Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Dec 2011

Vol. 748 No. 6

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].

Census of Population

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

1 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Taoiseach if he will ask the Central Statistics Office to prepare as soon as is possible revised population projections for the next 20 years following on from census 2011, in view of the fact that the last projections date from December 2008 and the next projections are not due until 2013, and the current figures, crucial for long-term strategic planning do not take into account the most recent census preliminary figures and the effect of the recession and return of emigration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38795/11]

Population projections are prepared every 5 years following the publication of the census results. The most recent set of projections are based on the 2006 results and cover the period 2011 to 2041. All population projections are based on assumptions regarding future migration and fertility patterns. As population projections for Ireland are particularly sensitive to changes in migration, the 2006 based projections included a zero net migration assumption as an indicator of how our population would develop when immigration equals emigration.

The next set of projections will be based on the 2011 results. Processing of the 2011 Census forms is now nearing completion in the CSO's census processing centre in Swords and it is planned to publish the first definitive results of the census in March 2012, less than a year after Census day. Work on the Census 2011 based population projections will begin once these results are published. Specifically, after a process of consultation with a dedicated expert group (made up of representatives of central and local government, universities and research bodies, along with relevant CSO personnel) it is planned to begin work on these projections in the first half of next year with the aim of releasing population projections covering the period 2016 to 2046 before the end of 2012.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

2 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Taoiseach the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38346/11]

No funding has been paid by my Department to any groups in Galway city and County to date in 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

3 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38470/11]

A 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT would cost my Department approximately €8,200.00 per year.

Official Engagements

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

4 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he intends to make an official visit to China; and if there are plans for senior Ministers to make official visits in 2012. [38801/11]

The Government attaches great importance to widening and deepening bilateral relations with China. China is a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland under the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015. The local market team, set up under the Strategy, includes all of the State Agencies present in China in addition to the Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate-General in Shanghai. The team is chaired by our Ambassador in Beijing and has been actively working to build on our growing economic and trade relationships with China. Ireland had a modest trade surplus with China in 2010. Total merchandise trade between Ireland and China was worth almost €5.3 billion in 2010. Trade in services during the same period was worth €2.1 billion. Over 130 Irish companies now have a permanent business presence in China — an increase of 300% over the last five years.

I very much hope to visit China next year in order to build on the excellent bilateral relations that exist between our two countries; to have discussions with my opposite number in China on matters of mutual concern; to promote Irish interests; and to further enhance our political, trade, investment, education and tourism links with China. As the Deputy will appreciate, a visit must take place at a time mutually convenient for my Chinese counterpart. This will be arranged between the Irish and Chinese sides through diplomatic channels.

As the Deputy will be aware, Government Ministers generally commit to official visits abroad based on the demands of their portfolio. I am not aware of any confirmed travel plans by other Ministers in relation to China, although the Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach also intends to visit China in 2012.

Diplomatic Representation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

5 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will reverse the decision to close Ireland’s embassy to the Vatican; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38300/11]

It was with the greatest regret and reluctance that the Government decided to close Ireland's Embassy to the Holy See. This decision is in line with the tough choices that the Government must make to address the current economic challenges that face the country. Our targets under the EU/IMF programme and our need to reduce public expenditure mean that cuts to public expenditure must be made across a wide range of public services, including the diplomatic service.

The decision followed a comprehensive review of the overseas diplomatic network in which particular weight was given to the promotion of Irish economic interests and the economic return from Missions abroad.

The conclusions reached on foot of this survey reflect the Government's view of how the diminished resources available to my Department can best be deployed to represent the State's interests abroad at the present time.

Ireland will maintain diplomatic relations and continue its active engagement with the Holy See through our non resident Ambassador, a position to which the Government has nominated a senior Dublin-based diplomat, and the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, who I look forward to welcoming to Ireland soon.

The Government will continue to review the deployment of our diplomatic service, including in relation to the Holy See, in the light of our evolving needs and the resources available.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

6 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the specific grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38340/11]

My Department has funded four groups based in Galway in 2011. Irish Aid operates a Development Education Funding Scheme to promote development education programmes in formal and non-formal education in Ireland, including the community and voluntary sectors In 2011, funding was provided for a range of public cultural activities which supported Irish Aid’s objectives for Africa Day of promoting public awareness and understanding of Africa and of development themes. Africa Day grants were provided to organisations for events in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway with the maximum grant set at €10,000 and the minimum at €2,000 to allow a focus on a reasonably small number of good quality events. Two groups in Galway were awarded funding as part of this scheme. In 2011, I also approved an Emigrant Support Programme Grant for South East Galway Diaspora Project (“Ireland Reaching Out”). Ireland Reaching Out (IXO), established in 2010, aims to develop a framework whereby local communities identify and engage with members of the diaspora around the world who were originally from that local area. IXO organised a very successful “Week of Welcomes” between 26 June and 2 July to which those identified as having roots in the south east Galway (including Portumna, Gort and Loughrea) were invited.

The details of the four funding recipients are provided in the following table:

Scheme

Organisation

Amount €

Chairperson

Secretary

Treasurer

Development Education Funding Scheme

Galway one World Centre

79,369

Sean Conneally

Trisha Buddin

Heike Vornhagen

Africa Day Grants

Galway one World Centre

7,000

Sean Conneally

Trisha Buddin

Heike Vornhagen

Africa Day Grants

Spirit of Voice Productions

4,500

Director:Gerry Mulkerrins

Lorna McDowell

Gerry Mulkerrins

Emigrant Support Programme

Ireland Reaching Out(IXO)

67,775

Michael Feerick

Gerard McInerney

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

7 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38360/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Year

Number of Increments Awarded

Estimated Cost for the Year in Question

2010

704

€601,880

2011

608

€569,102

2012*

497

€421,754

*Projected figure only: the award of increments is not automatic and is subject to satisfactory assessment.

It should be noted that the annual cost figures are estimates based on a pro-rata calculation of the value of the annual salary increase due to the increment. For example, if an officer was awarded an increment in January, the full annual value of the increase is taken into account. If an increment is awarded in December, only one twelfth of the annual value is allowed in the calculation. The estimates also do not include any consequential PRSI increases which would not be very significant in most cases. While this is not 100% accurate, I understand that it gives a reasonably close approximation of the overall cost of increments for the years in question.

With regard to the estimate for 2012 it must be stressed that increments are awarded to staff only following receipt of satisfactory annual assessments under the Performance Management and Development System, which operates across the Civil Service for grades below Assistant Secretary level. Attendance records, with particular regard to sick leave and punctuality, are also taken into consideration.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

8 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38464/11]

My Department's financial management system does not currently track VAT separately and payments are recorded on a VAT-inclusive basis. Therefore, it is not possible to give a definite answer to the Deputy's question based on the current level of VAT payments. In addition, much of the Department's expenditure on goods and services takes place overseas which involves VAT and excise arrangements at many different rates in many other jurisdictions outside of Ireland.

Passport Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

9 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 11 of 2 November 2011, if a decision has been reached in respect of an application for an Irish passport in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38597/11]

As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy's question on 2 November, 2011, this case has been the subject of detailed legal considerations. The core issue of the case centres on her entitlement to Irish citizenship. This entitlement is directly dependent on the amount of her mother's residence in the State that is reckonable for the purposes of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended (the Act). On the evidence of immigration stamps, which were issued to the applicant's mother, the amount of reckonable residence is insufficient to demonstrate her daughter's entitlement to Irish citizenship. However, the additional evidence of a letter, dated 24 March, 2009, from the then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was presented in support of the application. If the additional residence arising from this evidence was deemed to be reckonable for the purposes of the Act, the applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship (and thereby a passport), would be demonstrated. This aspect has been the subject of a High Court judgement, which was delivered on 9 July 2010 by Justice Ryan in Sulaimon v. Minister for Justice . The interpretation of this judgement has been the subject of discussions between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality, the latter of which is responsible for citizenship and immigration matters. These discussions were later extended to include officials from the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor.

From this meeting it has emerged that the judgement poses a number of difficulties in terms of its implementation in the area of citizenship and immigration, which will feature in a Supreme Court appeal. I understand that the Department for Justice and Equality is now seeking an appeal of this judgement at the earliest opportunity.

I can confirm that this application falls in this category and officials of my Department have referred the case to the Department of Justice and Equality. While I appreciate that this situation will be disappointing for the applicant's mother, I can assure the Deputy that if the applicant succeeds in obtaining a certificate of nationality for her daughter, the Passport Service will issue a passport to her as a matter of priority.

Human Rights Issues

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

10 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the relief efforts in Haiti and the urgent need for adequate funding to be made available that will be used to assist the victims affected by the 2010 earthquake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38723/11]

The devastating earthquake which struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 was the greatest disaster to hit the country in more than 200 years, killing more than 230,000 people and destroying swathes of the capital, Port au Prince. Among the survivors, more than 1.5 million people were made homeless and forced to take refuge in makeshift camps.

Almost two years on, while the international relief effort has made good progress, the humanitarian situation across the country remains fragile, with the sheer scale of the devastation wrought by the 2010 quake leaving a lasting legacy of displacement and destruction. While the number continues to decrease, approximately 550,000 people remain displaced in the country and large quantities of rubble remain. The quantity of rubble caused by the earthquake was estimated at more than 20 times that left behind following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, which itself took more than 18 months to remove.

Against this backdrop, Ireland pledged funding of €13 million for Haiti for the period 2010-2012 at a donor conference in New York in March 2010. By the end of this year, €11.5 million of this will have been disbursed and it is intended that the entire pledge will be met by early 2012.

In allocating financial support for Haiti, Ireland 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 which visited the country 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 for the provision of clean water, shelter and sanitation to the affected population. Funding of €1 million has also been provided to the Haiti Reconstruction Trust Fund for projects managed by the World Bank in line with priorities agreed with the Haitian authorities.

In addition to financial support, Irish Aid has carried out 18 deployments from its Rapid Response Corps to Haiti following the quake and these experts have been able to assist UN and other agencies to work in areas such as logistics, engineering and water and sanitation.

Looking ahead, it is vital that the international effort, led by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, steps up its efforts to ensure adequate progress in recovery and reconstruction while simultaneously addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of the population, particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities. Ireland will continue to play its part in encouraging and assisting in this recovery.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

11 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is concerned following recent developments in the Congo and the recording by the UN of many instances of election-related violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38778/11]

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 28 November in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The results of the presidential election are expected to be announced on 6 December, and the parliamentary results on 13 January 2012. Ireland is following the ongoing electoral process closely with our European Union partners and through the United Nations presence in the DRC. The European Union has deployed an election observation mission, consisting of 147 observers spread throughout the country. Six Irish observers are participating in the mission. In a preliminary statement issued on 1 December the European Union election observation mission noted that the election had experienced many difficulties due to poor infrastructure and a very tight schedule. In addition a number of concerns were raised on the conduct of the elections by the Commission Électorale Nationale Indépendante. A number of fatalities associated with the election have also been reported. The European Union election observation mission will announce formal conclusions on the election on the completion of the electoral process. This report will be made public and will be provided to the appropriate authorities in the DRC.

The United Nations has sought to enhance stability in the DRC through the work of MONUSCO, formerly MONUC, the UN's largest peacekeeping mission. MONUSCO's current strength is just under 20,000 troops, military observers and police, along with over 3,500 international and local civilian staff and approximately 600 UN volunteers. Over 50 countries, including Ireland, contribute military personnel to the mission. MONUSCO is a Chapter VII mission under the UN Charter, which means it is authorised to use all necessary means to carry out its protection mandate, including the effective protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence, as well as the protection of United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment. On 28 June, the mandate of the mission was extended until 30 June 2012. MONUSCO is providing logistical support for the electoral process.

Since 2010, Ireland has disbursed more than €13 million in response to the needs of the population in the DRC. To date in 2011, Ireland has allocated a total of over €5 million in emergency funding to the DRC via the UN administered pooled fund and through our NGO partners. Of this €1.5 million has been allocated to NGO partners. With our partners in the EU and the wider international community, Ireland will continue to work to bring an end to the conflicts which persist in the DRC, to address immediate humanitarian needs, and to help develop the capacity of the Congolese state to govern and protect its people.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

12 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views that the conflict resolution unit in his Department is utilised to the full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38779/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the allocation of the Department's scarce human and financial resources to priority areas is kept under constant review. As I outlined in my reply of 29 November, the Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) within my Department is engaged in a wide range of activities designed to ensure that the lessons of Ireland's unique experience of conflict can be shared internationally. The Unit's experience will be of particular importance in the context of Ireland's upcoming Chairmanship-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The cooperation between the CRU and officials engaged in preparations for the Chairmanship, under a shared director, is an example of my Department assigning resources to key priority areas, in a manner that ensures maximum effectiveness and takes full advantage of synergies between complementary work areas.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

13 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views that there will be a peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt; if this issue has been discussed at length at the EU Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38780/11]

The Government is closely monitoring the transition period in Egypt, and welcomes the well-organized and peaceful first phase of the parliamentary elections in Egypt on 28 November as well as the significant voter turnout which demonstrates the engagement of the Egyptian people in the political transition. Together with our EU partners, Ireland will continue to emphasise the need for the electoral process to continue in a transparent manner and in compliance with international standards. I again call upon the Egyptian interim government to allow international election monitors at future elections as Egypt continues its transition towards democracy. I also note the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' (SCAF) recent announcement that Presidential elections would be held before the end of June 2012. The EU Foreign Affairs Council discussed the situation in Egypt on 1 December. Ministers agreed Conclusions on Egypt, which I fully support, which welcomed the first phase of the parliamentary elections and expressed deep concern about the violence and unrest that took place prior to the first round of elections. The Council deplored the loss of life and high number of injured in recent clashes, and condemned the excessive and unacceptable violence committed by the security forces against the demonstrators. The Council urged restraint on all sides and calls for an independent investigation bringing those responsible for violence to justice. The Council also urged the authorities to uphold the rule of law and respect for human rights. I would again urge the SCAF to end the thirty year long State of Emergency, as a demonstration of its commitment to facilitating real change and reform in Egypt. The next six months or so will be a crucial time for Egypt in its democratic transition and it is vital that the interim ruling military council ensure that there is no repeat of this violent repression of protests.

The SCAF has the responsibility of protecting the democratic rights of the population and must ensure that power — including oversight of the military — is fully transferred as soon as possible to a representative, inclusive civilian government, that has all the necessary authority to lead Egypt through its transition process. The lack of clarity about, and length of, the transition has adversely affected the economic situation in Egypt, which makes it even more urgent to have representative authorities able to engage in the necessary social and economic reforms and to make effective use of available international assistance.

