware, I have requested that the BAI Compliance Committee use its powers under the Broadcasting Act 2009 and to determine whether RTE has met its statutory responsibilities around objectivity, impartiality and fairness. I have asked that the Committee then report and make any recommendations in respect of this to the Authority. The decision of Government requests that the Report be concluded within two months.

It is my view that the approach being taken in the circumstances is the most appropriate and, in that regard, I can confirm that no consideration is being given to amending the Broadcasting Act 2009 as a result of the matter referred to by the Deputy.

In relation to other settlement issues raised by the Deputy I can advise that my Department had an out of court settlement in 2007, for a sum of €35,000, with a company who carried out a software upgrade for the Department. The upgrade, in the Department's view, was unsatisfactory. The Department refused to pay for the upgrade and the Company took legal action against the Department.

Settlements made by the bodies under the aegis of my department are day to day matters for those bodies.

Energy Resources

Noel Harrington

Question:

64 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his strategy regarding future plans for the refining of oil and oil products here over the next ten years; the strategic concerns he might have in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37208/11]

Noel Harrington

Question:

65 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his strategy regarding future plans for the storage of crude oil and oil products here over the next 10 years; the strategic concerns he might have in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37209/11]

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

Ireland is critically dependent on imported fossil fuels, particularly oil and natural gas to meet its energy needs. The Government is fully committed to enhancing energy security and to delivering national energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives, which are aimed at moving the economy away from reliance on imported, carbon intensive fossil fuels.

Ireland's only oil refinery, which currently supplies approximately one-third of Ireland's oil product requirements, is at Whitegate in Cork and is operated by ConocoPhillips.

In 2001, Whitegate Refinery and Bantry Terminal were bought from the State by Tosco Corporation. Following various mergers and acquisitions, ConocoPhillips took over Tosco and are the current owners of the refinery at Whitegate and the oil storage terminal at Bantry. The day to day operation of the refinery and terminal is a matter for ConocoPhillips.

Under the terms of the sale, Whitegate Refinery and Bantry Terminal must continue to be operated until 2016. This obligation applies also to ConocoPhillips and any subsequent owners.

In view of the need to consider the role of the refinery post 2016 and to inform policy decisions on refining, my Department commissioned a review of the strategic case for oil refining requirements on the Island of Ireland in August 2011.

This review which is currently ongoing will include a forecast of oil demand scenarios for the period to 2050 and an assessment of the strategic merits of appropriate refining capacity on the island of Ireland.

I expect the final report, including conclusions and recommendations, to be received by my Department early next year.

With regard to strategic storage, Ireland is required under EU and IEA obligations to hold 90 days of oil reserves. The bulk of Ireland's oil stocks are held by the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), with the balance held by industry.

Of the stocks held by NORA, 53% are held as physical stocks in Ireland, 42% as physical stocks abroad and 8% as stock tickets, which are contracts to purchase oil. It is Government policy to increase the volume of strategic stocks held on the island of Ireland, subject to value for money considerations.

NORA is working to develop new storage facilities, including two which were commissioned earlier this year in Ringsend and Kilroot, which have considerably enhanced oil security on the island of Ireland.

Petroleum Exploration

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

66 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with the relevant Ministers in the UK Government and the Northern Executive in relation to the issuing of licences for shale gas exploration in County Fermanagh and other areas of Northern Ireland; if he was given assurances in relation to the possible negative consequences that gas extraction in Northern Ireland might have south of the Border; if any discussions took place in relation to developing a common approach to the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37212/11]

I can confirm that my Department has had informal contact with the Northern Ireland Authorities in relation to onshore petroleum authorisations in the North West Carboniferous Basin. The petroleum authorisations granted in both jurisdictions are at a very early stage and the engagement between the respective authorities will continue should these authorisations proceed to the drilling stage.

Telecommunications Services

David Stanton

Question:

67 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress being made with regard to making broadband available to all households; if his attention has been drawn to the much higher tariffs being paid by some households in rural areas for broadband services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37390/11]

The electronic communications market is, and has been since its liberalisation, a commercial competitive market. Thus, the provision of services, including broadband, is a matter for those private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The Government only intervenes in cases of market failure. Between the significant private and public sector investments over recent years all areas of the country now have access to at least a basic broadband service.

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

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

In June of this year I established the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I chair and which also comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and the CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss the optimal policy environment required to facilitate the investment in and provision of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Taskforce is scheduled to complete its work in December next and I hope to be in a position to bring forward proposals to Government in early 2012 aimed at ensuring the timely investment in next generation broadband networks.

I understand the Deputy's reference to higher rural tariffs relates to instances where an individual accesses the Internet via a satellite connection. Satellite Internet connectivity is a feature in some rural areas and reflects the difficulty of connecting some rural premises by other means.

Because of the technology involved satellite internet connectivity has tended to be more expensive than connectivity via cable or DSL. Satellite bandwidth is also considerably more expensive than other technology platforms.

However, with technological advances I am pleased to note that tariffs for satellite connectivity are falling, and are becoming increasingly competitive with other technologies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

68 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which the requirement in terms of investment in communications technology such as broadband and mobile phone telephony is sufficient to meet current and future requirements; if a particular strategy is required on a national or regional basis in this respect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37378/11]

The telecommunications market in Ireland has been fully liberalised since 1999 and, since then, has seen the steady growth and development of strong well-regulated competition in the provision of the full range of telecommunications products and services which are broadly capable of meeting the current needs of telecommunications customers.

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

The Taskforce, which I chair, also comprises Minister of State, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, spectrum policy, private sector investment plans, and the removal of barriers (for example local authority way leave processes) in order to facilitate investment. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Taskforce, which had a further meeting yesterday, will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 56.

Petroleum Extraction

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

70 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has had a report or assessment on the impact of hydraulic fracturing from the Environmental Protection Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37392/11]

I have requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research and advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas from underground reserves. The EPA is currently funding preliminary background research in the form of a study being carried out by Aberdeen University and a report in respect of this study is expected early in 2012

The EPA proposes to commission a further and more extensive study in 2012 and are liaising with my Department in relation to the scope of same. The final scope, which will be informed in part by the findings of the Aberdeen University study, will be determined by the EPA, which is an independent statutory body.

Energy Market Regulation

Denis Naughten

Question:

71 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on reforming the energy market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37211/11]

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International Energy Agency (IEA) currently is conducting its periodic in-depth review of Irish energy policy. The Agency reviews the energy policy of every member country every four to five years. On this occasion, the IEA review, as part of its overall review of Ireland's energy policy, is providing its assessment of the efficiency of the Irish electricity and gas sectors, under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, to have such an independent assessment undertaken.

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

It is also my intention that a new energy policy framework will be published next year. The new framework will take account of developments in economic and energy policy since 2007. The new energy policy framework will also be informed by the outcome of the IEA review.

Disposal of State Assets

Michael Moynihan

Question:

72 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if consideration is being given to part-privatisation of Bord Gáis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37244/11]

No decision has been taken to partly privatise Bord Gáis. The latest text of the Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the Troika of the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) commits the State to an ambitious programme of state asset disposal.

The Programme for Government includes an intention to finance investment from the proceeds of the sale of certain State assets.

The issue of realising value from State assets including Bord Gáis Éireann is currently being explored by a high level Inter-Departmental Group chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Group will report shortly and its Report will inform the Government's consideration of the matter generally and in relation to specific State assets.

Petroleum Exploration

Barry Cowen

Question:

73 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his policy in relation to shale gas exploration on land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37219/11]

My Department's goal is to maximise the benefits to Ireland from exploration for and production of our indigenous oil and gas resources, while ensuring that activities are conducted safely and with due regard to their impact on the environment and other land/sea users.

Exploration for oil and gas in Ireland, in common with most other jurisdictions, is carried out under licence from the State. Petroleum exploration authorisations are issued under the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 and the oversight operational framework is set out in the Licensing Terms for Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development & Production 2007,

I am aware that there has been a good deal of public interest recently on the topic of onshore gas exploration with considerable focus on the possibility of the technology of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") being used following the granting of authorisations by my Department in February.

The authorisations which are called ‘licensing options' were granted for a term of two years each and provide for the carrying out of work programmes agreed with my Department. These work programmes are primarily based on desktop studies of existing data and should be completed by February 2013. They do not permit exploration drilling. When they have completed their work programmes each company will then have to decide if it wishes to move to the next stage and apply for an exploration licence.

Any application for an exploration licence that would involve exploration drilling, including drilling that proposed using hydraulic fracturing, would be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that would include a Public Consultation Phase. My Department would also seek and be guided by the expert advice of other relevant statutory authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Local Authorities. The outcome of the EIA would determine whether or not an Exploration Licence would be granted.

In the event that at some point in the future a commercial discovery of natural gas is made and an onshore gas extraction project is proposed then there is a comprehensive regulatory framework in place that would apply to any such proposal. The development of such a project would require a number of statutory consents including a planning consent from An Bord Pleanála under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure Act) 2006, an Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Licence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with a Petroleum Lease, a Plan of Development consent and a Gas Pipeline consent from myself as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. A core element of these consent processes would be to consider the potential environmental impact of any proposed development.

It is too early to conclude at this point whether or not these licensing options will proceed to the exploration licence stage and much too early to anticipate a commercial discovery that could potentially lead to a natural gas production project.

Notwithstanding the foregoing I have asked the EPA to examine the area and advise me and my colleagues in Government on the environmental implications of onshore drilling for gas. The EPA has commenced research into the environmental considerations and impacts of shale gas exploration and extraction, in particular with regard to the use of hydraulic fracturing and investigation into the regulatory approaches of other countries, with a view to helping to establish best environmental practice. The EPA proposes to commission a further and more extensive study in 2012 and is liaising with my Department in relation to the scope of same.

Pension Provisions

Patrick Deering

Question:

74 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Taoiseach the amount of money paid in severance packages to retired and retiring chief executives of State and semi-state companies in the past four years; and the annual cost of their pensions. [37074/11]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only State Agency under the aegis of my Department. The NESDO was established under the NESDO Act 2006 and is the body corporate for the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). No severance or pension payments have been paid in the past four years in respect of retired or retiring chief executives of NESDO or NESC. For the information of the Deputy there are ongoing discussions with the former Chairpersons of the National Economic and Social Forum and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance in relation to the termination of their contracts following the dissolution of those bodies last year.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and the figures available for 2011 in tabular form. [37489/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is listed in the table below.

Year

Staff employed (w.t.e.)

2008

211.96

2009

198.06

2010

190.96

2011 (as at 29 November)

156.51*

*Does not include 18.1 w.t.e. staff formally transferring to my Department from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1 January 2012.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

76 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37725/11]

It is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy in the time available. However, I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information has been compiled.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

77 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service and State agencies, and a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38271/11]

The table below details the amount spent by my Department and bodies under its aegis for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants from January 2010 to end October 2011.

2010

January 2011 — end October 2011

Department

€26,095

€1,271

NESDO

€44,241

€16,331

Special Economic Zones

Gerald Nash

Question:

78 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he and his UK and Northern Ireland counterparts have given consideration to the establishment of a special economic zone comprising the Dundalk and Newry areas; if he will provide his views on such an initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37200/11]

I have been advised that the President of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce submitted proposals last week to the Joint Secretariat of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh which included a proposal for a Newry/Dundalk Economic Zone.

While decisions about establishing economic zones would not be a matter for my Department, I continue to advocate, as indeed my Ministerial colleagues and I did at the recent plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, for expanded cross-Border and all-island economic co-operation, including at regional and local authority levels.

The feasibility of having the Newry Dundalk area recognised as a distinct economic zone would need to be considered in the wider economic, fiscal and public expenditure context and it would involve a number of my ministerial colleagues.

North-South Ministerial Council

Gerry Adams

Question:

79 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on whether a full round of sectoral meetings has taken place since the last plenary meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council. [35486/11]

The most recent meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in plenary format was on Friday, 18 November 2011. Since then, the only meeting in sectoral format that has taken place was that in respect of the Special European Union Programmes Body on 21 November 2011.

Constitutional Amendments

Gerry Adams

Question:

80 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether a referendum will be necessary to facilitate the type of treaty change he is discussing with other EU leaders. [35755/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

81 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions he has engaged in with other EU leaders in relation to the possibility of changes to the EU treaties. [35754/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 81 together.

At their meetings in October, the Heads of State or Government of the Euro Area agreed to reflect on further strengthening of economic convergence within the Euro Area, on improving fiscal discipline and on deepening economic union. They asked President Van Rompuy, in close co-operation with the President of the Commission and the President of the Eurogroup, to identify possible steps to this end, including exploring the possibility of limited Treaty change. A process of bilateral consultation at official level is under way. President Van Rompuy will present an interim report on his work to the European Council on 9 December. Senior Irish officials are actively participating in this process. The Government looks forward to receiving the report and giving it careful consideration. In all its contacts with its European colleagues, the Government has set out its position on Treaty change, as has been elaborated in the House on many occasions. Given the potential length and uncertainty of the process of change which is provided for in the Treaties, we do not believe it can address the immediate crisis we face. There is a great deal that can be done within the framework of the existing Treaties and that should be our immediate focus. Obviously, other Member States take a different view. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, set out her strong view that Treaty change is required when she met with the Taoiseach in Berlin on 16 November. The Taoiseach, the Minister of State for European Affairs and I will continue to engage proactively with our EU partners on this and every other issue where Ireland's interests are at stake. It is not possible to say whether a referendum will be required should any changes to the Treaties emerge from the process that is under way. As has been the case in the past, at the appropriate time the Government will seek the advice of the Attorney General on whether the proposed change is compatible with the Constitution, and will act accordingly.

Passport Applications

Brian Walsh

Question:

82 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made to date in respect of an application for an Irish passport in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37083/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a passport has now issued to the person in question and transmitted to her via the Embassy in Pretoria. The approval process was delayed by the necessity under the Passports Act 2008 to establish the applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship but also, I understand, by an administrative error, which I very much regret. I have asked the Embassy to write to the citizen concerned to explain the delay and to apologise for the inconvenience caused.

Overseas Development Aid

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

83 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide a figure on the amount of Irish aid committed to Haiti since the earthquake in 2010; if he will provide a breakdown of the way in which this aid was used; his plans for future reconstruction funds for Haiti from Irish Aid including the proposed amounts for 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37132/11]

The devastating earthquake which struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 killed more than 230,000 people and injured 300,000 others. The earthquake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas, left approximately 1.5 million people homeless and caused losses and damage estimated at approximately €5.9 billion. Nearly two years after the earthquake, the humanitarian situation in Haiti remains extremely fragile. An estimated 550,000 people are still displaced within Haiti, living in nearly 900 tented camps in Port-au-Prince and other earthquake-affected areas. While the number of people living in the displacement camps continues to decrease and steady progress has been made in clearing the 10 million cubic metres of debris generated by the quake, there is still a high level of humanitarian need across much of the country. Ireland pledged funding of €13 million for the period 2010-12 at the Haiti Donor Conference that was held in New York in March 2010. To date, €11.5 million of this has been committed and it is intended that the entire pledge will be met by early 2012.

To date, Irish Aid has prioritised the needs of the most vulnerable populations, including women and children, as well as the basic humanitarian needs of the population more generally. This follows the recommendations of an assessment mission following the earthquake, which advocated an Irish focus on protection, as well as clean water and sanitation, early recovery and shelter. Support has been provided to UNICEF, Concern, Goal, Plan, World Vision and Haven in 2010 and 2011 for the provision of clean water, shelter and sanitation to the affected population. Some €1 million was also provided to the Haiti Reconstruction Trust Fund for projects managed by the World Bank in line with priorities agreed with the Haitian authorities. Since the earthquake, there have also been 17 deployments of the Irish Aid-administered Rapid Response Corps to Haiti to assist in areas such as logistics, engineering and water and sanitation. Volunteers have deployed to work with organisations such as the UN World Food Programme, Concern Worldwide, Goal and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A detailed breakdown of Irish Aid support is shown below. Future funding to activities in Haiti will be based on the assessments of our key partners of ongoing needs.

Irish Aid Support to Haiti 2010-2011

IFRC

Emergency Appeal (MDRHT008)

250,000

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Haiti Flash Appeal

300,000

UN World Food Programme

Haiti Flash Appeal-food assistance for earthquake affected populations

300,000

Concern

Haiti Earthquake Response

537,000

World Vision Ireland

Provision of child friendly space-child protection

200,000

Haven Community Foundation

Emergency latrine and sanitation provision in IDP camps

100,000

Christian Aid

Support to earthquake affected communities

127,500

Plan Ireland

Relief for earthquake affected communities

249,994

UNFAO

Immediate support to urban & peri-urban agriculture for earthquake affected populations

200,000

UN Environmental Programme

Technical Assistance Facility for Energy and Environment

100,000

UN-Habitat

Technical Support to Government and Municipal Recovery Coordination

200,000

Goal

Cash for work programme

250,000

Concern

ERFS

170,000

Goal

ERFS

250,000

Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs

Micro project emergency grant

3,516

RRI stock disbursal No. 1 17/1/2010

Value of stocks, estimated transport & handling USD 947,927

663,548

RRI stock disbursal No. 2 27/1/2010

Value of stocks, estimated transport & handling USD 823,234

584,496

RR corps placements

423,871

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Emergency Relief Response Fund

100,000

Department of Finance

Debt Relief

1,000,000

World Bank

Haiti reconstruction trust fund

1,000,000

Plan Ireland

Cholera response

250,000

Goal

ERFS-Cholera response

202,931

RRI stock disbursal no 3 13/11/2010

Value of stocks, estimated transport & handling USD 231,543

169,026

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

FAO Trust Fund

305,000

Civil Society Section 2010

MAPS & Misean Cara funding

954,051

Haven Community Foundation

WASH Project

200,000

UNICEF

Protection sector activities

500,000

Goal

Emergency water and sanitation

550,000

Plan Ireland

WASH Project

450,000

Civil Society Section 2011

MAPS funding

950,000

Good Friday Agreement

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

84 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised with the British Government the arrest and detention of a person (details supplied) due to an anomaly in the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37410/11]

I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers. I understand the prisoner in question has initiated legal proceedings with a view to obtaining early release. As the matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further at this stage other than to confirm that officials from my Department continue to monitor developments closely.

Passport Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made to date in respect of an application for an Irish passport in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37449/11]

The Deputy will be aware from my replies to him on 2 and 15 November that this case is receiving the highest priority in my Department. I assure the Deputy that this remains the case. Certain discussions on the legal advice which has been obtained in this area have taken place between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality, which is responsible for matters of citizenship and immigration. However, it has been considered necessary to broaden these consultations to include officials from the Offices of the Attorney General and Chief State Solicitor. A meeting of these parties has been arranged for Wednesday, 30 November. As I have previously committed to in my earlier replies, I will revert directly to the Deputy with the outcome of those discussions in the context of the person's application for a passport as soon as a final position has been agreed.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

86 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37483/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table that follows this reply. There has been a substantial reduction in staff numbers in my Department, arising mainly from retirements, with some posts left unfilled because of restrictions on recruitment necessitated by the current budgetary pressures.

Year

Number serving (based on full-time equivalents)

2008

1,581.6

2009

1,523.55

2010

1,492.65

2011 (numbers serving at 31 October 2011)

1,456.8

Conflict Resolution

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

87 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current status of the conflict resolution unit in his Department; the number and grade of personnel assigned to the unit; the level of funding dedicated by him to the unit; the priority projects being pursued by the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37583/11]

The Conflict Resolution Unit was established in the Department in 2007 to enhance Ireland's engagement in conflict resolution internationally. The work of the Unit builds on Ireland's tradition of UN peacekeeping, our commitment to overseas development aid, our experience of the peace process in Northern Ireland and our commitment to human rights and the international rule of law. The unit is staffed by four officials: one Principal Officer; one Third Secretary; one Clerical Officer and one intern. The unit disbursed €2,112,000 from the Department's Stability Fund in 2011. One the unit's main areas of focus has been the development of a National Action Plan for the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), in co-operation with other Government agencies and civil society representatives. UNSCR 1325 emphasises the distinct position of women in conflict situations, calls for an increase in the participation of women in peacemaking and peace-building processes, the protection of women and girls in armed conflict, and the incorporation of a gender perspective into peacekeeping and peace-building processes. I was delighted to mark the culmination of these efforts by officially launching Ireland's National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 on 25 November 2011.

The Conflict Resolution Unit is also engaged in sharing the lessons of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland with other regions experiencing, or emerging from, conflict. The unit also recognises that lesson-sharing is a two-way process, and there is much that Ireland can learn from others tackling the same issues. In co-operation with non-governmental partners, the unit has welcomed a number of delegations to Ireland in the past three years, facilitating visits for peace-builders from Afghanistan, Haiti, Israel, Nepal and elsewhere. The unit firmly supports and encourages international mediation initiatives and funds several mediation bodies and projects. Despite its proven cost-effectiveness, the practice of mediation has received insufficient attention or support internationally to date. Ireland has been a strong supporter of the United Nations Mediation Support Unit within the UN Department of Political Affairs since its establishment in 2006. The unit has also established relationships with a number of international non-governmental partners engaged in mediation. I was pleased to attend a meeting of the UN Friends of Mediation group in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September of this year and look forward to contributing to its work.

The Conflict Resolution Unit will seek to build on this range of expertise as Ireland assumes the chairmanship-in-office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2012, for one calendar year. Comprising 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world's largest intergovernmental regional security organisation, dealing with a range of issues in the areas of democratisation, human rights, arms control and economic and environmental security. Ireland's experience of the Northern Ireland Peace Process will be especially relevant when dealing with the OSCE's so-called "protracted conflicts". Staff from the Conflict Resolution Unit and the OSCE Taskforce will work together during 2012, in order to ensure our work on conflict resolution in the OSCE benefits from the experience we have gained nationally.

Human Rights Issues

Catherine Murphy

Question:

88 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has conveyed to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation or otherwise communicated to the Russian Government Ireland’s position on the legislation proposed (details supplied) on 16 November last in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly by the United Russia party which, if passed, would drastically curtail basic freedom of speech and expression and severely impinge on the liberties of gay, lesbian and transgender Russian citizens; if so, if he will inform Dáil Éireann of the details of this communication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37584/11]

I understand the draft legislation referred to by the Deputy has passed its first stage in the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly. While this draft legislation purports to protect young people, it could, in my view, result in further stigmatisation, and even criminalisation, of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) young people. A senior official in my Department has been in contact with the Russian Embassy to express concern at this draft legislation. In addition, the European Union plans to raise this matter with the Russian authorities at an EU-Russia human rights dialogue scheduled to be held in Moscow this week. Ireland has been supportive in having this on the agenda of that meeting.

I would hope that the draft legislation at present before the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly will be either dropped or amended radically in such a manner that it fully protects the human rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Saint Petersburg region.

Ireland is strongly committed to combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Ireland believes that consensual, same-sex relationships should not be criminalised. We support measures to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and association can be enjoyed effectively by all people. Discriminatory legal or administrative provisions, which curtail the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not acceptable.

Ireland supports the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. On Friday, 17 June 2011, a historic resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. I was delighted to see the adoption of this resolution, which was the first time that a UN resolution explicitly acknowledged human rights protection as covering sexual orientation. This demonstrates the increasing commitment across the international community to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Ireland co-sponsored the resolution.

Egyptian Elections

Patrick Nulty

Question:

89 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the serious political developments in Egypt. [37623/11]

Like many in the international community, Ireland has viewed with serious concern the widespread violence and deaths which has followed the resumption of pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt in recent days. These events have highlighted the degree to which real reform and change has taken place in the country, following last February's historic downfall of the Mubarak regime. The situation will be discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Brussels on 1 December. Elections to Egypt's new parliament, an important milestone in Egypt's democratic transition, began as scheduled on 28 November and it is encouraging that these appear to have passed relatively peacefully and fairly. Ireland and the EU wholeheartedly support the Egyptian elections and emphasise the need for the process to comply with international standards. I further call upon the Egyptian government to allow international election monitors at future elections as Egypt continues its transition towards democracy.

While these elections are a vital step in the transition, it is clear that many in Egypt remain frustrated that the overthrow of former President Mubarak has not yet resulted in the installation of a fully civilian and democratically-elected government while widespread concern also exists over continuing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Some partial steps to address these concerns have been taken by the ruling SCAF (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces), including bringing forward the date of the Presidential election to next June and the appointment of ex-prime minister Kamal Ganzouri on 24 November to form a new government. However, it is doubtful that these steps will be sufficient to meet the Egyptian protestors' legitimate demands. The SCAF and its head, Field Marshal Tantawi, must now seek a way forward based on a genuine and inclusive national dialogue that ensures the principles of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, it must end anti-democratic provisions such as the thirty-year state of emergency and give a clear timetable for a transition to civilian rule.

There must also be a credible, independent investigation into the recent widespread violence which it is estimated has claimed over forty lives so far, with a view to determining precise causes and responsibility for the deaths and escalation of violence. I fully support the recent statements by EU High Representative Ashton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Arab League Secretary General al-Araby expressing grave concern and condemnation of the violence and calling for calm, restraint and progress in the transition to democratic rule. I also support the recent statement of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which expresses alarm at the degree of violence and deterioration of the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association which have led to loss of life in Egypt.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37719/11]

The Department's financial management system does not specifically track outof court settlements separately to other compensatory payments made on foot of legal proceedings, including judgment awards. This includes payments made in relation to claims of personal injury and property damage against this Department, which are managed by the State Claims Agency. The following table indicates the total paid in legal settlement costs in the years 2005 to date. Similar information relating to the years 2002-2004 is not readily available. Many of the settlements are subject to confidentiality clauses but in the time available it is not possible to review the details of all settlements in order to arrive at the exact number.

There are no State Bodies under the aegis of this Department.

Year

Amount of payments

2011 to date

€74,798

2010

€89,323

2009

€72,496

2008

€5,592

2007

€0

2006

€75,000

2005

€21,539

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

91 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service and State agencies; the breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38265/11]

My Department is responsible for two Votes: Vote 28, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Vote 29, International Cooperation. In the absence of a precise definition of "private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies", I include tables setting out the Department's expenditure by each Vote under the administrative budget subheads A2 to A7 in 2010, showing account code categories which account for the majority of expenditure on outsourcing. It should be noted that the figures are aggregate and cover expenditure by both the Department's Headquarters and its Missions abroad. It is not possible in the time available to provide a more detailed breakdown of the expenditure. The Department is very conscious of the need the achieve value for money and is in full compliance with national and EU procurement regulations concerning tendering requirements. Further information on the Department's procurement requirements is posted on the Government Procurement Portal (www.e-tenders.gov.ie) and there is also information on the Department’s main website (www.dfa.ie ) including information on overseas public procurement opportunities.

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

VOTE 28 EXPENDITURE FROM ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET (SUBHEADS A2 TO A7) ON VARIOUS EXTERNAL SERVICES AND SUPPLIES 2010 (HQ AND MISSIONS)

(€000)

TRAVEL CONTRACT MANAGEMENT FEE & INSURANCE

22

A2: TRAVEL & SUBSISTENCE TOTAL

22

LEGAL EXPENSES (excl. SETTLEMENT COSTS, DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS)

170

STATE/OFFICIAL ENTERTAINMENT (HQ AND MISSIONS, INCLUDING CATERING, VIP TRANSPORT FOR INCOMING VISITS)

675

OTHER PROFESSIONAL FEES

75

TRAINER FEES & TRAINING MATERIALS & EQUIP

129

TRANSLATION SERVICES

34

A3: INCIDENTAL EXPENSES — TOTAL

1,083

TELEPHONE SYSTEMS MAINTENANCE

90

A4: POSTAL & TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES TOTAL

90

OUTSOURCING / ICT OUTSOURCING (FOR AUTOMATED PASSPORT SYSTEM AND ICT HELPDESK)

1,893

ICT SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE

3,929

SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT/MODIFICATION

13

A5: OFFICE MACHINERY AND OTHER OFFICE SUPPLIES AND RELATED SERVICES TOTAL

5,835

ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER FEES (DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS)

214

CLEANING CONTRACTS (DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS)

1,032

LEGAL / PREMISES LEGAL FEES (MAINLY INCURRED BY MISSIONS ABROAD)

151

PREMISES PROFESSIONAL FEES (MAINLY MISSIONS ABROAD)

220

SECURITY CONTRACTS (HQ AND MISSIONS)

1,270

A6: OFFICE PREMISES EXPENSES — TOTAL

2,887

A7: MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCY SERVICES AND VALUE FOR MONEY REVIEWS

67

VOTE 29 EXPENDITURE FROM ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET (SUBHEADS A2 TO A7) ON VARIOUS EXTERNAL SERVICES AND SUPPLIES 2010 (HQ AND MISSIONS)

€000

TRAVEL MANAGEMENT FEE

29

A2 — TRAVEL AND SUBSISTENCE

29

PROFESSIONAL FEES — AUDIT, LEGAL AND OTHER

391

SECURITY COSTS

60

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT

12

A3 — INCIDENTAL EXPENSES

463

EQUIPMENT GENERAL — MAINTENANCE

26

EQUIPMENT OFFICE — MAINTENANCE

46

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT

408

A5 — OFFICE EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

480

PROFESSIONAL FEES — ARCHITECTS

3

SECURITY COSTS

94

A6- OFFICE PREMISES COSTS

97

A7- TECHNICAL CONSULTANCY INCLUDING EVALUATION

1,123

Departmental Schemes

Derek Nolan

Question:

92 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the progress made on the employment incentive scheme, which was to replace the business expansion scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37190/11]

State aid approval for the Employment and Investment Incentive (EII) was received from the European Commission late last week. I announced the commencement of the incentive, via press release, with effect from 25 November 2011. In view of the extended time frame that has been involved in achieving the approval of the European Commission, I have decided to allow for the EII and the existing Business Expansion Scheme (BES) to run concurrently until 31 December 2011, in order to maximise opportunities for small and medium-sized companies to raise investments in the current tax year.

Tax Code

Clare Daly

Question:

93 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider allowing, as a minimum, that moneys paid in order to prove the existence of heave-inducing pyrite by householders, which can amount to €3,000 to €4,000 per home, would be offset against the residents’ tax liability, in view of the fact that they are the victims of this crisis. [37519/11]

As the Deputy will appreciate, I receive numerous requests for the introduction of new tax reliefs and extensions to existing ones. The Deputy will also appreciate that I must be mindful of the public finances and the many demands on the Exchequer. Tax reliefs, no matter how worthwhile in themselves, reduce the tax base and make general reform of the tax system that much more difficult. I have no plan to introduce further tax reliefs on the lines you suggest.