Ireland and the EU will continue to stand by Egypt and its people in their quest for freedom and a democratic transition based on the goals of deep and sustainable democracy and inclusive economic development.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

14 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he supports the sanctions imposed by the Arab League on Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38781/11]

Ireland fully supports the sanctions, including an asset freeze and an embargo on investments, imposed by the Arab League on Syria on 27 November. The purpose of these measures, and other international political and diplomatic actions against Syria, is to increase the pressure on President Assad and his supporters so that they immediately end the violence against the Syrian people, begin inclusive dialogue, and start a process of transition. The Government, together with its EU partners, welcomes the leadership which has been shown by the Arab League in tackling the crisis caused by the Syrian regime's lethal repression against its own citizens. Ireland and other EU member states were amongst the co-sponsors of a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria adopted by the UN Human Rights Council's Special Session on Syria on 2 December. The resolution commends and supports the efforts and measures by the Arab League and calls upon the Syrian authorities to implement the Arab League's Plan of Action — which President Assad agreed to — in its entirety without further delay. The resolution also urges Syria to sign a draft Protocol on the Arab League's proposed observer mission to Syria.

The Arab League sanctions are a clear sign that international political and diplomatic pressure is intensifying against Syria. Turkey also announced sanctions against Syria on 30 November and the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed on 1 December additional measures related to the energy, financial, banking and trade sectors, as well as the listing of additional individuals and entities involved in the violence or supporting the regime. This comes on top of extensive existing EU measures, including a ban on oil imports from Syria. At UN level, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee adopted a resolution on human rights in Syria on 22 November while the independent International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the HRC last August issued a report on 28 November, in which it stated its grave concern that Syria's security forces have committed "crimes against humanity" in their continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters. It is hoped that the UN Security Council will also step up to its responsibilities and soon agree a robust resolution on Syria.

Ireland, the EU and international partners such as the Arab League, the US and Turkey are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.

Employment Support Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

15 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if a scheme such as Revenue job assist will be implemented specifically for long-term unemployed graduates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38855/11]

Sections 88A and 472A of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provide for the Revenue Job Assist scheme, which allows tax relief for employers and employees in situations where an individual commences work having previously been long term unemployed. The scheme operates by providing a double deduction from Income Tax and PRSI for 3 years for employers that employ a person who has been unemployed for a minimum of 12 months. The employee receives an additional tax-free allowance on a sliding scale for the same time period.

In order to qualify for the scheme, the employer must not have made any staff redundant in the 26 weeks prior to the recruitment and must offer a job for a minimum of 30 hours a week with a contract for at least 12 months.

In order for the employee to qualify, they must have been continuously unemployed for the previous 12 months.

Any individual who has been unemployed for the previous 12 months and is in receipt of a payment from the Department of Social Protection can qualify for this scheme, including graduates. Therefore I see no need to introduce a scheme that would only apply to graduates.

Banking Sector Regulation

Micheál Martin

Question:

16 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered or will consider changes to competition law to deal with what the Financial Regulator recently referred to as the dysfunctional nature of the banking market and which he cited as one of the main factors preventing ECB mortgage interest rate cuts being passed on. [38310/11]

Neither the Central Bank nor I, as Minister for Finance, have a statutory role in the setting of interest rates charged or paid by financial institutions in Ireland regulated by the Central Bank. In a recent letter to the Taoiseach, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank stated that the power to exercise close regulatory control over retail interest rates is not sought by the Central Bank at this time. The Deputy Governor goes on to point out the difficulties which would result from Central Bank powers to set interest rates. These include a reduction in the availability of credit particularly to less secure customers, a chilling effect on entry of sound competitors in the market and an impediment to progress towards the re-establishment of bank management practices that could ensure a healthy and free standing banking system no longer dependent on the Government for bail outs.

Based on the advice received from the Central Bank I have no plans to recommend to Government that they introduce legislation to compel lenders to reduce their standard variable rates. However, I will keep the matter under review.

House Repossessions

Pearse Doherty

Question:

17 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 53 of 24 November 2011, the number of legal cases taken by each of the banks named for each of the years detailed; the number of repossessions sought and secured by each bank in each respective year; the number of repossessions of domestic properties by bank and by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38331/11]

I have requested that the Covered Institutions to supply responses to the respective follow up questions, and I will write to the Deputy in this regard, as soon as the information is to hand.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

18 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the specific grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38339/11]

My Department has no function in this particular matter.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

19 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38359/11]

In my Department, the following increments have been made payable in the years in question:

2010 — 261 increments paid to Department of Finance staff members

2011 — 171 increments paid, to date, to Department of Finance staff members

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the number of increments that will be paid in 2012 as payment of increments is subject to sick leave and punctuality requirements in addition to receipt of the appropriate annual rating under the Performance Management and Development System 2011.

Pension Provisions

Ann Phelan

Question:

20 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Finance in view of continued public protest against the effects on pensioners of the pensions levy and his assurances that the industry is not passing it on to pensioners if he will clarify the position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38369/11]

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 levy is a charge for a temporary period on the significant assets of pension funds, much of which are represented by investments outside of Ireland, in order to fund the Jobs Initiative introduced earlier this year. The various measures in the Initiative represent the first steps by this Government towards improving the competitiveness of important sectors of the economy and facilitating the return to work of people currently unemployed. The levy is a reasonable and targeted tax measure being introduced to fund the various measures set out in the Jobs Initiative. The country is facing an economic and unemployment crisis and the Jobs Initiative will help tackle that crisis and applying a temporary levy to pension funds is less damaging economically than raising other taxes.

Individuals may be affected in different ways by the pension fund levy. I am not in a position to comment on what the precise impact of the levy will be in all cases on individuals or individual funds, schemes, members or retired members as this depends, for example, on whether and to what extent pension fund trustees and Life Offices decide to pass on the levy to individual members, given the particular circumstances of the pension funds or pension plans that they are responsible for. I can say that the Finance (No 2) Act 2011 provisions include certain safeguards in this area. The payment of the levy is treated as a necessary expense of a scheme and the trustees or insurer, as appropriate, will be entitled where needed to adjust current or prospective benefits payable under a scheme to take account of the levy. However, should the option of reducing scheme benefits be taken, it must essentially be applied in an equitable fashion across the different classes of scheme members that could include active, deferred and retired members. In no case may the reduction in an individual member's or class of member's benefits exceed the member's or class of member's share of the levy.

The Revenue Commissioners are afforded oversight authority to review, where they consider it appropriate, instances where benefits are adjusted as a result of the payment of the levy to ensure that any such adjustment is in keeping with the requirements of the levy legislation. In undertaking any such review Revenue may consult with appropriate experts as they see fit. However, before Revenue could act in that regard, instances of concern on foot of actual adjustments made would first have to be brought to their attention.

I believe that there is scope for the pension fund industry to absorb the impact of the temporary pension scheme levy by way of a reduction in the fees and charges made on those schemes. I have raised this issue at face-to-face meetings with representatives of pensions industry and in writing. The response from the industry has to date not been particularly positive in this respect. There have been calls to force the industry to absorb the levy through legislation but I do not consider that this approach, regardless of the circumstances from case to case, would be the most appropriate action at this time.

A group has been established to examine charges in the pensions industry. The group is chaired by the Department of Social Protection with representatives of the Central Bank and the Pensions Board. This study will provide an initial benchmark on the level of pension charges for different forms of funded supplementary pension arrangements and will provide information in relation to disclosure of charges. These data have not been available to date so the study will provide valuable information to inform policy. When this information on pension charges becomes available, I will consider how it may be used to advance the issue of the industry absorbing the impact of the pension fund levy.

Tax Collection

Robert Troy

Question:

21 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will facilitate a manual tax return for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [38388/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their office in Athlone has been in contact with the named individual in relation to the mandatory e-filing obligation of his company. He has been advised that the obligation to Pay and File Tax returns electronically applies to the company (but not to his own personal Income Tax returns). The company has been advised that it has the right to appeal this decision. The named individual may, of course, continue to submit his own personal Income Tax returns to Revenue manually.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

22 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a scheme to help persons who are in apartments or houses which are not suitable for their family size and find themselves in negative equity and unable to sell the apartment or house in the current climate; if he will consider a wavier scheme for persons who rent their properties in order that, in turn, they can rent properties that suit their family requirements and because of this will not be eligible for mortgage interest relief and will be liable to pay tax to the Revenue Commissioners because they leased their own property. [38389/11]

As regards the possible introduction of new mortgage products for the situation described by the Deputy, the Central Bank has advised me that they wrote to all mortgage lenders to ascertain whether they were offering, or intended to offer, a mortgage product that would allow home owners to sell their existing home and transfer the negative equity portion of the original loan to the new loan. In response to the Central Bank's letter, only a small number of mortgage lenders said that they would consider offering such a facility. A trial period commenced in mid-2011 and was due to be assessed by the Central Bank and the institutions involved before the end of the year. However the low level of activity makes it difficult to conduct a meaningful review at this time and the proposed review will not take place until the first half of 2012. Any institution offering such a facility may only do so in accordance with criteria agreed in advance with the Central Bank. As regards income tax relief against the profits from letting residential investment properties the Deputy might wish to note that in certain circumstances, partial tax relief is available against such profits. This partial tax relief is in respect of interest on money borrowed to purchase, improve or replace the property concerned. The level at which interest repayments can be claimed against tax for a residential rental property is currently 75%. The deduction for such interest is subject to compliance with the requirements of the Private Residential Tenancies Board. For tax relief purposes residential investment property is generally understood to be property from which the owner seeks to derive profits through lettings.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

23 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will exempt all goods, excluding alcohol and cigarettes, retailing at less than €10 from any VAT increase in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38421/11]

VAT is charged on the supply of goods and services, and the rate applying is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The EU VAT Directive provides that Member States must apply VAT to all economic activity, which includes the supply of goods. Member States must apply a standard VAT rate to the majority of goods and services, with the option of applying reduced rates of up to 15% in defined circumstances. In this respect, the VAT Directive does not allow for two separate standard VAT rates to apply, at 21% and 23% in this case if goods below €10 were to continue to be charged at the current standard rate. In addition, because of VAT competition rules, it is generally not possible to treat the supply of goods and services differently, based on their value.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

24 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will exempt from any budget VAT increase on certain repairs for example shoe repairs, bicycle repairs and alterations to personal clothing, when the charge to the consumer is less than €25; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38422/11]

The 2% VAT increase I announced recently relates to an increase in the standard VAT rate from 21% to 23%. The standard VAT rate applies to the majority of goods and services in the State including cars, petrol and auto-diesel, electrical equipment and CD/DVDs, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco, telecommunications, furniture, cosmetics, adult clothing and footwear. However, I would point out that there will be no increase in VAT on all remaining goods and services that are currently liable to the 9% and 13.5% reduced rates, the zero rate, or those items that are exempt from VAT. In effect, this means that there will be no VAT increase on most food, children's clothes and footwear, oral medicines, tourism and restaurant services, housing, construction, domestic fuels, labour intensive services and general repairs and maintenance.

In this context, there will be no increase in the VAT on shoe repairs, bicycle repairs and alterations to personal clothing, as these services are subject to the 13.5% VAT rate which is not being changed in the Budget.

Financial Services Regulation

John Deasy

Question:

25 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change the provisions of section 35 of the Credit Union Act 1997, which is restricting credit unions ability to assist members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38429/11]

John Deasy

Question:

26 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to seek a deferral of the proposed section 35 amendment pending the outcome of the upcoming strategic review of the credit union sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38430/11]

John Deasy

Question:

27 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change the restrictions which are in place under section 35 of the Credit Union Act 1997, which limits the maximum amount of loans that can be issued in a month, based on cash flow, regardless of credit unions' existing loans to asset ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38431/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 to 27, inclusive, together.

Section 35 of the Credit Union Act 1997 (Section 35) imposes limits on credit unions in relation to longer-term lending. The funding of credit unions is predominantly provided on a short-term basis in the form of on-demand savings and consequently the Section 35 limits are necessary for the protection of the financial stability of credit unions.

With regard to possible further amendments to Section 35, the Deputy will be aware that the Commission on Credit Unions is currently in place. Part of the Terms of Reference of the Commission is to examine the existing legislation and make recommendations on strengthening of the regulatory framework for the sector. I have agreed the recommendations contained in the Interim Report of the Commission which was published in October 2011. These recommendations will feed into new credit union legislation which is due to be published in June 2012. This will provide for the introduction of a Prudential Rule Book for credit unions in certain areas, including lending. Further additional changes to Section 35 were not proposed in the Interim Report. I understand, however, that the Commission will further examine the workings of Section 35 early in 2012 and may make recommendations in relation to it in its final report which is due at end-March 2012. I will consider any recommendations made by the Commission at that time.

Credit Availability

John Deasy

Question:

28 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change the lending restrictions imposed by the Registrar of Credit Unions, which places a complete ban on credit unions lending commercial or business loans that is hampering small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38432/11]

The imposition of lending restrictions is the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions, who is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the Registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability and to protect the savings of credit union members. This is part of normal regulation and supervision of the sector. As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. It would not be appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to examine or adjudicate on whether the placing of lending restrictions is necessary on a case by case basis. I believe that such action would represent interference in the work of the independent regulator.

The Registrar has put lending restrictions in place in order to protect the savings of members in credit unions and to ensure that credit unions focus on risks when making lending decisions. Restrictions are imposed on a case-by-case basis and are reviewed regularly. The type of lending restrictions can include maximum individual loan size, overall maximum monthly lending limits and restrictions on business lending.

The Registrar has advised that about 50% of credit unions are subject to lending restrictions at present. Almost all credit unions with a lending restriction have a maximum individual loan size restriction. Of the credit unions with lending restrictions:

70% can lend €20,000 or more to an individual member · Less than 4% of credit unions are restricted to loans of less than €10,000 to an individual member, and

Just 1 credit union is restricted to lending less than €5,000 per member. Commercial lending restrictions apply to approximately a third of credit unions. This does not preclude credit unions from lending small business type loans if appropriate in certain circumstances. As part of the work to build liquidity levels in the credit union sector, the Central Bank introduced maximum monthly lending limits in a number of credit unions. Currently, maximum monthly lending limit restrictions are in place in a small proportion of credit unions .

Departmental Staff

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

29 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) who was offered a head to head transfer to his Department; if this transfer will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38443/11]

Head to Head transfers are permitted between provincial locations when both transferees are the most senior on the Central Transfer list and/or the Central Applications Facility (CAF) in their own location. Both Departments and both applicants must agree to the transfer. The Department (details supplied) approached my Department to facilitate a head to head transfer for their staff member. There were two people on the list in my Department. The usual transfer papers were exchanged and unfortunately for a variety of reasons the head to head transfers were not considered possible. Therefore no offer of a transfer was made to any person by either Department.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

30 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38463/11]

The estimated cost of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT, using 2010 as a reference year, is €158,000. Since the establishment of the Department of Public Expenditure in July 2011, my Department has operated a shared service arrangement with that Department in respect of certain goods and services acquired by one, or other, of the Departments. The estimate supplied covers the two Departments.