Robert Dowds

Question:

94 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure by multinational groups in respect of their operations outside Ireland which are considered bona fide for the purposes of calculating their tax liability here; and if this includes expenditure on services which were being carried out by the multinational here at an earlier stage. [37546/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

130 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the checks that are carried out on the tax reduction expenditure declared by multinational companies to ensure that each item is legitimate bona fide expenditure which reduces profits made in Ireland. [37548/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 130 together.

A multinational company that is resident in Ireland is subject to tax on all profits of the company wherever arising. To the extent that those profits arise from trading activities, they are taxed at 12.5%. The profits of a company for tax purposes are the profits computed in accordance with standard accounting practice as adjusted by statute.

Where in the course of its trade a company purchases goods, services or licensing rights from another company the cost of such goods, services or rights is deductible in computing profits for tax purposes. Where these purchases are made with a group of companies they are subject to the normal arm's length pricing rules. The amounts deductible are in respect of real purchases. It is, of course, possible that goods and services that are not currently sourced in Ireland were previously sourced here.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the largest multinationals are dealt with in Revenue's Large Cases Division. That Division closely monitors all companies within its remit. Companies are obliged to file their returns in accordance with the self-assessment provisions and the Large Cases Division runs a compliance programme to follow up companies who fail to meet their filing obligations. Tax returns, tax computations and accounts are assessed in accordance with the Division's risk assessment programme. Interventions in the form of enquiry or audit are made where significant areas of risk of non-compliance are identified during this process. The risk analysis takes into account the scale of a company's operations as well as the complexity involved. Tax reduction expenditure falls within this risk assessment process. Large Cases Division aims to ensure that all significant potential non-compliance is challenged and to keep advancing its effectiveness in this area.

Strategic Development Fund

Patrick Nulty

Question:

95 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the steps taken to date in establishing a strategic investment bank, which was agreed in the Programme for Government. [36941/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

99 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance when the strategic development fund will come on stream; the functions of same; the amount of capital it will have at its disposal; and the persons or companies who are likely to benefit from same. [37029/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 99 together.

Following a decision by the Government, I, along with my colleagues Mr Brendan Howlin, TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and Mr Fergus O'Dowd, TD, Minister of State for NewERA, announced on Thursday, 29 September, the establishment of NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund under the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The Strategic Investment Fund, which will be the forerunner of the Strategic Investment Bank, will, following appropriate legislative changes to the investment policy of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), channel commercial investment from the NPRF towards productive investment in the Irish economy. As well as money from the NPRF, the Fund will seek matching commercial investment from private investors and target investment in areas of strategic significance to the future of the Irish economy. It will comprise a series of sub-funds targeted at commercial investment in critical areas of the Irish economy, including infrastructure, venture capital and provision of long-term capital for SMEs. The NPRF will take a lead role in the development and implementation of each sub-fund.

In November 2011, the NPRF announced a significant commitment of €250 million to a new Irish infrastructure fund (the "Irish Infrastructure Trust"). This fund will seek to invest in assets designated for disposal by the Government and commercial State enterprises and also in new infrastructure projects in Ireland. The new fund, which will be an important source of new capital for infrastructure investment in Ireland, has been established by Irish Life Investment Managers while AMP Capital, a leading global infrastructure manager, will be the fund's discretionary investment manager. The fund is seeking commitments of up to €1 billion from institutional investors in Ireland and overseas and has already received commitments of €300 million, including the NPRF's €250 million.

Tax Code

Patrick Nulty

Question:

96 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he supports the introduction of an international financial transactions tax or Tobin tax. [36944/11]

The European Commission published last month its proposal for a Financial Transactions Tax, or FTT, and its assessment of the impact of the measure.

We are analysing the proposals contained in the draft Directive. The measure will now be subject to detailed discussions at EU level and, as always, we will participate constructively in those discussions. There is no consensus as yet among European Member States on this issue, either about whether an FTT should be introduced, or what precise form it should take.

It is important that any proposal does not have the effect of encouraging relocation of activity or damaging the EU's competitiveness in financial services. It is for this reason that there is an emerging view that the EU and other international groupings, such as the IMF and G20, should move in tandem in a global manner to avoid the danger of financial sector business gravitating to jurisdictions where taxes are not levied on financial transactions. Indeed the Commission has indicted that they see their proposal as part of a wider development in this area.

In my view any tax would be best applied on a wide international basis to include the major financial centres. I also think it important that the proposed Directive would apply on an EU wide basis to prevent any distortion of activity within the European Union.

The Commission is proposing that the FTT should be an "own resource" tax imposed centrally to fund the EU and will be developing proposals in the context of the future of the EU Budget. However, we will need to assess the impact of this on our contribution vis-à-vis any system based on Gross National Income, as is the current system.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

97 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the pension schemes of the commercial State companies are subject to the 0.6% annual pension levy; the total pension fund value of the commercial State companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36966/11]

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. The pension arrangements affected include funded retirement benefit schemes (i.e. occupational pension schemes), retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts (PRSAs — other than what are known as "vested" PRSAs). Funded pension schemes sponsored by or put in place in respect of the employees of the companies to which the Deputy refers would have been approved by the Revenue Commissioners for tax purposes and the levy therefore applies to the assets of such funded schemes.

There is no general requirement for data on the value of Irish pension funds to be returned to my Department or to the Revenue Commissioners. I am not, therefore, in a position to provide the Deputy with data in relation to the value of the pension funds in the schemes operated by the companies referred to in the question.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be raised in a full year by extending the universal social charge to all income, including dividends and rental income but excluding interest. [36969/11]

As I stated in my previous reply to the Deputy in Parliamentary Question Number 54 on 17 November 2011, the Universal Social Charge (USC) is designed to apply on a wide base with no special exemptions. As such, the USC applies to income from dividends and rental income.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 95.

Banking Sector Regulation

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

100 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the annual fees paid to the Government-appointed Bank of Ireland public interest director (details supplied) from 2009 to the end of 2011 in tabular form. [37043/11]

The Deputy will be aware that directors at the covered institutions, including public interest directors who were nominated by my predecessor, are appointed and remunerated by the respective boards. Accordingly, disclosure of details of their remuneration is covered by various rules and procedures. The information sought by the Deputy, to the extent that it has been released publicly by the named covered institution, is available in its 2009 and 2010 Annual Reports which indicate that non-pensionable fees of €79,000 for 2009 and €90,000 for 2010 were paid to the named individual.

Alcohol Pricing

Ann Phelan

Question:

101 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the loss of jobs in the vintners industry over the past five years and the fact that the health lobby now accepts that the issues are not a result of the price of alcohol but of the availability of cheap alcohol; his views that this issue needs to be addressed through minimum pricing rather than through an increase in excise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37045/11]

Minimum pricing is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels for alcohol products that must be legally observed by retailers. Its primary function would be to discourage at-risk levels of alcohol consumption. A National Substance Misuse Strategy was established in 2009. It is examining the development of policy to deal with a wide range of key issues relating to the supply, pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol — including the question of a minimum price for alcohol — along with measures for the policy areas of prevention strategies, treatment, rehabilitation and substance dependency, research and information. The report of the Steering Group is close to completion. The Minister for Health expects to receive proposals in the coming months and he will then brief his colleagues in Government on these. The Deputy may be aware that Ireland's alcohol tax levels are already high in relation to other EU Member States. At July 2011, we had the highest excise duty within the EU 27 for sparkling wine, the third-highest for still wine and spirits and the fourth-highest for beer.

National Asset Management Agency

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

102 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the current annual salary that the National Asset Management Agency chairperson (details supplied) is in receipt of. [37046/11]

The Chairman of NAMA is not paid a salary but he is paid a fee. The fee payable to him as Chairman is €150,000 in 2011.

Tax Reliefs

Billy Timmins

Question:

103 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding mortgage interest relief (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37047/11]

It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Tax Code

Robert Troy

Question:

104 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider increasing the threshold for VAT from a turnover of €75,000 per annum to a turnover of €100,000 per annum. [37056/11]

Any changes to the VAT code will be determined in the context of the upcoming Budget. You will appreciate that it is not normal practice to comment on Budget matters in advance.

Alcohol Pricing

Robert Troy

Question:

105 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider legislation to tackle below-cost selling of alcohol. [37057/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that introducing legislation to tackle below cost selling of alcohol is not a matter for the Department of Finance. I understand it to be the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Tax Code

Robert Troy

Question:

106 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider introducing some exemption to the VAT or vehicle registration tax charged on seven- to nine-seater minibuses for publicans who wish to purchase same for the purpose of transporting customers. [37059/11]

As the Deputy may be aware a publican who provides a bus exclusively for the purpose of taking patrons to and from the public house will be entitled to claim a deduction for the VAT on the cost of acquisition of the bus, but only if the bus has more than 16 seats. Section 60 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 prohibits a deduction of tax to the extent that it relates to expenditure incurred on the acquisition of a motor vehicle, unless it is designed and constructed for the carriage of more than 16 persons, including the driver. If he charges the passengers for the transport, the publican will not be entitled to any VAT deduction, regardless of the size of the bus. This is because the carriage of passengers is exempt from VAT and no deduction can be claimed for tax charged on expenditure incurred in an exempt activity. With regard to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), I have no plans to introduce an exemption of VRT charged on 7/9 seater mini-buses for publicans who wish to purchase same for the purpose of transporting customers.

Tax Collection

Finian McGrath

Question:

107 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [37102/11]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the person in question is largely tax compliant. Tax Returns have been submitted up to and including 2010 and are therefore up to date. The person holds a valid Tax Clearance Certificate.

The only matter outstanding is income tax due for 2009 and 2010 which is a very small amount. The Tax District has attempted to contact the person without success to discuss the recovery of the outstanding liability. Mr. Colm O'Keeffe in North City Tax District (phone number 8894003) is available to speak to the person or to the Deputy.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

108 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will extend the current universal social charge ceiling of 4% for medical card holders to widows and widowers in budget 2012 announcements. [37108/11]

It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

109 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37112/11]

VAT is a tax on the value added to a supply and the collection and recovery of VAT takes place at each stage of the chain of supply from manufacturing to retailer. Under EU and domestic VAT rules traders who are registered for VAT collect VAT on the goods and services that they sell. In turn such traders are entitled to recover the VAT they incur on their business inputs used in the purchase or production of goods or delivery of services. Consequently, if there is a decrease in value at any stage in the process the trader is entitled to a refund of the excess of VAT incurred over that collected. In this regard, where a retailer is in a situation of net VAT gain as a result of below cost selling, this is not a loss to the Exchequer or an additional benefit to the retailer, it is merely how VAT is charged.

Tax Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if arrears of income tax due and referred to the sheriff for collection are based on actual, agreed or assessed figures, or a combination of both; if an extension of time can or will be given to allow the submission of any outstanding documentation in view of the fact that the taxpayer (details supplied) is suffering from a serious illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37134/11]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that there are two tranches of debt with the sheriff for collection in the particular case. One is comprised of income tax, including interest, based on returns and VAT, including interest, based primarily on estimates in the absence of returns being filed. VAT returns were subsequently filed with Revenue reducing the overall debt. Separately a PAYE/PRSI debt is also with the sheriff for collection.

The overall debt now with the sheriff is €88,561.61 and the sheriff had been facilitating payment of the debt by way of a phased payment arrangement.

Revenue has also informed me that PAYE/PRSI returns have not been filed in this case for the last 5 years and estimates, including interest, amounting to €123,574.71 have been raised. A final request for payment of this amount was issued by Revenue on 25 October 2011. This debt has not yet been enforced to the sheriff as, by arrangement with the agent for the person, Revenue has allowed a final opportunity up to 15 December 2011 for the submission of the outstanding returns. Revenue has no desire to enforce debt based on estimates, but must do so in the absence of returns for such a prolonged period. These returns should now be filed so that the final tax debt can be determined.

The individual concerned or his agent should then make contact with Ms Ann Hegarty in the Collector General's Office, Government Offices, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary (Tel. 067 63116) with a view to an agreed approach being put in place. Revenue will have due regard to all of the circumstances including the health of the person concerned, in the context of finalising its approach.

Tax Yield

Pearse Doherty

Question:

111 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the reason he has not included the €0.4 billion raised by the universal social charge in his carry-forward for 2012 (table 2.1, Mid-Term Fiscal Statement, November 2011); the further reason this €0.4 billion is captured in the budgetary projections for 2012; if he will confirm that when taken into account the USC carry-forward raises the total amount of tax consolidation for 2012 to €2 billion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37175/11]

The estimated carry-forward from the Universal Social Charge (USC) is not included as part of the carry-forward for revenue measures for 2012 in the Medium-Term Fiscal Statement (MTFS) as that publication sought to present the numbers in a manner that was as consistent as possible with the presentation in the EU/IMF Programme as agreed last year. A footnote was included in the MTFS to the effect that the USC is also expected to deliver an additional €0.4 billion in revenues in 2012 and that while this does not form part of the €3.8 billion consolidation package it is captured in the budgetary projections. The reason it is captured in the tax revenue projection for 2012 is because income tax is expected to benefit in 2012 from these estimated additional receipts. To not capture these receipts in the estimate of income tax for 2012 would be incorrect.

Banks Recapitalisation

Peter Mathews

Question:

112 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the bank bailout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37202/11]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

127 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if, in the case of the financial institutions which have been in receipt of emergency capital injections from the State, any of that capital has been used to offset shortfalls in those institutions’ defined pension schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37471/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 127 together.

We are still awaiting confirmation of the position from a number of the covered institutions. I will write to the Deputies again when this information has been received.

Tax Collection

Seán Crowe

Question:

113 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if all State organisations have handed over moneys accrued from the pension levy and universal social charges to his Department. [37204/11]

A 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. The pension arrangements affected include funded retirement benefit schemes (i.e. occupational pension schemes), retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts (PRSAs — other than what are known as "vested" PRSAs). The chargeable persons for the levy are the trustees or other persons (including insurance companies) responsible for the management of the assets of the pension schemes or plans and payment of the levy is due by 25 September in each of the four years from 2011-2014. State organisations, per se, are not responsible for payment of pension fund levy. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that receipts from the temporary 0.6% stamp duty levy on pension fund assets introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2011 amounted to €463 million by the end of October. This compares to a projected annual yield from the levy of €470 million.

I am also advised by the Commissioners that they are aware of a small number of pension schemes in respect of which the levy remained outstanding at end-October. The amounts involved are, however, unlikely to make any significant difference to the latest yield figure mentioned above.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that appropriate compliance measures are in place to ensure that all employers, including State organisations, meet their obligations for deduction and timely payment over to the Collector-General of the universal social charge. For reasons of taxpayer confidentiality, Revenue does not disclose information on individual taxpayers or employers. However, if the Deputy has specific information to indicate a particular incidence of non-compliance he should pass that information to Revenue.

Estate Administration

Pat Breen

Question:

114 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 5 July 2011, the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37205/11]

I informed the Deputy on 5 July 2011 that, following the issue of Letters of Administration, a claim had come forward on behalf of possible next of kin of the deceased as a result of advertisements placed in national newspapers. I understand from the Chief State Solicitor's Office that time was given to those making the claim of next of kin to provide evidence of the claim. Documentary evidence was received by the Chief State Solicitor's Office earlier this month. The matter is now being further examined by the Office of the Attorney General. The solicitors for the applicant were informed of the situation.

Question No. 115 withdrawn.

Banking Sector Regulation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

116 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the regulations in place for opening bank accounts; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that those living in institutions that provide supported living for persons with disabilities have in opening bank accounts due to not having utility bills; if he is aware that the standards of care for persons in residential settings encourage residents to manage their own finances, and that this requires a bank account, which has proven very difficult due to bank concerns about money laundering; and if he will amend the regulations made under section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to take account of these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37298/11]

The customer due diligence requirements set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 were repealed on the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 (the 2010 Act). Section 33 of the 2010 Act requires designated persons (such as banks) to apply customer due diligence measures prior to establishing a business relationship with a customer e.g. opening a bank account. The customer due diligence measures require that the designated person must identify and verify the customer's identity on the basis of documents or information that the designated person has reasonable grounds to believe can be relied upon to confirm the identity of the customer. The 2010 Act does not limit the range of documents or information that a designated person may have reasonable grounds to believe can be relied upon to confirm the identity of the customer. Draft guidelines, under the 2010 Act, which are being finalised by the financial services industry, in consultation with the Central Bank, provide guidance on the identification and verification procedures. These guidelines specify a non-exhaustive range of documentation which the bank may choose to accept for the purposes of verifying identity. The range of documentation includes utility bills but also many other types of documentation issued by Government Departments, state agencies and financial institutions. In the event that an individual provides a plausible explanation as to why the suggested documentation cannot be provided, the bank may choose from an additional specified list of methods to assist in confirming the identity of the customer. In the case of care homes or sheltered accommodation, the alternative forms of identification include a letter from the care home manager/manager of the sheltered accommodation confirming name and address of the care home and name and date of birth of the customer.

Ultimately, it is up to each bank to decide, on a risk based approach, whether it accepts other forms of customer identification. However, there is a clear statement in the draft guidelines to the effect that "where an individual is genuinely not in a position to provide standard evidence of identity it is important that he/she is not prevented from gaining access to the financial system solely due to not being able to produce particular documentation.”

Tax Collection

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

117 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an estimate of the amount of tax retained by airline companies on foot of cancelled plane tickets or unfilled seats; if he will have the matter investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37331/11]

Airline companies are liable to air travel tax only in respect of passengers who depart on their flights from relevant Irish airports. If an airline company charges an intending passenger an amount corresponding to the air travel tax that would be payable by the company in respect of that passenger's departure and that person does not make the proposed journey, the question of a refund of the amount involved is a matter between the company and that person. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they would not, therefore, have any information on the amount of money retained by airline companies of foot of cancelled tickets or unfilled seats.

Tax Reliefs

Simon Harris

Question:

118 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the reason no tax reliefs are offered to parents who pay for their children to attend public third level institutions, as opposed to parents paying for their children to attend private third level institutions; if his attention has been drawn to the inequities that this distinction raises; his plans to introduce a tax relief scheme towards the costs of the student registration fees paid by persons at public third level institutes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37400/11]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for tax relief at the standard rate of income tax for qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course including a postgraduate course. Qualifying fees means tuition fees in respect of an approved course at an approved college and includes what is referred to as the "student contribution". For the tax year 2011 and subsequent tax years, the maximum annual amount eligible for tax relief (including the student contribution of €2,000) is €7,000 per course.

Currently, undergraduate college fees at public institutions are free in Ireland, apart from the student contribution. The tax relief is confined to tuition fees only. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the net fees qualifying for tax relief.

An individual can claim tax relief on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved third level course pursued by him/her and on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved course pursued by other individuals (e.g. a son or daughter).

A claim for relief may be in respect of a number of students — the maximum amount allowable (i.e. €7,000) applies per course rather than per claim. However:

the first €2,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where any one of the students to whom the claim refers is a full time student;

the first €1,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where all of the students to whom the claim refers are part-time students.

These thresholds apply regardless of whether the student attends a private or public third-level institution.

All tax reliefs and incentives are subject to regular review as part of the annual Budget and Finance Bill planning process. Any decisions taken by the Government in this regard are usually announced on Budget Day.

Tax Yield

Pearse Doherty

Question:

119 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the respective figures for taking the following groups out of the universal social charge: those earning below €10,000, €11,000, €12,000, €13,000, €14,000, €15,000, €16,000, €17,000, €18,000, €19,000, €20,000, €21,000, €22,000, €23,000, €24,000 and €25,000. [37414/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year costs to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of increasing the existing exemption threshold of €4,004 per annum for the Universal Social Charge (USC) to the proposed thresholds, are set out in a table.

Proposed USC (Yearly) Exemption Thresholds

Cost

€10,000

€45 million

€11,000

€60 million

€12,000

€70 million

€13,000

€85 million

€14,000

€105 million

€15,000

€120 million

€16,000

€140 million

€17,000

€165 million

€18,000

€190 million

€19,000

€220 million

€20,000

€255 million

€21,000

€290 million

€22,000

€330 million

€23,000

€370 million

€24,000

€415 million

€25,000

€465 million

Costs are rounded to nearest €5 million.

These figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. They are, therefore, provisional and may be revised.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

120 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be raised for the Exchequer in a full year by increasing the VAT rate by 1%. [37415/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

121 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be raised for the Exchequer by increasing the VAT rate by 2%. [37416/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

122 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the cost of cutting the top VAT rate by 1%. [37417/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

123 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the various VAT groupings, VAT-free items, the lower rate and the higher rate of VAT. [37418/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 to 123, inclusive, together.

The yield to the Exchequer in a full year where the VAT rates are increased by 1% and 2% are outlined in the following table:

Rate

1% increase

2% increase

9% Reduced rate

+ €75m

+ €150m

13.5% Reduced rate

+ €160m

+ €320m

21% Standard rate

+ €335m

+ €670m

If the current standard VAT rate of 21% was reduced by 1% to 20%, this would cost the Exchequer €335 million.

Following the introduction of a second reduced VAT rate on 1 July 2011, Ireland's VAT rate structure is as follows:

Standard rate of 21% — this applies to the majority of goods and services accounting for 51% of all goods and services, including cars, petrol, diesel, alcohol, tobacco, electrical equipment and CD/DVDs. Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States may set the standard VAT rate not lower than 15% and there is political agreement that it does not exceed 25%.

Reduced rate of 13.5% — this applies mainly to residential housing, labour intensive services and general repairs and maintenance. Member States may have up to two reduced VAT rates of not less than 5% for a specified number of goods or services which are set out in Annex III of the VAT Directive. Member States also have the option of maintaining, at a reduced rate of not less than 12%, any items not listed in Annex III, provided they carried a reduced rate on 1 January 1991. These items are known as ‘parked' and Ireland's parked rate is 13.5%. Fuel used for heat or light, and commercial construction are examples of parked items. All items at the 13.5% reduced rate and parked rate account for 25% of goods and services subject to VAT.

Reduced rate of 9% — applies mainly to tourism services including hotel and holiday accommodation, restaurant services, and various entertainment services. The rate was introduced as part of the Jobs Initiative and applies from 1 July 2011 until end December 2013. It accounts for around 11% of all goods and services.

Zero rate — this generally applies to most food, children's clothes and shoes, and oral medicines, and accounts for 13% of goods and services subject to VAT. While it is possible to retain the zero rating for goods and services that were in place on 1 January 1991, the zero rate cannot be applied to any new items.

4.8% livestock rate — Ireland applies a VAT rate of 4.8% which is limited to livestock sold by VAT registered persons/firms. As with the zero and parked rates, Ireland is entitled to maintain this rate for historic reasons.

Exempt activities — services provided by charities, non-profit organisations and certain financial services are exempt from VAT, as are schools and hospitals etc. Exempt suppliers do not generally charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot reclaim VAT incurred on the goods and services they purchase.

Tax Collection

Dan Neville

Question:

124 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if an overpayment of income tax liability of €1,741 will be repaid without any further delay in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [37427/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the refund in question was made to the individual by cheque issued on 23 March 2011 from the Bank of Ireland account of the Revenue Commissioners. The cheque transaction records indicate that the cheque was subsequently presented to a bank on Friday, 25 March 2011 and the payment was processed and lodged on Monday, 28 March 2011.

Financial Services Regulation

Robert Dowds

Question:

125 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance his plans to regulate firms engaged in personal finance which are not banks or building societies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37462/11]

I have been advised by the Central Bank that their examination into the affairs of the company to which the Deputy refers has been completed. The Central Bank is of the view that the company was carrying out activities for which authorisation would have been required from the Central Bank. It would appear to the Central Bank that the company was carrying on a ‘banking business' in the absence of a banking licence issued under theCentral Bank Act 1971, as amended, and providing payment services in the absence of an appropriate authorisation under the European Communities (Payment Services) Regulations 2009 (SI No 383/2009). The Central Bank is independent in the carrying out of its functions and any further action with regard to the company is a matter for the Bank. I have no indication that any issues arising in this case arose from any gaps in the legislative framework, but my officials and the Central Bank are, nonetheless, examining the current legislation to see if any part needs to be strengthened. On completion of that examination, I will consider further with a view to bringing proposals to Government to provide for any necessary amendment to the current law or for the introduction of new legislation, where necessary.

Tax Reliefs

Gerry Adams

Question:

126 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will give consideration to vehicle registration tax or VAT relief or any other incentives for publicans who provide small minibuses exclusively for the purposes of taking patrons to and from public houses; considering the drink driving laws and the absence of public transport or taxi facilities in some rural areas, his views on whether this is a proposal worthy of consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37468/11]

As the Deputy may be aware a publican who provides a bus exclusively for the purpose of taking patrons to and from the public house will be entitled to claim a deduction for the VAT on the cost of acquisition of the bus, but only if the bus has more than 16 seats. Section 60 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 prohibits a deduction of tax to the extent that it relates to expenditure incurred on the acquisition of a motor vehicle, unless it is designed and constructed for the carriage of more than 16 persons, including the driver. If he charges the passengers for the transport, the publican will not be entitled to any VAT deduction, regardless of the size of the bus. This is because the carriage of passengers is exempt from VAT and no deduction can be claimed for tax charged on expenditure incurred in an exempt activity. With regard to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), I have no plans to introduce an exemption of VRT charged on mini-buses for publicans who wish to purchase same for the purpose of transporting customers.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 112.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

128 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole-time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and the figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37482/11]

Please find detailed below the number of Whole Time Equivalents (WTEs) employed in my Department as requested:

Date

Whole Time Equivalents (WTEs)

31 December 2008

612.91

31 December 2009

560.78

31 December 2010

538.46

31 October 2011

275.02*

*After the establishment of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Tax Reliefs

Seán Kenny

Question:

129 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons availing of each tax break or tax relief that remains open; the cost to the Exchequer; his plans to close off any tax reliefs or breaks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37505/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the total identifiable costs to the Exchequer of all income tax and corporation tax allowances, reliefs, exemptions and tax credits available are set out in the following tables for 2007 and 2008, the most recent year for which the necessary detailed historical information is available. Relevant notes relating to items in the tables are also included.

Index of Tables and Notes

a) Note on the Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2007 & 2008

b) Table IT 6 showing Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2007 & 2008

c) Notes on Table IT 6

d) Note on Green Paper on Pensions

e) Estimate of cost of certain property-based tax incentives and incomes exempt from tax for 2007 and 2008

f) Note on reliefs in respect of which costs are not currently quantifiable or are negligible or are not identifiable within total aggregates.

Estimates of the corresponding costs to the Exchequer for years 2009, 2010 and 2011 are not available.

Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2007 and 2008

The table IT 6 shows the estimated cost in terms of revenue forgone of the personal tax credits and the main reliefs and deductions allowable under the income tax system. A number of reliefs which apply both to individuals and companies is also included and the cost shown in relation to these reliefs covers income tax and corporation tax.

An adjustment is included in the cost figures applying to income tax to compensate for incomplete numbers of tax returns on record at the time of compiling the estimates.

The tax credits and reliefs listed in the table serve varying purposes. Many are essentially structural reliefs through which individual tax liabilities are adjusted to reflect relative taxable capacity. The main personal tax credits are a good example of this since they may be regarded as part of the progressive income tax structure representing a band of income chargeable at a zero rate. Others, such as relief for interest paid in full or investment in corporate trades, are tax-based incentives in favour of specific groups or activities which are designed to promote certain aspects of public policy.

However, it should be noted that the restriction of reliefs or horizontal measure seeks to restrict the capacity of high earners to reduce their income tax liability to very low levels, or to zero, through the cumulative use of various tax incentives. From the 2010 tax year, high earners that are subject to the full restriction now pay an effective rate of income tax of 30%, on average. This is an addition to PRSI and the Universal Social Charge.

In computing taxable profits, account needs to be taken in some way of the depreciation of capital assets incurred in earning those profits. To this extent, the figures in the table of the "costs" of capital allowances should not be regarded as measuring a "loss of tax revenue" on profits. To compute such "loss", regard would have to be had to the excess of the amount of the capital allowances at current rates over the amount of the normal allowances.

The figures shown for the basic personal tax credits (married, single and widowed) are the costs of these tax credits as if all other tax credits and the exemption limits did not apply. They do not include individuals who are not on Revenue records because their incomes are below the income tax thresholds. The cost figures for the exemption limits are based on the excess of the exemption limits over the basic personal tax credits.

The figures of cost are for 2008 and 2007 and all figures are based on tax due in respect of assessments for each year and not on tax receipts within that year.

The figure against each credit or allowance represents the additional tax which would become payable if the tax credit or allowance were withdrawn assuming no consequent change in the behaviour of taxpayers (for example, in relation to the reliefs for savings), or the amounts of payments (for example, interest payable on certain savings schemes might need adjustment to take account of the new tax liability).

The numbers of claimants of each credit or relief are shown for both years to the extent that they are available. The numbers included are the taxpayers who would be adversely affected by the withdrawal of the respective credit or relief.

In the calculations, each tax credit or allowance has been dealt with separately and on the assumption that the rest of the tax system remained unchanged. It would be therefore inaccurate to calculate the effect of withdrawing all the credits, reliefs and allowances by simply totalling the figures. For example, the costs shown for capital allowances and stock relief are also calculated on the basis of separate withdrawal of these reliefs. Their combined cost would be greater than the sum of the separate costs because allowances are not always fully set off against available profits. For instance, a person with €1,000 gross trading profits, €1,000 capital allowances and €1,000 stock relief would pay no tax if either of the reliefs were withdrawn but would pay tax on €1,000 profits if both reliefs were withdrawn. In this case, the cost of each relief separately is nil but the combined cost is tax on €1,000. Basic data is not available to enable an estimate of the combined cost of these reliefs to be made.

The figures for estimates based on tax returns have been grossed up to an overall expected level to adjust for incompleteness in the numbers of returns on record at the time the data was extracted for analytical purposes.

Apart from the artists exemption, these figures do not take account of the application of the restriction of reliefs originally provided for in section 17 of Finance Act 2006, which took effect from 1 January 2007. The restriction was extended by Section 23 Finance Act 2010.

Finally, the estimates shown in many cases are tentative and are subject to revision in the light of later information.

Income Tax and Corporation Tax

Table IT6 — Cost of Tax Credits, Allowances and Reliefs 2007 and 2008

Tax Relief Provision

(1) Estimated Cost for

2007

2008

INCOME TAX

€m

Numbers

€m

Numbers

Exemption limits:

General Exemption (2)

0.0

0

0.0

0

Child Addition (2)

0.2

800

0.3

900

Age Exemption (2)

75.3

51,500

90.8

57,700

Married Person’s Credit (3)

2,776.7

834,900

2,944.9

853,100

Single Person’s Credit (3)

2,392.0

1,552,800

2,406.8

1,503,300

Widowed Person’s Credit (3)

171.3

79,500

184.3

81,100

Additional Credit to Widowed Person in Year of Bereavement

4.8

4,000

4.9

4,000

Additional Bereavement Credit to Widowed Parent

6.6

2,400

6.9

2,300

Additional Personal Credit for Lone Parent

199.0

122,200

197.4

116,700

Homecarer Credit

68.5

92,200

79.5

93,100

Additional Credit for Incapacitated Child

31.7

11,700

39.0

12,300

Employee (PAYE) Credit

3,153.1

1,732,000

3,253.8

1,710,200

Dependent Relative Credit

1.8

17,600

2.0

18,700

Person Taking Care of Incapacitated Taxpayer

4.6

1,070

5.8

1,260

Age Credit

33.7

82,900

42.3

88,100

Blind Person’s Credit

2.0

1,240

2.1

1,320

Medical Insurance Premiums (4)

300.3

1,195,300

321.0

1,322,400

Health Expenses

225.7

496,300

266.8

542,600

Contributions Under Permanent Health Benefit Schemes, after Deduction of Tax on Benefits Received (5)

3.6

26,300

4.0

29,200

Employees’ Contributions To Approved Superannuation Schemes (6)

590.0

708,500

655.0

792,600

Employers’ Contributions To Approved Superannuation Schemes (6)

150.0

364,700

165.0

362,700

Exemption of Investment Income and Gains of Approved Superannuation Funds (6) *

900.0

N/A

685.0

N/A

Exemption of employers’ contributions to Approved Superannuation Schemes from employee BIK

540.0

364,700

595.0

362,700

Tax Relief on “tax free” lump sums (6)

130.0

N/A

140.0

N/A

Retirement Annuity Premiums

407.9

121,300

352.8

116,000

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts

61.1

46,600

73.8

53,900

Interest paid:

Loans relating to Principal Private Residence

542.7

720,000

704.6

778,100

Other (7)

46.9

5,300

48.5

5,400

Rent Paid in Private Tenancies

82.1

206,000

96.5

222,100

Expenses Allowable to Employees under Schedule E

69.8

894,400

75.2

835,900

Third Level Education Fees

18.1

34,500

19.9

36,000

Exemption of Certain Earnings of Writers, Composers and Artists

27.4

2,650

21.8

2,630

Dispositions (Including Maintenance Payments made to Separated Spouses)

20.5

7,220

22.3

7,820

Exemption of Interest on Savings Certificates, National Instalment Savings & Index Linked Savings Bonds

130.3

N/A

88.1

N/A

Rent a Room

4.7

3,180

5.6

3,600

Exemption of Income of Charities, Colleges, Hospitals, Schools, Friendly Societies, etc. (8) (10)

30.7

N/A

35.8

N/A

Retirement Relief for certain Sports Persons (9)

0.2

20

0.2

17

Exemption of Irish Government Securities where owner not ordinarily resident in Ireland (10) *

240.8

N/A

320.8

N/A

Exemption of Statutory Redundancy Payments

87.6

25,000

85.4

29,800

Service Charges

24.4

413,100

27.1

455,200

Top Slicing Relief — Reduced Tax Rate for Payments in Excess of Exemption Amounts Made as Compensation for Loss of Office

27.8

3,020

44.7

3,790

Revenue Job Assist allowance

0.3

360

0.2

330

Allowance for seafarers

0.3

170

0.3

160

Trade Union Subscriptions

20.7

316,300

26.4

341,900

Exemption From Tax of Certain Social Welfare Payments:

Child benefit *

355.0

347,760

435.3

401,200

Early childcare Supplement*

84.3

193,200

98.3

195,200

Maternity allowance *

15.2

20,950

18.2

23,420

Foster Care Payments

29.4

3,330

28.1

3,470

Exemption of Income arising from the Provision of Childcare Services

0.7

400

0.8

440

Approved Profit Sharing Schemes *

107.6

98,870

99

111,180

Savings-Related Share Option Schemes *

11.9

2,600

1.3

2,800

Approved Share Option Schemes *

3

1000

0.08

280

Relief for New Shares Purchased by Employees

0.2

210

0.3

280

Investment in Corporate Trades (BES)

17.5

1,900

55.7

3,200

Investment in Seed Capital

2.3

63

1.7

56

Stock Relief *

2

N/A

2.0

N/A

Relief for expenditure on significant buildings and gardens

5.0

210

5.9

290

Donation of Heritage items

5.3

4

4.7

5

Donation of Heritage property to the Irish Heritage Trust

1.9

7

3.6

4

INCOME TAX AND/OR CORPORATION TAX (11)

Donations to Approved Bodies

47.6

110,700

52.4

131,100

Donations to Sports Bodies (9)

0.4

700

0.3

850

Employee Share Ownership Trusts*

4.4

26,000

8.4

29,200

Total Capital Allowances: (12)

2,019.2

270,900

2,176.6

270,200

Rented Residential Relief — Section 23 (13) *

133.6

2,920

74.7

2,429

Effective Rate of 10% for Manufacturing and Certain Other Activities (14)

406.9

2,667

160.9

1,046

Double Taxation Relief

610.8

17,600

596.5

18,000

Investment in Films*

31.1

3,000

32.8

3,200

Group Relief

254.1

1,936

450.3

2,430

Research & Development Tax Credit (15)

165.6

479

146

582

Notes on Table IT6

(1) Figures accompanied by an asterisk * are particularly tentative and subject to a considerable margin of error.

(2) The cost figures for the exemption limits are based on the excess of the exemption limits over the basic personal tax credits. They include the cost of marginal relief for taxpayers whose incomes are not greatly in excess of the exemption limits.

(3) The figures shown for the basic personal tax credits (married, single and widowed) are the costs of these tax credits as if all other tax credits and the exemption limits did not apply. They do not include individuals who are not on Revenue records because their incomes are below the income tax thresholds.

(4) Arising from the change over to Tax Relief at Source the figures relate to the number of policies issued. These include policies where subscriptions were paid by businesses on behalf of their employees.

(5) Part of the cost of contributions to Permanent Health Benefit Schemes is not identifiable as a result of the move to a "net pay" basis for contributions by PAYE taxpayers from 6 April 2001.

(6) See the following note on "Green Paper on Pensions" for background commentary on the basis of the cost figures.

(7) "Other" relates to borrowings for purposes such as acquiring an interest in a company or partnership.

(8) The income on which the cost of exemption for charities, colleges, hospitals, schools, friendly societies, etc. from income tax is based includes repaid income tax that has been deducted at source on dividends, other investment income and payments received under covenant, donations and associated tax relief by the PAYE sector to approved bodies and donations by the self-employed and corporate sectors to approved bodies and approved sports bodies. Information is not available about other income received gross.

(9) The cost figures for relief for donations to Approved Sports Bodies and for certain Sports Persons are based on self assessment returns.

(10) In the absence of other information, tax has been assumed at the standard rate of income tax even though a different rate might be appropriate in many cases.

(11) The costs included for corporation tax are by reference to accounting periods which ended in the years 2007 and 2008.

(12) The cost shown for capital allowances does not include any cost associated with "unused capital allowances", that is, capital allowances which are not absorbed by a company in the accounting period in which they arise because they exceed the amount of the company's profits of that accounting period which are available for offset. Unused capital allowances can be offset as losses against taxable profits arising in the previous accounting period and against certain profits arising in future accounting periods and can be offset against the profits of another company in the same group of companies. It is estimated that €2820 million and €3587 million of unused capital allowances were claimed in respect of 2007 and 2008 accounting periods respectively but as the proportion of this item which is included in previous years losses and in group relief is not separately identifiable a reliable estimate of the cost of the capital allowance element cannot be provided.

(13) The tax cost shown for section 23 type relief is the estimated ultimate tax cost relating to the total allowable expenditure in respect of claims made in 2007 and 2008 tax returns for the first time. The cost shown is for income tax cases only.

(14) The cost shown for manufacturing relief for 2008 is compiled using the basic data available but for technical reasons associated with a system redesign it is understood to be understated by at least €100m.

(15) The costs shown for R&D is for claims for R&D on corporation tax returns for accounting periods ending in 2007 and 2008. However, the cost includes the cost associated with claims where the company was entitled to the credit but was unable to absorb it in that accounting year.

Green Paper on Pensions — Review of Estimates of Cost

As part of the work on the Green Paper on Pensions, a review was carried out of the current regime of incentives for supplementary pension provision with a view to developing more comprehensive and reliable estimates of the cost of reliefs in this area. The review examined, among other things, the current reliefs and incentives for investment in supplementary pensions and the data available on which to base reliable estimates of the costs in revenue foregone to the Exchequer.

The review drew on newly available 2006 aggregate data on contributions to pension schemes by employers and employees arising from a P35 initiative introduced on foot of provisions that were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality. Estimates of the cost of tax for private pension provision updated for 2007 and 2008 are included in table IT6.

The breakdown and make-up of these estimated costs of reliefs differ from presentations of costs in this area for years prior to 2005 in a number of respects and are not directly comparable. Further details on the cost of tax and other reliefs and the changes in the methodology are contained in pages 106 and 107 of the Green Paper on Pensions which is available atwww.nationalpensionsframework.ie.

Certain property-based tax incentives and incomes exempt from tax — uptake and estimated potential cost to the Exchequer in terms of income tax and corporation tax forgone based on 2007 and 2008 tax returns

Provisions were included in the Finance Acts of 2003 and 2004 to enable new statistical data on the uptake of tax relief for certain property-based tax incentives and incomes exempt from tax to be obtained from tax returns. This information, derived from changes introduced by the Revenue Commissioners to income tax returns and corporation tax returns for 2007 and 2008, is set out in the following tables.

The figures shown include the amounts claimed in the year but exclude amounts carried forward into the year either as losses or capital allowances, and include any amounts of unused losses and/or capital allowances which will be carried forward to subsequent years.

2007 Tax Incentive/Income Exemption

Amount Claimed€m

Assumed maximum tax cost€m

Number of claimants

Urban renewal

280.0

109.3

3,501

Town Renewal

86.1

34.6

1,128

Seaside Resorts

20.3

8.0

1,231

Rural Renewal

121.9

48.6

2,807

Multi-storey car parks

24.0

9.6

147

Living Over the shop

8.0

3.0

93

Enterprise Areas

7.0

2.8

137

Park and Ride

3.3

1.4

33

Holiday Cottages

30.7

12.4

832

Hotels

307.1

118.0

1,893

Nursing Homes

45.3

18.3

687

Housing for the Elderly/infirm

6.3

2.6

166

Hostels

1.8

0.72

24

Guest Houses

0.1

0.02

8

Convalescent Homes

1.2

0.5

27

Qualifying Private Hospitals

29.6

12.1

330

Qualifying sports injury clinics

4.3

1.8

59

Buildings Used for certain childcare purposes

24.2

9.8

420

Qualifying Mental Health Centres

0.0

0.0

1

Student Accommodation

108.7

42.0

941

Exemption of profits or gains from Greyhounds

0.4

0.1

13

Exemption of profits or gains from Stallions

59.6

11.2

226

Exemption of profits or gains from Woodlands

21.8

8.5

1,886

Exempt Patents (Section 234, TCA 1997)

528.2

90.9

1,251

Totals

1,719.8

546.5

17,841

2008 Tax Incentive/Income Exemption

Amount Claimed€m

Assumed maximum tax cost€m

Number of claimants

Urban renewal

224.6

84.5

3,271

Town Renewal

60.5

23.7

965

Seaside Resorts

14.5

5.7

1,051

Rural Renewal

84.6

34.2

2,634

Multi-storey car parks

16.8

6.6

136

Living Over the shop

6.1

2.5

81

Enterprise Areas

6.2

2.5

138

Park and Ride

1.7

0.7

19

Holiday Cottages

26.8

10.8

833

Hotels

300.6

114.7

1,966

Nursing Homes

47.6

19.4

725

Housing for the Elderly/infirm

7.4

3.0

179

Hostels

1.62

0.66

21

Guest Houses

0.3

0.11

10

Convalescent Homes

1.3

0.5

33

Qualifying Private Hospitals

30.2

12.3

340

Qualifying sports injury clinics

3.7

1.5

58

Buildings Used for certain childcare purposes

29.9

12.0

511

Qualifying Mental Health Centres

0.1

0.0

3

Student Accommodation

58.0

22.7

790

Caravan Camps

1.5

0.6

10

Mid Shannon Corridor Tourism Infrastructure

1.8

0.7

12

Exemption of profits or gains from Greyhounds

0.0

0.0

9

Exemption of profits or gains from Stallions

91.4

14.8

183

Exemption of profits or gains from Woodlands

49.4

13.0

2,357

Exempt Patents (section 234, TCA 1997)

187.2

50.2

1,184

Totals

1,302.4

455.0

18,089

These figures do not take account of the application of the restriction of reliefs originally provided for in section 17 of Finance Act 2006 and which took effect from 1 January 2007. The restriction was extended by Section 23 Finance Act 2010.

Notes:

The figures shown relate to the various reliefs/incentives and exemptions as specified in the 2007 and 2008 form 11 and CT1.

There were concerns that in some instances the new, separately categorised data on property incentives may not have been correctly entered on the Tax returns. Revenue drew the attention of the relevant tax practitioner bodies to these deficiencies to rectify them in future returns and also increased awareness among its own staff involved in processing tax returns of the need to ensure, through closer examination of the returns, that they are correctly completed.

The estimated costs have assumed tax foregone at the 41% rate in the case of income tax and 12.5% in the case of corporation tax. This means the figures shown correspond to the maximum Exchequer cost in terms of income tax and corporation tax. However, the actual Exchequer cost could be lower, particularly in relation to the exempt income items, as the income could be subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs thereby reducing the level of income that would be actually subject to tax.

Some of the costs shown above are included in the costs shown for capital allowances and section 23 relief in Table IT6. For example, exempt income included above is not part of capital allowances.

Reliefs in respect of which costs are not currently quantifiable or are negligible or are not identifiable within total aggregates:

Relief from averaging of farm profits;

Exemption for income arising from payments in respect of personal injuries;

Exemption of certain payments made by Haemophilia HIV Trust;

Exemption of lump sum retirement payments;

Relief for allowable motor expenses;

Tapering relief allowable for taxation of car benefits in kind;

Reduced tax rate for authorised unit trust schemes;

Reduced tax rate for special investment schemes;

Exemption of certain grants made by Údarás na Gaeltachta;

Relief for investment income reserved for policy holders in life assurance companies;

Relief for various business related expenses such as staff recruitment, rent, legal fees, and other general expenses;

Exemption in certain circumstances on the interest on quoted bearer Eurobonds;

Exemption of payments made as compensation for loss of office;

Exemption of scholarship income.

There are a number of different tax expenditures within the Irish taxation system. These have been introduced for a number of different reasons: providing a basic level of income before taxation; correcting market failure or attracting mobile investment. The Commission on Taxation in its 2009 report made a comprehensive study of all tax expenditures. The full report is available on the Commission's website atwww.commissionontaxation.ie.

It should be noted that the data in the above tables includes costs for certain tax expenditures which have since been withdrawn (e.g. trade union subscriptions, relief for new shares purchased by employees) or restricted (e.g. health expenses, loans relating to principal private residence, tax relief on "tax free" lump sums). "Legacy" property-based tax relief schemes, due to their nature, continue to impose ongoing costs on the Exchequer in terms of tax foregone.

All tax reliefs and incentives are reviewed regularly, in line with the annual Budget and Finance Bill process.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 94.

Personal Debt

James Bannon

Question:

131 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford should be expected to pay what they consider to be an unfair higher interest rate on their bank loan with the Bank of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37568/11]

The Bank of Ireland is a private company and, as Minister for Finance, I have no direct function in the relationship between the bank and its customers. Nonetheless, Bank of Ireland has informed me that, given their customer confidentiality obligations, they believe that the best way to deal with this matter is by means of direct contact from the customer to the bank.

James Bannon

Question:

132 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the action that can be taken to assist a person (details supplied) who is being threatened with eviction by a financial institution due to being in arrears caused by circumstances outside their control; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37574/11]

It is not be appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to become involved in the detailed mortgage position of an individual borrower and lender. However, there are a number of public policy measures in place to assist people experiencing difficulties with the mortgage on their primary residence. The Central Bank Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears is the key framework that governs the relationship between lenders and borrowers who are in arrears, or facing arrears, on their mortgage. The Code provides a number of protections to borrowers. These include the establishment of a formal Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) to deal with mortgage customers who are in arrears or pre-arrears, the establishment of dedicated Arrears Support Units and a separate internal appeals process by lenders to deal with individuals on a case by case basis. The Code also provides that a lender must not apply to the Courts to commence legal action for the repossession of a borrower's private residence until every reasonable effort has been made to agree an alternative arrangement with the borrower and that, where a borrower co-operates with the lender, the lender must wait at least twelve months from the date the borrower is classified as a MARP case before applying to the Court to commence legal action for repossession of a borrower's primary residence. This twelve month period does not include any time where the borrower is complying with the terms of any alternative arrangement agreed with the lender, or being processed by the internal Appeals Board, or any time during which a complaint against the lender against any aspect of the Mortgage Arrears Code is being processed by the Financial Services Ombudsman's Office.

As the Deputy is aware, in addition to the provisions of the Mortgage Arrears Code, there are other public measures in place to assist eligible mortgage holders experiencing difficulty in respect of the mortgage on their primary home such as the Department of Social Protection Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme, and the provision of a free, confidential and independent financial advice service from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

The Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments and, as the Deputy is aware, steps have already been taken to implement recommendations made in the report of the Inter Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears. In addition, following the conclusion of the Dáil debate on the report, I intend to formally put forward proposals to the Government on next steps, including an implementation mechanism to be driven by my Department.

Tax Code

Robert Dowds

Question:

133 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will look into restricting the dual income standard rate increase in terms of income tax to couples who are on low to moderate incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37577/11]

It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

134 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the potential return to the Exchequer of levying DIRT on An Post certificates and bonds. [37585/11]

Savings Certificates and Savings Bonds are tax free to Irish residents. Interest is applied on these products at maturity, which is after 5.5 years for Savings Certificates and after 3 years for Savings Bonds, or on encashment, which could be at any stage during the life of the product. Bringing the products within the Deposit Interest Retention Tax regime would lead to an estimated yield of €45m, based on the estimated interest payout on Savings Certificates and Bonds in 2011. The yield has been estimated on the basis of applying the higher DIRT rate of 30% — which applies to interest paid less frequently than annually, as is the case with Savings Certificates and Savings Bonds — rather than the standard DIRT rate of 27%, which applies to interest paid annually or more frequently than annually.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

135 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if any proposed tax increases in budget 2012 will come into effect on the night of budget 2012 or at a later date to be determined. [37588/11]

As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

National Asset Management Agency

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

136 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide this Deputy with a list of residential properties under the control of the National Asset Management Agency in the Dublin City Council region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37594/11]

Properties under the control of receivers or other insolvency professionals appointed by NAMA are listed on its website athttp://www.nama.ie/PropertiesEnforced.php. The site includes many residential properties located in Dublin City and County and, in each instance, information about the firm dealing with the insolvency and its contact details are provided. Potential purchasers are encouraged to contact the receivers to obtain additional information on specific properties and to submit expressions of their interest to purchase. In the case of property under the control of debtors, NAMA is precluded, under Section 202 of the NAMA Act 2009, from disclosing confidential information. Confidential information is specifically defined to include information relating to debtors. Furthermore, Section 99 of the Act provides that, on acquisition of a loan, NAMA takes over the obligations of the participating institution under the loan, one of which is the contractual duty of confidentiality which the debtor enjoyed while still a customer of the participating institution. Information about individual debtors or guarantors is also protected against disclosure by the Data Protection Acts with which NAMA must comply as a data controller.

However, in cases where NAMA receives enquiries from potential purchasers about specific properties under the control of debtors, it can facilitate contact with debtors or receivers with a view to enabling sales transactions to take place.

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

137 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009 to include a provision that a social dividend must be provided; his views that NAMA should make residential properties available to local authorities and undeveloped greenfield sites available to local communities for sport and allotments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37598/11]

I do not propose to change the NAMA legislation at this stage. I propose to consider the advice of a senior international banker who recently reported to me on NAMA before deciding whether to initiate any changes to the agency's operations. As regards making properties available for social or community purposes, the NAMA Board has committed to giving first option to public bodies on the purchase of property which may be suitable for their purposes.

For instance, NAMA concluded the sale of 58 social and affordable units to the Clúid Housing Association in July. In addition, it has recently encouraged and approved the sale by a debtor of residential units in Co. Cork to a housing association. I am informed that a number of NAMA debtors are in advanced negotiation with a number of housing associations for sales at various locations throughout the country.

The agency has provided a list of over 1,000 other properties to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, and I am informed that it is now in discussions with his officials and the Irish Council for Social Housing with a view to identifying properties which may be suitable for social housing.

In addition, I am also aware that NAMA has approved the release of lands in Baldoyle to Fingal County Council for extra parkland; has accommodated the sale of a 13 acre site in Hansfield, West Dublin to the Department of Education; and has agreed to co-fund with Fingal County Council a link road through lands that NAMA has as security for loans in West Dublin, which will link the N2\N3.

NAMA also advises me that it is willing to facilitate dialogue between debtors and third parties interested in acquiring property for social or public purposes.

Tax Code

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

138 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if it can be arranged that the National Council for the Blind can take off VAT at source in relation to products that blind persons purchase from the council so that the persons do not have to apply for a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37617/11]

Irish VAT law must comply with the terms of the EU VAT Directive and there are strict procedures to be followed as regards the application of VAT. The VAT Directive provides that VAT must be applied to all economic activity, including the supply of medical appliances to blind persons. Separate from this, Ireland operates a VAT refund mechanism for disabled persons who have purchased medical appliances to which VAT has been applied. While persons purchasing medical goods from the National Council for the Blind would likely be entitled to a VAT refund on those goods, under EU VAT law it is not possible for the NCB to exempt those products in advance.

Medical Cards

Michael McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons over the age of 65 and 70 years, respectively, whose income places them above the eligibility criteria for automatic entitlement to a medical card at age 70 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37706/11]

Issues relating to the eligibility criteria for medical cards for those over 65 years and over 70 years is a matter for the Minister for Health.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

140 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be forgone by amending the universal social charge to raise the threshold for the 2% rate to €6,000 and €8,000 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37708/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of increasing the existing exemption threshold of €4,004 per annum for the Universal Social Charge (USC) to €6,000 per annum and € 8,000 per annum would be in the region of €10 million and €25 million respectively. These figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. They are therefore provisional and may be revised.

Michael McGrath

Question:

141 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be raised from reducing the threshold for capital acquisitions tax for Category A to €250,000 and Category B to €25,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37709/11]

The current group tax free threshold amounts for Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) are: €332,084 for group A (gifts/inheritances from parents to children), €33,208 for group B (gifts/inheritances from grandparents to grandchildren, from uncles/aunts to nieces/nephews, and between siblings) and €16,604 for group C (all other gifts/inheritances). I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the additional yield from reducing the thresholds for CAT to €250,000 for Group A and €25,000 for Group B, as compared with the current thresholds, is estimated to be of the order of €33 million.

All estimates are based on transactions recorded in 2010. Revenue do not receive information on gifts and inheritances which currently do not have to be declared so it is not possible to estimate the potential yield if such benefits were brought into the tax net. The estimates are also determined by reference to the current CAT rate of 25% on amounts above the group tax-free thresholds.

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be raised from increasing the capital gains tax rates to 30% and 35%, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37710/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year gain from increasing the rate of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) from 25% to 30% is €83 million, and from 25% to 35% is €167 million. However, these estimates assume no behavioural changes on the part of taxpayers, and large increases in rates such as are contemplated in the question may have a significant behavioural impact. CGT is very dependent on individual behaviour and a change in rate may not produce a corresponding increase or decrease in tax yield. In current economic conditions any estimate of additional yield must be treated with caution. The realisation of any estimated yield from an increase in taxation on assets relating to property is subject to movements in the value of such assets, as are currently occurring in the economy.

Departmental Expenditure

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37718/11]

As it has not been possible to compile a comprehensive reply for the Deputy in the time allotted, I will write to him shortly with the relevant information. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners and Office of Public Works will provide information directly to the Deputy. The National Treasury Management Agency is the State Claims Agency. As such it is responsible for managing personal injury, property damage and clinical claims brought against certain State authorities, including Government Ministers and health enterprises. The State Claims Agency, which manages claims on behalf of all Government Departments, has provided information to Ministers, who will reply to the question in relation to their own Department.

Information in relation to claims against the Minister for Finance was not available at the time of writing the reply and I will provide this information directly to the Deputy once it is available.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

144 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the needs of Ireland’s retail industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37731/11]

With regard to comments made by the retail industry as regards VAT, I have announced that I will be proposing to Government an increase in the standard rate of VAT of 2 percentage points from 21% to 23%. This change is being introduced as part of a general package of revenue-raising measures to contribute to Exchequer funding and is in line with commitments made in the Programme for Government and in the EU/IMF Programme. With regard to the industry's concerns that the VAT increase will encourage cross-border shopping, studies have shown that the key driver of cross border shopping is the currency exchange rate and not VAT rates. In this respect, the current exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro should provide less incentive for people to shop outside the State, despite the proposed increase in the Irish VAT rate.

Furthermore, it must be pointed out that for the majority of the last two decades there was a differential of 3.5 percentage points between the VAT rates of Ireland and the UK, with Ireland at 21% and the UK at 17.5%. With the proposed increase in the Irish standard VAT rate to 23% as compared to the current 20% UK rate, the differential is narrower than has generally been the case.

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

145 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the amount per percentage point a tax on wealth, assets and savings, excluding principal private residences valued over €1m, and on savings over €50,000 would earn for the Exchequer annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37742/11]

I am informed by the Central Statistics Office that the CSO institutional accounts do not give an indication of the number of households or persons classified by the categories of wealth they hold. These statistics are based on aggregate information collected from financial institutions and do not contain the demographic details which would enable such a breakdown of the statistics. I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no statistical basis for compiling estimates in relation to a potential wealth tax. It is therefore not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy on the potential return from a wealth tax. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) are, in effect, taxes on wealth, in that they are levied on an individual or company on the disposal of an asset (CGT) or the acquisition of an asset through gift or inheritance (CAT). The rate of both these taxes is currently 25%. However, they are not annual taxes on an individual's wealth, which is presumably what the Deputy has in mind.

While I do not propose at this time to introduce a wealth tax, all taxes and potential taxation measures are constantly reviewed in the context of the Budget and Finance Bill.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

146 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service, and State agencies, and a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37744/11]

Responsibility for central policy in relation to procurement matters rests with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. However, the information sought by the Deputy is not held centrally and accordingly I have copied the Deputy's question to all Government departments and asked that they respond directly to the Deputy. In the case of my own Department, the relevant information cannot be collated in the time available for written reply. A response will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

FÁS Training Programmes

Simon Harris

Question:

147 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the role external employment coaches will play in the new employment and training organisation that is scheduled to replace FÁS; if the role of employment coaches will be enhanced in view of the current levels of unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37080/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

148 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the new organisation scheduled to replace FÁS will retain FÁS registered trainers list of external employment coaches or if a new list will be created; if coaches on the current FÁS list will have to re-apply to be included on the new list; the format the new list will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37081/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

With regard to the FÁS Contracted Training Tender List, a pre-procurement notice was placed on the e-Tenders Government website in August 2011. The objective of this request to tender was to establish a Panel of Qualified Trainers, from which companies will be selected to participate in mini competitions for contracts awarded for delivery of various training programmes on behalf of FÁS. FÁS envisages that this new replacement Panel will be fully operational in January 2012. The detail of SOLAS involvement in the area of Contracted Training has not yet been fully decided.

Schools Building Projects

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

149 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the new post-primary school in Maynooth, County Kildare; if there are to be two separate schools covering the junior and senior cycle or one building; the stage of planning for the school; if it would be more cost beneficial to build the schools on same campus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36928/11]

A replacement school building for the existing VEC post-primary school in Maynooth has been approved. Earlier this year I also published details of new procedures and criteria for the establishment of new second level schools and of the process for determining the patronage of such new schools. I also announced details of 20 new second level schools that would need to be established between 2012 and 2017 to meet our increasing demographics. As the Deputy will be aware, Maynooth is one of the areas where a new 1,000 pupil second level school is to be established. Applications for patronage of any of the new second level schools, including the new school in Maynooth, would need to relate to the provision of a full curriculum through from first year to sixth year. This is one of the key requirements of the process. In the case of the Maynooth school the main medium of instruction will be English. The closing date for receipt of applications for patronage of the new second level schools is Friday, 13th January 2012.

Both new school buildings will be located on one campus and responsibility for the delivery of the buildings has been devolved to County Kildare Vocational Education Committee. I understand the VEC is in the process of appointing a Design Team.

Sports Clubs

Finian McGrath

Question:

150 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding access problems in respect of a club (details supplied). [36980/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, it is my intention to lease the former community school site, including the sports complex, to the City of Dublin VEC. My Department has requested the VEC to ensure that the club referred to by the Deputy continues to have use of the sports complex following execution of the lease. I understand that the club and the VEC have held a number of meetings to discuss the content of a user agreement and I am advised that good progress has been made to date. The VEC has confirmed to my Department that it is facilitating the club's continued use of the sports complex.

Psychological Service

Dan Neville

Question:

151 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an assessment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36988/11]

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

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

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

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

Third Level Expenditure

Michael McCarthy

Question:

152 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 48, 49 and 52 of 19 October and Nos. 66, 67, 68 and 70 of 20 October 2011, when the Higher Education Authority will issue a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37040/11]

As the Deputy has been previously advised, all of the information sought is not readily available in the University sector. The HEA is in contact with the seven universities with a view to obtaining as much information as is possible. This data is being compiled and I would hope to be in a position to forward it to you within the coming week.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 17 November 2011, the annual public service pension and the annual Higher Education and Training Awards Council income the former Secretary General is in receipt of. [37053/11]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I understand that the formerSecretary General employed by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) is in receipt of an annual gross public service pension of €100,892 and an annual gross salary from HETAC for his full-time post in that organisation of €101,787.

Public Private Partnerships

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

154 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements put in place by him to facilitate community use or use by non-commercial voluntary organisations of schools built under public private partnership arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37066/11]

One of the stated objectives for the Department's involvement in the Government's Pilot PPP Programme is foster usage of school buildings outside of school hours. The PPP programme endeavours to achieve this in two ways.