Tax Collection

Joe McHugh

Question:

31 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will internally review the efficiency of collections by Revenue; if the fees charged by bailiffs represent value for money for taxpayers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38478/11]

I am satisfied that Revenue undertakes the task of securing the collection of the critical taxes and duties payable to the State in an efficient and cost effective manner. I am assured that Revenue management regularly carries out internal reviews of its collection systems to ensure maximum efficiency. And each year the Comptroller and Auditor General examines elements of the tax collection systems and of Revenue's performance in this area. I have no plans for a separate review of the efficiency of Revenue's collections processes at this time. Sheriff's fees and expenses including those relating to bailiffs are set out in the Sheriff's Fees and Expenses Order, (S.I. 644 of 2005). The current Order came into operation on 1 November 2005. The fees were set by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

I am satisfied that the fees reflect the principle that the costs of enforcement are carried by the non compliant individuals and businesses where Revenue is forced to take enforcement action in order to recover the taxes and duties due to the Exchequer.

Economic and Monetary Union

Joan Collins

Question:

32 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Finance the contingency plans in place for Ireland to produce its own currency in the event of the euro collapsing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38505/11]

There are many risks in the broad economic environment at present, which I must take into account in conjunction with my Department and the agencies that report to me. The euro is a firm and solid currency currently trading well against all the other major currencies. There is clearly no market expectation and there is certainly no Irish Government expectation, of any collapse in the euro. The Central Bank continues to produce euro currency.

Tax Code

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

33 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance if it is possible to stagger the introduction of the proposed 2% increase in VAT to the higher rate over a period of time in ease of retailers so affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38507/11]

While it is possible to change the standard VAT rate at different times, and thereby stagger any proposed VAT increase, this is not advisable. Firstly, to do so would cause significant difficulties in administration for businesses, practitioners and the Revenue Commissioners. In addition, to do so would cause uncertainty for businesses and consumers. Furthermore, staggering the proposed standard VAT increase would involve delaying the proposed measure which would mean reduced revenues for the Exchequer, which would have to be made up elsewhere in the tax system.

Robert Dowds

Question:

34 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider taxing children’s allowance given to wealthy families those with incomes of greater than €100,000 as part of budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38579/11]

As the Deputy is aware, I will be delivering my Budget for 2012 today. 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.

Departmental Staff

Robert Dowds

Question:

35 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the criteria for supporting a person’s nomination to the European Court of Auditors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38589/11]

Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union sets out the criteria for nomination to the European Court of Auditors stating that "Members of the Court of Auditors shall be chosen from among persons who belong or have belonged in their respective States to external audit bodies or who are especially qualified for this office. Their independence must be beyond doubt". I presume the Deputy is referring to the nomination of Mr. Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors.

Mr Cardiff has been awarded the following qualifications:

Degree in History and Psychology University of Washington, Seattle, USA, 1983

Masters in Business Studies University College, Dublin 1991

Diploma in Applied Finance Law Law Society Ireland 2003

Mr. Cardiff also carries with him a long career of distinguished public service here and the credentials to do a first class job in respect of the European Court of Auditors.

Mr. Cardiff retains the Government's full support as Ireland's nominee to the European Court of Auditors.

Banking Sector Regulation

Robert Dowds

Question:

36 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance the steps he took to persuade Allied Irish Bank to pass on the recent interest rate change to its mortgage customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38590/11]

On Thursday 3 November 2011, the Governing council of the ECB reduced the interest rate of main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem by 25 basis points to 1.25%, with effect from 9 November 2011. On Wednesday 9th November, The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform and I met with the Chairman of AIB to discuss a number of matters including SME lending and SVR mortgage rates. The meeting had been scheduled prior to the interest rate cut. At that meeting, the Chairman of AIB was asked if he intended to pass on the ECB rate cut. The Chairman indicated that at that time the bank was not inclined to do so at which point it was requested of him that the bank reconsider its position in light of the current circumstances faced by mortgage holders across the country.

The following evening, on 10 November, the Board of the bank announced that it had decided to pass on the interest rate decrease to customers.

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

37 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a revenue raising initiative which relates to taxation products and investment policy (details supplied). [38615/11]

The Deputy's suggestion is to reduce the current eight year "deemed disposal" period for the imposition of tax on certain investment products. I am assuming the Deputy's suggestion is that any proposed shorter period would apply to all products currently subject to the deemed disposal regime. I thank the Deputy for his suggestion which I will have considered, along with other potential tax measures.

Tax Yield

Finian McGrath

Question:

38 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there is any evidence that another tax amnesty would result in more revenue. [38643/11]

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. However, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

Most social welfare customers fully declare their means and circumstances and, therefore, do not receive more than their entitlements. However, where a customer fails to fully declare their means or circumstances, they may receive payments to which they are not entitled and this can result in an overpayment. It is important that the Department seeks to recover overpayments where they occur and an overpayment debt will remain on the customer's 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 will have a claim on any estate remaining.

Customers who are aware that they are being, or have been overpaid by the Department should contact their local social welfare office without delay. An overpayment recovery plan, acceptable both to the customer and to the Department, will then be agreed.

I have no plans to introduce an amnesty for customers as I do not consider this to be an appropriate response. The Department is fully committed to recovering 100% of overpayments arising as a result of suspected fraud or error. Effective debt recovery and the prosecution of persons who defraud the social welfare system are an integral part of the deterrent approach to prevent abuse of the system.

The Deputy may be aware 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.

Banking Sector Regulation

Finian McGrath

Question:

39 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding the EBS interest rate (details supplied). [38648/11]

The merger of AIB and EBS was formally completed on 1 July 2011. Prior to the completion of the merger, each of the banks set their variable mortgage rates according to the levels, calculated by the respective management teams and boards, that was required for each of the institutions to operate as a commercially viable entity in light of the challenging market conditions, the expected cost of funds, future impairments and ongoing operational costs. Notwithstanding the merger of the two banks, EBS continues to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AIB with its own individual banking license, brand and cost structure. This arrangement has been determined by the Board of AIB as being the most effective method of integrating the EBS business whilst retaining the core strengths of each individual entity which should return the greatest value to the State over time as shareholder. While this operational position exists it is likely that AIB and EBS will continue to offer different products to customers and as such, the banks can be expected, in the short to medium term, to price their mortgages and deposits differently from each other in the marketplace.

Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the respective management teams and boards of the banks having given due regard to its customers and the State as majority shareholder.

National Asset Management Agency

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

40 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the process involved in the National Asset Management Agency taking over loans on properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38652/11]

I am informed by NAMA that the transfer of assets to it from the participating institutions is now close to completion and that loans with nominal balances of €74 billion have transferred to the Agency and that €32 billion has been paid by NAMA in respect of these loans. The provisions under which the National Asset Management Agency acquired loans are set out in the National Asset Management Agency Act, 2009. The acquisition process is governed by the provisions of Parts 4 to 7 of the Act in particular,

Part 4 provides for the designation of credit institutions as NAMA participants and the designation of bank assets as eligible for transfer;

Part 5 sets out the principles and policies for the valuation methodology;

Part 6 sets out the procedures under which the assets are transferred to NAMA;

Part 7 provides for the appeals processes of which participating institutions may avail

NAMA also provides a description of the loan acquisition process on its website at http://www.nama.ie/about-our-work/step-by-step/buying-a-loan/

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

41 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance if both the banks and the National Asset Management Agency carry out separate valuations at enormous expense to the companies involved even in cases where these companies are repaying the loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38653/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to valuations of property which are an integral part of the due diligence process by which NAMA values loans being acquired from the participating institutions. I am informed by NAMA that the initial property valuation is commissioned and paid for by the institution. NAMA reviews this valuation and only in cases where it considers that the valuation is incorrect does it commission a ‘second opinion' valuation from another valuer. I am informed that valuations are referred for second opinion only in about one case out of every six valuations and that, in such cases, NAMA accepts the second valuation as binding.

I would also point out that the loan valuation methodology was approved by the European Commission on 26 February 2010.

Banks Recapitalisation

Shane Ross

Question:

42 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that all amendments to methodologies and changes to formulas applied by the Central Bank of Ireland during the stress testing process were fully disclosed to and approved by the peer review team appointed by the European Banking Authoroity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38796/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

43 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the only way in which the methodology applied by the Central Bank of Ireland to the Irish banks in the July 2011 stress tests differed to that prescribed to other European banks participating in the exercise was to take account of the losses forecast by BlackRock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38797/11]

Shane Ross

Question:

44 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance if the BlackRock forecasts were the only criteria upon which amendments were made to methodologies applied in the stress tests of July 2011; if he will confirm in which other respects amendments were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38798/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 to 44, inclusive, together.

In relation to the first question above (ref: 38796/11), the Deputy will note that this matter was addressed in my reply to his previous parliamentary question on the subject (ref: 35901/11 of 22 November 2011).

With reference to the remaining two questions (refs: 38797/11 & 38798/11), I am advised by the Central Bank of Ireland, that the European Banking Authority applied the following key differences in methodology to the Irish banks relative to their European peers that participated in the 2011 EU-wide bank solvency stress test:

Loan loss forecasts:

The BlackRock Solutions output were used for loan loss forecasts as opposed to the predefined methodology. This resulted in significantly higher estimated stress case losses for Irish banks relative to their European counterparts.

Deleveraging:

The estimated impact of losses resulting from asset disposal activities scheduled to occur within the stress testing horizon were taken into account. This resulted in significantly higher estimated losses for Irish banks relative to their European counterparts. Deleveraging also resulted in a reduction of future estimated Risk Weighted Assets, and consequently future estimated regulatory capital, over the time horizon of the test, which was not allowed for other participating banks.

Funding:

Irish, Greek and Portuguese banks were issued with separate cost of funds instructions to account for the impact of the sovereign spreads and external support programmes.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Michael Creed

Question:

45 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he has attempted to quantify the lost revenue due to illegal tobacco smuggling; the inter-agency efforts under way to address same; if he is satisfied that the level of financial fines imposed on those convicted is a sufficient deterrent in view the profit margins involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38837/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco, that there is no internationally recognised method for precisely determining the amount of tax lost as a result of the illicit trade in cigarettes. However, a survey commissioned by Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control in 2009 estimated that 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. The 20% figure was further broken down as 14% illicit product and 6% legally imported by passengers arriving into the State from other jurisdictions. Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control commissioned a similar survey in the last quarter of 2010 and the results of this latest survey show a consistency with the 2009 figures i.e. 20% of all cigarettes consumed in the State were not taxed in the State with 14% again classified as illegal product and 6% classified as legal non-Irish duty paid product. Based on an estimate of 14%, the loss to the exchequer from illicit cigarette consumption during 2010 would be in the region of €250m (excise duty + VAT). A further survey is currently underway. The Commissioners inform me that they regard the tackling of the illicit tobacco trade as a high priority area. They have established a high level internal group, chaired at Commissioner level, to examine the risks related to tobacco products tax and to oversee and optimise the detection of contraband and counterfeit tobacco products. This group has promoted a number of initiatives aimed at counteracting the illicit trade in tobacco. These include adoption of a comprehensive tobacco strategy and action plan.

The strategy employed by Revenue to tackle this illicit trade is multi-faceted. It includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, optimum deployment of resources at point of importation and inland, in order to intercept the contraband product and to prosecute those involved.

Interception at the point of importation is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. Revenue enforcement officers also target this illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises. In July 2010, Revenue launched a series of nationwide tobacco ‘blitz'-type operations, which concentrated additional Revenue resources at ports, airports and at various inland retail points, including markets for the purpose of identifying illicit tobacco products. To date, Revenue has conducted eight such national tobacco ‘blitz' operations resulting in the seizure of over 34m cigarettes and 1,383 kgs of tobacco. A ninth ‘blitz' operation is just completed and the seizure figures are not yet available. Revenue also carries out regular multi-agency operations, particularly in relation to large maritime importations and in checks at inland markets. Revenue also works closely with the European Anti- Fraud Office, OLAF, in their efforts at tackling the illicit sale of tobacco at an international level. Revenue also provides, and receives, intelligence from other Customs Administrations. This international cooperation, and sharing of intelligence and expertise plays an important role in combating illegal tobacco smuggling on the global scale.

With regard to the penalties available for prosecution of tobacco smuggling offences, the penalty on summary conviction for evasion of duty is

€5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The penalty on indictment is up to €126,970 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or, where the value of the product concerned is greater than €250,000, up to three times the value of the products. The penalty of €126,970, which was sanctioned by the Oireachtas in the 2010 Finance Act, represents a significant increase on the previous monetary penalty of €12,695. These increased penalties are considered adequate.

In 2010, Revenue enforcement officers seized 178.3m cigarettes with a retail value of €75.3m and 3,342kgs of tobacco with a retail value of €1.2m. To date in 2011, a total of 97.07m cigarettes with a retail value of €40.9m and 11,213kgs of tobacco with a retail value of €4.02m have been seized.

In 2011 to date, Revenue has obtained 92 convictions relating to cigarette smuggling, with fines of €128,550 imposed and 29 custodial sentences, of which 19 were suspended. There were 47 convictions relating to the sale of unstamped tobacco products with fines of €96,350 imposed and 12 custodial sentences of which 7 were suspended.

The Deputy will appreciate that the precise penalty imposed on conviction in any individual case is solely a matter for the Courts and I do not propose to make any comment in that regard.

House Prices

Thomas Pringle

Question:

46 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance if he has concluded his discussions with the proposers of the offset debt method for addressing negative equity in family homes; when he commenced his exploration of this proposal; the number of meetings that have been held; the nature of these recent discussions; if there were any external consultations sought on the proposal; if he has reached a decision; if he will be proceeding with the proposal; when it will it be announced and if not, the basis for rejecting it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38885/11]

The Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from the difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments. It was for this reason that the Government took the significant step of establishing an Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group to consider further necessary actions. The Group's report was published in October 2011. The contents of the Group's report were discussed at length during the course of a Dail debate on the report. I intend to take account of the contributions of all Deputies in this debate as well as suggestions from a wide range of other stakeholders, interested groups and private individuals. As soon as all deliberations are considered, I will put proposals to Government on next steps, including an implementation mechanism to be driven by my Department.

Tax Code

Thomas Pringle

Question:

47 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance his plans to end the process in which large multiple retailers are profiting from VAT refunds on the below cost sale of alcohol when they reclaim the difference between the invoice price VAT and the sale price VAT levied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38887/11]

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 Yield

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

48 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the moneys to date paid to companies who under the Finance Act 2009 availed of tax relief for research and development here but who had not paid enough tax to avail of the full amount and who claimed the difference as a payment from the Exchequer. [38918/11]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 included amendments to Sections 766 and 766A Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997 to provide for companies to claim the research and development tax credit as a payable credit where there is insufficient Corporation Tax in the year of claim and the preceding accounting period to absorb the full credit. This change applies to accounting periods commencing on or after 1st January 2009. The credit is paid in 3 instalments over 33 months from the end of the accounting period. Amounts paid out by Revenue in respect of claims made on 2009 corporation tax returns, which is the latest year for which figures are available, are as follows:

Section 766 TCA 1997 — €31.3m in respect of 362 claimant companies

Section 766A TCA 1997 — €1.2m in respect of 23 claimant companies

These amounts represent first instalment payments, which is a third of the amount ultimately payable. The balance, if not absorbed by corporation tax liabilities for 2010 and 2011, is payable within 24 months of the time for payment of the first instalment.

Statistics for 2010 payable credit claims will not be available until mid-2012.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

49 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a VAT refund for registered charitable non-profit organisations similar to the model operated by the Danish Government, which does not contravene European Union regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38986/11]

Charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT. I appreciate the concerns of charities regarding the VAT issue and, as I indicated in the Seanad on 6 October 2011, I am prepared to have the matter examined by my officials in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners and representatives of the charity sector. However, the examination of any options, including the Danish model referred to by the Deputy, must not only take into account the current demands on the Exchequer but also that charitable organisations are already in receipt of funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer, the existing tax relief scheme in respect of donations being just one example. Charities, voluntary and community groups, and sporting bodies also benefit significantly from grant schemes administered by a number of Government Departments.

Credit Availability

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

50 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding loans; his plans to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38987/11]

The decision on whether or not to grant a loan to a borrower must remain a commercial decision for the lending institution concerned. It is important that each lending institution is allowed to assess properly and independently the risks that it is considering when deciding whether or not to approve a loan. The Government acts at arm's length from the lending institutions and does not consider it appropriate to direct an institution on such a matter as the provision of loans for the purchase of motor cars either from a main dealer or from a garage proprietor.

In-service Training

Mattie McGrath

Question:

51 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the annual cost to him of in-service training for primary teachers; the role the Teaching Council of Ireland plays in providing in-service training days; the annual budget for the Teaching Council of Ireland; the way the estimated €5.4 million paid to the Teaching Council of Ireland in teacher registration fees is being used; if the provision of in-service training days could be transferred from him to the Teaching Council of Ireland as a cost saving measure and provided for by the teacher registration fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38308/11]

The Teaching Council Act 2001 (Section 39) enables the Teaching Council to review and accredit programmes relating to the continuing education of teachers. Planning for the commencement of the section is underway. The Teaching Council is self-funding. It raises its funds from, in the main part, teachers' initial registration and renewal of registration fees. The annual registration fee is currently €90.

The Council's current annual income is c.€6.6m. Its main costs are staff and administration, accommodation, registration, communication and education, and information technology. Each year the Council publishes an annual report on its activities which is laid before the House. The report also contains audited financial statements. The Council currently discharges a range of functions relating to initial teacher education and the setting of standards for the teaching profession. The annual cost (excluding salary) of continuing professional development for teachers is approximately €23.5m. Transfer of provision of this service to the Teaching Council would require a substantial increase in the annual registration fee payable by teachers if it were to be funded from within the Council's resources. I have no plans at present to ask the Council to fund and provide this service.

Disadvantaged Status

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

52 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is being considered in the ongoing evaluation of DEIS by the Educational Research Centre; when the evaluation report is expected to be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38313/11]

There is a commitment under DEIS for ongoing evaluation of the programme to ensure successful implementation with the best possible approaches to measuring progress and outcomes at both local and national level. The focus of the present report is solely on reporting pupil achievement outcomes in urban primary schools participating in the School Support Programme under DEIS. The School to which the Deputy refers was not selected to participate in DEIS and therefore, is not being considered in the ongoing evaluation of DEIS. The Evaluation report is currently being finalised and will be published in the coming weeks.

School Staffing

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

53 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to cut second level teaching posts in County Cork over the next 12 months; and if he will provide details of same. [38324/11]

While difficult choices had to be made to identify savings across my Department's remit, the Government has gone as far as it could to protect front line services in 2012. The recent changes announced in the Budget were made within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure back into line with what we can afford as a country. The challenge is to ensure that the resources that are provided to schools are used by them to maximum effect in terms of providing an appropriate range of subjects to meet the needs of our knowledge economy and in delivering the best possible outcomes for all our pupils. My Department will be notifying schools of the impact of the budget changes in January, 2012.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

54 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the average number of students per teacher in each primary and secondary school in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38325/11]

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive information relating to the number of teaching posts in schools. The most recent information available relates to the 2010/2011 school year.

Statistical information in respect of the current school year is currently being compiled in my Department and is due for publication in September 2012.

Special Educational Needs

Clare Daly

Question:

55 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason €70 million was spent on the ABA pilot school, but no research was undertaken by him or the National Council for Special Education to evaluate the school’s effectiveness; the reason he cannot produce a list of the evidence and advice he received regarding the policy on the education of children with autism (details supplied). [38327/11]

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

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

The preferred policy of my Department is that children with autism are educated in school settings where children may have access to individualised education programmes (IEPs), fully-qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants, the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. This approach promotes the maximum level of inclusion which accords with the intent of the EPSEN Act. While some children may be able to attend a mainstream class, for others the most appropriate provision may be in a special class or unit in the school or in a special school.

This policy is based on advice received from international experts on autism, NEPS, the Inspectorate and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism. In arriving at the preferred policy which is currently in place, my Department has considered published research, including the Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001) and the Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (2006), both of which are available on my Department's website. My Department was also mindful of contributions of many others experts at international conferences/visits.

My Department supports some 450 special classes for autism attached to mainstream and special schools and 18 special schools for children with autism throughout the State which cater for the educational needs of some 5,000 children with autism.

The Deputy refers to the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my Department for the past decade. The pilot scheme included 13 centres which were funded annually. In the last full year of the scheme, prior to the grant of recognition of the schools, the full cost of the scheme was approximately €11m which covered the costs of the 13 centres.

The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based special classes for children with autism which is now available. The establishment of this network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. All 13 of the centres which participated in the pilot scheme have been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism. These schools will operate in line with my Department's policy. Following their recognition the new schools are currently progressing well in the transitional phase.

My Department's Inspectorate carried out an evaluation of all educational provision for children with autistic spectrum disorders some years ago. A copy of this report is available on my Department's website ww.education.gov.ie. Part of this review evaluated the centres funded under the ABA pilot Scheme.

Higher Education Grants

Pearse Doherty

Question:

56 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 26 October 2011, the reason County Donegal Vocational Education Committee uses mapping services to calculate distances using back roads when there is clearly no bus route available to students; his views that this is justifiable and the legislation that outlines these measures. [38328/11]

The guidance given to local authorities and VECs in relation to the application of the distance criterion for student grants is that the shortest, most direct route to the institution attended is measured. The implementation of this guidance is a matter for individual grant awarding authorities, which will be best positioned to interpret its application in the context of local circumstances.

Article 26 (3) (a) and (b) Student Grant Scheme 2011 (S.I. No. 305 of 2011) sets out the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of student grant and also empowers the grant awarding authority to determine the rate of grant applicable to individual eligible students in this regard.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

57 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38337/11]

My Department provides limited financial support to a small number of community and voluntary groups across the country. Details of funding provided by my Department to such groups in Galway under the Back to Education Initiative and through FÁS Local Training Initiatives are outlined in the following table. In addition to the grants indicated in the following table, block grant funding is provided by my Department to Vocational Educational Committees for the Adult Literacy and Community Education Scheme. It is a matter for each VEC to determine how this funding is allocated at local level.

Funding allocated to community groups in Galway by Department of Education and Skills, 2011

Funding stream

Group

Funding 2011

Chair

Secretary

Treasurer

FÁS Local Training Initiative

Bealoideas Chois Fharraige, Inverin

€87,780.35

Morgan O Conchubhair

Noirín Ní Lochlainn

Noirín Ní Lochlainn

FAS Local Training Initiative

Aras Sorcha Ní Ghuairim, Carna

€59,564.75

Seamus Concheanann

Nora Uí Shuilleabhán

Nora Uí Shuilleabhán

FAS Local Training Initiative

Galway Family History, Shantalla

€74,676.77

Coilín Hernon

Nuala Silke

Coilín Hernon

FAS Local Training Initiative

East Galway FHS Ltd, Woodford

€75,000.58

B Keary

J Mannion

L Canning

FAS Local Training Initiative

South East Galway IRD Ltd, Portumna

€67,746.49

Ml Fogarty

A Finnerty

L Smith

FAS Local Training Initiative

South Mayo Family Research, Ballinrobe

€81,256.10

John Carthy

Brigid Clesham

Ruaidhri De Barra

FAS Local Training Initiative

Lake District Enterprises, Ballinrobe

€77,983.02

Martin Murphy

Declan O’Loughline

Declan O’Loughline

FAS Local Training Initiative

Togail, Galway City

€74,559.00

Tommy Flaherty

Louise Andrews

Tommy Flaherty

FAS Local Training Initiative

Loughrea History Project, Loughrea

€80,607.18

Mary Nix

Odette Fahy

Ursula Marmion

Back to Education Initiative

Comhairle Muintir an Chaiseal Teoranta

€17,418

Bridget McTavish

Sue Eldrid

Sue Eldrid

Back to Education Initiative

Brothers of Charity, Blue Teapot

€22,032

Michael Reen

Ann Geraghty

Ann Geraghty

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

58 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38357/11]

Due to the number of employees and payroll systems across the education sector, providing detailed figures for the cost of increments in each specific year would involve a disproportionate administrative burden and would take very significant time to calculate. However, it is estimated that the value of increments in the education sector is approximately €82.5 million in a full year.

Physical Education Facilities

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

59 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding permission to utilise football grounds at a college in Ballina, County Mayo in respect of a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38367/11]

I understand that Mayo VEC has drafted a licence agreement to facilitate the proposal referred to by the Deputy and has forwarded it to the club involved.

Site Acquisitions

Anne Ferris

Question:

60 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if he has identified any other available sites in County Wicklow that might be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38392/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from my Department have been in discussions with Co. Wicklow VEC regarding a permanent site for the school to which she refers. However, given the sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time. The acquisition of a site and the delivery of the school building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

61 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all student grant applications received by Mayo Vocational Education Committee for the 2011-12 academic year will be processed by Christmas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38434/11]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

62 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of student grant applications received by Mayo Vocational Education Committee for the current academic year that have been fully processed to date; the numbers approved and the numbers refused a student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38435/11]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

63 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications received this year for the student grant by Mayo Vocational Education Committee; the comparative figures for the number of applications received in the 2010-11 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38436/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 to 63, inclusive, together.

Co. Mayo VEC has provided the statistical information sought by Deputy and this is contained in the following table.

The administration of the student grant application process is matter for the management of each grant awarding authority — in this case the Chief Executive Officer of the VEC. I am aware that the timing for processing student grants varies across the 66 grant awarding bodies depending on a number of factors including the volume of applications received, staffing resources and whether or not properly completed application forms have been submitted. Work prioritisation across different functions and how available staff are deployed to execute those functions by the management of the grant awarding authority also have a bearing as to when the process is completed in any given year. However, my Department constantly monitors the situation.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that plans are well underway to replace the 66 grant awarding bodies with one single authority and I have approved the appointment of the CDVEC to operate this centralised body.

The single authority will be operative from 2012 and I believe it will lead to a more efficient system for the processing of applications and improve the overall customer experience for those who apply for grants. I am sure the Deputy will agree this much needed overhaul of the grants system is a positive example of public sector reform.

New Applications

2010/11 As at 25/11/10

2011/12 As at 25/11/11

Number Received

1,538

1,553

Number Awarded Grant

581

573

Number Refused Grant

18

42

No. Awaiting Further Information

0

149

No. Yet to be processed

908

709

No. Cancelled/Withdrawn

31

43

No. Transferred to other Authority

0

37

Total

1,538

1,553

Renewals

Received and processed in full year

Number Received

1,167

1,231

Number Awarded

1,167

1,226

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

64 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38461/11]

Based on an analysis of payments made by my Department to date in 2011 that were liable for VAT at the rate of 21%, it is estimated that the cost of a 2% increase in VAT in 2012 would be of the order of €64,000. This is based on the assumption of an equivalent level of expenditure in 2012 as in 2011. This estimate does not include expenditure made by schools and other bodies in the education sector that receive grant funding from my Department. The information sought is not readily available in respect of these bodies.

Schools Building Projects

Ann Phelan

Question:

65 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he has taken to progress a new capital project replacement for an expanding school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he is satisfied from the ensuing Department evaluation that this project falls in line with good forward planning practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38530/11]

The school authority referred to by the Deputy has applied to my Department for major capital funding for a new school. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including this school, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

The Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November 2011, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years. The priority now is to focus on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands. The primary aim will be to ensure that every child will have access to a school place.

The Deputy will be aware that since 2009, my Department has invested in excess of €811,000 in the school in question towards the provision of accommodation and various capital works. It is expected that the existing accommodation will meet the needs of the school for the foreseeable future.

Special Educational Needs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a laptop will be provided in the case a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38545/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants to schools to support children with special educational needs. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. To date the NCSE have not forwarded a completed application to my Department recommending assistive technology equipment for this child.

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

Disadvantaged Status

Michael McCarthy

Question:

67 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the qualification details for the DEIS programme in view of the fact that some schools are unsure of the way to qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38554/11]

The Deputy will be aware of the Comprehensive Expenditure Review that was undertaken in all government Departments at the request of the Minister of Public Service Expenditure and Reform. While a key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target resources at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage, the current economic climate and the challenge to meet significant targets on reducing public expenditure limits opportunities to provide for additionality under DEIS, including the selection of further schools.

Schools Building Projects

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

68 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 84 of 24 November 2011, if he will confirm that this reply refers to a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38601/11]

In preparing the answer referred to by the Deputy (Question No. 84 of 24 November 2011) my officials contacted the Deputy's office to seek clarification as there are two schools with the same name in that area of County Dublin. The answer provided on 24 November referred to the girls national school as identified by the Deputy's office. The details provided in respect of this school are correct.

The other school which is a mixed gender school is currently at tender stage.

Willie Penrose

Question:

69 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate the current stages of an application for a new primary school (details supplied) in County Longford; when it is likely to be approved to go to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38605/11]

The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including the school referred to by the Deputy, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

The Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10 November 2011, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years. The priority now is to focus on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands. The primary aim will be to ensure that every child will have access to a school place.

I have previously committed to publishing a five year plan early in the new year outlining the school building projects to be constructed in that time.

Willie Penrose

Question:

70 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate the current stages of an application for a new primary school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; when it is likely to be approved to go to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38606/11]

The provision of a new building for the school to which the Deputy refers necessitates the acquisition of a site. I wish to advise the Deputy that a suitable site has been identified for the proposed school and my Department is working with the local authority to acquire this site.

When the site is acquired, a project for the school will be considered within the context of my Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department and the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Willie Penrose

Question:

71 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the current status of an application for a new primary school (details supplied); if same will be included as part of the capital allocation for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38607/11]

The major building project at the school referred to by the Deputy was included in the Work Programme for 2011 announced last January. The Design Team are currently working on finalising the Stage 2(b) Submission (Detailed Design) which will then be submitted to my Department for review. Upon completion of Stage 2(b) the Design Team will submit the required documentation to the Department. Subsequently officials from my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project.