Firstly, and most importantly, by providing each of the schools with a bank of 350 hours usage outside of the normal school day (8.00 to 18.00 Monday to Friday). This is done in recognition of schools existing commitments to community usage, including adult education and school sport activities, extra curricular activities undertaken by the schools and additional school usage including Parents nights and home school liaison. There is scope within these parameters to facilitate local arrangements with voluntary organisation.

Secondly, the Project Agreement provides that the PPP Operator may use the facilities in the schools to generate income, such income to be shared with the schools. However, this can only be done outside normal school hours and outside the 350 bank hours and in agreement with the schools' authorities.

FÁS Training Courses

Jack Wall

Question:

155 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding safe pass courses (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37115/11]

The FÁS Safe Pass Programme is a one day Safe Pass Health and Safety Awareness Training Programme which construction workers are required to attend once every four years. The programme has been designed to include group participation and discussion with the use of fact based case studies and exercises to facilitate learning. I understand from FÁS that, originally, the minimum number of candidates attending the course was set at ten and the maximum number at twenty and that after an independent review of the programme, the minimum number was reduced to eight.

To facilitate workers gaining access to training, FÁS has offered to search its course notification data base and to advise workers of the nearest available course and to put them directly in contact with an approved Safe Pass Tutor so that they can be scheduled for training.

FÁS also advises that any workers experiencing difficulty in gaining access to a Safe Pass Course should contact the FÁS Safe Pass Operations Unit at 01 6070500 for assistance.

Higher Education Grants

Pearse Doherty

Question:

156 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons refused higher education maintenance grants in 2010 and 2011 on the basis of failing to meet the residency criteria as outlined in section 4.1.1 of the higher education grants scheme, broken down by citizenship for Irish, EU and non-EU nationals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37118/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that many categories of applicant apply for funding under the student grant scheme. Information is not specifically collated on students who are ineligible on the basis of the residency criteria.

Infrastructure Investment

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

157 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills, with regard to the process leading to the publication of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016 plan by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, if he was instructed to make recommendations up to the total value for education projects identified in the plan; if he recommended additional school development projects which were not included in the plan, and to what value; the criteria and analysis that were used to arrive at the total figure of 40 new schools to be built under the plan, as opposed to a higher or lower number; the criteria and analysis that were used to identify the schools selected to be built or extended under the plan and the estimated cost of these works for each school; and if a ranking or priority list was produced of the schools to be built. [37126/11]

At its meeting on 11 April 2011, the Government approved the preparation of a new capital investment framework for the period from 2012, to be prepared by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. That Department wrote to my Secretary General on 28 April 2011 requesting a report on my Department's proposed overall capital investment programme for the period 2012-2016, to facilitate the preparation of the revised framework.

My Department made a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform setting out a range of scenarios for expenditure depending on the levels of funding available. The number of pupil places required was determined by the Forward Planning Section whose primary function is to anticipate and plan for school accommodation provision thereby ensuring that there are sufficient pupil places available in first and second level schools throughout the State. The Department is using a Geographical Information System (GIS) for this purpose. The GIS utilises data from the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the General Registers Office, the Department of Social Protection and Local Authorities, in addition to the Department's own databases. The most recent forecasts indicate that the overall level of primary enrolments will increase from the current enrolment of circa 509,652 pupils to a total of circa 554,700 pupils by 2018 and that at post-primary level enrolment numbers will rise from approximately 317,432 pupils in 2010/11 to approximately 343,900 pupils by 2018 depending on which migration and fertility rates prevail within that period.

I announced on 27 June last that 20 new primary schools and 20 new post primary schools are to be established in the next six years and indicated the general areas in which these schools are to be established. As well as these new schools, places will be provided either through large scale extensions or through the delivery of extra classrooms under the additional accommodation scheme. These developments are based on the detailed projections in individual areas and the capacity of the existing school stock for expansion.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published its report on Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016 on 10 November 2011. The investment includes an allocation for education capital of just over €2.2bn over the five years of the plan. I intend to publish details of the school building programme for 2012 next month and early next year I intend to publish a five year plan outlining the projects to be constructed over that period.

Special Educational Needs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37153/11]

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

The NCSE 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 recently published statistical information on SNA allocations on a county by county and school by school basis on its websitewww.ncse.ie. I have arranged for Deputy’s question regarding an individual application for SNA support to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Infrastructure Investment

Patrick Deering

Question:

159 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the capital budget of his Department for the next five years over and above the 40 new schools announced in June 2011. [37195/11]

When I announced last June the requirement for 20 new primary schools and 20 new post-primary schools I indicated that the estimated cost of the establishment of these new schools would be in the region of €380m. The total capital allocation for my Department under the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework as announced on 10 November 2011 amounts to just over €2.2bn. While the estimated cost is €380m, not all of this will be payable in the five years 2012 to 2016 as it is expected that some of the new schools will be delivered by Public Private Partnerships.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick Deering

Question:

160 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the support and options for finance available to an unemployed architect who has secured a place in a teacher training college from January 2012 but who has been told there will be no college grant available to them in view of the fact that the course is not a higher level than their previous qualification, and who has also been informed that they will lose their social welfare because they will not be available to work. [37196/11]

In general, students who previously pursued a course of study are not eligible for grant assistance for a second period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether or not a grant was paid previously. Subject to the conditions of the student grant scheme, grants are available where students are progressing to a course at a higher level. The objective of this policy is to assist as many students as possible in obtaining one qualification at each level of study.

Eligibility for, and the payment structure for any social welfare payment is determined and administered by the Department of Social Protection and is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection.

The student to which the Deputy refers may, however, be eligible for tax relief for his/her tuition fees. Details in relation to this are available onwww.revenue.ie.

In addition, the student may be able to avail of support under the Student Assistance Fund which helps students in exceptional financial circumstances. Information on the Fund is available through the access offices of third-level institutions. The access offices themselves also provide support and advice to students to enable them to continue with their studies.

Schools Building Projects

Pat Breen

Question:

161 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application from a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37257/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department seeking funding for ancillary accommodation in the school.

This application is currently being assessed and my Department expects to convey a decision on this application to the school authority shortly.

Pension Provisions

Pearse Doherty

Question:

162 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason he does not require companies to state or prove that they are complying with the CWPS or NECI pension schemes; if he is in a position to state that the contractors awarded education contracts in 2011 in County Donegal are complying with the pension scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37308/11]

All contractors employed on major school building projects are required to ensure that rates of pay and conditions of employment, including pension contributions, comply with all applicable law and that those rates and conditions are at least as favourable as those for the relevant category of worker in any employment agreements registered under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004.

The Department has the following procedures in place in relation to compliance with Construction Workers Pension Scheme (CWPS):

The technical guidance documents for design teams require that the tender documents for contractors must state that compliance with membership requirements of the Construction Workers Pension Scheme or equivalent are conditions precedent to the award of the contract.

In the case of major school building projects, prior to award of contract contractors are required to submit evidence of compliance with membership requirements of CWPS or equivalent in regard to sick pay/ pensions.

In the case of projects devolved to schools, the BOM/ VEC is required to confirm that confirmation of compliance has been received from contractors.

My Department has produced a guidance document called DTP Practice Note 5 — Pay and Conditions of Employment 1st Edition October 2010 available on the Department's website:http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/pbu_dtp_pay_conditions_note_5.pdf. This practice note sets out the duties of the Contractor and the Employer’s Representative (usually the Project Architect) under the relevant contract used for individual school building projects.

In the event that complaints regarding compliance with employment rights legislation arise, the appropriate statutory body for investigating such complaints is the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). Its remit includes both inspection and enforcement (and prosecution) services. NERA's website ishttp://www.employmentrights.ie.

The Deputy may be interested to know that I have asked the relevant officials in my Department to discuss a proposal suggested by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which may lead to a higher level of compliance on all school building projects funded by the state. Discussions on this will continue in the coming period.

School Curriculum

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the Restaurants Association of Ireland is proposing that tourism and hospitality studies will be part of the second level curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37334/11]

Hotel, Catering and Tourism is one of the vocational modules which may be taken by students as part of the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.

Within Transition Year, there are also a number of optional modules including Good Food, the Irish Experience developed by Fáilte Ireland, the Fáilte Ireland Tourism programme, and Food Matters focusing on health food choices, the Irish diet over time, and adapting traditional Irish recipes with a modern added twist. Schools also have the flexibility to develop their own programmes. Home Economics (Social and Scientific) is a subject offered at both Junior and Leaving Certificate level which includes extensive coverage of food studies, consumer studies and resource management. The proposals for locally developed short courses to be provided by schools as part of the proposals for junior cycle reform will present new opportunities should schools wish to offer programmes in this area.

In addition to the above, a range of Post Leaving Certificate courses in Travel and Tourism, and Hotel Catering and Tourism and the leisure industry are also provided.

Hospitality Sector

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding workplace apprenticeships for the restaurant sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37340/11]

Apprenticeship programmes for the hospitality sector come under the remit of Fáilte Ireland for which, my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is the responsible Minister.

Teaching Qualifications

Brendan Smith

Question:

165 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date with the survey undertaken by the Teaching Council on the qualifications of staff teaching mathematics; the number of schools requested to participate in the survey; the number that responded; when he expects to receive a report from the Teaching Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37348/11]

The results of the Maths Teaching Survey conducted by the Teaching Council have been received by my Department.

The results provide a good overview of the current situation in schools. All post primary schools were requested to participate in the survey and there were 422 valid responses. The results of the survey shows that 66.4% of maths teachers are fully qualified to do so, 31.1% have undergone some studies in maths and only 2.5% of teachers teaching maths have no third level qualification/studies in maths. These results are consistent with and underpin the earlier data published on the 12 September last, and they help us to get a clearer picture of what is actually happening in schools and to plan to meet the training needs of teachers. The survey is now complete.

Minister Sherlock announced on September 12 proposals to introduce a course for teachers of Mathematics who may not have a qualification in the subject to upskill to the recognised levels. The competition to identify providers of the course is about to go to the market and an outcome is expected early in the New Year.

The Deputy may wish also to note that the Council is shortly due to publish a consultation document setting out proposed revised degree entry requirements for post-primary post graduate initial teacher education programmes relating to the teaching of 35 curricular subjects. The revised requirements will include the subject of mathematics.

FÁS Training Programmes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

166 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the total value of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund programme for 9,000 workers made redundant in the NACE 41 Construction of Buildings, NACE 43 Specialised Construction Activities and NACE 71 Architectural Services construction sub-sectors between 1 July 2009 and 31 March 2010 that has already been invested in training supports and other interventions developed by FÁS as stated at his Department (details supplied); the number of the 9,000 named applicants on which this was spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37354/11]

Based on the latest information provided by relevant service providers, my Department estimates that in total interventions to the value of some €23m have been provided to date to this cohort of redundant workers. Of this sum, FÁS estimates that training interventions of the order of €5.5m and interventions for redundant apprentices, mainly involving on-the-job training supports, of the order of €15m have been provided; this is still being verified by FÁS. The off-the-job supports for this cohort are still being costed as are a number of relevant supports in the further education and third level education areas.

Information on the cohort encompassed by the EGF applications has been provided to the relevant service providers as appropriate. It is estimated that nationally at least 4,500 interventions have been commenced in the areas of guidance, training and third level education. The Department does not at this time have a disaggregated breakdown of the supports provided per redundant worker. This data will be compiled with the assistance of the new EGF coordination and data control structures being put in place for the reporting of relevant activity and expenditure to the Department.

It is intended that a number of new EGF co-financed interventions will be announced later this month by the Department and details notified to eligible persons.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Dara Calleary

Question:

167 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current student-teacher ratio in primary schools; and if this number will be increased in budget 2011. [37380/11]

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

173 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to safeguard the current pupil-teacher ratio in our schools for 2012-2013. [37472/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 173 together.

At this point I do not propose to give any specific commitment on the allocation of teachers to schools for the 2012/13 school year. The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for allocating mainstream teaching posts to all schools. It currently operates on the basis of a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 28 pupils.

The number of teaching posts that we can afford to fund in schools is a matter that I will have to consider with my colleagues in Cabinet in the context of the forthcoming budget and meeting our obligations under the EU/IMF Programme.

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

Schools Refurbishment

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

168 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 16 November 2011, if the rejection letter of 4 May 2011 could be reconsidered in view of health and, more urgently, safety concerns. [37383/11]

The school in question submitted an application in February 2011 for Emergency Funding for replacement of windows. As the scope of works for this project is outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme it cannot be considered for emergency funding. A refusal letter in respect of this application issued to the school authorities on 4 May 2011.

As outlined in my reply to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question of 16 November, 2011 my Department has no record of having received an application for emergency funding from this school for works related to pressure cracks.

Should an application be received it will be assessed and the school authorities will be notified of the outcome.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

169 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a project (details supplied) will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37384/11]

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning.

The Stage 2a submission (Developed Sketch Design) was recently received in my Department and is currently being reviewed. On completion of that review, officials from my Department will be in contact with the school authority regarding the further progression of the project.

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

170 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated savings to the State from the loss of 2,000 primary school teaching posts. [37421/11]

The estimated savings to the State from the loss of 2,000 Primary School Teaching Posts would be approximately €120 million in a full year.

I do not propose to give any specific commitment on the overall number of teaching posts in the education sector. These are issues that I am considering with my colleagues in Cabinet in the context of the forthcoming budget and meeting our obligations under the EU/IMF Programme.

The Government will endeavour to protect front line education services as best as possible. However, this must be done within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure back into line with what we can afford as a country. The challenge will be to ensure that the resources that are provided to schools are used by them to maximum effect in terms of delivering the best possible outcomes for their pupils.

Higher Education Grants

Pearse Doherty

Question:

171 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total cost of providing financial support to postgraduates in the form of grants and fees. [37422/11]

The estimated full financial year cost of providing funding to postgraduate students under the student grant scheme in the form of maintenance and fee grants is some €76m.

Redundancy Payments

Áine Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills when partial redundancy will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37461/11]

A redundancy application from the person referred to by the Deputy was received by my Department on 8 September 2011. Applications are processed in date order of receipt and every effort is being made to process these applications as quickly as possible. Applications received in June / July 2011 are currently being processed.

Extra resources have been assigned to the Redundancy Unit to ensure that Special Needs Assistants that have been made redundant will have their claims for payment processed as quickly as possible. My Department is also now prioritising the processing of redundancy applications from those SNAs who have not obtained alternative employment in a non-teaching capacity in primary, secondary or community/comprehensive schools in the current school year.

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 167.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

174 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole time equivalents as returned to the Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010, and the figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37480/11]

The number of staff in the Department at the end of 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 is outlined in the following table.

Year

Staff Number (WTE*)

End 2008

1,331

End 2009

1,270

End 2010

1,271

To date 2011

1,260

*Whole time equivalent

There was a small increase in 2010, primarily due to the transfer of certain functions and an associated 31 posts to this Department from then named Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Departmental Reviews

Joe Carey

Question:

175 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the review of small national schools undertaken by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37492/11]

A value for money review on small primary schools is currently under way in my Department. This review is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. Work on the review is well advanced and I expect that the report of the review should be available to me early in 2012. I will then have to consider its outcomes and proposals.

Ministerial Correspondence

Emmet Stagg

Question:

176 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a substantive response will issue regarding correspondence to the Minister of State (details supplied). [37498/11]

A substantive reply to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy has now issued.

School Transport

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

177 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will re-examine and reconsider the introduction of phase 2 of the closed school rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37531/11]

Changes to the School Transport Schemes, including the ‘Closed School Rule (CSR)', were announced in Budget 2011 and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the Scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that from September 2011, the distance criterion of 3.2 kilometres was applied nationally to all pupils travelling under the primary school transport scheme, including those travelling under the CSR.

The second element of the change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date. This second element will restrict school transport eligibility for those pupils entering in September 2012, to pupils who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school.

An analysis by Bus Éireann on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns for schools served with transport under the CSR is advancing. As this second element of the change is not due to be implemented until September 2012 I will carefully examine the likely affects of this change well in advance of the implementation date.

It is essential to stress that the wider context within which these changes are taking place, is a situation of the most serious financial difficulties. Under the four year recovery plan, there is a requirement to deliver savings of €17 million on the school transport budget and these measures, including the ceasing of the closed school rule, are an integral part of this.

Institutes of Technology

Micheál Martin

Question:

178 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update of the full list of capital projects at Cork Institute of Technology; and the capital projects at CIT that are affected by the recent Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2012-2016. [37595/11]

The Government published details of the capital funding available to the Department of Education and Skills for the period 2012-2016. The level of funding available for investment in higher education infrastructure provides for funding of projects where legally binding contractual commitments exists. In this regard 2 projects at Cork Institute of Technology — the repatriation of apprentices and the passive retrofit of the demonstration area of the 1974 building — constitute binding contractual commitments for which funding is available.

Resources are not available to my Department to enable it fund progression of the library project which had been in planning for delivery through the Public Private Partnership process. Officials from my Department will however be in touch with the National Development Finance Agency to discuss and consider next steps in relation to the work that has been completed to date on this project. The Institute will be advised of the outcome in this matter in due course.

Micheál Martin

Question:

179 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a proposal to create a technological university through a partnership between Cork Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology; and if he will support a partnership between these two institutes. [37596/11]

I have asked the Higher Education Authority for its formal advice on the draft criteria for Technological University designation and the on a suitable process for application and assessment against those criteria. Following consideration of this advice it is my intention to publish the designation criteria and the process arrangements so that Institutes of Technology which are considering proposals for merger and designation can do so on an informed basis. I expect to be in a position to do this very shortly. Any proposals for Technological University status will have to be considered in a rigorous fashion against the performance criteria and within the bounds of the agreed process.

Infrastructure Investment

Brendan Smith

Question:

180 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the full list of capital projects included in the three bundles of public private partnership projects in the higher education sector that will not proceed following the recent Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2012-2016. [37597/11]

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the Third Level capital projects that will not proceed is as follows:

1st Bundle 3rd Level Projects

Limerick Institute of Technology — Library Information Resource Centre

University of Limerick — Library Phase 2

Cork Institute of Technology — Library Extension

Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology — Digital Media Teaching Building, Consolidated Workshops and Multi-Purpose Hall. 2nd Bundle of 3rd Level Projects

Institute of Technology, Tallaght — Catering & Tourism Building, Multi-Purpose Centre and Engineering Building

Engineering & Science Building, Architecture Building and Business & Enterprise extension 3rd Bundle of 3rd level Projects

National University of Ireland, Maynooth — Mathematical Sciences & Computer Centre

Carlow Institute of Technology — Teaching & Research Wing, New Administration & Support Centre

Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology — Engineering School

School Closures

Michael McGrath

Question:

181 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has divested the old school building of a school (details supplied) in County Cork back to the Diocese of Cork and Ross; if not, the timeframe for the divesting process to be completed; and his plans regarding the remaining prefabs on the site. [37629/11]

My Department is in contact with the Diocesan Office concerning the future use of the school building and temporary accommodation units, referred to by the Deputy, having regard to school accommodation requirements in the area. We expect to be in a position to finalise our consideration of the matter shortly.

Fee-Paying Schools

Brendan Smith

Question:

182 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of pupils attending fee-paying private schools for the school years 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37699/11]

A distinction is made between those private fee paying schools which are financially aided by the Department (in the form of payment of teacher's salaries) and those that receive no financial assistance from the Department.

The numbers of pupils attending fee paying Department-aided second level schools, for 2009/10 and 2010/11 are as follows:

2009/10 = 26,277

2010/11 = 26,219

It should be noted that data coverage of private, fee-paying first and second level schools that are not financially aided by the Department is not complete, as there is no requirement for such schools to make detailed statistical returns to the Department. Therefore data for fee-paying non-Department aided schools should be read and interpreted with caution, particularly when comparing data for different academic years.

Department figures for the number of children attending private fee paying schools which are not aided by the Department in 2009/10 and 2010/11 are as follows:

Number of Children attending Private Fee Paying Schools not aided by the Department

Private first level

2009/10

4,462

2010/11

5,200

Private second level

2009/10

2,571

2010/11

2,451

*Data for 2011/12 school year are not yet available.

Brendan Smith

Question:

183 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to the State on an annual basis for a student who transfers from a fee-paying private second-level school to a State-funded school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37700/11]

Since the salaries of teachers are paid in both fee-charging schools and schools in the Free Education scheme, the cost is marginal in relation to an individual student transferring from a fee-charging to a State funded school. It represents the difference between the average cost of a teaching post allocated at a ratio of 19: 1 as against the average cost at a ratio of 20:1, which is estimated at €168.42 per pupil per annum.

Grants are not paid by my Department in respect of pupils enrolled in fee-charging schools. A student enrolled in a school in the Free Education scheme would attract per capita grants totalling €661 per annum. The cost therefore in respect of an individual pupil transfer raised by Deputy is estimated at €829.42 per annum.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37716/11]

It is not possible to provide the information requested in the time available. A reply will issue to the Deputy as soon as the information is to hand.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

185 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the Civil Service, public service, and State agencies, and to break down these figures in tabular form by Department, authority and agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38263/11]

The information requested is not readily available within my Department and it would require a very substantial amount of administrative time to identify and extract the full range of details sought. My Department does, however, have some relevant information to hand as compiled recently for other purposes. The information in question relates to the following expenditure by my Department and is outlined on four separate tables as follows: a) Expenditure on Consultants in 2010; b) Overall procurement expenditure in 2010; c) Amounts paid to the Department's top 30 suppliers in 2010; and d) Amounts paid to companies that supplied external professional services in 2010 (excluding consultants or contractors engaged in relation to school building projects).

It should be noted that the individual tables are not mutually exclusive so that they each may include expenditure that is comprehended within the other tables. While expenditure under different categories can vary from year to year the overall expenditure for 2010 is indicative of the levels of expenditure incurred by my Department annually. Should the Deputy have a particular interest regarding any of the items listed in these tables or in relation to any other specific category of expenditure, my officials will endeavour to supply further details as far as possible.

With regard to the agencies under the aegis of my Department the information requested by the Deputy is not held centrally by my Department. As the information requested is substantial it would take an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile. If the Deputy has an interest in a particular agency then officials in my Department will request the agency concerned to provide the relevant information insofar as it is possible. For the Deputy's information a list of agencies under the aegis of my Department is attached.

YEAR 2010

Consultants, Experts, Advisors

Purpose

Total Cost

Centre for Cross Border Studies

2010 annual review of Post grad courses in Northern Ireland

2,420

Q Design & Print

Design a new student grant application form, guidance notes & schedules for the 2010/11 academic year

3,361

Gartner

Subscription for provision of ICT research, advice, guidance & related services to the IT Unit

37,026

Ina McGrath

Ergonomic workstation assessment & report

300

Indecon

Mid term review of the Lifelong Learning Programme & prepare a report for Department of Education & Skills for onward transmission to the European Commission

59,284

Deloitte

Declaration of Assurance 2009 Audit — to review procedures & workflows in the National Agencies for the Lifelong Learning Programme & to provide a basis for the yearly Declaration of Assurance from DOES to the EU Commission

16,299

Mazars

Review procedures & workflows in the National Agencies for the Lifelong Learning Programme & to provide a basis for the yearly Declaration of Assurance from the Department of Education & Skills to the EU Commission

4,795

Public Authority Pension Services

Expertise relating to the model public service pension scheme to assist in the establishment of a pension scheme for the NCTE

5,324

2010 Total:

€128,809

Overall procurement spend in 2010 in the Department of Education and Skills (excl. utilities)

Subhead

2010

A.3.1 ENTERTAINMENT

2,935.10

A.3.2 TRAINING

425,821.81

A.3.3 MISCELLANEOUS

753,372.57

A.4.1 POSTAL SERVICES

1,910,939.30

A.5.1.1 IT CAPITAL

1,344,709.80

A.5.1.2 IT CURRENT

1,783,434.64

A.5 2-4 OFFICE MACHINERY

680,140.19

A.5.5 CONTRACTORS AND EXTERNAL SERVICE PROVIDERS

151,445.03

A.6 MAINTENANCE

1,039,802.54

A.6 FURNITURE & FITTINGS

49,668.49

A.7 CONSULTANCY

39,326.00

A.8 REGIONAL OFFICE — NON PAY

267,391.30

A.9 VFM POLICY REVIEW

737,365.50

A.10 NEPS NON PAY

2,146,953.36

B.2 TRANSPORT SERVICES

161,906,633.09

B.5 RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

82,449.69

B.11 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH STRATEGY FOR TEACHERS

1,741,854.96

B.12 REDRESS TOTAL

4,190,286.86

B.16 EDUCATION IRELAND NON PAY

103,928.35

B.17 MISCELLANEOUS

588,718.40

B.19.2 COMM ON CHILD ABUSE N/PAY

1,826,977.03

C.2.2 MODEL SCHOOLS N/PAY

20,826.33

C.5.10 MISCELLANEOUS

1,393,387.43

D.8.9 SCHOOL ACCOMODATION NEEDS

11,598.01

F.1.1.1 NS (A) CAPITAL MAJOR

33,843,246.83

F.1.1 PRIMARY BUILDING-DEVELOPING UNITS

9,531,327.47

F.2.1 PP CAPITAL SECONDARY

89,601.85

F.2.2 PP CAPITAL VOCATIONAL

903,441.95

F.2.3 PP CAPITAL — C&C

21,647,678.97

F.5 PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

28,431,448.52

Total Spend on Procurement

277,646,711.37

Procurement spend for each of the top 30 suppliers (excluding Rent, Rates or Utility Providers) to the Dept. of Education and Skills in 2010

SUPPLIER NAME

CLASSIFICATION

AMOUNT_PAID

BUS ÉIREANN

TRANSPORT

€161,698,259.55

SAMMON CONTRACTING LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€6,757,672.02

SKILLNETS LTD.

PUBLIC SECTOR COMPANIES

€5,500,000.00

TBG LEARNING LTD.

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€4,927,036.80

GLENMAN CORPORATION LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€4,920,886.34

CLG DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€2,979,772.97

DIGIWEB LIMITED

COMPUTER

€2,758,098.17

GRAHAM PROJECTS LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€2,387,691.19

SERCO SERVICES IRELAND

PROGRAMME PROVIDER

€1,957,884.91

JONIX EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

CONTRACTOR

€1,634,365.29

WESTERN BUILDING SYSTEMS LTD.

CONTRACTOR

€1,620,236.75

AN POST

VENDOR

€1,617,916.20

GLASGIVEN McAVOY JV LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€1,500,780.95

QUALITY SPACE LIMITED

CONSULTANT

€1,435,423.00

ROANKABIN

CONTRACTOR

€1,161,014.48

EIRCOM LIMITED

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

€1,084,245.18

MASON HAYES AND CURRAN SOLICITORS

LEGAL

€998,098.78

IRISH CENTRE FOR BUSINESS EXCELLENCE

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€982,901.49

FIRST STEP MICROFINANCE

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€968,000.00

BT IRELAND

COMPUTER

€886,729.02

DIGITAL SKILLS ACADEMY LTD.

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€865,204.50

IRISH BROADBAND INTERNET SERVICES LTD.

VENDOR

€657,855.72

SUSTAINABLE IRELAND CO-OP SOCIETY LTD.

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€646,240.00

MANNIX AND CO. SOLICITORS

LITIGATION

€625,051.64

EDUCATION RESEARCH CENTRE

RESEARCH

€599,400.00

CAREER DECISIONS LTD.

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€570,739.40

GRANGE CONSTRUCTION AND ROOFING LIMITED

CONTRACTOR

€562,390.00

JJ RHATIGAN AND COMPANY

CONTRACTOR

€538,193.51

INNOPHARMA LABS

TRAINING/EDUCATION

€502,600.00

SMART TELECOM

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

€478,861.71

Companies supplying an External Professional Service in 2010 *

Invoiced Amount

AFRESH COACHING FOR RESULTS LIMITED

€1,452.00

ANV TECHNOLOGY

€1,693.70

BARRON MOOHAN ODONNELL

€205,719.36

BEARING POINT

€223,057.94

BEAUCHAMPS SOLICITORS

€1,672.30

CAPITA IB SOLUTIONS (IRELAND) LTD.

€117,561.35

CENTRE FOR CROSS BORDER STUDIES

€2,000.00

CLANCYS EXPERT

€399.00

CORPORATE HEALTH IRELAND

€707.85

CPL SOLUTIONS LTD.

€258,346.60

DELOITTE & TOUCHE

€16,299.00

DURROW COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED

€24,200.00

EIRIM

€30,096.00

ELLIOTT OPTICIANS

€171.29

EMPLOYMENT HEALTH ADVISORS LTD.

€205.70

ESRI IRELAND

€51,122.50

GARTNER

€37,026.00

INDECON

€59,283.96

INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

€187.55

ISITE

€18,268.29

KEY ENGINEERING SERVICES

€20,266.24

MAZARS

€6,673.23

McDOWELL PURCELL PARTNERSHIP SOLICITORS

€42,508.43

MEDMARK LTD.

€955,300.00

MOKUM CHANGE MANAGEMENT LTD.

€2,209.50

NATIONAL CENTRE FOR GUIDANCE IN EDUCATION

€4,824.95

NCC SERVICES LTD.

€980.98

ORACLE EMEA LTD.

€1,743.34

ORIGINA

€5,142.50

PENHOUSE DESIGN

€19,535.45

PETER FITZPATRICK & CO

€29,569.38

PINK

€2,188.36

PRIVATEFILE LIMITED

€72.60

PUBLIC AUTHORITY PENSION SERVICES LIMITED

€5,324.00

Q DESIGN & PRINT

€3,361.38

RAYMOND BURKE CONSULTING

€5,063.85

RED DOG DESIGN

€3,097.60

RITS

€18,448.72

SLICK FISH DESIGN

€771.98

SOGETI IRELAND LTD.

€169,687.96

SYSTEM DYNAMICS LTD.

€291,661.59

VERSION 1

€143,124.12

VOLUNTARY HEALTH INS BOARD

€786,554.96

WARD SOLUTIONS

€8,048.16

*Excluding consultants or contractors engaged in relation to school building projects.

Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills — November 2011

An Chomhairle um Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG)

Commission into Child Abuse (CICA)

Education Finance Board (EFB)

Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS)

Further Education & Training Awards Council (FETAC)

Grangegorman Development Agency (GGDA)

Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)

Higher Education Authority (HEA)

Léargas — The Exchange Bureau

National Centre for Technology in Ireland (NCTE)

National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE)

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI)

Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB)

Residential Institutions Review Committee (RIRC)

Skillnets Ltd

State Examinations Commission (SEC)

The Teaching Council

Local Authority Charges

Robert Troy

Question:

186 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform how the Valuation Office calculates the value to be attached to a building for the purpose of setting the rates to be charged. [37058/11]

I should point out that the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Valuation Act 2001 and that I, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, have no function in this regard.