I recently announced that I will be publishing a detailed plan on an annual basis in relation to planned expenditure on individual school major projects. The first of these in relation to 2012 expenditure will be published in December 2011. All school building projects currently in architectural planning will be considered in the context of these programmes, taking into account the funding available, the building costs involved and the progression of other major projects required to meet demographic needs.

Schools Refurbishment

John Deasy

Question:

72 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the minor repairs grant will be paid to a school (details supplied) in County Waterford. [38633/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that all 3248 eligible primary and special schools received the Minor Works Grant for 2011/2012 at the end of November with a total grant of over €28m paid out. I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers is an eligible school and has been paid the grant.

Grant Payments

John Deasy

Question:

73 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the grants that are available for primary schools. [38634/11]

My Department provides funding to primary schools by way of per capita grants, which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. A calendar of when these grants are issued to primary schools is available on the website of my Department at http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/pri_grant_calendar_2011.pdf.

Departmental Correspondence

Finian McGrath

Question:

74 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding the internationalisation of Irish higher education. [38650/11]

The correspondence to which the Deputy refers raises concerns regarding the specific approach to internationalisation taken by a number of named higher education institutions, and with the international education strategy itself. Both the national strategy and the internationalisation policies of the institutions concerned have my support and confidence. No evidence is presented in the correspondence which would cause me to change that position. If the correspondent wishes to write to the international section of my Department setting out precisely what is the basis of his concern, and what his suggestions are for "a more effective course of action", I will ensure that appropriate consideration is given to his views.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Sandra McLellan

Question:

75 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the pupil-teacher ratio for schools (details supplied) for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; his plans to reduce the ratio in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38710/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

77 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of language support teachers employed at schools (details supplied) for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; his plans to ensure that adequate language and special needs supports are in place in each of these schools in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38712/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

78 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the average class size in schools (details supplied) for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; his plans to reduce this figure in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38713/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 77 and 78 together.

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains information relating to class size in primary schools. The information includes the number of pupils in each class, the number of pupils in each class size range and the number of teachers in each school. As you will be aware from the budget announcements yesterday, there is no increase in the general average of 28:1 for the allocation of classroom teachers at primary level. However, the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/13 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts. My Department will be notifying schools in January of the new staffing arrangements for 2012/13 school year.

Capitation Grants

Sandra McLellan

Question:

76 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the funding allocation and pupil numbers for schools (details supplied) for each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the funding that will be made available in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38711/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers is a recognised national school and attracts funding from my Department in the same way as all other recognised national schools.

All recognised national schools running costs are met by my Departments scheme of capitation and ancillary grants. Schools will receive capitation funding in January and June, and the ancillary services grant in March.

In addition, Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann is a gaelscoil and as such attracts enhanced capitation.

Since 2010 schools also receive funding towards the costs of School Books.

School

Year

Funding

Enrolment

Cloyne B National School

2011

€72,036

207

Cloyne B National School

2010

€70,638

193

Cloyne B National School

2009

€68,382

189

Bun Scoil Muire

2011

€170,520

490

Bun Scoil Muire

2010

€184,266

506

Bun Scoil Muire

2009

€146,520

507

Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann

2011

€134,707

362

Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann

2010

€131,116

335

Gaelscoil Mhainistir Na Corann

2009

€116,535

304

Questions Nos. 77 and 78 answered with Question No. 75.

School Accommodation

Sandra McLellan

Question:

79 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the current accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; his further views that the facilities at this school are appropriate and adequate; if this school will be included in the school building programme for 2012; the date on which that programme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38714/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

82 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding streams which are available to a school (details supplied) in County Cork to carry out renovation and repair works to its premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38717/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 82 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is in the process of acquiring a site for the school, in question, for the purpose of constructing permanent accommodation. In the meantime, grant aid is provided by my Department to the school authorities concerned for the rental of temporary accommodation to meet the school's interim accommodation requirements. In addition, as well as the standard capitation grant, the school also qualifies for the minor capital works grant, which issued to the school recently, towards the cost of any renovation and repair works. I have previously committed to publishing details this month of the school building projects to be constructed in 2012 and early in the new year, I will publish a five year plan outlining the projects to be constructed in that time.

Special Educational Needs

Sandra McLellan

Question:

80 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if children with special needs and those whose first language is not English are exempt from standardised numeracy and literacy tests, the way educators are supposed to fulfil the criteria to get the children assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38715/11]

The circulars issued to schools on standardised testing provide that students may be excluded from standardised testing if in the view of the school principal they have a learning or physical disability which would prevent them from attempting the tests or, in the case of migrant students, where the level of English required in the test would make attempting the test inappropriate. The exclusion provision is so that students are not exposed to negative experiences which would reinforce failure and low self-esteem for those who are clearly unable to take the test. It should be noted that while very low performance in a standardised English reading or mathematics test may signal a need for further exploration, the tests are not designed to diagnose disability. Where pupils are excluded from standardised testing, it is a matter for the school to arrange an appropriate alternative form of assessment, to provide supporting feedback to the pupils and to report to their parents on their achievement and progress. The exemption from national standardised testing does not and should not preclude the application by teachers of a range of tests, processes and practices used to assist in identifying whether special education needs exist in respect of a given pupil, in consultation with the learning support teacher and the school's assigned psychologist.

School Curriculum

Sandra McLellan

Question:

81 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the research and evidence which supports the approach taken to literacy and numeracy education at primary school level; his views that the evidence from the USA and UK that standardised testing has resulted in poorer performance compared with the continuous assessment model as employed in Finland, for example, is significant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38716/11]

One of the key goals contained in the Programme for Government is to raise educational standards in literacy and numeracy at both primary and post primary education. That is why I have prioritised the publication and implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2011-2020 since becoming Minister for Education & Skills. Despite increased investment in education in recent years, Ireland's performance in mathematical and reading literacy declined in the 2009 PISA study. The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2011-2020 is underpinned by extensive consultations and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, and the submissions include bibliographies and summaries of research which are published on my Department' website. In addition, the Educational Research Centre has published a detailed study of Standardised Testing in Lower Secondary Education commissioned by the NCCA, and this report clearly highlights both the benefits of standardised testing and the negative consequences which can arise if the results are used in a high stakes context. The Literacy and Numeracy Strategy sets out a comprehensive range of actions designed to strengthen literacy and numeracy in our schools. These include curriculum reform, extensive professional development for teachers, extending the duration of initial teacher education, improved school leadership and self evaluation, and actions with parents to support their children's learning. Standardised testing has been widely used in schools for a considerable number of years as one of a range of assessment approaches to support teaching and learning. Such testing has key benefits in identifying early children who may need additional support, providing summative information on students' progress vis a vis national trends, benchmarking the other assessment approaches used by the class teacher, guiding students' learning, and assisting school planning and evaluation. The Literacy and Numeracy Strategy provides for a further strengthening of this process and for reporting of results to parents, but gives a clear commitment that data will not be used for the compilation of league tables. The measures are designed to ensure a balanced approach to measuring and enhancing students' progress in this critical area.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 79.

Special Educational Needs

Sandra McLellan

Question:

83 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his position with regards to the review process of special needs assistants’ allocated hours whereby the opinion of an educational psychologist can be overruled by a special education needs organiser; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38718/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

85 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will allocate a full-time equivalent special needs assistant based on the recommendations of their educational psychologist. [38720/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 85 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The Deputy should note that SENOs are professionals who hold relevant qualifications and have considerable practical expertise in the assessment of children with special educational needs and have first hand experience of what supports a child and his or her school requires.

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. This number is 10,575 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts. I wish to clarify that the EPSEN and Disability Acts set out clearly the role and functions of the NCSE and the HSE and their staff in carrying out assessments and with regard to the provision of services for children with special educational needs. Responsibility for deciding on the quantum of educational supports and resources to be allocated to schools, or to individual pupils, rests with the NCSE in accordance with DES policy.

Whereas health reports provide valuable assistance to education providers in identifying a diagnosis or identifying appropriate interventions, health staff are asked not to include references to the specific quantum of educational resources in their reports, but should state the outcome of tests carried out and the range of needs of the child as clearly as possible. 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 school in question has been allocated 2.83 SNA posts and 72.9 Resource Teacher hours for the current school year. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised. The NCSE has retained a number of SNA posts in order to allocate them over the remainder of the school year in respect of emergency cases, new diagnosis, or appeals by schools. Should a school seek to have their SNA provision reviewed or make a new application, they should contact the NCSE in this regard. It is expected that schools, before requesting any review of their SNA provision, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect.

School Accommodation

Sandra McLellan

Question:

84 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a suitable site has been identified for new accommodation in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; when building work will begin there; the date on which the new accommodation will be ready to move into; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38719/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the area in Co. Cork in which the school to which she refers is located, has been identified as one of the areas projected to experience a significant increase in demand for school accommodation in the coming years and the requirements of the school in question are being considered in this context. My Department is in the process of acquiring, subject to planning, a site in the area which is suitable for the construction of a new school building. Planning permission was received for a school building on the site but has been appealed to An Bord Pleanála and the appeal's outcome is awaited. If planning permission is secured, the acquisition of the site and the delivery of a school building project will then be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 83.

School Staffing

Sandra McLellan

Question:

86 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the staffing levels at schools (details supplied) for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; the number of staff who took maternity leave during that period; the number of maternity leave posts which became available during that period; the number of maternity leave posts that were filled in that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38721/11]

The Statistics section of my Department's website contains data at individual primary school level in county order for the 2010/2011 school year. The information includes the number of mainstream class teachers and pupils in each primary school. The details for the current school year (2011/2012) are currently being compiled by my Department and will be published in September 2012. Unlike most other areas of the public service teaching vacancies, including those arising due to maternity leave absences, continue to be filled in the normal manner. My Department does not maintain statistical data on the absences referred to by the Deputy. My Department's focus is on implementing the budget measures announced yesterday and I do not propose to divert scarce staffing resources to deal with the individual type queries from the Deputy.

Departmental Agencies

Sandra McLellan

Question:

87 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he has taken to increase the efficiency and minimise duplication of function of the agencies operating under his aegis since coming into office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38722/11]

With regard to agencies under the aegis of my Department the Deputy should note that:

Since September 2011, the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) is within the remit of Dublin West Education Centre alongside the Department's largest support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST). The process of integrating the functions of the NCTE with the support services and with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is underway. The new configuration will ensure greater integration of ICT within teaching and learning both in terms of policy and practice and will deliver synergies in this regard.

Since June 2011, the functions of the National Educational Welfare Board transferred to the newly established office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. As the Deputy is aware my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is leading the development of a new integrated public service reform plan, details of which were announced on 17th November. With regard to bodies under the aegis my Department the following tasks have been identified for rationalisation:

The establishment of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQAAI) which involves merger of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) and the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). The establishment of QQAAI will result in savings to the Exchequer. It should be noted that NQAI, HETAC and FETAC have already delivered very significant savings since the announcement of the amalgamation in October 2008 through implementation of the moratorium and through expenditure reduction across their range of activities. The bodies' exchequer allocation for current expenditure in 2011 (€8.823m) is approximately 30% lower than outturn in 2008. Further savings to the Exchequer of €1 million per annum will be achieved over time through further staff reductions in accordance with the Employment Control Framework, through rationalised corporate structures and supports and through integration of services.

The replacement of the 33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs) with 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The ETBs will take over the work of VECs and will have an expanded role in the delivery of further education and training across the country. It is estimated that this rationalisation project will yield a saving of €3m over time.

The merger of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology & the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science into a consolidated single Council under the Higher Education Authority.

The Deputy will also be aware that a number of other major structural reform projects are being progressed in the Education sector. These are: The establishment of SOLAS, the new agency to reform, co-ordinate and fund further education and training programmes including developing a seamless interaction with the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES) on activation measures. A Single awarding authority for student grants — The City of Dublin VEC will operate as the new single student grant awarding authority to replace the existing 66 grant awarding bodies. Implementation of the new arrangements are being phased in from the 2012/13 academic year. The consolidation of Higher Education provision will take place under the Strategy for Higher Education to 2030.

It is also proposed to dissolve the Education Finance Board on the establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund. I intend to publish the necessary legislation at the earliest opportunity.

School Staffing

Emmet Stagg

Question:

88 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a request was not responded to in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [38805/11]

My Department has requested additional information from the teacher referred to by the Deputy. Staff of the Primary Payroll Division will deal with the request as soon as the information is received.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

89 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of circular 007/2010, which classified that all staff employed by a recognised school on the vocational education committee come within the definition of public servant, regardless of the source of the money used to fund their salary, and further to circular 0040/2011, which outlines new pay rates for all teachers appointed after 1 January 2011, if he will accept that in natural justice teachers who worked as substitute teachers in 2010 and who were paid by the school board of management should not be regarded as new appointees under circular 0040/2011 and in the specific case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, if he will clarify that they are not a new appointee under circular 0040/2011. [38806/11]

The person referred to by the Deputy is regarded as a new appointee to teaching under the terms of Circular 0040/2011. The terms of that Circular apply only to personnel who are paid on payrolls operated by my Department or by Vocational education Committees and not to personnel employed and paid by an individual school managerial authority. The specific category of employees referred to in Circular 007/2010 are also paid on payrolls operated by my Department or by Vocational Education Committees. Circular 007/2010 does not classify that all staff employed by a recognised school come within the definition of public servant.

Departmental Expenditure

Patrick Deering

Question:

90 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills his capital budget for the next five years for County Carlow schools and County Kilkenny schools separately. [38819/11]

The Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework published on the 10th of November includes an allocation for education capital of just over €2.2bn over the five years of the plan — an average annual allocation of just over €440m.

Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by almost 70,000 between now and 2018 (over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary) and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at post-primary level. The priority now is to focus on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands. The primary aim will be to ensure that every child will have access to a school place.

It is within this context that earlier this year I announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established nationally within the next six years, comprising of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools. The current status of all projects on the school building programme including the projects for the areas referred to by the Deputy may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

I have previously committed to publishing details of the 2012 school building programme this month. Early in the new year, I will publish a five year plan outlining the projects to be constructed in that time.

School Accommodation

Catherine Murphy

Question:

91 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if primary school classrooms designed and delivered in recent times will be large enough to accommodate larger class sizes; the design standard that is currently being used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38908/11]

In the provision of major extensions/new school buildings it is the current practice of my Department to use a guideline of 80sq. metres as a standard size of a general primary school classroom. This space allows for the inclusion of two en suite toilets and in-room storage.

80 sq. metres is considered to be the optimum size of classroom in a new primary school. This size was determined by studies carried out by my Department in line with international best practice and is sufficiently large to comfortably cater for schools' needs.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Troy

Question:

92 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding schools (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [38913/11]

The following is the position relating to the schools listed by the Deputy:

School No: 1 - I can confirm that the school has presented a proposal to my Department to relocate to alternative accommodation. The proposal is currently being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority in due course.

School No: 2 - The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including the school referred to by the Deputy, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly on an ongoing basis.

School No: 3 - A major building project at this school was included in the Work Programme for 2011 announced last January. The Design Team are currently working on finalising the Stage 2(b) Submission (Detailed Design) which will then be submitted to my Department for review. Upon completion of Stage 2(b), the Design Team will submit the required documentation to the Department. As the Deputy may be aware, the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November 2011, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years. The priority now is to focus on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands. The primary aim will be to ensure that every child will have access to a school place.

I recently announced that a school building construction programme for 2012 will be published this month and that a 5 year construction programme will be announced early in 2012.

Robert Troy

Question:

93 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Longford. [38914/11]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy was included in the School Building Work Programme announced on 24th January 2011. It was one of a number of schools announced to secure planning permission with a view to preparing tender documents.

The Design Team are currently working on Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning which includes the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals (Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate) have been granted. Upon completion of Stage 2(b) the Design Team will submit the required documentation to the Department. Subsequently my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Charles Flanagan

Question:

94 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of two-teacher schools in County Laois; the number of pupils currently attending therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38967/11]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

95 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of two-teacher schools in County Offaly; the number of pupils currently attending therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38968/11]

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

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data in relation to primary schools. The most recent information available relates to the 2010/2011 school year.

Statistical information in respect of the current school year is currently being compiled in my Department and is due for publication in September 2012.

Departmental Expenditure

Brendan Smith

Question:

96 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give detailed consideration to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38997/11]

While difficult choices had to be made to identify savings across my Department's remit, the Government has gone as far as it could to protect front line services in 2012. The recent changes announced in the Budget were made within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure back into line with what we can afford as a country. The challenge is to ensure that the resources that are provided to schools are used by them to maximum effect in terms of providing an appropriate range of subjects to meet the needs of our knowledge economy and in delivering the best possible outcomes for all our pupils.

My Department will be notifying schools of the impact of the budget changes in January, 2012.

Schools Building Projects

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if in view of the criterion laid down by the relevant section of his Department relating to the provision of secondary schools in general and particularly the proposal to build two post-primary schools at Maynooth, County Kildare, if it is intended to have regard for parental or local choice; if the junior senior cycle proposal on campus as favoured by the existing parent teacher association is likely to be considered, favoured or rejected; if the said criterion excludes any particular or specific structure or structures, management or otherwise, in respect of the proposed schools; if it is intended that the schools fall under existing or alternative patronage; if the patronage representation at schools in the surrounding area is likely to be a consideration in such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39004/11]

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, 24th February 2012. My Department will prepare a report on these applications for the consideration of the New Schools Establishment Group who will submit a report to me for final consideration and decision.

Details of the new arrangements for patronage of new schools and the criteria for deciding on patronage of these new schools is available on my Department's website, www.education.ie.

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.

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

98 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the implementation of recommendations at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39007/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the provision of a range of educational services at local and national level for students with special educational needs. In particular, its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) co-ordinates special needs education provision at local level and arranges for the delivery of special educational services. The SENOs act as single points of contact for parents of students with special educational needs. Another specific function of the SENO is to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children. The NCSE has been fully engaged in securing placement options for the child in question.

The purpose of the Home Tuition Scheme is to provide a compensatory educational service for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for pre-school children with autism.

Home tuition was approved for the child in question by my Department from the start of the school year until the end of September 2011 as there was no available placement. Home Tuition was subsequently extended until 14th October 2011, for the purpose of completing the enrolment process. My Department subsequently extended the provision of home tuition until 9th December to facilitate transitional arrangements regarding the enrolment of this child in the school in question.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Board of Management of the school in question committed to fully implementing the recommendations of both the HSE and a subsequent DES report which was prepared subsequent to a review of the school by a member of the Department's inspectorate and an Educational Psychologist. My Department has remained in regular contact with the Principal and the Board of Management of this school. The Board of Management of the school has advised DES that all recommendations have been or are being implemented in full. My Department will continue to closely monitor progress in this regard.

Departmental Agencies

Seán Kenny

Question:

99 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of permanent, temporary and agency staff by grade currently working in the Baldoyle FÁS centre, Dublin. [39012/11]

There are no agency staff working in Baldoyle Training Centre.

Below is a listing of all permanent staff based in Baldoyle Training Centre by Unit and Grade.

In addition to the listing below there is one temporary Grade 11 in Training Services; this contract will finish on the 16th December 2011.

Grade

Total of Staff by Grade

6

1

7

5

8

54

10

3

11

24

13

4

Total Of Staff in each Unit

91

Third Level Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

100 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of employees across the third level sector earning €150,000 or more; and the number earning over €200,000 or more. [39013/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is as follows: The number of employees earning €150,000 & less than €200,000 is 105. The number currently earning €200,000 or more is 103. The Deputy will be aware that the Government has sought to achieve a pay ceiling of €200,000 per annum within the public sector. Of the 103 earning over €200,000 per annum, 94 are Academic Medical Consultants, remuneration for whom falls in the main within the remit of the Minister for Health. The Deputy will be aware that any changes to the terms and conditions of these 94 consultants will have to be considered in the context of the Minister for Health's approach towards the remuneration of all medical consultants 4 of the remaining appointments are Heads of Universities and the remaining 5 were appointed under a Framework provided for in Section 25(5)(a) of the Universities Act, 1997.

Remuneration in the case of these ‘Framework appointments' is not subject to Ministerial sanction, and having regard to the Act, a pay ceiling may not be imposed. This Framework is being reviewed at present at my request. Since becoming Minister for Education and Skills, I have personally written to the Chairpersons of the University Governing Bodies requesting them to ask those individuals who earn in excess of the pay ceiling of €200,000 to make voluntary waivers of salary. Details of the methodology of how such voluntary waivers are to be effected were issued by my Department at the end of October 2011. Given the short time since the arrangements were notified I think it is reasonable to allow some time for this matter to be concluded, but I can assure the Deputy that I am keen to ensure progress is made on this important issue in the coming period.

Departmental Staff

Nicky McFadden

Question:

101 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total pay, benefits and claimed expenses of the Information Commissioner in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and the relevant pension and or lump sum arrangements that will be applicable on completion of the current term; the total pay, benefits and claimed expenses of the Commission for Environmental Information, if additional to the above, in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and the relevant pension and or lump sum arrangements that will be applicable on completion of the current term; the total pay, benefits and claimed expenses of the Ombudsman for the Public Service in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and the relevant pension and or lump sum arrangements that will be applicable on completion of the current term. [38320/11]

For the purposes of PQ number 38320/11, I have taken "the total pay, benefits and claimed expenses of the Information Commissioner" to refer to the Ombudsman/the Information Commissioner/the Commissioner for Environmental Information. The Ombudsman was appointed to her roles as Ombudsman and Information Commissioner with effect from 1 June 2003 for a period of 6 years and was subsequently re-appointed for a second term. In May 2007, the Ombudsman was appointed to the additional role of Commissioner for Environmental Information. There was no additional remuneration or benefits associated with this appointment and she was not entitled to any additional expenses through her being assigned this additional role. The Ombudsman is also an ex-officio member of the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Constituency Commission and Referendum Commission (when in existence), and she carries out these roles without additional remuneration.

Section 3(1) of the Ombudsman Act, 1980 provides that the Ombudsman shall receive the same remuneration and allowances for expenses as are paid to a judge of the High Court. Therefore, the pay levels for the Ombudsman were as follows: €231,366 with effect from 1 January 2008; €237,151 with effect from 1 March 2008; €243,080 between 1 September 2008 and 1 January 2010. As a result of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009, the salary of the Ombudsman was reduced by 15% to €206,618 with effect from 1 January 2010. The Ombudsman is also subject to the pension related deduction imposed upon all public servants with effect from 1 March 2009 under the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009.

The Ombudsman also participated in the voluntary surrender of pay scheme which was introduced with effect from 1 November 2008. The figures in the paragraph above do not reflect this reduction. Most recently, as a result of taking a voluntary cut in remuneration, the salary of the Ombudsman is now at €200,000 p.a. The effect of a legislative amendment provided for in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Bill 2011 which is currently before the Oireachtas is that the current statutory link with that of a High Court Judge for salary purposes for new appointees to the position of Ombudsman will be removed.

In addition to pay, the Commissioner is in receipt of an annual expense allowance in line with the judicial allowance paid to a judge of the High Court. In this regard, she received an allowance of €8,701 in 2008, €9,057 in 2009 and €9,057 in 2010.

Her vouched expenses for 2008 were €3,110, €10,353 in 2009 and €6,009 in 2010. These encompass out of pocket air travel, subsistence, mileage, telephone and other expenses associated with carrying out all of her various roles.

The pension arrangements for the Ombudsman are in accordance with those of judges of the High Court. The Ombudsman is a member of the Ombudsman Superannuation Scheme, 1987 and the Ombudsman (Spouses' and Children's) Contributory Pension Scheme, 1989, in accordance with statutory instruments S.I. 70 of 87 and S.I. 269 of 89 respectively. These contain details of all of her entitlements under the scheme. Section 4(1) of S.I. 70 of 89 provides:

"4(1) A member who—

(a) having completed at least 5 years' actual service as Ombudsman and being aged 67 years, retires from that office, or

(b) so retires on medical grounds in accordance with paragraph 6 of this Scheme, or

(c) having held office as Ombudsman for not less than 6 years and being eligible and available for reappointment to that office, is not reappointed thereto, or

(d) retires or resigns from the office of Ombudsman having completed not less than 15 years' actual service as Ombudsman and being aged 65 years or more,

shall be awarded and paid by the Minister a pension of an amount per annum calculated at the rate of 1/30th of the amount of his pensionable remuneration for each year of his pensionable service, subject to a maximum of 15/30ths, and a gratuity of an amount calculated at the rate of 1/20th of the amount of his pensionable remuneration for each year of his pensionable service, subject to a maximum of 15/20ths:

provided, however, that in the case of a member who, having held office as Ombudsman for only one term of 6 years and being eligible and available for reappointment to the office for a second such term, is not reappointed, the amount of the gratuity aforesaid shall be equal to ½ of the amount of his pensionable remuneration."

In accordance with the terms of the Ombudsman (Spouses' and Children's) Contributory Pension Scheme, 1989, the spouse's and children's contribution is 4 % of remuneration, rather than the standard 1.5%.

On completion of her current term, the Ombudsman will have undertaken 12 years' service.

Flood Relief

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

102 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will ascertain from the Office of Public Works when works will commence on a flood mitigation proposal (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38433/11]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is continuing to develop a proposal for mitigation works in consultation with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), regarding flood protection for the Roundfort-Hollymount area, while taking account of its environmental sensitivity and status.

This is a complex proposal entailing assessment of levels and flows from the turloughs in order to design appropriate works. This assessment is ongoing at present.

Once the data required is compiled and verified, the OPW will revert to the NPWS. It is not possible at this stage to indicate when works will commence.

Anne Ferris

Question:

103 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a decision has been made on the release of funding for the Bray flood relief scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38510/11]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has already provided substantial funding to Bray Town Council, which has allowed the council to bring the flood relief scheme through the design stage and the procurement of a civil works contractor.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Bray Flood Relief Scheme will be part of the 2012 announcement that I intend to set out on Friday of this week.

Graduate Support Schemes

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

104 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland architectural graduate training scheme is still in operation; the number of students who have applied; if further positions are likely to be offered on this scheme; if clarity could be given in respect of current applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38878/11]

The Office of Public Works sponsors a post-graduate architect training scheme to provide practical experience for graduate architects wishing to prepare for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (R.I.A.I.) (NUI) examination in professional practice or RIBA Part 3 examinations. The training programme is available for up to a maximum of thirty graduates for a period of three years. This Office currently has twenty-two graduates on the training programme, including seven from the most recent competition run by the R.I.A.I. While eight graduates were placed from the last competition, one decided to leave and was replaced by the next on the panel. There are currently five applicants remaining on the panel and these will be placed on the programme as and when the work programme permits and resources permit.

Freedom of Information

Thomas Pringle

Question:

105 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the Property Registration Authority will be brought under the Freedom of Information Act; if the legislation to do this had been prepared for the Land Registry to be taken under the Act; the reason that this had not been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38895/11]

My Department is carrying out preparatory work to implement the commitments in the programme for Government. When this work is complete I will bring proposals to Government in relation to the Freedom of Information Acts. These proposals will include the proposed extension of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts to the Property Registration Authority.

Garda Stations

Seán Kenny

Question:

106 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the budget allocated for the refurbishment and extensions to Garda stations for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and the amount spent in each of these years. [39009/11]

The total spent on Garda Station refurbishments/extensions for the years in question is:

Year

Amount

2008

€8.079m

2009

€4.944m

2010

€5.398m

2011 to date

€7.039m

These figures do not include expenditure on new build Garda Stations or works of a maintenance nature.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

107 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38344/11]

My Department has no function in this particular matter.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

108 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38364/11]

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. However, 43 staff members in my Department have had increments paid to date.

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the number of increments that will be paid in 2012 as payment of increments is subject to sick leave and punctuality requirements in addition to receipt of the appropriate annual rating under the Performance Management and Development System 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

109 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38468/11]

Since its establishment in July 2011, my Department has operated a shared service arrangement with the Department of Finance in respect of certain goods and services acquired by one, or other, of the Departments. I understand that the Minister for Finance will provide the estimate requested by the Deputy using 2010 as a reference year and that will cover both Departments.

Pension Provisions

Robert Dowds

Question:

110 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress he is making in terms of curbing high public service pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38587/11]

As the Deputy will know, there have been several retrenchments in public service pension conditions which have applied to serving staff and current pensioners in recent years. The Financial Emergency in the Public Interest Act 2009 introduced a pension-related deduction amounting to some 7% of pay on average, while the Financial Emergency in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 reduced pay by a similar proportion and legislated for a "grace period" within which pensions would not be affected by this cut. This period is due to expire on 29 February 2012.

In addition, the Financial Emergency in the Public Interest Act 2010, which is also part of the EU-IMF Programme, imposed a Public Service Pension Reduction on public service pensions in payment and for those who retire before the end of the "grace period", amounting to 4% on average. For those retiring after the "grace period", their pension calculation will be based on their actual pay at the time of retirement, i.e. the protection of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 will not apply. There have also been taxation-related changes during this time, such as the reduction in the personal fund threshold and in the exemption for lump sum pension payments.

I recently announced the Government's intention to increase from 12% to 20% the top rate of Public Service Pension Reduction in respect of pension amounts over €100,000. This is to be given effect by way of an amendment to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Bill 2011, which is currently before the Oireachtas.