The basis of rateable valuation for all building property is net annual value and is set out in Part 11 of the Valuation Act 2001. Net annual value is the rental for which one year with another, the building might, in its actual state, be reasonably expected to let from year to year, on the assumption that the probable average annual cost of repairs, insurance and other expenses (if any) that would be necessary to maintain the property in that state, and all rates and other taxes and charges (if any) payable by or under any enactment in respect of the property, are borne by the tenant of the property.

Various methodologies may be used in estimating the net annual value (NAV/rental value) of a building. The most common methodology used is the comparative method which, as the name implies, employs direct comparison with other similar buildings in the same rating area.

In the absence of direct comparative evidence of value two other methods may be used. The first of these is what is known as the receipts and expenditure method of valuation, where trading accounts are analysed to arrive at the surplus available for rent and rates. Another method of valuation used from time to time, depending on the particular circumstances and type of building involved, is the contractor's method, which relies on the notional cost of constructing a building and the rental of that building will be related to the annual equivalent of the cost of construction, allowing for depreciation as appropriate, and the value of the site, to arrive at the net annual value.

There is also provision in the Act to allow for the valuation of buildings occupied by a public utility undertaking, e.g. an electricity or telecommunication company, to be valued on a global basis, whereby the valuation of all buildings are not valued on an individual basis but are taken as a whole on a nationwide basis and the valuation thus produced is known as a global valuation.

Heritage Sites

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which access to major heritage sites continues to be available to the public; if his attention has been drawn to reduced access to such sites for any particular reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37142/11]

The Heritage Service of the Office of Public Works is responsible for the conservation, care and management of approximately seven-hundred and eighty (780) national monuments that are in State ownership or guardianship. Of these, some fifty (50) monuments and twenty (20) historic properties are presented to the public by way of a dedicated guide service. Many of the sites are open year round, while others open on a seasonal basis. These can be visited by prior arrangement or by contacting an OPW appointed key holder. Information on opening times and the open season at staffed monuments and heritage properties is available onwww.heritageireland.com. Many other national monuments that do not have a guide service are freely accessible to the public. Some monuments, however, are situated on privately owned land and do not have public right of access unless with the permission of the landowner. A number of monuments may be closed for a period for the purposes of conservation works.

It is the policy of the Office of Public Works to ensure that as many of the monuments under its care are accessible to the public. A recent initiative to offer free access on one day each month to all monuments at which a charge normally applies has raised public awareness of these sites and has resulted in a significant increase in visitor numbers. With the exception of Cormac's Chapel on the Rock of Cashel and Boyle Abbey where conservation works are in progress and Dublin Castle where improvements to visitor facilities are taking place, it is understood that there have been no further incidents of reduced access to heritage sites.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out the ten heritage sites, structures or buildings that attracted the most visitors in each of the past five years and to date in 2011; the benefit in terms of tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37143/11]

I regret that the relevant information could not be collated in the time available for written reply. A response will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Lottery

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

189 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if EU-IMF sanction has been obtained allowing the State to retain the proceeds from the sale of the licence for the National Lottery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37173/11]

My Department is currently examining how best to maximise the return on the next National Lottery licence for the benefit of the community. As an interim arrangement, the Government has decided to extend the current licence held by An Post National Lottery Company by eighteen months to mid-2013 in order to allow time for the holding of a competition for the award of a new licence.

It is the Government's intention to use some of the proceeds from any up-front payment to contribute towards the costs of the National Children's Hospital. The Troika, in the context of regular technical discussions as part of the Programme of Financial Support, have been informed by my officials of the Government's intent on this matter.

I intend to present a range of options for the licence to the Government in the New Year. A decision will then be made about the precise terms and basis on which a competition for the licence will proceed.

Flood Relief

Seán Kenny

Question:

190 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has received an application for funding from Dublin City Council flood defence unit with the aim of hiring an engineering consultant to model the River Santry to prevent recurring flooding in the vicinity of Raheny village, Dublin 5. [37256/11]

The Office of Public Works received an application from Dublin City Council in September, 2011 under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for funding to carry out measures to address flooding at Harmonstown Road and Raheny Village from the Santry River. These measures include the modelling of the Santry River.

Following an assessment of the application, funding of €135,000 for these measures, has been approved.

Local Authority Funding

Mattie McGrath

Question:

191 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the programme of revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties that is currently being carried out throughout the State; the number of counties that have been reviewed, and which counties; when this review will be completed; if he will reorganise the Valuation Office to ensure that those carrying out property revaluations are separate from those who set the initial valuations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37278/11]

The work of the Valuation Office is underpinned by The Valuation Act 2001 which provides for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Act and the making of valuations for local authority rating is his sole prerogative. Under the 2001 Act, which came into force on 2nd May, 2002, the basis of valuation for all commercial property is net annual value, i.e. the rental value of the property.

A national programme is being rolled out progressively for the revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties in the country. It aims to provide up-to-date valuations for properties that are subject to local authority rates. It is an important programme, especially given the significant changes in values and rents following the economic downturn of recent years. The revaluation process is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists and in individual ratepayers' rates liabilities. The purpose of a revaluation is to redistribute commercial rates liabilities among ratepayers based on up-to-date values. Following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between rental value and commercial rates liability. Some ratepayers will gain while others will lose from the process of redistribution but, overall, there will be a fairer distribution of the rates burden.

The revaluation programme, which has been completed in three County Council areas in Dublin, began in November 2005 in the South Dublin County Council area and has since been rolled out to the areas covered by Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils. The revaluation of South Dublin was completed in December 2007, Fingal was completed in 2009 and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown was completed in 2010. The revaluation of Dublin City Council area was launched on the 5th May 2011 and the Commissioner is currently concluding consultations with local authorities in Waterford and expects to sign valuation orders extending the revaluation programmes to Co. Waterford soon. He has also initiated consultations with the two local authorities in Limerick about extending the revaluation programme to these areas.

While the extension of the project to Dublin City earlier this year represents an important advance, after an enforced delay caused by conditions in the property market, the Commissioner has expressed his concern that the present rate of progress may not allow the Office to complete the job nationally within the ten years from 2008 to which the Office previously committed.

To address the problem the Valuation Office is taking steps to improve productivity and is looking at new ways and methodologies to accelerate the revaluation.

The Commissioner has indicated that, following detailed examination of various possibilities over the past few months, it may be feasible to introduce a Self Assessment approach, accompanied by appropriate controls, and that it might be possible also to outsource some of the work. As well as helping to speed up the national programme, an element of outsourcing, if it proves practicable, would allow comparison of the Valuation Office productivity and costs with those in the private sector. The enabling provisions to allow for these changes are included in proposals for amending legislation made to me by the Commissioner. Preparatory work is continuing and, subject to the enactment of the legislation and availability of the necessary resources, the intention would be to initiate pilot revaluations in two local authority areas. The Valuation Office is also looking at ways of speeding up the capture of data on properties throughout the country in advance of revaluation in particular areas.

My Departmental officials are reviewing the various proposals for modernising and streamlining the valuation process, including the appeal provisions, in the interests of both ratepayers and the local authorities and the speeding up of the revaluation programme. A significant amount of work has already been undertaken and preliminary Heads of Bill have been drafted in conjunction with the Valuation Office and the Attorney General which I hope to bring to Government for approval shortly.

Property Valuations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

192 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Valuation Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37336/11]

The Valuation Act 2001 provides for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property and the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Act and the making of valuations for rating is his sole prerogative. Under the 2001 Act, the basis of valuation for all commercial property is net annual value, i.e. the rental value of the property. To ensure equity and uniformity, valuation revisions which are set for modified or new properties are determined by references to the values of comparable properties on the same valuation list.

Under section 28 (4) of the Act, a Revision Officer of the Commissioner may carry out a revision of valuation in relation to a particular property only if a material change of circumstances has occurred such as a new building, a change in value due to structural alterations of an existing building, total or partial demolition of a building or a sub-division or amalgamation of relevant property. The definition does not allow for a revision of valuation where the change in value is due to economic factors, differential movements in property values or other external factors such as roads or other infrastructural development in the vicinity of a property.

Revaluation is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists and in individual ratepayers' rates liabilities. The purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency to the local authority rating system. Ideally, occupiers of properties of similar value in the same rating area should have a similar rates liability and, following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between rental value and commercial rates liability and this relationship will thereafter be maintained by means of recurring revaluations provided for in the Act.

It is important to acknowledge that commercial rates, as a local tax, and the rating system generally, are deeply embedded in the local government system. Rates income is a very important contribution to the cost of services provided by local authorities such as roads, public lighting, development control, parks and open spaces. All rates collected within a local authority area are spent exclusively in delivering the public services which are required locally to create the environment in which businesses can prosper. Locally elected members adopt the annual rate on valuation they consider necessary in order to provide the required services. Rates are a stable source of financing for local government which is not affected unduly by short-term changes in economic circumstances. A system having regard to economic factors on an ongoing basis would create uncertainty by providing for continuous change to the valuation base. Such a system would not provide a stable basis for funding local government and would require significant additional resources to operate.

Local authorities have been asked by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to exercise restraint in setting the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) in this and previous years and they have responded positively in this regard. The Government recognises that these are difficult economic times for many businesses and will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration and is determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency, and contain and reduce costs in the local government sector.

My Department is reviewing various provisions of the Valuation Act 2001, including the appeal procedures, with a view to modernising and streamlining the valuation process in the interests of both the ratepayers and the local authorities. In conjunction with the Valuation Office and the Attorney General, preliminary Heads of Bill have been drafted which I hope to bring to Government shortly for approval.

Election Management System

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

193 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the person who determines the amount paid to those who work at polling and count centres at election time; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many of these workers are on holiday leave from public sector jobs to do this paid work. [37589/11]

Prior to an election, it is a statutory requirement that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform prepare a scale of maximum charges for returning officers setting out the approved levels of fees and permissible expenditure in connection with election work. This includes the fees payable to staff working in polling centres and on the election count. Once this order is signed, Dáil and Local Returning Officers' can draw down advances for their expenses and, post election, they submit detailed accounts.

Local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law. It is the responsibility of Returning Officers, who undertake the disbursement of public funds at elections/referendums, to achieve value for money for the services and expenses incurred and to comply with Public Procurement Guidelines as appropriate.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, whose primary role in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system, assists returning officers, by issuing guidance to them in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance emphasises that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers are advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed.

Disposal of State Assets

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

194 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide Members of Dáil Éireann with the draft programme of asset disposals before it is sent to the staff of the European Commission, IMF and ECB for discussion by end of December as required under the terms of the bailout agreement and outlined in the November memo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37599/11]

Apart from the Government's decision to dispose of a minority stake in the ESB, which my colleague Minister Rabbitte announced to this House in September, no further decisions have been taken on the disposal of State Assets. Nevertheless, as the Deputy points out, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the EU/ECB/IMF Funding Programme commits the Government to considering options for an ambitious programme of asset disposals, based on the Programme for Government and the report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities. In this context, a draft programme of asset disposals must be prepared and submitted to the EU/IMF by end 2011 for discussion with the Troika in 2012 in advance of final decisions being taken by the Government on how to proceed.

Once the Government's plans are finalised, the House will be fully briefed on the matter.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the revenue that would be raised by introducing a public service pension deduction at a rate of 15% and 20% respectively for pension payments in excess of €80,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37704/11]

I have statutory responsibility for civil service pensions and for pensions paid from the Central Fund. Statutory responsibility for other public service pension schemes is a matter in the first instance for the respective Ministers in other Departments, as appropriate. In relation to the groups for which I have responsibility the revenues that would be raised by the introduction of a Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) rate of (i) 15% on pension payments in excess of €80,000 is estimated to be approximately €140,000 pa and (ii) a PSPR rate of 20% on pension payments in excess of €80,000 is estimated to realise approximately €370,000 pa.

Departmental Properties

Ann Phelan

Question:

196 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider offering the State lands bought for the decentralisation of the Health and Safety Authority adjacent to a college (details suppled) in County Kilkenny for long-term use by the college until a final decision is made on the future use of this site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37737/11]

The decentralisation project to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, is currently awaiting review and decision from Government. In this regard the letting of the land is not a consideration at present.

Public Sector Remuneration

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

197 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount a €100,000-per-year cap on pay for all public and civil servants and other groups including politicians and semi-State/State agency executives would earn for the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37743/11]

I refer to the reply by my colleague the Minister for Finance to Questions Nos. 39, 43 and 45, taken together on 5 July 2011.

Public Sector Staff

Robert Dowds

Question:

198 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he has been able to recruit outside experts into the public service; and how he intends to make progress on this front. [37030/11]

Decisions in respect of recruitment campaigns are taken in the context of the business needs of the relevant organisation or public service body.

As the Deputy is aware, since March 2009, a moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the civil service, local authorities, non-commercial state bodies, the Garda Síochána and the Permanent Defence Forces, has been in place. However, the moratorium allows for certain limited exceptions to its provisions where it has been established that the skills sought are not available within the public service. Taking account of the merits a business case submitted to my Department, sanction may be given for the recruitment of outside experts.

Civil Service

Robert Dowds

Question:

199 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has been able to overcome the obstacles which have prevented professional civil servants from applying for administrative posts in the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37031/11]

Arrangements in respect of the running of internal promotion competitions in the Civil Service are agreed between the official and staff sides in the forum of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for the Civil Service. In general, there is currently no central agreement to allow Technical and Professional Grades to compete for General Service positions, and vice versa, but access to recruitment competitions is open to all suitably qualified candidates.

I am in favour of providing the widest possible candidate pool for posts in the Civil Service and it is my intention to seek progress in this area under the provisions of the Croke Park Agreement.

Public Sector Remuneration

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

200 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual public service pension a former Revenue Commissioner (details supplied) is in receipt of. [37041/11]

The retired Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners is in receipt of an annual pension of €114,893.40 which takes account of a reduction of €11,978.10 in respect of Public Service Pension Reduction.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

201 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual public service pension a former Secretary General to the Department of Finance (details supplied) is in receipt of. [37042/11]

The retired Secretary General is currently in receipt of an annual pension of €128,790.04 which takes account of a reduction of €13,880.46 in respect of Public Service Pension Reduction.

Public Service Reform

Michael McGrath

Question:

202 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the savings that will be realised in 2012 from the public service reform plan recently announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37191/11]

On 17 November last, I announced several key developments relating to Public Service Reform and published the Government's Public Service Reform Plan which sets the basis for the comprehensive and strategic reform of the Public Service in the coming years. The challenging fiscal position which we face means that far-reaching reform of the Public Service is essential in order to ensure it is customer-focused, leaner, more efficient, better integrated and delivering maximum value for money.

The most significant element of the savings that will be realised from the Reform Plan is the preservation of critical front line services in tandem with a very significant reduction in Public Service numbers over the coming years. By 2015, we expect to achieve a planned reduction of 37,500 staff, or 12%, since 2008. In total, the Government are expecting the gross Public Service pay bill to reduce by some €2.5 billion to €14.5 billion (i.e. a 15% drop since 2008). Detailed Employment Control Frameworks for the coming years, including for 2012, will be announced next week. A key aspect of the reform programme is that it will enable us to continue to provide quality services notwithstanding the substantial reduction in Public Service numbers and resources.

While the reduction in Public Service numbers will reduce costs significantly, it will also necessitate major reform in all sectors. In this context, the effective implementation of the Croke Park Agreement, and in particular the redeployment arrangements, will be crucial to the success of the reform initiative. This will allow increasingly limited staff resources to be directed to the areas of most strategic importance. At the same time, the envisaged re-engineering of structures, systems and services will mean that the Public Service will be able to continue to deliver quality services with reduced numbers.

Other examples of elements of the Reform Plan where cost savings will be achieved include the increased use of shared services in all sectors which will mean that fewer staff and financial resources are required to perform common business functions as duplication is eliminated. The innovative use of ICTs across the Public Service will improve service delivery and reduce costs, particularly when combined with business process improvement. The analysis and improvement of business processes will be important to reduce the human and other resources required by organisations to undertake certain functions and provide services. Procurement reform is also a key target for cost savings. Framework arrangements that are already in place have maximised volume discounts and provided for reductions in administrative and transaction costs for suppliers and for State bodies. Procurement savings amounted to €30 million in 2009, €40 million in 2010 with €50 million targeted for 2011. Ongoing savings are projected for future years including 2012. I also announced details of a new and expanded programme of State Agency rationalisation which will deliver enhanced service efficiencies, together with ensuring a more focused and democratically accountable Public Service. Rationalisation and effective management of the State's property portfolio, done in a strategic and integrated manner, will also allow the Public Service to maximise value-for-money from its footprint.

These are just some of the main areas where savings will be achieved and they will help ensure that Departments stay within the 2012 allocations, which I will announce next Monday, 5 December.

Public Sector Staff

Pearse Doherty

Question:

203 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the net saving for the Exchequer due to the removal of 22,500 posts from the public sector. [37426/11]

Based on an average annual cost per post of approximately €54,000 per year (net of pension related deduction) the estimated annual saving from removing 22,500 posts from the Public Service is €1.22 billion in a full year.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

204 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the one-person-one-salary principle is now being strictly adhered to within the public sector; and if this rule is applied to city and county councillors sitting on State agency boards. [37443/11]

My Department has instructed Departments and Offices that, with effect from 1 November 2011, the payment of fees should cease in respect of (i) public servants serving on State boards and (ii) public sector employees who sit on their own organisation's board or the boards of other public sector organisations. Implementation of these arrangements are a matter for the state bodies concerned to ensure adherence to.

Public representatives who may also be in the employment of state bodies are comprehended by these arrangements on the payment of fees in respect of state board membership.

Public Sector Remuneration

Gerry Adams

Question:

205 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons currently in receipt of public pensions in excess of €100,000; and the cost to the State of these pensions annually. [37452/11]

I have statutory responsibility for civil service pensions and for pensions paid from the Central Fund. Statutory responsibility for other public service pension schemes is a matter in the first instance for the respective Ministers in other Departments, as appropriate. In relation to the groups for which I have responsibility there are approximately 110 individuals currently in receipt of a pension in excess of €100,000. The gross annual cost of these pensions is approximately €13m pa. This estimate does not allow for the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), tax or other statutory deductions.

Gerry Adams

Question:

206 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons currently in receipt of public pensions in excess of €80,000; and the cost to the State of these pensions annually. [37453/11]

I have statutory responsibility for civil service pensions and for pensions paid from the Central Fund. Statutory responsibility for other public service pension schemes is a matter in the first instance for the respective Ministers in other Departments, as appropriate. In relation to the groups for which I have responsibility there are approximately 150 individuals currently in receipt of a pension in excess of €80,000. The gross annual cost of these pensions is approximately €16.4m pa. This estimate does not allow for the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), tax or other statutory deductions.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

207 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole-time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and the figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37487/11]

As legislation was enacted in July 2011 to establish my Department, I am not in a position to provide relevant details for the period prior to then. At 31 October 2011, 279.64 Whole Time Equivalents (WTEs) were employed in my Department.

Appointments to State Boards

Seán Kenny

Question:

208 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the names of each member of the board of the National Lottery; when each member's term is up for renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37510/11]

The table below sets out the names of the current directors of An Post National Lottery Company as well as the dates on which their terms of office are due to expire. There are also two vacancies on the Board which will be filled in the near future.

Name of Director

Date on which term of office expires

Mr. Donal Connell (Chairman)

28th February 2012

Mr. Dermot Griffin

5th November 2012

Mr. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh

5th November 2012

Ms Caroline Murphy

5th November 2013

Mr. Oliver Wilkinson

5th November 2013

Public Sector Remuneration

Patrick Nulty

Question:

209 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of public service employees that have incomes within the following parameters: 0 — €20,000, €20,001 — €40,000, €40,001 — €60,000, €60,001 — €80,000, €80,001 — €100,000, and more than €100,000. [37624/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant sector-based information available on employees taxed under the PAYE system is derived from income tax returns filed for the income tax year 2009 and represents about 96 per cent of all returns expected at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes. The figures include PAYE taxpayers who are required to return an income tax return Form 11 where non-PAYE income is greater than €3,174, and do not segregate earnings from public sources and those from other sources. Therefore, the earnings figures shown may include income from non-public-sector sources.

The data also include various forms of income from public sources to groups that would not normally be regarded as being employed within the public service, e.g. those receiving fees, those on State Boards etc. On the basis of the available tax-based data it is not possible to identify and exclude income from public sources to groups that would not normally be regarded as employed within the public service or to distinguish the earnings of employees associated with atypical work patterns. Accordingly, it is likely that the number of lower paid public servants is overstated. On this basis the total numbers of public sector employees, and the breakdown of those numbers by income ranges, is set out as follows:

Income Tax Year 2009 Range of Gross income

Public Sector Employees Total Number

€0 — €20,000

105,745

€20,001 — €40,000

143,919

€40,001 — €60,000

102,676

€60,001 — €80,000

40,941

€80,001 — €100,000

18,117

Over €100,000

17,447

Totals

428,845

The earnings data in the table relate to 2009 and do not reflect the pay reduction introduced for public servants from January 2010 (ranging from 5% to 20%) or the subsequent measures introduced by the current Government further reducing the pay of Office Holders and introducing a general pay ceiling of €200,000 for future appointments to higher positions across the public service, a general pay ceiling of €250,000 for future appointments to CEO posts within Commercial State Companies and a voluntary waiver system of up to 15% for current post holders who have salaries in excess of the relevant pay ceiling.

Public Procurement

John McGuinness

Question:

210 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the value and volume of contracts awarded to Irish companies by Departments and agencies compared to the value of contracts awarded to companies outside the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37630/11]

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

Works:

Contract Notice

€4,845,000

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

Supplies and Services:

Contract Notice

€125,000

Threshold applies to Government Departments and Offices

Contract Notice

€193,000

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

Utilities:

Works Contracts / Prior Indicative Notice

€4,845,000

For entities in Utilities sectors covered by GPA

Supplies and Services

€387,000

For entities in Utilities sectors covered by GPA

Information on contract placement is available currently for the years 2008-2010 relates to above-EU threshold contracts only and is contained in the tabular statement below. Data in respect of 2011 will not be available until the third quarter 2012 as this data is collated a year in arrears. The Deputy should be aware that the figures contained in the table relates to the number of contracts placed which were above the EU Threshold for the year in question and must not be interpreted as indicative statistics for the overall procurement spend. It must also be borne in mind that these statistics relate only to above threshold procurements, where contract award notices were published, and where the nationality of the winning tenderer was disclosed.

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

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

Above threshold Contracts Awarded to Irish and Non-Domestic Suppliers 2008-2010

2010

2009

2008

No. of Contracts

Value€000

No. of Contracts

Value€000

No. of Contracts

Value€000

Irish Suppliers

690

3,001,218

777

2,537,622

1016

4,217,564

Non-Domestic Suppliers

102

285,183

170

347,137

296

568,338

Total

792

3,286,401

947

2,884,759

1312

4,785,902

National Monuments

John McGuinness

Question:

211 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 227 of 15 November 2011, if he will confirm whether the Office of Public Works paid a local person to act as a keyholder to allow public access to the graveyard and monuments in question; if this arrangement is still in place and, if not, if he will explain how the public can access the site to view the monuments; if he will confirm the date the site was last inspected by the OPW with regard to the maintenance of the monuments; if he will confirm whether the site was inspected by the National Monuments Service prior to its response to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government about the planning application on the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37635/11]

The site at St. Mary's Church, Thomastown, consists of the ruins of a thirteenth century church and a nineteenth century former Church of Ireland church, currently used as a private dwelling. The nineteenth century church is located within the boundary of the thirteenth century church. Both churches are situated within a walled graveyard. The thirteenth century church is a national monument in State ownership, and is under the care of the Office of Public Works. The nineteenth century church building and graveyard are in private ownership. There is no public access to either the church or the graveyard. OPW has access to the thirteenth century church for the purpose of carrying out maintenance and repair work.

A caretaker is paid by OPW whose primary duty is to report damage or interference to the national monument at St Mary's, Thomastown. The role of the caretaker did not include the provision of public access. At present, there is no access for visitors except by arrangement with the owner. The site was last inspected by OPW on 26 May 2011. Routine maintenance was carried out on 26 and 30 May 2011. The site was inspected by OPW prior to response given to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in relation to the planning application to convert the nineteenth century church into a private dwelling.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37723/11]

In response to the Deputy's question, there have been no in or out of court settlements made since my Department was established in 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

213 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service and State agencies, and a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38269/11]

The functions of my Department were previously encompassed under the ambit of the Minister for Finance and information in respect of the full year 2010 will be provided directly to the Deputy under cover of that Department's reply in due course.

In relation to procurement generally, the Centre for Management and Organisation Development (CMOD) in my Department (formerly the responsibility of the Department of Finance) has put in place an array of procurement frameworks for a range of high-value telecommunications services and products for use by all of the non-commercial public service. Additionally, CMOD has put in place a number of central systems, infrastructures and drawdown facilities. All of these arrangements have resulted in significantly lower costs for public bodies (ranging from 20% to 70% of prevailing prices) and considerably reduced the administrative burdens that would otherwise arise with individual procurement efforts.

Enterprise Support Services

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

214 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to any structural or financial supports available for new companies operating in the transport safety market (details supplied). [37049/11]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

216 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if structural or financial supports are available for new technology companies operating in the automobile safety market. [37048/11]

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

My Department provides funding to the enterprise development agencies under its aegis, including Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

Enterprise Ireland is always available to support new innovative business propositions that have the potential to generate employment and grow sales on international markets. Enterprise Ireland has a structured series of supports to assist the new entrepreneur to:

Validate the business proposition. The agency gives advice to promoters to help them to formulate an outline plan for a business that has the potential to develop to a significant scale.

Get to investment-ready. The agency provides feasibility grants and mentor supports to assist new businesses to get to the initial funding round.

Raise the initial investment required. The agency makes equity investments into new businesses by co-investing with the promoters and the private sector in the initial funding round.

Full details of the supports available are on the Enterprise Ireland website at:www.enterprise-ireland.com/en

I understand that the project referred to by the Deputy is located in South Cork. In this region the South Cork Enterprise Board is available 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. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing micro-enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of priming, expansion/development and feasibility/innovation grants. Whilst not all businesses will be eligible for financial assistance, the CEBs also deliver non-financial supports such as one-to-one mentoring and a range of business advice and training programmes to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow, which may be available as appropriate to the needs of the promoter's business.

Specifically in relation to the project referred to by the Deputy, I am informed that the South Cork Enterprise Board met with the promoter in 2010 to discuss the project invention. The Board did offer mentoring assistance with the view that the promoters might develop the concept into a full application for CEB support. However, this offer was not taken up and the promoters have not been in contact with the Board since. I would therefore suggest that the promoters maintain contact with their local CEB as appropriate to explore the options available to assist their business as it develops. The contact details for the South Cork Enterprise Board which is located at Unit 6a, South Ring Business Park, Kinsale Road, Cork are as follows: Phone No: 021-497 5281; Fax No: 021-497 5287; E-mail: enterprise@sceb.ie; Website:www.sceb.ie.

Legislative Programme

Simon Harris

Question:

215 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he intends to implement the draft statutory instrument which he published for consultation in June 2011 requiring Internet service providers to act reasonably to preclude customers from copyright theft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36986/11]

The public consultation process referred to attracted more than 50 submissions from interested parties on this subject. Several of these submissions contained legal arguments in regard to the issue as well as comments in respect of the draft statutory instrument which was published as part of the consultation process. These comments were forwarded by my Department to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration.

I consider that there is further work to be done on the issue between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General and I want to give this matter the fullest consideration. It is an issue on which there is interaction between rights holders, the internet service providers (ISPS) and the end users, of whom there are millions. We must ensure that we get the balance right and that the legislation is correct in this area.

Question No. 216 answered with Question No. 214.

EU Directives

Willie O'Dea

Question:

217 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the dates on which meetings have been held by him or his Department regarding the implementation of the agency workers directive; the persons present at each meeting, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37051/11]

The information that the Deputy has requested in terms of the meetings that have been convened specifically in relation to the implementation of the Temporary Agency Work Directive since I assumed office are listed in the table below. The list does not include various informal working meetings that would have taken place within my Department on the issue.

Meetings on the TAW

Date

Attendees

IDA

9 March 2011

Officials from the Department and a representative from IDA

American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM)

15 March, 2011

Representatives from AMCHAM and officials from the Department

D/Health and the HSE

21 March, 2011

Officials from D/Health, the HSE and a representative of IBEC with officials from the Department

NRF

5 April 2011

Representatives from the NRF and officials from the Department

D/PER and D/Health

27 May 2011

Officials from D/PER and D/Health and officials from Department

NRF

21 June 2011

Minister Perry, representatives from the NRF and officials from the Department

IBEC

29 June 2011

Representatives from IBEC and officials from the Department

NRF

30 August 2011

Minister Bruton, representatives from the NRF and officials from the Department

ICTU and IBEC

31 August, 2011

Minister Bruton, representatives from IBEC and ICTU and officials from the Department

Dept of Public Expenditure, HSE and Nursing Unions

2 September, 2011

D/PER, HSE, representatives from Nursing Unions and officials from the Department

ICTU

7 September, 2011

Representatives from Congress and officials from the Department

Dept of Public Expenditure, HSE and Dept of Health

28 September, 2011

Officials from D/PER, the HSE and D/Health and officials from the Department

IBEC

24 October, 2011

Representatives from IBEC and officials from the Department

ICTU

26 October, 2011

Representatives from ICTU and officials from the Department

Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland

27 October, 2011

Officials from the Department for Employment and Learning, NI and officials from the Department

ICTU

28 October 2011

Representatives from Congress and officials from the Department

Dept of Public Expenditure and HSE

15 November, 2011

Officials from D/PER, D/Health, the HSE and officials from the Department

IBEC

16 November, 2011

Representatives from IBEC and officials from the Department

Registry of Friendly Societies

Joan Collins

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that societies registered by the Registrar of Friendly Societies are required by law to file an annual return with the Registry of Friendly Societies no later than 31 March each year and that non-filing of annual returns constitutes an offence under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts; the reason the Registry of Friendly Societies allows industrial and provident societies which consistently offend by failing to submit annual returns for periods of up to five years and more to remain registered; his views on the failure of the Registry of Friendly Societies to enforce the rules of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts over the past five years, particularly rule 16(e) dealing with annual returns; his further views on whether it is acceptable that societies which consistently fail to submit annual returns for periods of five years and more can remain registered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37120/11]

I am aware of the issues raised by the Deputy. As mentioned in previous replies on this matter, and following targeted enforcement campaigns in relation to friendly societies and trade unions, the Registry of Friendly Societies intends to instigate a similar programme in respect of Industrial and Provident societies.