In the longer-term, the Government is moving to secure substantial savings in the cost of public service pensions by way of the proposed introduction of a single public service pension scheme for all new entrants. This scheme, which is currently before the Oireachtas in the form of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011, will feature a career-average (not final-salary) basis for pension awards, adjustment of accrued benefits and pensions in line with inflation, and an increased minimum pension age. The design of the new scheme is expected to impose an especially sharp reduction in the value of pensions for high-paid public service retirees, especially those who have enjoyed multiple or late-career promotions.

Public Service Reform

Robert Dowds

Question:

111 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress being made in public service reform; the way he is ensuring that when positions are being eliminated all grades of public service are equally affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38588/11]

On 17 November, 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.

This Government has already shown that reform must be led from the top through a whole range of measures. We have reduced the pay of the Taoiseach and Ministers; reformed Ministerial transport arrangements; changed the composition of TLAC to include an external Chair and more external members; introduced new pay ceilings for senior public servants; changed the TLAC terms that apply to Secretaries General on retirement; reduced the number of Oireachtas Committees; and published legislation to significantly reduce future Public Service pensions costs, to name just some areas. There have also been significant reforms under the Croke Park Agreement, as set out in the recently published summary of progress which is available on the Implementation Body's website.

Of course, we need to do much more and the Public Service Reform Plan outlines the priority actions and timelines for reform in a broad range of areas such as public service numbers, e-Government, customer service, shared services, procurement, business process improvement, public expenditure reform, agency rationalisation and so on. The Plan particularly focuses on actions to improve performance by organisations and individuals in order to ensure greater efficiency, effectiveness and economy.

It is planned to have an integrated approach to public service reform which will align a number of key elements, including the Programme for Government, the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, delivery of reform to front line services within individual sectors which is ongoing, co-ordinated delivery of the cross-cutting reforms in the Reform Plan, and the Public Service Agreement.

Importantly, the Reform Plan sets out how implementation should be driven and monitored, including by the Reform and Delivery Office which I have established in my Department to facilitate, drive and support the reform programme. The Office is being led by a recently appointed Programme Director who has experience of implementing large scale restructuring in the private sector. This Office will work closely with organisations across the Public Service with a view to enabling them to drive the delivery of reform at a local level, as well as lead on certain cross-cutting reforms.

In terms of the latter part of this Question, a central element of 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. There will be a further reduction of 23,500 in Public Service numbers by 2015 (from end 2010 levels).

In this context, the moratorium on public service recruitment and promotion applies to the entire Public Service, with certain specific exemptions in the Health and Education sectors. The only other reason for making exceptions to the moratorium is on the basis of the business case in respect of the particular situation or post, and this in turn depends firstly on the incidence of vacancies arising and secondly on the assessment by local management of what posts are most critical at any particular point in time.

As outlined in the Reform Plan, both central and sectoral Manpower Planning Groups are being established to address the operational and strategic consequences on the planned further reduction in Public Service numbers. Of course, it is part of the day to day function of the management of all public bodies to assess, budget and plan for current and ongoing staffing requirements including the identifying of key posts and services.

Pension Provisions

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

112 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the former Revenue Commissioners in receipt of pensions; the names of the recipients; and the amount they receive from the pensions on an annual basis in tabular form. [38636/11]

The four former Chairmen of the Revenue Commissioners each receive a pension of €114,839.40 after Public Service Pension reduction. As is normal practice the names of the relevant Civil Servants are not included in the reply.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

113 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform whether public service pension reduction will be applied to the combined annual amount of ministerial and Oireachtas pensions of former individual office holders or if the reduction applied separately to each of the two annual pension figures. [38637/11]

The position at the moment is that the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 provides for an average Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), with effect from 1 January 2011 and estimated to save €100 million in a full year, of about 4% of pension in line with the following rates and bands:

Annual Public Service Pension (€)

Reduction Rate

First 12,000

0%

Between 12,000 and 24,000

6%

Between 24,000 and 60,000

9%

Balance above 60,000

12%

Under the legislation passed last year, the PSPR applies separately to each individual public service pension. This was done for practical and legal reasons, including because the paying authorities who calculate and pay the pension and the PSPR will not normally be aware of other public service pension benefits and one cannot aggregate for some and not others. This also applies to former Ministers and former Oireachtas members, who receive two pensions at present. I intend to allow public service-wide pension aggregation to address this.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

114 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the former Ministers and taoisigh in receipt of ministerial and Oireachtas pensions; the names of the recipients; and the amount they receive from the pensions on an annual basis less the public service pension reduction, including the 20% reduction to be applied on pension income of more than €100,000 in tabular form. [38638/11]

The data sought by the Deputy is currently being collated and will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible. Any inconvenience caused by this delay is regretted.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

115 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the former public servants in receipt of public sector pensions of more than €100,000 per year; the recipients’ names; the final position they held in the public service on retirement, the gross pension amount they receive before the public sector pension reduction is applied and also the pension figure after the PSPR is applied in tabular form. [38646/11]

It has not been possible to collate the data in the time available. It will be provided to the Deputy by the end of this week. Any inconvenience caused by this delay is regretted.

Departmental Bodies

Mattie McGrath

Question:

116 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the month in which he expects the Bill to allow for changes to the Valuation Office in an effort to improve the roll-out of the national programme for the revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties in the country will be published; if this matter is receiving priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38845/11]

I have submitted draft Heads of a Bill amending the Valuation Act 2001 to the Government for approval. Subject to such technical adjustments as may be found necessary in the course of drafting, approval is also sought to publish the general scheme for the information of the public, in line with the Programme for Government commitment on Dáil reform to publish such details at an early stage in order to facilitate debate. Subject to approval being given, the Bill will be published and processed as soon as possible, subject to the Government's schedule for enactment of legislation.

Departmental Staff

Joe Carey

Question:

117 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will explain recruitment practices within the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38856/11]

Entry level State industrial positions in the Office of Public Works are normally filled by public competitions, which are open to both serving staff and the public at large. By long standing agreement, supervisory positions are filled by confined competition, where suitable internal applicants present.

Proposed Legislation

Robert Troy

Question:

118 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will introduce legislation to ensure that publicly funded projects will only be awarded to companies based here. [38904/11]

Public procurement regulations which transpose the provisions set out in EU Procurement Directives require that contracts above a certain value must be advertised EU wide and awarded to the most competitive tender in an open and objective process. The aims of the regulations are to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for public money. It would be a breach of the rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds of nationality and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules.

I would point out that the open market regime affords opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad as part of the EU Single Market.

Departmental Properties

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

119 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will detail the lease period beginning and end date for each building rented by the Office of Public Works. [38961/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

120 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will detail the floor space of each building rented by the Office of Public Works. [38962/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

121 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of public servants employed in each building rented by the Office of Public Works. [38963/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

122 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will identify all leases that contain a renegotiation clause, contain no renegotiation clause or contain an upward only rent increase clause for each building rented by the Office of Public Works. [38964/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 to 122, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be provided next week.

Departmental Expenditure

John McGuinness

Question:

123 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of courses in higher education undertaken by senior civil and public servants in each of the past five years; if there is a claw back on the costs should the employee leave the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38982/11]

I propose to reply to this question on behalf of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Finance as a shared service Training Unit now provides training services to both Departments.

I have taken the phrase "senior civil servants" to represent the grade of Assistant Principal Officer and upwards for the purpose of this question. Many courses are undertaken by officers, often in their own time, and the information available to both Departments is based on the amount of monies refunded to staff members in respect of eligible courses. Fees are only refunded for courses that have relevance to the work of either Department.

The amounts refunded by the two Departments in respect of courses for each of the past five years are set out below. In respect of the years 2007 to 2010 inclusive a full refund (100%) was granted in respect of courses undertaken. Due to a need to match available funding to demand each year not all applicants have received a full refund for 2011 but all approved applicants have received at least a 70% refund to date. This position will be reviewed at the end of the year.

Year

Amount

2007

39,182

2008

61,330

2009

39,521

2010

22,455

2011

14,743

An undertaking is signed by all applicants seeking a refund of fees. This undertaking stipulates that if the recipient of a refund leaves the service without completing 12 months service in respect of each yearly refund they must refund the fees paid.

John McGuinness

Question:

124 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the EU, IMF and ECB have been furnished with the details of all payments, allowances, pensions and retirement packages paid to the civil and public service over the past five years and the future costs of such arrangements; if the troika has expressed any views relative to these costs and the possible reforms needed. [38983/11]

As part of the general examination of budgetary policy in Ireland, the discussions with the EU-IMF and ECB have reviewed the main aspects of pay, pensions and numbers policy in the civil and public service.

The discussions have covered developments in these areas in the recent past and the prospects for the medium and longer term. The Troika reports set out their views on these and other issues. The Deputy will note that the assessments issued from time to time by these bodies of the Government's implementation of the Programme have been very positive.

The Deputy will be aware that a number of measures have been taken to reduce the pay and pensions bill. These measures have applied to serving staff and current pensioners in recent years. The Financial Emergency in the Public Interest Act 2009 introduced a pension-related deduction amounting to some 7% of pay on average, the Financial Emergency in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 reduced pay by a similar proportion and legislated for a "grace period" within which pensions would not be affected by this cut. This period is due to expire on 29 February 2012.

In addition the Financial Emergency in the Public Interest Act 2010, which is part of the EU-IMF Programme, reduces public service pensions in payment and for those who retire before the end of the "grace period" by 4% on average. For those retiring after the "grace period", their pension calculation will be based on their actual pay at the time of retirement, i.e. the protection of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 will not apply. There have also been taxation-related changes during this time, such as the reduction in the personal fund threshold and in the exemption for lump sum pension payments.

With regard to the costs of civil and public service pensions, I have recently brought forward the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011 which provides for far-reaching reform of public service pensions. The Bill's principal purpose is to introduce a new single pension scheme for all new entrants to the public service. The Bill will ensure that public service workers continue to have access to good pensions and a reasonable standard of living in retirement, while the Exchequer benefits from greater control over the costs and the future burden on taxpayers is reduced. The new scheme is a commitment under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland.

Job Creation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

125 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will be acknowledging the fact that 2012 is the Year of the Co-operative; his plans to recognise the work of the co-operative movement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38314/11]

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

132 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is the International Year of the Co-Operative Movement and if Ireland is involved in same; if any consideration has been given to any measures to further develop the co-operative movement here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38390/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 132 together.

I am indeed aware that the United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives, and earlier this year I secured the agreement of Government to draft legislation to ease the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and to make it easier to start up and run a co-operative as an alternative form of enterprise organisation. I hope to publish the Draft Bill early next year and I expect that the amendments I am proposing will make the co-operative model more attractive for those wishing to use it.

By introducing these legislative changes for co-operatives, the Government is recognising the value of the co-operative business model to our economy, particularly at the present time. I believe that these measures will facilitate the development of co-operatives into the future.

My responsibility lies in the legislative provision for co-operatives in general. Any initiatives to facilitate the development of co-operatives in particular sectors, for example group water schemes, renewable energy or agricultural co-operatives, would be a matter for my colleagues in the respective Government Departments.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

126 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that was a beneficiary of same. [38342/11]

My Department has not made any payments to community and voluntary groups in Galway City and Council to date this year.

Proposed Legislation

Alan Farrell

Question:

127 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the purpose of his promised legislation on collective investment schemes; when he expects to publish this Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38351/11]

Since the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Centre in 1987, successive Ministers who have held the Company Law elements of my present portfolio have been responsible for the enactment of legislation relating to collective investment schemes used by the Investment Funds Industry, either as stand alone instruments or as part of more comprehensive Acts. Examples include the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Regulations 1989, Part 13 of the Companies Act 1990 and the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Acts of 2005 and 2006.

Consistent with the work underway to consolidate all existing 15 Companies Acts, a project to undertake a similar exercise was discussed with representatives of the Funds Industry and the Financial Regulator. The intention was to have all of the relevant legislation in one place, and in the process to streamline the various elements which had been developed over many years comprising, for example, of an application for authorisation process to the competent authority — now the Central Bank — ongoing supervision relating, for example, to the making of appropriate returns as well as the ability of the competent authority to take remedial action where necessary, and so on.

Following these discussions, and given that the nature of collective investment schemes are essentially financial products, officials of my Department engaged with their counterparts in the Department of Finance with a view to the latter Department assuming responsibility for all legislation relating to these collective investment schemes. While agreement in principle for a transfer of responsibility has been reached, and has already resulted in the making by the Minister for Finance of the necessary Regulations transposing the latest EU UCITS Regulations in July of this year, further discussions are necessary to finalise the matter. In these circumstances, it is likely that further consideration of matters relating to the consolidation of legislation governing collective investment schemes will be a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

128 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38362/11]

I set out below the numbers of staff of my Department who were approved for a pay increment in 2010 and 2011 together with the number of staff who will be due to be considered for the payment of an increment in 2012. The payment of increments is subject to satisfactory performance under the Performance Management Development System (PMDS) and compliance with sick leave regulations. To provide precise figures for the cost of these increments would require extensive work on the part of the relevant sections of my Department, which have limited resources. However, I am providing estimated figures for the costs of increments for the years in question. These estimates have been calculated on the following basis — taking the average increment for the relevant grade multiplied by the number of officers in the grade who were approved for an increment (or in the case of 2012, the number of officers who will fall to be considered for an increment). The estimated costs are on a full year cost basis and on the basis of the staff member working on a full-time basis. However, in reality, increments fall due throughout the year and therefore the costs are not incurred on a full-year basis. Furthermore, a significant number of staff of my Department does not work on a full-time basis. For example, in 2011 over 18% of staff worked on a work-sharing basis and over 12% worked reduced hours under the Shorter Working Year Scheme. For these reasons, the actual costs of increments in the years in question will be significantly less than the estimated figures provided beneath.

I would also refer the Deputy to the reply of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to a related question on 10 November 2011 (question no. 99 of 10 November). I note in particular the Minister's point that the cost of increments will reduce in the coming years for several reasons including retirements and the number of employees reaching the maximum of their pay scale.

Year

No. of staff approved for an increment

Estimated cost on a full-year basis €

2010

530

754,654

2011

434

608,622

Year

No. of staff who will be considered for an increment

Estimated cost on a full-year basis €

2012

323

435,272

Social Welfare Code

Willie O'Dea

Question:

129 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the effect on competitiveness, as reported to him by Forfás, if businesses must pay in full for employees’ sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38384/11]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

130 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the effect on employment and the number of jobs which could be lost, as reported to him by Forfás, if businesses must pay in full for employees’ sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38385/11]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

131 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the effect on wages, as reported to him by Forfás, if businesses must pay in full for employees’ sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38386/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 to 131, inclusive, together.

The introduction of a Statutory Sick Pay scheme, along the lines of those which operate in many other European countries, is one of the issues that has been considered by the Government in the context of reducing public expenditure. As I mentioned in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 79 of 22 November 2011 to Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh, I asked Forfás to examine the potential impact on competitiveness and employment of Statutory Sick Pay, if such a scheme were to be introduced in Ireland.