The reference by the Deputy to Rule 16(e) relates to the model rules for co-operative societies set down by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society. The role of the Registry of Friendly Societies is to register the rules of societies. Enforcement of an individual society's rules is a matter for that society, not for the Registrar.

Section 14 of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 provides for the filing of annual returns, while Section 9 of the same Act provides for the cancellation of societies in certain circumstances, including wilful violation of the provisions of the Act. While Ministerial approval is required in certain circumstances for the cancellation of societies, the power of initiation of such cancellation rests with the Registrar of Friendly Societies.

Cancellation of the registration of a society is a serious matter, and the legislation provides that any appeal must be made to the High Court (which can involve significant cost). In this regard, in the context of consultations on reform of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, I indicated earlier this year that I propose to bring forward legislation aimed at addressing particular issues which have been identified in the co-operative sector, including the issue of restoration of cancelled societies to the register. This draft legislation is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, and I hope to publish a Bill in 2012.

Employment Rights

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the general terms and conditions of employees who have ten years and five years’ employment, respectively, in a specific company; if notice is required; if employment contracts can be set aside to be renegotiated without due consideration to the length of service to an individual company that is currently being contracted to the Health Service Executive. [37264/11]

While individual contracts fall within the area of private law, in general a contract of employment may not be set aside without the agreement of the parties involved. In most circumstances, parties to a contract of employment irrespective of the length of employment, are required to negotiate and agree changes to that contract before it can be binding on both parties. (Exceptions can arise, however, in the cases of employees covered by Registered Employment Agreements which have been negotiated and agreed between employer and employee representative bodies. Once agreed, the terms and conditions are binding on those that are party to such agreements. However, there is nothing in the information provided to suggest that the issue of concern to the Deputy falls within the scope of a Registered Employment Agreement).

In the case of agency workers the contract of employment is between the agency and the worker, other than for the purpose of the Unfair Dismissals Act. The Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973-2001 prescribes minimum terms of notice as set out on the schedule included with this reply.

An employee who has not received the minimum statutory notice is entitled to make a complaint to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Davitt House, 65A Adelaide Road, Dublin 2.

The Redundancy Payments Act, 1967-2007 also provides that in order to qualify for statutory redundancy an employee must have been employed in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years. Access to redress under the Unfair Dismissal Act, 1977-2007 requires that the employee be employed for a minimum one year.

Period of Service

Minimum Notice Required

13 weeks but less than 2 years service

one week notice

two years but less than five years

two weeks notice

five years but less than ten years

four weeks notice

ten years but less than fifteen years

six weeks notice

more than fifteen years

eight weeks notice

Proposed Legislation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

220 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is considering legislation to stop the practice of the reselling of tickets for music, sport and other recreational events at exorbitant prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37287/11]

The primary responsibility for preventing the sale of event tickets at prices above their face value rests with the ticket agents and promoters. The terms and conditions governing the sale of such tickets commonly provide that, if the ticket is resold for profit, it is voidable and the holder may be refused entry to the venue. Ticket agents also typically reserve the right to cancel tickets advertised or published in a manner consistent with the intent to resell them for profit. Effective enforcement of these terms and conditions would go a long way towards stopping the resale of event tickets at the exorbitant prices referred to by the Deputy.

Though legislative intervention should not be entirely ruled out if other approaches prove ineffective, such legislation would give rise to a number of issues. A significant proportion of ticket resales appear to be undertaken by private sellers through online auction platforms. It is open to question if criminalising the activities of such individuals would represent an appropriate or proportionate policy response, or would constitute an effective use of the limited resources available for the enforcement of consumer protection provisions. Though this consideration does not apply to the activities of businesses engaged in secondary ticket resale, the online nature of these activities means that a legislative prohibition in one jurisdiction may simply lead such businesses to relocate elsewhere.

Industrial Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

221 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of visits made by the Industrial Development Agency and potential investors it is working with to County Kerry in 2011; the number of IDA-related jobs created in County Kerry in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37328/11]

I am informed by IDA that to date in 2011, there have been two site visits by potential investors to County Kerry. Figures for the number of IDA related jobs created by IDA supported companies in 2011 will be available in early 2012.

Enterprise Support Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of potential investors in County Kerry that Enterprise Ireland is working with in 2011; the number of Enterprise Ireland-related jobs created in County Kerry in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37329/11]

Enterprise Ireland monitors the employment trends in the companies it supports through the Annual Employment Survey, conducted in conjunction with Forfás. The results of this survey are released each January. The 2011 figures will therefore not be available until early 2012.

In 2010, Enterprise Ireland had 133 client companies in the county, employing 3,145 full time and 445 part-time staff. This was a reduction of 267 from the 2009 figure — made up of gains of 164 and losses of 431 to give a net loss of 267. In 2010, Enterprise Ireland paid €3,236,950 to client companies in Kerry. Enterprise Ireland client employment in County Kerry, over each of the past three years is illustrated in the attached tabular statement.

In addition to working with client companies, Enterprise Ireland is working with potential investors in relation to opportunities for business angel investment in association with Cork BIC and the Halo Business Angel Network.

Enterprise Ireland has supported a number of start-up enterprises in the county in the past year with three companies based in the County receiving support under the Competitive Start Fund. In addition, two High Potential Start Up companies have received equity support packages over the past year. Enterprise Ireland also funded the continuation of the current Endeavour Programme in IT Tralee and offered Commercialisation of Research Development (CORD) funding to 4 projects on this programme in 2011.

Enterprise Ireland client employment in County Kerry, over each of the past three years is illustrated in the table below:

County Kerry

2008

2009

2010

No. of Plants

138

136

133

Full Time Jobs

3,531

3,412

3,145

Gains

255

262

164

Losses

-318

-381

-431

Net Change

-63

-119

-267

Contract/Part Time Jobs

337

470

445

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

223 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole-time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010, and the figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37485/11]

The table below identifies the number of staff (whole time equivalents) employed within my Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011.

December 2008

December 2009

December 2010

November 2011

1074.93

993.98

905.74

834.45

Enterprise Support Services

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

224 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a recent proposal to help entrepreneurs in establishing formal links with incubator and accelerator programmes in Silicon Valley (details supplied). [37587/11]

The importance of helping entrepreneurs to establish a base in Silicon Valley is fully appreciated and to this end, Enterprise Ireland has nine incubator spaces in its Mountain View office in Silicon Valley seven of which are currently let. The availability of these incubator spaces is of particular relevance to those Irish companies establishing a sales presence on the West Coast of the US.

Enterprise Ireland is interested in all proposals that can add value to Irish companies on the US West Coast. In this context EI continue to evaluate the services of Plug & Play and direct EI clients to their facilities if they can help the client through accelerating their time to market, commercialisation or acquisition of VC Funding.

Through its office in Mountain View, the agency has an ongoing relationship with the Plug & Play organisation and has, for a number of years, recommended that Irish companies looking to incubate or source funding from Silicon Valley sources meet with them, among others.

Plug & Play's offer is highly sophisticated, and it is the largest incubator player in Silicon Valley. Plug & Play is also a significant investor in current and past tenants and I understand that its proposal is aimed at nations or regions that do not have either a Trade Office or an Embassy Trade Attaché function in Silicon Valley. Enterprise Ireland already provide a significant amount of the commercialisation, mentoring, signposting and VC connections that would otherwise be part of the Plug & Play Proposal.

US venture capital participation can be demanding, and may require a company placing its CEO or CIO into the US for an extended period, something Irish companies can rarely afford or want. Plug & Play has a vested interest in identifying, mentoring, fostering and ultimately investing in Irish Software companies that it would take into an International Programme. Therefore, the Plug & Play proposal may not be appropriate for all Irish companies.

I know that Deputy Murphy has already been in contact with Enterprise Ireland's office in Silicon Valley and they would be happy to engage further with him as appropriate on this matter.

Consumer Protection

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

225 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the publication date of the results of the consultation process undertaken by the national committee on internal window blind safety; the steps that will be taken on its publication to address the threat to child safety in the home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37613/11]

The National Committee on Internal Window Blind Safety was established by the National Standards Authority of Ireland and is comprised of representatives of the manufacturing and installation sectors as well as the National Consumer Agency. The Committee has met to consider comments and suggestions which were received as a result of the public consultation on the proposed new Irish Standard.

Subject to final considerations, it is expected that the new standard will be ready for publication during Q1 2012 at which stage it is intended that public awareness of window blind safety will be raised again.

While standards alone cannot save lives, they provide requirements and information to manufacturers and suppliers on safety requirements of blind cords and chains and provide guidance for parents and householders on the retrofitting of safety devices in their homes. Such actions taken together can contribute to increased safety. The buy-in of manufacturers and suppliers is important and the fact that a number were represented on the National Committee is expected to contribute towards this objective.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37721/11]

In seeking to provide the Deputy with the information requested, the assumption has been made that the question relates to civil proceedings taken by or against the Department or one of its offices.

The Deputy should be aware that a number of Offices within my Department's remit institute proceedings against companies and individuals in the exercise of their statutory functions and these are carried out on my behalf. For instance, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) engages in civil enforcement cases where a person has either a determination of the Employment Appeals Tribunal or a decision from the Rights Commissioner that has not been honoured and, NERA will pursue the debt for the individual to whom it is owed. NERA would have approximately 60-70 of these type of cases annually of which approximately 10-15 would proceed through the Court System. It would not be usual that a confidentially clause would attach in such cases. Similarly, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement initiates judicial proceedings in pursuance of the exercise of its statutory functions.

In the exercise of its quasi-judicial functions, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) hears both parties to an employment dispute e.g. Unfair Dismissal and issues a determination following the hearing. Depending on the legislation involved in the claim, it is possible for either party to the original EAT case to appeal either to the Circuit Court or to the High Court on a point of law. It is also possible for either party to apply to judicially review a decision. In such instances, the cases would normally run their course through the appeals process and be subject to a decision of the relevant Court which may overturn the original EAT decision and involve an award of costs against the EAT.

In terms of in and out of courts settlements made by my Department or its offices in the last 10 years, records indicate that eight such settlements were made in that period. In the time available, it has not been possible to obtain the details of one case settled in 2005. In the case of the other seven cases, all bar one had a confidentiality clause attached. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to release details of the settlement costs in these cases but they were in the nature of legal costs. The settlement in the case that had no confidentiality clause was for an amount of €344,175.

A further area in which there may be some information of interest to the Deputy is in relation to cases against the Department in respect of Health and Safety claims. Under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act, 2000, the management of personal injury and property damage claims against the State, including this Department, and of the underlying risks was delegated to the NTMA. When performing these functions, the NTMA is known as the State Claims Agency.

The Agency has resolved approximately 10,650 claims since its inception; however, claims-specific data for my Department is not, within the time constraints for reply, available. The SCA has been asked to provide this detailed information as soon as possible and, if this is of interest to the Deputy, this information can be passed to him.

The number of court settlements made by the Agencies of my Department is a day-to-day matter for the Agencies concerned for which I have no responsibility. In this connection, I have asked that the relevant information be provided to you directly.

Industrial Development

Brendan Smith

Question:

227 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the status of the Industrial Development Authority border regional office, located in County Cavan, has been downgraded; and if so, the reason this decision has been made in view of the need to intensify efforts to create employment and support the retention of existing employment in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37735/11]

IDA Ireland is an autonomous Agency set up by statute with a mandate to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing and internationally-traded service industries into Ireland, and to support new and existing FDI operations so as to maximise the related industrial employment, output, exports, economy expenditures including wages, and corporation tax contributions.

The management and location of IDA Ireland's staff is a day to day operational matter for the Agency and not one in which I have a function. IDA Ireland's Head Office is located in Dublin and the Agency has a number of regional offices throughout the country as well as a network of marketing offices globally. IDA Ireland decides where it needs its resources in order that it can meet its strategic goals.

I am informed by IDA Ireland that the Agency continues to retain an office in Cavan, with one full time employee concentrating on client facing activities.The North East Region has one Gateway location at Dundalk and two Hub locations at Cavan and Monaghan, and as such will continue to be a key location of focus for the winning of FDI. The North East Region has 34 IDA supported companies, employing approximately 2,781 people. Of these:

— Cavan has 5 IDA supported companies, employing approximately 1,119 people; and

— Monaghan has 6 IDA supported companies employing approximately 418 people.

I have every confidence in the abilities of IDA Ireland's Board and senior management team to manage the resources available to it so as to enable the Agency to continue to win FDI for this country even in the face of the most difficult economic circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

228 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service and State agencies; a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38267/11]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the private contractors, consultants and agencies that provide outsourced services for the Department and its Offices is set out in the table below. The table details the service provider, the nature of the service and the cost of the outsourced services provided to my Department and its Offices in 2010. The provision of such information in respect of the Agencies of my Department is a day-to-day administrative function for which I have no responsibility. In this connection, I have asked that the relevant information be provided to you directly.

Name of External Provider

Nature of Outsourcing Contract

Cost of Contract in 2010

Ailesbury Services

Office Cleaning, Earlsfort Building

€39,773

Momentum Support Solutions for Business

Office Cleaning, Patents Office, Kilkenny

€50,672

Sentry Security

Reception Desk and Security, Patents Office, Kilkenny

€31,873

Eircom Ltd

Relief Telephonist, Kildare Street Building

€61,770

Eircom Ltd

Telephonists Service, Labour Court

€61,001

BT

ICT Helpdesk Services, Department-wide

€321,544

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

229 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the claim for a pension scheme for community employment scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors across the country; if she will explain the rationale behind any decision that has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37004/11]

The Labour Court recommended in July 2008 that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for community employment (CE) scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS. Notwithstanding the positions of the Department in rejecting that liability for these costs falls to be met from public funds, this matter has been the subject of discussions between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department, and the unions representing CE supervisors. In the event that funding was required from FÁS, the implementation of the claim is not considered sustainable in light of the current and ongoing fiscal environment and the requirement to contain and reduce public expenditure. The costs of the introduction of any scheme are likely to be of the order of €3m per annum with retrospective costs of the order of at least €30m.

The Deputy should also note that FÁS is not the employer of CE supervisors and such employees are not public servants. Neither was FÁS a party to the Labour Court dispute on this matter. The responsibilities of the sponsoring organisations and the individuals concerned must also be recognised when considering pension provision arrangements.

Peter Mathews

Question:

230 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has plans (details supplied) to amend the Pensions Act; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37282/11]

The Pensions Act sets out the order in which the assets of a pension scheme must be applied in the event of a scheme wind-up. The statutory order of priority is of no consequence where a scheme winds up with sufficient assets to meet all of its liabilities. In a wind-up situation, all benefits to pensioners except provision for post retirement increases are given the highest priority after wind-up expenses and additional voluntary contributions made by individuals. Any remaining assets are then divided according to the accrued liabilities amongst active and deferred scheme members. However, if a scheme is under-funded, the remaining assets may not be sufficient to meet the liabilities of the active and deferred members. In some cases they may receive little or nothing after the commitments to existing pensioners have been satisfied. In this context a scheme member who is close to retirement age could have their expected benefits significantly reduced. The change being brought forward by Government is designed to provide for a more equitable distribution of scheme assets where an under-funded pension scheme winds-up.

Subject to further detailed drafting considerations, the proposed amendment to the Pensions Act will:

Continue to prioritise existing pensions and ensure that they receive their benefits, but only up to a level of €30,000, or 75% of expected benefits whichever is the lower.

Assets in the scheme would then be distributed among active and deferred members to the same limits.

Pensioners would then get priority in the distribution of the remaining assets before any further assets are distributed to active and deferred scheme members.

All schemes are different and applying these priorities will have different impacts. In the case of most pension schemes, where pensions are integrated with social welfare pensions, the effect of a percentage reduction in pensioner benefits will not have the effect of reducing their total remuneration by that same percentage. For example, in a situation where the State contributory pension is worth €12,000 and a pensioner receives €15,000 from the occupational pension, the effect of a 25% reduction of the occupational pension would be as follows:

Full pension : €12,000 + €15,000 = €27,000

75% pension : €12,000 + €11,250 = €23,250 (86% of full pension)

In this regard, capping pensions at 75% of benefits does not translate into a 25% reduction in pension payable, given the effect of integration of the State pension

The approach that will be adopted will ensure that in the event of a scheme winding up in deficit, the current balance will be tilted so that active and deferred members will receive a greater proportion of their expected benefit that they would otherwise, while ensuring that pensioners are still protected.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

231 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37339/11]

Any proposals of this nature would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Social Insurance

Pearse Doherty

Question:

232 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the return to the Exchequer from increasing PRSI by 0.5%. [37419/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

233 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the return to the Exchequer from increasing PRSI by 1%. [37420/11]

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

Current estimates indicate that an increase of 0.5% in the main employer rate of PRSI from 10.75% to 11.25% would yield an additional €268 million in a full year for the Social Insurance Fund. A 1% increase in the rate of employer PRSI would yield approximately €535 million.

An equivalent 0.5% increase in the rate of PRSI paid by employees from 4% to 4.5% would yield an additional €206 million in a full year. The estimated yield for the Social Insurance fund of a 1% rate increase in employees' PRSI is €413 million.

Redundancy Payments

Robert Dowds

Question:

234 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection the expense to the State in the past three years for which records are available from refunding redundancy payments to multinational companies which have made Irish staff redundant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37545/11]

Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

The total amount paid out in redundancy rebates to employers was €161.8 million in 2008; €247.9 million in 2009; €373.2 million in 2010 and €185.3 million to date in 2011.

My Department does not compile information on redundancy payments paid in respect of enterprises which may have closed down their Irish operations.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

235 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal on an application for lone parent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36925/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. As part of this consideration, the Appeals Officer will decide if an oral hearing is appropriate in this case.

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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

236 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a disability allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36938/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Social Welfare Services who was of the opinion that he was capable of work. He appealed this decision and in that context the appeal was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

In the light of this, it was decided to afford the person concerned an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of his appeal and to furnish any further medical evidence that he wished to submit in support of his appeal. He did this and, at this stage, the Social Welfare Services have been requested to submit relevant documents to this office on his case.

On receipt of their response his appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer for 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 Benefits

Patrick Nulty

Question:

237 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of households in receipt of rent supplement that have been receiving the payment for the following time periods: less than six months; 6-18 months; and over 18 months. [36943/11]

The following tabular statement shows the current number of rent supplement recipients by claim duration. It should be noted that the table relates to unbroken continuous claims and that the duration spent at a previous address is not be taken into account in these statistics. However, an in-depth analysis indicates that there are over 51,400 recipients who have been in receipt of rent supplement for over 18 months.

Tabular Statement

Recipients of Rent Supplement by Claim Duration (18 November 2011)

Duration

Recipients

0 to 6 months

24,101

6 to 18 months

33,228

Over 18 months

38,780

Total

96,109

(1) This represents unbroken continuous claims only. Where recipients change address, the claim at the new address may be recorded as a new claim and the duration spent at the previous address may not be taken into account in these statistics.

(2) Claims with duration of precisely 6 months are recorded under the 6 to 12 months heading, claims with duration of precisely 18 months are recorded under the over 18 months heading.

Social Welfare Fraud

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

238 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will explain the discrepancy between figures supplied by her to the media for welfare fraud, cited at €483 million for the year 2010, and the figures also supplied by her, and published by the Comptroller and Auditor General in September 2011, citing welfare fraud at €25.9 million for the same year, 2010. [36971/11]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of my Department which processes in excess of 2 million claims each year and makes payments to some 1.4 million people every week at a cost of some €21 billion per annum. However, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

The figure of €483m refers to the Department's control savings in 2010 while the figure of €25.9 million refers to fraud or suspected fraud overpayments in 2010.

Control savings are an estimate of the value of the various control activities across the schemes in payment. These savings represent an estimate of the value of prevented expenditure on fraudulent claims over a future period. Control savings are not actual monies recovered by the Department but are a good indication of the increase in social welfare expenditure that would occur without these activities taking place. These savings arise as a result of control activity on claims in payment, which result in claims being reduced or stopped, and from inspections of employers. These activities also have deterrent or knock-on effects, which are not readily quantifiable in monetary terms. Control savings are used as a performance indicator for year-on-year activities.

Actual monies recovered arise where the Department assesses overpayments in individual cases and subsequently recovers those debts. Where, following a review of a claim in payment, it is confirmed that the customer had been receiving a payment to which they were not entitled, or were receiving a payment at a higher rate than they were entitled, a deciding officer makes a revised decision on the entitlement. Deciding officers decide the effective date of a revised decision having regard to the new facts or new evidence and the circumstances of the case. This can result in the assessment of an overpayment.

Fraud overpayment cases arise mainly on foot of false declarations by customers concerning their employment, income or family status. In 2010, total overpayments amounted to €83.4m representing 0.41% of total Departmental expenditure. Overpayments arising from activity suspected as fraudulent amounted to €25.9m in 2010.

The Department is fully committed to recovering 100% of overpayments arising as a result of suspected fraud or error. Effective debt recovery is seen as an integral part of the deterrent to fraudulent claiming. Debt holders should be aware that a debt owing to my Department will remain on their records until fully recovered. This will result in a reduction of all future entitlements up to and including state pension. Following the death of a customer who owes a debt, the Department has a claim on any estate remaining. Persons who have a debt and who are no longer dependent on social welfare are required to repay this debt as quickly as possible. The Department actively pursues the recovery of all overpayments including the initiation of civil proceedings where appropriate.

The Deputy should note that I recently launched a new Fraud Initiative (2011-2013) which is aimed at putting in place a range of actions to combat fraud and abuse of the social welfare system and to ensure there is public confidence and trust in the system. As Minister, I am very conscious of the need to protect public money and I am determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected.

Social Welfare Benefits

Dan Neville

Question:

239 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for back to school clothing and footwear allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36987/11]

The person concerned was refused a back to school clothing footwear allowance on the grounds that the family income was in excess of the limits prescribed for the scheme. This decision was subsequently upheld on review of the claim.

Social Welfare Appeals

Gerald Nash

Question:

240 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection when the oral hearing on an appeal will be held in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36990/11]

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

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Gerald Nash

Question:

241 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on the appeal against a claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36991/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred, in due course, to an Appeals Officer for 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.

Decentralisation Programme

Pearse Doherty

Question:

242 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the total cost to date of the proposed decentralisation of Department of Social Protection staff and functions to Donegal town; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36993/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

243 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff who applied to be included in the decentralisation of Department of Social Protection functions to Donegal town; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36994/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

My Department has not incurred any expenditure which is attributable to the proposed relocation of staff to Donegal town under the Decentralisation Programme as announced in December 2003.

The Central Applications Facility (CAF), which is administered by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), was established to allow staff to register their interest in respect of the various locations associated with the programme.

The initial closing date for registering with the CAF was 7th September 2004. At that time 107 people had selected the Department of Social Protection, Donegal town as their first preference on the CAF.

Budgetary Measures

Joan Collins

Question:

244 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if a child poverty impact assessment was carried out in relation to potential cuts in the forthcoming budget; and if so, if the findings of such an assessment will be made available on the same day as the budget. [37025/11]

As part of the deliberative process for Budget 2012, my Department will analyse, in so far as possible, the distributive and poverty impact, including the impact on children, of possible budget measures prior to the finalisation of Budget 2012.

My Department undertook an analysis of the distributive and poverty impacts on families of the Budget 2011 tax and welfare package, in conjunction with the Department of Finance. After I came into office last March, I arranged for this to be published on the Department's website. It is my intention that a similar analysis of Budget 2012 will be published early in the new year.

Social Welfare Code

Robert Dowds

Question:

245 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the maximum rate of jobseeker’s allowance for persons under 25 years is less than that for persons over 25 years. [37032/11]

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseeker's payment without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to welfare dependency. While many young people with low levels of education and training were able to get work in construction and other areas when the economy was doing well, they are likely to find it much harder to get work over the course of the next few years. The measures referred to encourage young jobseeker's to improve their skills and remain active in the labour market in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed and will help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis.

The €100 rate of jobseeker's allowance was introduced for claimants aged under 20 in April 2009 and this rate was applied to claimants aged up to 21, with a €150 rate applying to claimants aged 22-24, from 31 December, 2009. The extension of the measures reflected the need to encourage more young jobseeker's to improve their skills by either pursuing further study or accessing a labour market programme.

There are a wide range of education and training opportunities available to jobseeker's through my Department and the Department of Education and Skills to support them in strengthening their qualifications and skills base and thereby maximising their chances of meeting the requirements of the modern labour market and gaining employment.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

246 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37038/11]

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on 15th July but his rent was in excess of the maximum rent limit appropriate to his family composition. The person concerned has been requested to provide further information in support of his claim. A decision will be made on his application when the information has been provided.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Kenny

Question:

247 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal to the chief appeals officer against a refusal for carer’s allowance will be decided in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [37055/11]

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.

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.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised.

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 Insurance

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

248 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on concerns among employers, particularly small employers, regarding the suggestion that the first four weeks of a person’s sick leave would have to be paid for by the employer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37065/11]

The question of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay (SSP) is being considered as a means of bringing Ireland's approach to the management of illness related work absences into line with the rest of Europe and other OECD countries. Studies undertaken by the OECD indicate that Ireland is one of the very few countries that does not oblige employers to cover some element of sick absence pay notwithstanding that our employer PRSI contribution rates are also among the lowest in Western economies. SSP is also one of a range of options being examined with a view to addressing the significant deficit in the social insurance fund and meeting the commitments which this country has entered into with the EU/IMF/ECB to achieve substantial reductions in current spending.

The Deputy should note that experience of SSP in countries where it has been introduced indicates that it has a positive role to play in reducing absenteeism rates and the transition of employees from short term sick absence to longer term disability absence. These outcomes are positive for the individuals concerned, their employers and society.

A preliminary analysis based on estimates of absenteeism indicates that if a sick pay scheme with a duration of four weeks were to be introduced, it would add an average of between €1- €2 per employee per week to the costs of employment.

I am, of course, deeply conscious of the pressures faced by many employers, including those in the retail sector, and any statutory sick pay scheme would seek to take account of those concerns to the greatest extent possible.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

249 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37078/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for 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.

Departmental Bodies

Simon Harris

Question:

250 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the timetable envisaged for the replacement of FÁS by the new employment and training organisation announced by the Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37079/11]

The establishment of the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES), under the management of my Department, will be a multi-annual programme of work between now and 2014 requiring the development of the new service, the assignment of functions to the Service and the development of its organisational processes and operational systems.

We have already made significant progress. For example many of the constituent programmes and functions have already transferred to the Department; the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services Programme has transferred from the Department of Community, Equality and the Gaeltacht; the Redundancy and Insolvency Schemes have transferred from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation; the Community Welfare Service (CWS) formally transferred to the Department on the 1st of October; and the Employment Services and Community Employment Programmes of FÁS will transfer on schedule on the 1st of January 2012.

I am determined that progress to transform the combined operations of the organisations outlined above into a new integrated service will be made in the most expeditious manner possible and my officials are already actively engaged in a programme of work towards this end.

As the Deputy will be aware a major transformation programme is now under way following the approval by the Government of a detailed project plan for the development of the NEES in July and the publication of this plan in August. The project plan outlines key tasks, milestones and a detailed schedule of work from now until 2014. This project plan is available on the Department's website atwww.welfare.ie.

It should be noted that policy responsibility for skills training undertaken by FÁS currently resides with the Department of Education and Skills. The future development of the training and skills services of FÁS is a matter for the Minister for Education and Skills.

Social Welfare Benefits

Arthur Spring

Question:

251 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason child benefit cannot be means tested at present; her plans to implement means testing for child benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37085/11]

Child benefit assists parents with the cost of raising children and it contributes towards alleviating child poverty. Expenditure on child benefit for 2011 is estimated at €2.08 billion in respect of some 1.133 million children. The Government is conscious that child benefit, as a universal payment, can be an important source of income for all families, especially during a time of recession and high unemployment. The social protection system also provides assistance to low income families with children through the payment of qualified child increases on primary social welfare payments and through the family income supplement payment. Both of these provide a level of assistance which is directly or indirectly linked with a household's income situation.

I have announced no plans to implement means-testing or income-testing of child benefit at this time. If the Government decided in principle to progress on these lines, there are many policy, legislative and administrative issues that would have to be addressed. These include:

From a policy perspective, detailed assessment would have to be given to a number of key questions such as the appropriate treatment of different types of income, cut-off points for family income and rates of benefit withdrawal;

Furthermore, consideration would also need to be given to the likely consequences of income or means-testing child benefit, as there is the potential for very significant disincentive effects for income earners as it would add to reduce the return from higher earnings;

Means testing of child benefit would address only one of the main child income support payments and a clear policy direction would have to be considered to ensure a consistent approach with other income-related payments; and

From an administrative perspective, a new mechanism for assembling household income would have to be put in place with very considerable administrative consequences. These would include ensuring that systems are in place to ensure that households only claimed benefits to which they were entitled, as the scale of means testing approximately 600,000 families would be significantly greater than anything required by the current social protection system in terms of means tested payments.

This raises complex issues about the purpose and effectiveness of the full range of income supports provided through the social protection system. In this context and in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, I established in June of this year an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare to consider issues around these and a number of other matters. The issue of family and child income supports is currently being examined by the Group which has been tasked with recommending cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes achieved, particularly child poverty outcomes.

In the circumstances, any reforms in this area should comprehensively address the broader range of issues raised before the Government decides on how to proceed for the future.

Jack Wall

Question:

252 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their rent assessed at the stated rate; the mechanism available to the person to appeal the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37105/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. She has been assessed based on the information provided to the Department regarding the earnings of the family unit as a whole. If the person concerned wishes to appeal the decision she may do so to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Redundancy Payments

Jack Wall

Question:

253 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for redundancy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37110/11]

A lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received electronically on 12 October 2011. However, a completed paper claim form, signed by both the employer and the employee, is required in order to validate the claim so that the claim can be processed. This is awaited.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

254 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on illness benefit will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37114/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4 October 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 27 October 2011 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

255 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a carer’s allowance appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37121/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 31 August 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 24 October 2011 and the appeal will be assigned in due course to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

256 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a one parent family allowance will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37161/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 August 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 29 August 2011 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when one parent family allowance or basic payment will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37162/11]

The person concerned has been requested to provide additional information in support of her application for one parent family payment. A decision will be made on her application when she furnishes all documents requested.

Her application for supplementary welfare allowance was refused because she failed to provide information requested. The person concerned has appealed this decision to the social welfare appeals office.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when unemployment benefit or unemployed assistance benefit or jobseeker’s benefit will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for non-payment of arrears arising from a previous claim in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37163/11]

The social insurance record in respect of the person concerned for 2009, which is the governing year for benefit in 2011, is incomplete. It is not possible, therefore, to pay Jobseeker's Benefit until this matter is clarified. A Social Welfare Inspector is investigating the class and number of social insurance contributions paid by her in 2009 while she was employed by a company which has since ceased trading. In the meantime, Jobseeker's Allowance, at a rate equivalent to her possible Benefit entitlement has been awarded from 12 January to 31 January, 2011 and from 2 November 2011.

She received Jobseeker's Benefit from 17 June 2009 to 26 October 2009. No further arrears are due to her for the 2009 year.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jim Daly

Question:

259 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a widow’s pension in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37182/11]

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

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Unemployment Levels

Terence Flanagan

Question:

260 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will respond to a query regarding the number of self-employed persons who are unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37184/11]

According to the latest data available within my Department there are 22,474 customers who are classified as being currently involved in self-employment. These figures are made up of 11,720 customers who are in receipt of Farm Assist and 10,754 who are receiving a Jobseeker's payment and engaged in self-employment.

In addition, there are a further 5,331 customers who are in receipt of either Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance who are not currently engaged in self-employment but, according to the records available, were previously engaged in self-employment.

Question No. 261 withdrawn.

Departmental Equipment

Denis Naughten

Question:

262 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of computer servers that are leased by the Department and each State agency under the aegis of her Department; the amount of capacity on each server; the cost of maintaining these servers and the steps being taken to reduce this cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37187/11]

My Department or the agencies under its aegis do not lease computer servers. While they are not the subject of a lease agreement, there are 30 servers provided to the Department with a total capacity of 10,110 gigabytes under an outsourced managed services agreement. The servers are spread across two sites, a live environment and a disaster recovery environment. The capacity of each server is contained in the table below.

The managed service agreement also provides for a number of other IT managed services including service management, server hosting, network management, system operations, security management, support processes, system monitoring and disaster recovery.

The total annual cost in respect of these managed services is currently €872,114.76, inclusive of VAT. The Department will review the provision of these services when the current contract comes up for renewal next year.

The following is a list of the servers and the capacity of each server:—

Server

Available Disk space GB

Live Application server 1

68

Live Application server 2

68

Live Business connector server

68

Live Reporting server

68

Live DB Server 1

68

Live DB Server 2

1,070

Live Images server 1

68

Live Images server 2

1,469

Live Connection server

136

Live Management server

170

Live Web server 1

68

Live Web server 2

68

Live Web image server 1

68

Live Web image server 2

68

Live allocated Disk space

3,525

Live SAN disk space available

2,582

Live total disk space

6,107

DR refers to disaster recovery.

Server

Available Disk space GB

Connection server

40

DR App server

40

DR Business connector server

40

DR Reporting server

40

DR DB Server 1

1,035

DR DB Server 2

40

DR Image server 1

40

DR Image server 2

1,434

DR DB Sync server

140

DR Management server

367

DR Web server

40

DR Web image server

40

DR Allocated Disk space

3,296

DR SAN disk space available

707

DR total disk space

4,003

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

263 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37194/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29 October 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 11 November 2011 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for 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

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

264 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends to introduce a partial capacity benefit for those who are unable to work full-time due to disability but are able to do some work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37203/11]

The legislative basis which provides for the introduction of the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme is contained in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010, which was enacted by the Oireachtas in December 2010. The Partial Capacity Benefit scheme will be open to people who are in receipt of Invalidity Pension (IP) or who have been in receipt of Illness Benefit (IB) for a minimum of six months. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary and the scheme is designed in particular to respond to the needs of people who currently seek to avail of ‘exemptions' in order to take up employment opportunities. The limitations on hours worked which apply under the existing ‘exemptions' arrangements will not apply to the new scheme.

The introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme will mark a key development of the social welfare system. The scheme recognises that the current structure of the welfare system, which categorises people as ‘fit to work' or ‘unfit to work', does not reflect the reality for many existing welfare customers. It will provide an opportunity for people with disabilities, and assessed to have an employment capacity which is restricted when compared to the norm, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment.

Full details of the scheme will be set out when the scheme is being formally launched before the end of this year.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

265 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37206/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned has been registered. 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 09 November 2011 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration. As part of this consideration, the Appeals Officer will decide if an oral hearing of the case is warranted.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

266 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason domiciliary care allowance was stopped in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37247/11]

Domiciliary care allowance can be paid to qualified child until their 16th birthday. The child in question turned sixteen on 11th September 2011 and as a result the allowance stopped. Notification of the allowance ceasing was issued to the customer on 29th June 2011.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

267 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current or expected status in respect of an application for half-rate carer’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37248/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of half-rate carer's allowance, along with an invalidity pension.

Where a care recipient is under 16 years of age and qualifies for a domiciliary care allowance, they are deemed to satisfy the medical conditions for carer's allowance. However, once the child reaches 16 years old and no longer qualifies for domiciliary care allowance, the carer's allowance application is reviewed to ensure that the person continues to satisfy all the conditions for the receipt of carer's allowance.

In this regard, the person in question has been requested to submit up-to-date medical evidence relating to the care recipient in order that her application may be reviewed. Once the medical evidence has been received and the person's continuing entitlement has been reviewed by a deciding officer, a decision will be made and the person will be notified directly of the outcome.

Live Register

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

268 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is considering any initiatives to incentivise the hiring of unemployed persons on the live register in areas that have exceptionally high unemployment and in sectors and companies with seemingly low employment rates of persons coming off the Irish live register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37286/11]

Issues associated with the creation of employment opportunities are for my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the first instance. However, as part of the overall Government approach to unemployment, the Department of Social Protection operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments.

These include the back to education allowance scheme, employer job (PRSI) incentive scheme, Tús — the new community work placement initiative, JobBridge — the National Internship Scheme, and a network of Facilitators at a local level who work with social welfare recipients to identify appropriate training or development programmes for them. In addition, from July 2, the rate of employers PRSI on jobs paying up to €356 per week has been halved to 4.25%, up to end 2013. These measures support people who are unemployed in acquiring the education and skills and work experience that will assist them in returning to employment while measures such as the PRSI reduction will encourage employers to new employment.

In this context it may be noted that, despite the rise in the number of long-term unemployed, for many unemployed people unemployment is a short-term experience. Significant numbers of people leave the live register for work and for other reasons. For example, 58,813 people left the live register in September 2011 with 22,694 of these leaving to take up employment.

The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the live register. It provides an opportunity to explore and access, under professional guidance, a full range of employment and training services. Development of the NEAP is central to ongoing development in the labour market policy area and will be progressed within the framework of a new National Employment and Entitlements Service which, as provided for in the Programme for Government, is being established by the Department. The new service will integrate employment and benefit payment services, currently delivered by FÁS and the Department, respectively, within the Department and will be based on a case management approach with the objective of providing a more customised and personal service to customers, at regional and local level.

The introduction of further measures with regard to unemployment would be for Government to consider in a Budgetary context.

Work Placement Initiatives

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

269 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application (details supplied) for inclusion in Tús as a community organisation with a work placement; and when a decision will issue to the society. [37305/11]

Tús is a community work placement initiative which will provide up to 5,000 short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year when fully operational. This initiative is being delivered through the network of local development companies nationally and by Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas — referred to as Implementing Bodies.

Expressions of interest and applications from community organisations wishing to offer work placement opportunities are managed at local level with the relevant Implementing Body. I have had enquires made with respect to this matter and I am advised that the community group concerned has made a request for a Tús participant to North East Mayo LEADER Partnership Company. Unfortunately, due the particular skill set requested by the group, the Implementing Body has not been able to identify a person with the requisite skill set. The Implementing Body has informed me that it will maintain contact with the group to support its operations.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Question:

270 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the action she has taken to reduce the processing time for applications for carer’s allowance; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that applicants are being informed that April applications are now being dealt with; if extra staff are needed in this section; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37309/11]

The average time taken to award a claim for carer's allowance to end Sept 2011 was 14 weeks. A total of 15,514 applications were registered to end Oct 2011 and 11,684 were processed in the same period. Some 7,935 applications are awaiting a decision at present. Approximately 51,000 carer's allowance claims are in payment. I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer's allowance claims is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate steps to resolve the situation.

In particular, a major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department, which has had, however, a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. The first tranche of new carer's allowance claims began to be processed under the new system in August 2011. While the new systems and processes will facilitate a significant improvement in overall processing times, it should be noted that the intake of new carer's allowance applications continues to increase and that individual claims may continue to take some time to process. Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on satisfying medical, means and residency conditions. In determining entitlement to the allowance, in certain cases unavoidable time lags are involved in making the necessary investigations and inquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Delays can also arise if those applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim.

The staff and other resources available to the Department are regularly reviewed with regard to the workload. The Department monitors available resources against workload on an ongoing basis with a view to ensuring claims are processed as quickly as possible. The action taken may include providing for flexibility in the application of staff resources in accordance with seasonal or temporary fluctuations in workload and using overtime where appropriate. The position is being kept under continuous review. In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet his or her needs while awaiting a decision on a claim, he or she can apply for a means tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from his or her community welfare officer.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

271 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a back to school allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37321/11]

The Department is currently reviewing the entitlement to back to school allowance in this case and will advise the person concerned of its decision in due course.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

272 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if an oral hearing will be arranged in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37322/11]

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

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. The legislation also provides that an Appeals Officer may decide a case before him/her on the basis of the documentary evidence. This course of action was taken in this case as it was considered that an oral hearing was not warranted.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of his appeal has been finalised.

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.

Job Losses

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

273 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons made redundant in County Kerry in 2010 and 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37325/11]

My Department does not compile information on redundancies on a county by county basis and, therefore, it is not possible to supply the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

274 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding jobseeker’s benefit in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37345/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for 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.

Jack Wall

Question:

275 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent supplement has been re-instated in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37399/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. She was awarded rent supplement on the 17 November 2011.

Social Welfare Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

276 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the savings to the Exchequer from reducing child benefit by €5. [37423/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

277 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the savings to the Exchequer from reducing child benefit by €10. [37424/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 and 277 together.

It is estimated that reductions of €5 and €10 in the monthly rates of child benefit would save approximately €69 million and €138 million, respectively, in a full year.

Live Register

Dara Calleary

Question:

278 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the live register figures for each social welfare exchange in County Donegal. [37439/11]

The attached tabular statement includes a breakdown of people on the Live Register in Donegal at the end of October 2011 by office and scheme. There were 21,110 on the register, consisting of 15,897 on jobseeker's allowance, 3,975 jobseeker's benefit and 1,238 signing on for PRSI credits only.

Live Register Figures in Social Welfare Offices in Donegal end of October 2011.

Office

Jobseeker’s Assistance

Jobseeker’s Benefit

Credits Only

Total

Ballybofey Branch Office

2,142

421

78

2,641

Ballyshannon Branch Office

1,120

293

97

1,510

Buncrana Local Office

3,715

685

238

4,638

Donegal Branch Office

810

404

81

1,295

Dunfanaghy Local Office

1,218

223

138

1,579

Dungloe Local Office

1,570

441

222

2,233

Killybegs Branch Office

588

523

103

1,214

Letterkenny Local Office

4,734

985

281

6,000

Total

15,897

3,975

1,238

21,110

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

279 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37450/11]

There is no record of a rent supplement application in respect of the person concerned. If the person concerned wishes to apply for rent supplement she should complete an application pack and return it to the Central Rents Unit, PO Box 11758, Dublin 24.

Jack Wall

Question:

280 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent supplement has been re-instated given that the requested information was forwarded to the rent section on 4 November 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37454/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. She was awarded rent supplement on 17 November 2011.

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

281 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a rent supplement decision in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37457/11]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable eligible households to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to the different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the country. It is essential to ensure that state support for rent supplement tenants, who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices with particular negative impact on those tenants on lower incomes, including those who are in low paid employment.

Staff administering rent supplement have the authority to set levels lower than those provided for in the regulations, in respect of sub-divisions of their functional areas, where this is appropriate. This allows for lower rent levels to apply in certain locations within counties reflecting local market conditions. Under normal circumstances rent supplement is not paid where the rent charged for the accommodation is above the relevant maximum rent limit. However, staff do have some flexibility around making payment above these limits.

The most recent rent limit review established new maximum rent limits from June 2010 and I am satisfied that the rent limits are sufficient to enable eligible households to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation.

The current rent limits will remain in force until December 2011 and will be reviewed later this year with a view to establishing new rent limits. The review will be based on analysis of data sets available to the Department on private rental prices within the state. This will include information supplied by the Central Statistics Office, the Private Residential Tenancies Board and other publicly available data sources.

The person who is living in County Meath, is in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance, and is claiming rent supplement. The maximum rate of rent in respect of which a rent supplement is payable for a couple with two children living in County Meath is €700 per month. Taking account of the minimum contribution applicable to a person in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance, the maximum rate of rent supplement payable in this case is €137.50 per week. However, as an exceptional measure, the person has been awarded rent supplement of €170.15 per week for a period of 13 weeks, to allow time for the person to find alternative accommodation at a rent that does not exceed the maximum rate allowable, or to re-negotiate the rent with the landlord. The maximum rent limits for each county is set in legislation (Statutory Instrument Number 295/2010). The limits are set in accordance with county boundaries, and not postal districts.

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

282 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications made to her for carer’s allowance for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and up to 30 October 2011; the number of these applications that were granted, refused, appealed and successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37466/11]

The information requested in respect of carer's allowance applications is contained in the table below:

Year

Number Received

Number awarded

Number refused

2007

18,097

9,109

3,537

2008

18,928

15,457

5,015

2009

16,574

10,730

5,776

2010

18,212

8,769

6,972

2011 (to end Oct)

15,514

6,319

4,361

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that 691 carer's allowance appeals were received in 2007, 1,046 in 2008, 1,977 in 2009, 2,969 in 2010 and 1,838 in 2011 (to 31 October 2011). The number of successful carer's allowance appeals were 181 in 2007, 158 in 2008, 277 in 2009, 520 in 2010, and 700 to the end of October 2011.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

283 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff employed within her Department expressed as whole time equivalents as returned to her Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010, and figures available for 2011 in tabular form. [37488/11]

Details of the number of staff, expressed as whole time equivalents, employed in the Department at the end of 2008, 2009, 2010 and the latest available in respect of 2011 are as shown in the table below. The overall staffing numbers have increased to deal with the unprecedented increase in the number of jobseeker claims and the Department's business generally. The additional posts have been filled by way of staff redeployment or transfer from other government departments and transfers from within the Department. Also the figure for 2011 reflects the 997 posts that transferred to my Department to date, as part of the transfer of the Community Welfare Service from the Health Service Executive.

2008

2009

2010

2011

4,539

4,733

4,836

6,042

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

284 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a decision in respect of their disability allowance appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37491/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 05 October 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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

Michael Creed

Question:

285 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a decision on their invalidity pension appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37493/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 16 August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for 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 Benefits

Patrick Deering

Question:

286 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an application for a non-contributory pension will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite a response. [37496/11]

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

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

287 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37526/11]

Further to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 198 on 2 November 2011, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no update to the information given previously.

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

Pearse Doherty

Question:

288 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the payments that are considered non-primary social welfare payments by her. [37527/11]

The term "primary social welfare payments" refers to payments that are intended to enable recipients to meet their basic day-to-day income needs. Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance has the lowest maximum personal primary payment rate in the social welfare system, currently €186.00 per week. The maximum personal rate in other schemes ranges from €188.00 to €239.00. These payments include weekly paid income support schemes such as state pensions, jobseeker's payments, illness, and disability and caring payments.

Some 1.4 million people receive a primary weekly social welfare payment. When qualified adults and qualified children are included, almost 2.1 million people benefit from these weekly payments.

The Department pays out a range of other payments on a weekly or less frequent basis. These are paid in addition to the primary income support payments mentioned above at levels that are below the lowest maximum personal payment rate. Accordingly, those payments are considered secondary, or non-primary, in nature.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

289 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37532/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 September 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 27 September 2011 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Redundancy Payments

Joe Costello

Question:

290 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 can expect to receive their statutory redundancy payment which is due since early 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37535/11]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 28 July 2011. Redundancy lump sum claims received at the start of May 2011 are currently being processed.

Social Welfare Benefits

Terence Flanagan

Question:

291 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the households benefits package (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37541/11]

This year the Department of Social Protection will spend over €530 million in 2011 on the fuel allowance scheme and the telephone, gas and electricity elements of the household benefits package. This will benefit some 390,000 people on household benefits and 375,000 on the fuel allowance compared with 2005 when there were 325,000 people on household benefits and 265,000 on the fuel allowance at a cost of €280 million. The costs have almost doubled in six years while the number of customers has risen by more than 20%. The Department is covering the cost of the price increases in electricity which came into effect from 1st October. The electricity allowance, which was €35.80 per month, has increased to €39.40. These price increases will cost the Department over €4 million in 2011 and €17.3 million in a full year.

Difficult decisions had to be made in light of the existing economic situation and commitments made by the previous government. A number of measures for savings in 2011 and future years were specified as part of Budget 2011 but were not announced by the Government at the time. These included a saving of €30 million in the energy and telephone elements of the household benefits package in 2011 and subsequent years. They also included the abolition of the smokeless fuel allowance with a saving of €7.7 million in 2011 and €17.5 million in subsequent years. The number of free units provided under the electricity and gas allowance were reduced from 2,400 to 1,800 with a view to generating savings of €17 million in 2011 and €65 million annually.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources published Warmer Homes: A Strategy for Affordable Energy this week setting out a vision for improving the affordability of energy for low-income households. The most cost-effective means of protecting households from energy poverty is to reduce consumption of energy through improving the home's thermal efficiency. Sustainable Energy Ireland has administered the Warmer Homes programme for privately owned low-income households since 2001, benefitting 65,000 households, with a further 15,000 to receive upgrades this year. A similar programme is in place for local authority houses.

All schemes of the Department of Social Protection are being examined in the context of the forthcoming Budget and no final decisions have been made in relation to welfare expenditure for next year. These decisions will be made, after full consideration, by the Government and will be announced on Budget day.

Social Welfare Code

James Bannon

Question:

292 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford is expected to supply details of their income in respect of their 24 year old child’s application for jobseeker’s allowance merely on the grounds that their child is living at home; the reason their child is not entitled to independent assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37567/11]

In the case of persons aged under 25 years of age, the means test for jobseeker's allowance takes account of the value of any benefit and privilege enjoyed by a claimant as a result of residing with a parent or step-parent. The calculation of such value is based on the level of parental net income. Parental income is calculated as gross income less tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge, superannuation and union dues. Rent or mortgage repayments are disregarded, where appropriate, and a parental allowance of €600 per week per couple plus €50 per week in respect of other dependent children applies. The balance is assessed at 34% and this constitutes the weekly value of benefit and privilege.

Once the person concerned reaches 25 years of age, the value of any benefit and privilege will no longer be regarded as means. Any changes to the current arrangements will be considered in the context of budget 2012 and subsequent Budgets.

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

293 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection, in the case of a family whose business has collapsed, and who won a rental property, and where one of the couple has applied for jobseeker’s allowance, how the rental property is assessed as part of the means test for jobseeker’s allowance; if this assessment takes into account the equity stake of the family in the property, including negative equity; how the burden of negative equity is factored into the means test; and if the means test is conducted on means net of any mortgage repayments on that property. [37606/11]

To qualify for jobseeker's allowance, a person must satisfy a means test. The means test for jobseeker's allowance includes an assessment of any property that the claimant or their spouse/partner may own, apart from the family home. Any outstanding mortgage registered against the property is deducted from the market value. Where the outstanding mortgage is higher than the market value of the property no capital means are assessed.

The weekly means from the property is assessed as follows:

The first €20,000 is disregarded.

The next €10,000 is assessed at €1 per €1,000

The next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000.

Any remaining value is assessed at €4 per €1,000.

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

294 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection, in the case of a family whose business has collapsed, and who are paying a mortgage on the family home, and where one of the couple has applied for jobseeker’s allowance, if the means test is conducted on means net of the mortgage repayments on the family home; if not, the reason; her views on the matter of adjusting our social protection system to allow for the new reality of families who may have paper wealth, in the form of property, but who may be unable to meet very basic bills, even including food, because of the burden of debt; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37607/11]

Jobseeker's Allowance is a means tested social assistance scheme operated by my Department. For means test purposes, account is taken of the income and assets of both the claimant and his or her spouse/partner including the earnings of the spouse.

Where a spouse/partner has earnings from employment, earnings less PRSI contributions, pension contributions and trade union subscriptions are assessed as means. Mortgage payments are not deducted from earnings for means assessment purposes.

Any changes to the current arrangements would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Question:

295 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for carer’s allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the status of the application and the timeframe for a decision on same. [37631/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of carer's allowance in respect of one care recipient. She was refused carer's allowance in respect of a second care recipient on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. On 3 October 2011, she was informed of this decision and the reason(s) for it.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection to indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by her Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under her aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37724/11]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

297 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence attached regarding the needs of Ireland’s retail industry. [37729/11]

The question of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay (SSP) is being considered as a means of bringing Ireland's approach to the management of illness related work absences into line with the rest of Europe and other OECD countries. Studies undertaken by the OECD indicate that Ireland is one of the very few countries that does not oblige employers to cover some element of sick absence pay notwithstanding that our employer PRSI contribution rates are also among the lowest in Western economies. SSP is also one of a range of options being examined with a view to addressing the significant deficit in the social insurance fund and meeting the commitments which this country has entered into with the EU/IMF/ECB to achieve substantial reductions in current spending.

The Deputy should note that experience of SSP in countries where it has been introduced indicates that it has a positive role to play in reducing absenteeism rates and the transition of employees from short term sick absence to longer term disability absence. These outcomes are positive for the individuals concerned, their employers and society.

I am, of course, deeply conscious of the pressures faced by many employers, including those in the retail sector, and any statutory sick pay scheme would seek to take account of those concerns to the greatest extent possible.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

298 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service, and State agencies; a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38270/11]

The amounts paid from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants for the Department of Social Protection and its agencies vary from year to year. The amounts for 2010 are set out in the tables below and are indicative of annual expenditure of that type that arises in relation to the Department's Vote, Vote 38 and the Social Insurance Fund.

Vote 38:

Description

Amount (€)

General Maintenance — OPW

2,319,213

IT External Service Providers

9,270,036

Consultancy Services

596,663

Payments for Agency Services (An Post & Medical Referees)

63,397,920

eGovernment Related Projects

1,875,901

Branch Office Services

16,770,584

Total:

94,230,317

Social Insurance Fund:

Description

Amount (€)

Professional fees for Dental Benefit Scheme

15,011,962

Professional fees for Optical Benefit Scheme

5,993,504

Professional fees for Medical and Surgical Appliances Benefits Scheme

2,088,931

Payments for Agency Services (An Post)

23,777,100

Total:

46,871,497

The general maintenance by OPW refers to the maintenance of the Department's buildings that is done through contracts that are outsourced to private contractors. General maintenance includes electrical, plumbing, window cleaning, refuse collection etc..

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a board.

Social Welfare Tribunal

The Social Welfare Tribunal is an independent body whose function is to make decisions on applications for adjudications in relation to certain claims for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance made in the context of industrial disputes. The Tribunal does not outsource work or engage consultants.

Pensions Board

Annual figures, per the audited accounts, in respect of the 2010 financial year are set out in the following Table:

Outsourcing

Amount (€)

Cleaning and general maintenance

43,981

Building service charge — apportionment of common areas costs i.e. cleaning, waste disposal

47,316

ICT — network support

19,360

Website operating costs These costs incorporate all hosting charges, software licences and information updating and maintenance

30,000

Consultancy and Professional fees

642,060

Total:

782,717

Citizens Information Board

Payments in 2010

Amount (€)

Building repairs & Maintenance (includes cleaning and security which are also outsourced)

104,271

Consultancy (incl. legal)

42,787

Internal Audit

18,636

Organisational Review

41,143

Total:

206,837

Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman has not contacted any consultants to which such payments have been made since the inception of the Office in 2003.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman has paid out €33,683 in 2010 to the Office of Public Works for maintenance on its building.

Calafoirt agus Céanna

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

299 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén uair a cheadófar deontas le haghaidh solas poiblí a chur ar fáil ar Ché Leitir Calaidh, Leitir Móir, Contae na Gaillimhe; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [36961/11]

Níl aon iarratas ar láimh ag mo Roinn do dheontas chun solas poiblí a chur ar aon ché i gceantar Leitir Calaidh, Leitir Móir, Co na Gaillimhe. Ní miste a lua, áfach, go ndearnadh oibreacha éagsúla san am atá thart ar chéanna beaga i gceantar Leitir Calaidh le cuidiú ó mo Roinnse.

Protected Structures

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

300 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the grants available for restoration and repair of chimneys in listed buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36964/11]

There is no specific grant available for the restoration and repair of chimneys in protected structures (i.e. those structures offered specific protection under the Planning and Development Act 2000). However, there are certain general grants to assist in the conservation and repair of protected structures that could include such specific works. In 2011, I am providing €650,000 through a "Structures at Risk Fund" to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts. However, that allocation is now fully committed.

The Heritage Council, which is funded by the Department, also administers a number of conservation grants schemes, which provide assistance to protected structures. In this regard, the Deputy may wish to contact the Heritage Council or to view its website atwww.heritagecouncil.ie for further details.

The level of funding available in 2012 to provide financial assistance to heritage projects will be subject to the normal budgetary and Estimates processes. I hope to finalise the allocations once final budgetary decisions are made.

Air Services

Noel Grealish

Question:

301 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason the opening hours for the airport on Inis Mór are different from the opening hours of the airports on Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr; the reason the airport on Inis Mór is closed for two hours during the day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37280/11]

Upon assuming responsibility for the aerodromes at Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr, my Department agreed opening hours with the aerodrome management service providers, following consultation with them and with the Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service provider. The opening hours were agreed in order to optimise the service to the public and having regard to the resources available to my Department for the provision of island transport services and also to the agreed flight schedule of the Aran Islands PSO air service.

Turbary Rights

Frank Feighan

Question:

302 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the sale of bogland in a special area of conservation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [37524/11]

In May 2010, the voluntary bog purchase scheme was closed to new applicants. Processing of applications on hand has been slower than anticipated due to capacity constraints in undertaking the conveyance work involved.

On 15 of April this year, the Government made a number of decisions in relation to turf cutting in Ireland, including the putting in place of a compensation package for those who are required to cease cutting, the establishment of a Peatlands Council and the drawing up of a national strategy on peatland conservation and management. In the context of the national strategy, the position regarding raised bog Natural Heritage Areas, which are protected under national legislation, and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive will be examined in advance of the 2014 cutting season.

The land referred to by the Deputy was designated in 2004 but the sale of the land has not yet been finalised. The 10-year derogation, which allows for the continuation of domestic turf cutting in this area, will not expire until 2014. The issue of purchase of land/rights in NHA bogs is being kept under review in light of the decision to review the approach to these areas more generally.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

303 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which traditional turf cutters displaced by special areas of conservation, SAC, or similar conservation measures have accepted settlement proposals to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37139/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

304 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the proportion of displaced traditional turf cutters that have accepted compensation or alternative turf cutting locations arising from disputes in the wake of the activation of special areas of conservation, SACs, or other conservation measures. [37140/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 and 304 together.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a compensation package for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting in 53 raised bog special areas of conservation (SACs). The package offers qualifying turf cutters the option of a financial payment of €1,000 per year, index linked, for a period of 15 years or, where feasible, relocation to a non-designated bog where they can continue to cut turf. Qualifying applicants awaiting relocation can avail of the annual €1,000 payment or will be able to avail of an annual delivery of turf to their homes.

My Department is currently processing more than 520 applications received to date under this Cessation of Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme. Following a reminder issued from my Department, there was an increased interest in the scheme with the vast majority of applications, and requests for application forms, being received in the week preceding the closing date for the scheme (31 October 2011). I have decided to extend the deadline for the receipt of applications until 31 December 2011 to allow potential applicants the time to gather the necessary legal documents.

Work on processing these applications is ongoing with a view to commencing payments before the end of this year.

In 2010 an interim payment scheme was operated and this scheme paid a once-off amount of €1,000 to those who could not continue to cut turf on designated sites in 2010. My Department received over 280 applications under this scheme and has paid a total of €177,000 to applicants.

My Department estimates that about 1,500 active turf cutters are affected by the requirement to cease cutting turf on raised bog SACs. Of these approximately 750 relate to the bogs designated before 1999 on which cutting was to cease in 2010 and an additional 750 relate to the 24 bogs on which cutting will cease from the end of this year. The number of applicants for the various compensation schemes will increase further as applications are received in relation to these 24 bogs.

It should also be noted that since 1999 my Department has operated a voluntary bog purchase scheme under which sites in designated bogs have been purchased by the Department at agreed rates. In May 2010, this scheme was closed to new applicants. My Department has completed sales for over 1,050 applicants and, to date, in the region of €26 million has been paid to applicants under this scheme.

My Department will be writing to all remaining applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme in the coming weeks to outline their options in light of recent policy decisions regarding the availability of alternative compensation arrangements.

Arts Funding

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

305 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he expects to be in a position to offer assistance to the arts, notwithstanding the effects of the economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37141/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

308 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he has provided or hopes to provide financial assistance to national or local groups involved in drama or musical productions in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37146/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

309 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he intends to identify particular sectors of the arts for special promotion in the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37147/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305, 308 and 309 together.

Government policy on the arts is set out in the Programme for Government and aims to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. I am continuing to work towards this goal in my Department and with the agencies under its remit. I remain committed to securing the best possible level of funding for the arts sector.

The State appreciates and values the contribution the arts sector makes to the internationally renowned artistic reputation of this country. Within the current economic constraints, that investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever, having regard to the employment intensity of the sector and their potential for assisting with cultural tourism initiatives. In the context of the 2012 estimates, I will be endeavouring to maximise continuing Government support for the arts and culture sector.

Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is primarily devolved to the Arts Council, which is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act 2003, the general functions of the Council include the following:

to stimulate public interest in the arts;

to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts; and

to assist in improving standards in the arts.

The Arts Council is a statutorily independent body funded by my Department and is independent in its day-to-day operations, including in relation to its funding decisions. For 2011, the Exchequer allocation to the Arts Council is €65.127m.

Irish Language

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

306 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which interest in the Irish language continues to be fostered and encouraged, if thought is being given to any measures aimed at further or enhanced promotion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37144/11]

The20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 was published on 21 December 2010, following cross-party support in the Houses of the Oireachtas and a comprehensive consultative and research process. The Strategy promotes a holistic, integrated approach to the Irish language which is consistent with international best practice. The Strategy sets out a comprehensive approach to the preservation and promotion of the Irish language over a 20-year period from 2010 to 2030. The Strategy sets out nine areas for action, including education, the Gaeltacht, the family, public services, the media, the economy, legislation and various cross-cutting initiatives.

TheProgramme for Government 2011-2016 states that the Government will support the Strategy and will deliver the achievable goals proposed therein. The Government took a number of policy decisions on 31 May 2011 regarding the implementation structures for the Strategy and the new linguistic definition envisaged for the Gaeltacht. These decisions will be given statutory effect, as required, in the Gaeltacht Bill which is to be published in 2012, in accordance with the Government’s Legislation Programme.

Since my Department has overarching responsibility for the Strategy, its implementation plan for 2011 has been published and its 2012-2014 implementation plan will be published following consultation with key stakeholders. In addition, a number of high-level working groups have been established with key stakeholders in order to progress the implementation of the Strategy.

Departmental Funding

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

307 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he hopes to offer financial assistance to heritage projects in the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37145/11]

Due to the current national economic crises, and the significant reductions in the capital allocations provided to my Department, the resources available to me for the provision of grants for the protection of the built heritage are limited.

In 2011, I am providing €650,000 through a "Structures at Risk Fund" to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts with a further €1.25 million in capital assistance to the Office of Public Works to assist in the conservation and presentation of historic properties and national monuments in State care. My Department is also providing funding of almost €7.5million to support the work of the Heritage Council. The Council supports a number of conservation grants schemes. The level of funding available in the next four years to provide financial assistance to heritage projects will be subject to the normal Budgetary and Estimates processes. I hope to finalise the 2012 allocations as soon as possible once final Budgetary decisions are made.

Questions Nos. 308 and 309 answered with Question No. 305.

Grant Payments

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

310 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which applications have been made to his Department for grant aid toward performances or productions by various groups in County Kildare in the current year to date; the degree to which he has been in a position to respond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37149/11]

Primary responsibility for the promotion and funding of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council. The arts community can apply on-line through the Arts Council website for funding and for other services, including grants for performances and productions. The Arts Council has an excellent on-line service, which is borne out by the fact that these services were selected by public vote for the prestigious Net Visionary eGovernment Award. The allocation to the Arts Council for 2011 is €65.167 million. Under legislation, the Arts Council is independent in making its funding decisions.

Heritage Sites

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

311 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total number of heritage sites, buildings or other structures in County Kildare; if any are in danger of damage or decay; his plans, if any, to assist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37150/11]

Under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000, each planning authority is required to include in its development plan a Record of Protected Structures. I understand that details of the relevant buildings protected in this Record are available from Kildare County Council.

Details of archaeological monuments in County Kildare are contained in the Record of Monuments and Places, which may be viewed in my Department's Dublin offices. Copies are also available countrywide in planning authority offices, public libraries and county and city/town museums. In addition, details can be accessed on the websitewww.archaeology.ie, which my Department also maintains.

In relation to protected structures, section 59 of the 2000 Act provides for a planning authority to serve notice to require works to be carried out in relation to endangerment of such structures. On the basis of information submitted by the planning authorities to my Department, there were 19 such notices served nationwide in 2008, 27 in 2009 and 10 in 2010. On the basis of information provided by Kildare County Council, no such notices were served in 2008, 1 in 2009 and 1 in 2010.

My Department has limited resources to assist protected structures which may be endangered. In 2011, I am providing €650,000 through a "Structures at Risk Fund" to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts. The level of funding available in 2012 and future years for the purpose of assisting such heritage sites, buildings or other structures will be subject to the normal Budgetary and Estimates processes. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that the total capital budget for my Department will see a further decrease in the coming years.

Hunting Licences

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

312 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on whether the issuing of 4,200 licences for hunters to kill deer is excessive; if he will outline the calibre of weapons licensed for such hunting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37250/11]

Licences to hunt deer are issued by my Department on an annual basis to individuals under the Wildlife Acts. The hunting season for deer is regulated by the Open Seasons Order, which prescribes the periods for the hunting of various deer species; these periods vary depending on the gender and age of the deer. The hunting of red male deer is prohibited in the county of Kerry during the open season. There is a 12-month open season for Muntjac deer, as it is considered to be an invasive species.

The type and calibre of firearms and ammunition which may be used to shoot deer species is regulated by the Wildlife Act 1976 (Firearms and Ammunition) Regulations, 1977. These Regulations stipulate that rifles with a calibre of not less than .22 calibre may be used. In recent years, deer numbers have been increasing and deer have spread to areas where they were not previously found. Consequently, I do not consider, having regard to the scientific conservation advice available to me, that the number of current deer licences is excessive.

State Agencies

Pearse Doherty

Question:

313 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the savings that have been identified by him from the decision to merge the Coimisinéir Teanga’s office with the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37269/11]

The merger of the functions of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Ombudsman's Office will be progressed in the context of the review of the Official Languages Act 2003 which is currently underway by my Department. Amending legislation will be required in order to enable the merger to take place. The radical streamlining of State bodies is a key deliverable of the Government's public sector reform programme and will lead to a more transparent, accountable and efficient public service. Accordingly, the Government decision should not be viewed solely as a cost saving exercise.

Heritage Sites

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

314 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason the excavated foundations of the Swan Gate, Athenry, County Galway, have not been either moved to a new location at which they can be displayed, covered over as they had been for centuries or covered with toughened glass in order that they are visible in situ; and the reason the roundabout which, while being constructed, unearthed the foundations cannot be redesigned to accommodate the foundations where they are; if he will explain the process by which the foundations have been left exposed for more than five years; the reason no one is accountable for not taking a decision on the action to be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37310/11]

My Department received an application for consent, in Sept 2007, under Section 14 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 2004, to preservein situ part of the remains of the medieval town walls of Athenry (locally known as the Loro Gate). The application related to the construction of a new vehicular roundabout, above the remains, which the developer was required to construct as a condition of planning permission granted by Galway County Council for an adjacent housing development.

The application was approved by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in October 2010. I understand that the possibility of relocating the proposed roundabout so as to avoid any unnecessary impact on the archaeological remains was examined by the Minister as part of the consent process but was not considered feasible, for traffic safety reasons, following consultation with the local authority and the Department of Transport. A condition was, however, included in the Minister's consent requiring an information plaque to be erected in the vicinity of the site.

However, since the consent issued I understand that Galway Co Council have subsequently given consideration to the construction of a smaller roundabout at the site. My Department is awaiting their proposals on the matter, including the implications for the national monument. It should be noted that my Department has no role in progressing the development for which planning permission was granted.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

315 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole time equivalents as returned to his Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010, and figures available for 2011 in tabular form. [37476/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on 2 June of this year. The number of serving staff at end-October was 644.61 (whole-time equivalent), including 37.6 seasonal staff (whole-time equivalent).

Grant Payments

Sandra McLellan

Question:

316 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will detail all grant facilities provided by him for individual artists and groups; the funding provided for each for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; the mechanism by which individual artists and-or groups can apply for such funding; if funding will be protected for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37619/11]

There is a significant amount of work needed in compiling the historical data sought, and my Department will furnish these details directly to the Deputy as soon as possible. In the meantime, the aggregate grants to the principal organisations under the aegis of my Department are available in the Revised Estimates Volume for each of the years in question, and in particular in Votes 33 and 35.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

317 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37712/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on 2 June 2011 and, accordingly, provision of the information sought by the Deputy for extended periods prior to that date would not be feasible. I am advised that my Department has, since 2 June 2011, paid compensation in one case. This related to a commercial turf-cutting case, where payment of €154,855 was made in an out-of-court settlement on 28 July 2011. The payment was made from my Department's Vote and there was no confidentiality agreement associated with this settlement.

With regard to bodies within my Department's ambit, the Deputy will appreciate that such matters are part of the day-to-day operational responsibilities of the bodies in question. I am arranging, therefore, for the terms of the Deputy's Question to be transmitted to the heads of relevant bodies with a request that they provide information, to the extent feasible, directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

318 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the civil and public service and State agencies; a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38259/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on 2 June 2011 and therefore the information sought by the Deputy can only be provided from that date. The total amount paid to companies providing an external professional service to my Department from 2 June 2011 to 9 November 2011 was €698,503.

With regard to bodies within my Department's ambit, the Deputy will appreciate that the engagement of private contractors, consultants and agencies is part of the day-to-day operational responsibilities of the bodies in question. I am arranging, therefore, for the terms of the Deputy's Question to be transmitted to the heads of relevant bodies with a request that they provide information to the extent feasible directly to the Deputy.

Broadcasting Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

319 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends to encourage and facilitate ready and equal access through broadcasting for indigenous performers competing on the national airwaves with all others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37148/11]

The policy approach in regard to the imposition of programming obligations on broadcasters is set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009. In the case of commercial radio broadcasters, in submitting their initial licensing applications to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), they put forward commitments in regard to how they will deal with a range of broadcast issues including public service commitments and, where appropriate, more specific commitments, for instance, in regard to the playing of Irish music. If they are successful in their applications, these commitments form part of the terms and conditions of their actual licence.

In the case of the public service broadcasters, these corporations publish detailed commitments on an annual basis setting out how they intend to meet their public service obligations and objects as set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009. These include a specific object in regard to ensuring that programmes reflect "the varied elements which make up the culture of the people of the island of Ireland, and have special regard for the elements which distinguish that culture and in particular for the Irish language". The extent to which the commitments entered into by our two public service broadcast corporations are complied with is reviewed annually by the BAI.

This policy approach is seen as the most appropriate in dealing with the differing requirements of commercial and public service broadcasting. The introduction of specific quotas can lead to a position of strict adherence to the minimum by those on whom they are imposed and renewed lobbying by those that they are supposed to favour for further increases in the relevant quota. In this context, I am aware that there is ongoing engagement between the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) with a view to developing further opportunities for Irish music within the context of the current licensing framework.

Alternative Energy Projects

Martin Ferris

Question:

320 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of jobs that are expected to be created in the renewable energy sector under the auspices of NewERA. [37698/11]

The Government announced the establishment of the New Economy and Recovery Authority (NewERA), in line with the Programme for Government on 29 September last. NewERA has been established on a non-statutory basis as a Shareholder Executive within the NTMA. NewERA will carry out the corporate governance function, from a shareholder perspective, of ESB, Bord Gáis, EirGrid, Bord na Móna and Coillte, reporting to the relevant Ministers. Its operation will be overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Infrastructure.

In this capacity, NewERA will have responsibility for reviewing capital investment plans of these commercial semi state companies from a shareholder perspective and will identify possible synergies between investment programmes of different State companies.

NewERA will work with Departments to develop and implement proposals for investment in line with NewERA Programme for Government commitments across the Energy, Water and Next Generation Telecommunications areas. The Government has made clear its intention to ensure that State Companies play a full role in Ireland's economic recovery.

The Energy State Companies are already engaged in significant programmes of infrastructure investment including in the renewable energy sector. We must ensure that all the investment programmes of the State Companies are cost effective, strategic and subject to rigorous shareholder scrutiny. NewERA will have a key role to play in this regard on behalf of the Government's shareholder interests in the State Companies, where appropriate regulatory oversight will also continue to be a fundamental requirement. NewERA will also work with the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) to bring forward proposals for investment of available resources, each such investment to be on a commercial basis. In this context, the Programme for Government commits to investment of €2bn from the sale of non strategic assets to fund NewERA investment. Now that the Authority has been formally established, I am confident that progress can be made on necessary investment under the aegis of New ERA with consequential positive direct and indirect jobs impact.

Energy Prices

Brendan Griffin

Question:

321 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding ESB prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37303/11]

I do not have a statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or unregulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the retail electricity market are now fully deregulated since 4 April 2011.

Prices in the electricity market are wholly a commercial and operational matter for the suppliers. Ireland's electricity and gas markets, both wholesale and retail, are characterised by vigorous competition regulated by the CER. ESB Electric Ireland offer a number of different price plan options to existing and potential customers, however, none of these plans offer different unit rates based on urban or rural locations and I am not aware that rates offered by other suppliers differentiate on such a basis either.

Energy Conservation Schemes

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

322 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of homes in County Kerry that have benefitted under the warmer homes scheme to date in 2011; and if he plans to extend the scheme in 2012. [37327/11]

Better Energy: Warmer Homes delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to households which are vulnerable to energy poverty. The scheme is managed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and delivered through a range of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), augmented by a panel of private contractors. The measures installed include attic and cavity wall insulation, draught proofing, hot water cylinder lagging jacket and CFLs. Homeowners are also given energy advice. To date, energy efficiency improvements in over 75,000 homes have been made under Better Energy: Warmer Homes. In 2010, 24,291 homes benefitted from the scheme, including 762 homes in County Kerry. A total of 16,400 homes have received energy efficiency improvements to the end of October 2011, including 510 homes in County Kerry.

There has been a significant uptake in applications for the scheme over the last three years, the success of the scheme having led to increased awareness and demand. There are currently 9,220 homes nationwide on the Better Energy: Warmer Homes' waiting list, of which 461 are in County Kerry. The SEAI is working towards a six-month timeframe for service delivery. This scheme remains open and eligible homeowners can register for the scheme by calling the dedicated hotline number at 1800 250 204. In publishing the Affordable Energy Strategy on 27 November, I reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the Warmer Homes Scheme, funding for which in 2012 will be finalised in the context of overall budgetary decisions.

Electric Vehicles

Catherine Murphy

Question:

323 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide up-to-date information on the roll-out of electric vehicle charge points around the country; if the target of 1,500 working charge points by the end of 2011 is on course to be met; if he will provide the number of domestic charge points installed in private households by the ESB in the past 12 months; the number of fast-charge points which have been installed nationwide to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37381/11]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

324 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide figures on the number of grants fully processed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland under the electric vehicle grant scheme to date; the number of such grants currently being processed by the SEAI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37382/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 323 and 324 together.

The ESB has, to date, installed 160 home charge points and 132 public charge points, 9 of which are fast chargers. Its target is to have 201 public charge points, of which 14 will be fast charge points, rolled out by the end of 2011. The overall target of 1,500 public charge points related to progress on sales of electric vehicles, where take-up has been very low. This is partially due to the later than expected arrival into the Irish market of some domestic models and some light commercial vehicle models, which will now be in the Irish market from 2012.

The location of the public infrastructure points has been planned to give a nationwide coverage, particularly alongside the main road networks. Full locations of all the charging points are available on the ESB website. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has so far provided grants for 46 Battery Electric Vehicles. It currently has no grant applications on hand. SEAI expects the number of applications to increase in quarter 1 of 2012 as this is the traditional new car purchasing period. Demand will also be affected by the availability of new additional models on the Irish market. Decisions in relation to the allocation for the electric vehicle grant scheme for 2012 will be made in the context of decisions on the breakdown of my Department's overall capital allocation for 2012.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

325 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff employed within his Department expressed as whole-time equivalents as returned to the Department for the end of 2008, 2009, 2010, and figures available for 2011, in tabular form. [37478/11]

I can inform the Deputy that the number of staff employed in my Department for the years requested is shown on the following table:

2008

2009

2010

2011 (to date)

Staff Number

298

271

263

262

Alternative Energy Projects

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

326 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the new REFIT scheme, known as REFIT 3, is expected to receive clearance from the European Commission for State aid; the reason for the delay in receiving clearance to date; if he is actively pursuing the issue with the Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37536/11]

REFIT 3 is designed to support a range of technologies including Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and Anaerobic Digestion as well as for co-firing of biomass in the peat power plants.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that earlier this month my Department received the State Aid clearance decision from DG Competition for the REFIT 3 biomass technologies application. Government approval is currently being sought to open the scheme and once this has been obtained, the scheme will be formally launched and open for applications.

Following on from the State Aid approval for the biomass REFIT, I am confident that approval will also be secured in the very near future for the onshore wind REFIT application.

Helpline Numbers

Gerald Nash

Question:

327 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made to date in implementing the European Commission’s designated 116 123 number for persons in distress; if plans for its implementation are on track to enable the number to become operational by early 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37618/11]

The European Commission published a decision in February 2007 reserving the number range beginning "116" for harmonised services of social value. The concept of "same number — same service" envisages a specific socially important service accessible through the same 116 number regardless of which Member State the caller is in. The number 116123 has been designated for use for emotional support helplines.

The European Commission decision imposes obligations on the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as manager of the National Numbering Plan, to reserve the six-digit number range 116xyz, for harmonised services of social value and to advertise when a number is available for allocation and to invite applications from appropriate organisations to provide the service. The role of ComReg is limited to assignment of the number to an appropriate service provider. Once the number has been assigned, it is a matter for the service provider to provide the service. Furthermore, it should be noted that neither ComReg nor my Department has any policy remit in the provision of such services.

I am advised by ComReg that the number 116123 was assigned to the Samaritans in 2008 following consultation with the relevant Government Department, in this instance the Department of Health. I am further advised that the latest information available is that the Samaritans plan to make the 116123 number operational in early 2012. The Deputy may wish to note that the latest information on the status of all 116 numbers is available on ComReg's website atwww.comreg.ie/116.

Broadcasting Legislation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if any amending legislation of the Broadcasting Act is likely, necessary or contemplated in the wake of a recent settlement by the national broadcaster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37645/11]

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is established as an independent statutory body under the Broadcasting Act 2009. Part 3 of the 2009 Act also outlines the codes governing standards and practice to be observed by broadcasters. The Compliance Committee of the BAI is charged under the Act with ensuring that all broadcasters, whether public or private, comply with their licence conditions and with the standards set out in the broadcasting codes and rules.

With reference to the specific case cited by the Deputy, It was decided by Cabinet that there should be an independent inquiry to determine the true facts and circumstances which led to the Prime Time programme on Fr. Reynolds being broadcast on RTÉ in May of this year.

As the Deputy is aware, I have accordingly requested that the BAI Compliance Committee uses its powers under section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to determine whether RTE has met its statutory responsibilities around objectivity, impartiality and fairness. I have asked that the Committee then report and make any recommendations in respect of this to the Authority. The decision of Government requests that the Report be concluded within two months.

It is my view that this is the most appropriate approach in the circumstances. The question of amending the Broadcasting Act 2009 as a result of the matter referred to by the Deputy is not under consideration.

Offshore Exploration

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which positive results have been indicated in the course of on-or offshore exploration on foot of the various licences issued in recent years; if further positive indicators have emerged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37646/11]

There were twenty-six petroleum exploration licences granted since 2001, of these sixteen are still active. Oil and gas discoveries have been made in respect of four of these licences to date. Three of the discoveries were in the North Celtic Sea Basin and one in the Slyne Basin.

None of the discoveries has been declared commercial to date. Applications for lease undertakings in respect of two of the discoveries in the Celtic Sea are under consideration by my Department at present.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which a full evaluation has been done as to the total requirement in terms of broadband or other telecommunications investment; if he is satisfied that adequate provision can be made to meet these requirements in full with particular reference to the essential nature of the industry and pivotal role in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37647/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent of any discussion he has had with the regulator to identify any deficiencies in the telecommunications sector with a view to addressing the issues and making the necessary investment provision in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37648/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 331 together.

The telecommunications market in Ireland has been fully liberalised since 1999 and, since then, has seen the steady growth and development of strong well-regulated competition in the provision of the full range of telecommunications products and services which are broadly capable of meeting the current needs of telecommunications customers.

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

The Taskforce, which I chair, also comprises Minister of State, Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets, spectrum policy, private sector investment plans, and the removal of barriers (for example local authority way leave processes) in order to facilitate investment. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Taskforce, which had a further meeting yesterday, will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

332 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which broadband is now available in all regions, urban and rural, throughout the country; his plans, if any, to address apparent deficiencies in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37649/11]

Telecommunications services in Ireland including 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. ComReg's websitewww.callcosts.ie provides detailed information on the various private sector telecommunications products and services available on a county by county basis.

In line with State Aid rules, the Government can only intervene in cases where the market has failed to deliver and the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is an example of such an intervention. The rollout of the NBS network was completed in October 2010 and broadband services are now available to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in each of the 1,028 designated electoral divisions (EDs) of the NBS Coverage Area.

The Government's other intervention, namely the Rural Broadband Scheme, which will be rolled out next year, is aimed at making broadband services available to individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas.

The significant investments which continue to be made by the many private operators in Ireland, together with the targeted State intervention, means that Ireland will reach the EU Commission's "Digital Agenda for Europe" target of having basic broadband available to everybody in advance of the 2013 deadline.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now available across Ireland, the challenge now is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services.

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

In June of this year I established the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I chair and which also comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and the CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss the optimal policy environment required to facilitate the investment in and provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as appropriate targets in terms of speed and service, potential barriers to investment, spectrum policy issues and possible demand stimulation measures aimed at increasing overall Internet usage.

The Taskforce, which had a meeting yesterday, will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report and subject to Government consideration to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Mobile Telephony

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

333 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the quality and coverage of the mobile telephone service throughout the country is adequate or equal to the best throughout Europe or worldwide; the degree, if any, to which deficiencies in infrastructure or operation have been identified; the best way that these can be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37650/11]

The provision of mobile phone networks and services is undertaken by telecommunications service providers who operate in a fully liberalised market.

The regulation of telecommunications service providers, including regulatory issues surrounding mobile phone network coverage and quality, is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with its functions under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended, and the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications.

ComReg is responsible for issuing licences to mobile phone operators and for monitoring compliance with the conditions attached to the licences. I am informed by ComReg that all of the operators have met their licence requirements in this regard and, indeed, that performance tends to exceed the minimum coverage requirements.

Social Media

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

334 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which social media can or should be regulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37651/11]

As Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, I have policy responsibility for certain matters, including, for example, communications infrastructure. However, I should highlight that I do not have responsibility for all activities that use such infrastructure. I have no function in the matter of regulating social media. I understand, however, that the Data Protection Commissioner is currently auditing an internet based social media provider on foot of a complaint received by that Office.

Postal Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which, directly or through An Post, he has monitored the development of the postal and packaging service in the aftermath of deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37652/11]

The Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011, which was enacted in August 2011, has put in place a robust and appropriate regulatory framework for the postal services market, which will offer certainty and protection to An Post, the designated universal postal service provider, its competitors, and postal service users.

While I have overall responsibility for the postal sector, the Act charges the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as the postal regulator, with the promotion of the development of the postal sector, particularly the availability of the universal postal service, the promotion of the interests of users and the facilitation of the development of competition in the sector. ComReg is in regular contact with my Department.

Energy Prices

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the degree to which, directly and in conjunction with his EU colleagues, he has monitored the growing costs of energy, which are deemed to originate in shortages and growing industrial development but much more likely to be driven by speculators in fuel markets; if any explanation has been given as to the reason that road diesel has become more expensive than petrol in some jurisdictions throughout the EU; if any steps can be taken to address such matters in view of their importance in the current economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37653/11]

Energy policy objectives for Ireland and the European Union are delivering security of supply and reducing the impact of competitive energy costs for consumers and business, through the development of renewable energy resources, enhanced energy efficiency and greater competition. National and EU energy policy objectives are also informed by the critical work of the International Energy Agency (IEA) on all aspects of energy supply.

The Government's energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes including the Biofuels Obligation are aimed at moving Ireland's economy away from reliance on imported, carbon intensive fossil fuels, which are subject to price volatility.

The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated and there is free entry to the market. There is no price control on petroleum products and it has been the policy objective of successive Governments to promote price competition and consumer choice.

Previous surveys have shown that prices which Irish retailers charge for oil products relate to the refinery price rather than to the price of crude oil. The refinery price for oil products varies with demand and does not always move in line with crude oil prices. There is a time lag between movements in crude prices and refined prices. Prices at the pump reflect global market price, which is fluctuating, transportation costs, euro/dollar fluctuations and other operating costs as well as the impact of taxes on oil products. The differentials, up or down, between the price of diesel and petrol is a function of supply and demand at various times in the market. The extent to which speculation in the global oil markets has played a part in driving up the cost of oil, is difficult to quantify but a number of informed analysts point to it being a factor.

Alternative Energy Projects

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

337 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the degree to which electricity supplied to the national grid is now generated from non-fossil fuels; the extent to which reliance on traditional energy generation is likely to change over the next five years in line with EU policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37654/11]

Directive 2009/28/EC imposes a legally binding target on Ireland for the share of renewable energy in all energy consumed by 2020. Ireland's target is for 16% of all energy to be from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland has set targets of 40% electricity, 12% heating/cooling and 10% transport fuel to be from renewables by 2020. The combined effect of these sectoral targets is commensurate with the achievement of the overall 16% of all energy target.

Currently about 15% of electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, primarily wind. Ireland's National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which was submitted to the European Commission last year and which is published on the Department's website, sets out the plans for achieving Ireland's renewable energy targets by 2020.

The Gate 3 grid connection process was designed by CER, the energy regulator, to ensure that the 40% target could be reached. EirGrid estimates that 4750MW of renewable generation will be required on the system to deliver the 2020 renewable electricity target. Currently we have 1850MW of renewable generation on the grid, another 1100MW with signed grid connection agreements and around 4,000MW of capacity in the Gate 3 process. EirGrid's Grid 25 strategy and implementation plans are designed to deliver the necessary grid developments and grid reinforcements to underpin the new renewable generating capacity, as well as regional economic development.

Departmental Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will indicate the numbers, if any, of in or out of court settlements made by his Department directly or by bodies directly or indirectly under his aegis for whatever reason in the past ten years to date; the extent, if any, to which a confidentiality clause was attached in any such agreements; if known, the cost or likely cost to the Exchequer arising therefrom, and under what particular heading any such charge might have been applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37714/11]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department was established in 2007, and I can advise that my Department made the following settlements, with costs shown where available, from 2007 to date. No confidentiality clauses were attached to the agreements.

An out of court settlement in 2007, for a sum of €35,000, was made with a company which carried out a software upgrade for the Department. In 2010 a sum of €75,000 was paid in a settlement relating to the amount of grant aid due to a company for the provision of cable broadband infrastructure. The settlement costs settled a dispute over the amount of grant aid due to a company under a 2002 project, undertaken as part of an EU Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme. Agreement was reached on the case in 2010 after protracted engagement over a number of years.

In October 2011 settlement terms were agreed with respect to 2 sets of Judicial Review proceedings, related to the Corrib Gas project, instigated in the High Court. It was agreed that the State respondents, including my Department, would make a contribution towards the applicants' costs. The contribution made by my Department, in this regard was €231,916.67.

In the case of Removal of the Clondulane Weir, Lismore, County Waterford, a settlement has very recently been reached in advance of the hearing of the court case. The terms are that the parties will bear their own costs and the owners of the weir will pay all reasonable costs for its removal. Settlements made by the bodies under the aegis of my Department are day to day matters for those bodies.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

339 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount paid out annually from public funds for outsourcing to private contractors and the use of consultants and agencies for all Departments of the Civil Service and public service and State agencies; a breakdown of these figures in tabular form on a Department/authority/agency basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38261/11]

In the time available, it has not been possible to identify and assemble the information requested. I can however advise that the information as it relates to Agencies under the aegis of the Department is a day to day operational matter for the agencies themselves. The information in respect of the Department is being identified and assembled and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Local Authority Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

340 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 17 November 2011, the number of employees in local authorities in receipt of a salary in excess of €50,000 per year, in excess of €80,000 per year and more than €100,000 per year; and the number of former employees in receipt of an annual pension in excess of €50,000 per year, in excess of €80,000 per year and more than €100,000 per year, in tabular form. [37052/11]

The information requested, in relation to local authority employees, as of 30 June 2011, is outlined in the following table.

Local Authority Employees:

Number above €50,000

Number above €80,000

Number above €100,000

5,960

570

219

The information, broken down in the specific income bands sought, in relation to local authority pensioners is not available in my Department. However, similar information was gathered in 2010 and is presented in the following table.

Local Authority Pensioners:

Number between €55,000 — €75,000

Number between €75,000 — €95,000

Number above €95,000.

147

17

2

In the full year 2010 pensions totalling €249,877,000 were paid to 17,908 pensioners by local authorities giving an average pension paid of €13,953.

Mortgage-to-Rent Schemes

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

341 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, with regard to comments made on 12 October 2011 that two pilot mortgage-to-rent schemes were due to be launched the following week, the date on which work started on developing the pilot mortgage-to-rent schemes; the officials or unit of his Department that was tasked with developing these; and the state of the schemes at present, six weeks after that announcement. [37111/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

351 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the proposed pilot scheme of a mortgage-to-rent system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37028/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 and 351 together.

The introduction of two mortgage-to-rent schemes, as part of a range of measures to assist households with unsustainable mortgages, was announced in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears which was published on 12 October 2011. Work is now under way to implement key elements of the report and I will shortly launch two mortgage-to-rent schemes in line with the report's recommendations.

These schemes will operate on a pilot basis initially, subject to prompt review ahead of wider implementation. Under each scheme, households in extreme mortgage distress who are eligible for social housing will be able to remain in their homes as social housing tenants with either the lending institution or a housing association taking ownership of the property. My Department's Housing Division is now well advanced in its preparatory work with a lender and an approved housing body to make the pilot schemes operational as soon as possible.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

342 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the revenue that would be raised by increasing all motor tax rates by 2%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37116/11]

Motor tax receipts for the calendar year 2010 were €1,023m. Accordingly, an increase of 2% would yield total receipts of €1,043.5m, an increase of €20.5m.

Motor tax yields are falling as the yield from new cars, where tax is based on carbon emissions, is lower than from cars where the tax is calculated on the basis of engine capacity. Motor tax income to the end of October 2011 was €861m and it is expected that the final take for the year will be in the order of €998m. An increase of 2% on that estimate would yield approximately €20m.

Subject to the overall number of vehicles taxed and consumer choices in relation to car purchasing decisions, increases in rates do not necessarily translate into equivalent increases in overall yield.

Local Authority Charges

Terence Flanagan

Question:

343 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding the non-principal private residence charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37300/11]

The €200 charge on non-principal private residences is payable by the owners of private rented accommodation, holiday homes and other non-principal residences. The most important exemption under the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 is for a person's sole or main residence. However, any one individual can have only one such residence.

In a situation where a person owns a property in which he or she does not live as his or her sole or main residence, there would be a liability for the charge in respect of the property owned by the person, unless it is otherwise exempted under the provisions of the Act. However, the Deputy should consult with the local authority in this case and establish if there is a basis for amelioration of the charge.

Election Management System

Dara Murphy

Question:

344 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if persons who work at polling stations could be taken from the live register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37821/11]