I have received a preliminary report from Forfás on this matter, but it would be premature of me to comment on it until the Cabinet has completed its consideration of such issues.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 125.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

133 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38466/11]

To the end of November 2011, my Department has incurred VAT of approximately €798,500 at the standard rate of 21% on goods and services delivered in the year to date to the approximate value of €3,802,600.

Based on an a similar level of expenditure in 2012, a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT, would see my Department incurring an estimated extra cost of €80,000 in the coming year.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if provisions can be made to facilitate a work permit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38522/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. The Employment Permits Section in my Department informs me that it has no record of an application in this case. I wish to advise the Deputy that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;

positions requiring specialist or scarce skills, expertise or qualifications which cannot be filled otherwise. Further information on the current policy for new employment permits can be found on my Department's website at www.djei.ie.

Skills Shortages

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

135 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38626/11]

The position in relation to the company mentioned by the Deputy is that Enterprise Ireland has provided €60,000 of training assistance towards the development of management structure capable of running a large IT organisation. In relation to the 90 jobs recently announced by the company, no funding was provided by Enterprise Ireland for these jobs.

As is always the case, decisions in relation to the recruitment of staff is ultimately a matter for the company concerned.

However, to address the broader issue raised by the Deputy, the matter of skills shortages in particular sectors is obviously a matter of concern for Government. In relation to the sector in which the company referred to by the Deputy operates — the ICT sector — these skills shortages are not unique to Ireland, but must be addressed. To this end, an ICT action plan is being developed across relevant government departments and agencies to identify clear action lines that will address the skills needs of the ICT sector. The lead on this initiative is being taken by my colleague, Mr Ruairí Quinn, T.D., Minister for Education and Skills. While it is positive that third level enrolments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines in Ireland have increased by some 30% since 2008, there will be a time lag before this increased demand from students will feed through into increased graduate output. Actions which are being taken in the short term to address the gap include the provision of over 1,400 places on Springboard ICT programmes, from which 550 people are due to graduate by next June with awards at honours degree or masters level.

The Higher Education Authority has also just issued a call for proposals seeking collaborative proposals from higher education providers and industry partners for the delivery in 2012 of a full-time graduate conversion programme in programming.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

136 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the grant aid or tax concessions available for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who is purchasing a piece of machinery overseas for the purpose of starting up an export business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38629/11]

Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing micro-enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of priming, expansion/development and feasibility/innovation grants. The CEBs give priority to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector and must always give consideration to any potential for deadweight and displacement arising from a proposed enterprise.

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.

The promoter may in the first instance wish to contact their most appropriate Board, Kerry CEB, to discuss what options may be available to them and their proposed business venture. Kerry County Enterprise Board is located at the County Buildings, Rathass, Tralee, Co. Kerry. Phone No.: 066 718 3522; fax No.: 066 712 6712; e-mail: kerryceb@kerrycoco.ie; website: www.kerryenterprise.ie.

Departmental Bodies

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

137 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the budget expenditure granted to Science Foundation Ireland on an annual basis from 2000 to 2011 in tabular form, with a breakdown of capital and current funding; if he will provide the total cost of remunerating the board of SFI, a breakdown of the individual remuneration provided to each board member, and the salary of the chief executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38756/11]

The total Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) expenditure over the period 2000-2011 is shown in Table 1 below. The 2011 figures are estimated.

Table 1: SFI expenditure 2000-2011 inclusive.

Year

Capital/ research grants (€)

Current expenditure/pay (€)

Administrative costs of running grant programmes (€)

Other (€)

2000

0

0

0.40m

0

2001

8.76m

0.43m

1.69m

0

2002

31.00m

0.90m

3.10m

0

2003

65.00m

1.00m

3.42m

0

2004

108.59m

1.32m

3.82m

0

2005

118.20m

2.74m

4.62m

0

2006

139.86m

3.21m

4.49m

0

2007

155.72m

3.56m

4.77m

0

2008

158.81m

4.37m

5.01m

0

2009

171.17m

4.67m

4.54m

0

2010

150.00m

4.32m

3.92m

0

2011

153.8m

4.29m

3.56m

5m*

*Contribution for e-Journals, which formed part of the transfer of the Programme for Research in Third-level Institutions from the Department of Education and Skills. The e-Journals provision was not an extra funding requirement for the Exchequer in 2011.

Details of the 2010 remuneration made to Board members of SFI, as outlined in the 2010 Annual Report and Accounts, are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: SFI Board Members' Remuneration 2010

Board Members

Amount Paid in 2010

Sean Ahearne

€13,463

Tom Boland

€0

Dr. Rita Colwell

€12,600

Bernie Cullinane

€13,463

Prof. Patrick Fottrell (Chairman)

€21,600

Prof. Frank Gannon

€11,722

Peter MacDonagh

€12,600

Dr. Martina Newell McGloughlin

€12,600

Dr. James Mountjoy

€12,600

Martin Shanagher

€0

John Travers

€12,600

Dr. Don Thornhill

€7,108

Pat Duane

€3,219

Total for 2010

€133,575

SFI Board members who are public servants do not receive a fee for board membership.

Board fees have subsequently been reduced by a further 5% to €20,520 per annum for the Chairperson and €11,970 per annum for ordinary board members. This adjustment was implemented by SFI in February 2011 and backdated to the beginning of 2010.

Recruitment of a Director General for SFI is currently on-going. The applicable salary amount is under consideration by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

138 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the capital budget granted to Science Foundation Ireland that was spent on salaries of researchers from 2000 to 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38757/11]

Researchers funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are employed by their respective higher education institutions. Therefore individual researcher salaries are a matter for the higher education institutions.

SFI is currently supporting approximately 3,000 researchers. On average, approximately 60% of any SFI grant award is a contribution to the salary costs of the researcher teams. The remainder of the SFI award goes towards supporting the research effort through overheads provision to the relevant higher education institution and covering the cost of necessary research equipment.

Given the volume of individual awards, in excess of 2,200 to date, and the several thousands of researchers directly supported by SFI since its establishment in 2000, it is not possible to specify precisely the amount of capital grants that were a contribution to the salaries of researchers.

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

139 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the pension entitlements of researchers employed under capital grants distributed by Science Foundation Ireland; if they are subject to the public sector pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38758/11]

Currently Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is directly supporting approximately 3,000 researchers in Ireland's higher education institutions. The researchers in receipt of SFI grants are employed by the various higher education institutions. Consequently pension entitlements are a contractual matter between the individual researchers and their respective employers.

Members of research teams who are classed as public servants are subject to the public sector pension levy.

The Deputy should note that responsibility for employment conditions in the higher education sector falls to my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills.

Human Rights Issues

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

140 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the issue of forced labour; the incidences of cases reported to him or agencies under his remit; his views on whether additional legislation is required to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38853/11]

This is a matter in the first instance for the Minister of Justice Equality and Defence.

While my Department has a responsibility for providing redress mechanisms for alleged breaches of employment law, this does not extend to the area of forced labour or slavery, which are serious criminal offences and by definition are outside the normal employment relationship.

Corporate Enforcement

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

141 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to cases in which employers close down and reopen under different names as a ruse to evade orders to pay wages due to employees, including cases of forced labour in which workers may be owed tens of thousands of euro for years of overwork and underpayment; if he will introduce legislation to prevent this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38883/11]

The Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 established the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and strengthened the legislative provisions dealing with insolvent companies. The Director has powers to initiate company investigations, prosecutions, restrictions and disqualifications with a view to curbing abusive practices by directors.

Section 56 of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 provides that the liquidator of an insolvent company must submit a report to the ODCE together with information on the conduct of any person who was a director of the company during the 12 months preceding its liquidation. The liquidator must also proceed to apply to the High Court for the restriction of each of the directors of the insolvent company, unless relieved of that obligation by the ODCE.

The ODCE has also been conferred with certain powers to address unliquidated insolvent companies i.e., those companies which are not in liquidation and have not yet been dissolved. The legal powers include applying to the High Court for the restriction of the company's directors. This power has been successfully used to sanction directors.

A restriction declaration, if made, prohibits an individual from acting, either directly or indirectly, as an officer of a company or from being involved in its formation or promotion for five years, unless the company is adequately capitalised. In the case of a private company, the capital requirement is €63,487 in allotted paid-up share capital. The equivalent figure for public companies is €317,435.

If the Deputy has knowledge of a suspected breach of company law this should be reported to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The Director is independent in the performance of his statutory duties and I have no direct function in these matters.

Legal obligations relating specifically to payment of wages are contained, principally, in the Payment of Wages Act 1991. Complaints of non-compliance may be referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) or to the Rights Commissioner Service. Enforcement of EAT determinations or Rights Commissioner decisions may be made through the Circuit Court.

As forced labour is a serious criminal offence and by definition outside normal employment relationships, this is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

International Agreements

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

142 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to ratify the International Labour Organisation convention on domestic workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38884/11]

I welcome the successful outcome of discussions at the International Labour Conference (ILC) that lead to the adoption of a new International labour standard aimed at ensuring Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

The final text of the draft Convention was one that the Irish Government was in a position to support and the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers now becomes ILO Convention No. 189 supplemented by a Recommendation.

The issue of ratification by Ireland of this Convention will be considered in the context of our standard approach to the ratification of international instruments. In this regard, the Convention will need to be examined from the perspective of any changes that may be required to existing domestic legislation. This will involve careful examination of the provisions of the Convention as well as obtaining any legal advice that might be necessary. Issues around implementation and enforcement of the Convention will also need to be considered.

While ratification of the Convention remains under consideration, I would point out that the full suite of employment rights legislation, including that of redress for violations of employment rights, that apply to employees generally in Ireland apply equally in the case of domestic workers.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Robert Troy

Question:

143 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider legislation to tackle below-cost selling of alcohol. [38893/11]

Pricing strategies, including selling below cost, in any business are a legitimate marketing tool and are the normal outcome of the competitive process. I have no direct function in relation to pricing strategies which are a matter for the retailer and are not an offence unless they involve abuse of a dominant position.

The sale of alcohol is essentially regulated by the liquor licensing laws, which are the policy responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality and I have no direct function in this matter.

Redundancy Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

144 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when redundancy payment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38383/11]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was awarded on 14 November 2011. A cheque payment should be received by the person concerned in the coming days.

Social Welfare Fraud

Finian McGrath

Question:

145 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any evidence that another welfare amnesty would result in more revenue. [38643/11]

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. However, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

Most social welfare customers fully declare their means and circumstances and, therefore, do not receive more than their entitlements. However, where a customer fails to fully declare their means or circumstances, they may receive payments to which they are not entitled and this can result in an overpayment. It is important that the Department seeks to recover overpayments where they occur and an overpayment debt will remain on the customer's records until fully recovered. This will result in a reduction of all future entitlements up to and including the state pension. Following the death of a customer who owes a debt, the Department will have a claim on any estate remaining.

Customers who are aware that they are being, or have been overpaid by the Department should contact their local social welfare office without delay. An overpayment recovery plan, acceptable both to the customer and to the Department, will then be agreed.

I have no plans to introduce an amnesty for customers as I do not consider this to be an appropriate response. The Department is fully committed to recovering 100% of overpayments arising as a result of suspected fraud or error. Effective debt recovery and the prosecution of persons who defraud the social welfare system are an integral part of the deterrent approach to prevent abuse of the system. The Deputy may be aware 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.

Community Employment Schemes

Martin Ferris

Question:

146 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when the Labour Court recommendation LCR 19293 relating to FÁS supervisors will be implemented. [38822/11]

Patrick Deering

Question:

190 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a Labour Court recommendation LCR 19293 dated 22 July 2008, recommending that a pension scheme be introduced without delay for community employment scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, has to date not been implemented; and the reason claims for a pension scheme have been rejected. [38814/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 190 together.

I would refer the Deputies to my reply to questions numbers 99, 89 & 102 on 1st December 2011. The position remains unchanged.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when a decision will be made regarding a review of means in respect of an application for jobseeker’s allowance or benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38293/11]

A revised decision has been made on the jobseeker's allowance application of the person concerned following a review of his means. The new assessment is effective from 31 August 2011 and all arrears payable will be issued to him on 6th December 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

John O'Mahony

Question:

148 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their application for disability allowance and when a medical assessment will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38299/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 6 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 28 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 Benefits

Denis Naughten

Question:

149 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38307/11]

I confirm than an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Sandra McLellan

Question:

150 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review an application for back to school allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38319/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year. A person may qualify for a BSCFA payment if he or she is in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment, is participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education or training course, and has household income at or below certain specified levels. The person concerned was disallowed BSCFA on 22 September, 2011 as his means were deemed to be above the income limit for his family size. The person concerned has requested a full review of this decision and the BSCFA review section will be in touch with him shortly in this regard.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

151 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the specific grants and amounts paid by her to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if she will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that was a beneficiary of same. [38345/11]

The Department of Social Protection operates a number of initiatives in co-operation with organisations and companies in the community, voluntary and not-for-profit sectors. The primary focus of these initiatives is the provision of training and work placement opportunities for people who are unemployed.

Outside of the Galway City area, Galway Rural Development Company Limited and Forum Connemara Limited operate the Rural Social Scheme with an allocation of 156 and 14 participants respectively. In addition, both companies deliver Tús, the community work placement initiative, with an allocation of 120 and 20 respectively. Galway City Partnership operates Tús in the Galway City area with an allocation of 80 participants. Funding is provided to the companies to meet participant payroll and other costs of the operations of the companies involved.

FÁS continues to have day-to-day responsibility for the operation of community employment and the jobs initiative and engages community organisations to sponsor training and work placement opportunities. The organisations engaged in community employment in county Galway during 2011 are listed in the table.

Community Employment Organisation

Location

Grant Paid in 2011

Abbeyknockmoy Parish Society

Galway City

237,953

Ability West

Galway City

232,090

Access Music Project (Galway)

Galway City

21,824

Athenry District C E Project

Athenry

276,947

Aughrim CommunityDevelopment Co

Aughrim

82,123

Ballinasloe Trg For Employment

Ballinasloe

402,406

Ballygar Community Group

Ballygar

4,000

Ballinasloe Community Rersources

Ballinasloe

75,342

Castleblakeney Comm.Dev.Group

Castleblakeney

209,966

Clonberne Community Centre Co.

Clonberne

190,142

Clonfert CommunityAssociation Limited

Clonfert

8,500

Cuan Mhuire

Coolarne

150,086

Duchas Na Gaillimhe

Galway City

197,719

Dunmore Parish Scheme

Dunmore

304,137

Enable Ireland

Galway City

135,209

Forum Connemara Limited

Letterfrack

639,575

Galway Boxing Development.

Galway City

87,600

Galway Centre For Ind. Living

Galway City

187,839

Galway Ciitzens Inf/Gal D.Y.S

Galway City

4,750

Galway Rural Development Co. Limited.

Athenry

157,461

Galway Simon Community

Galway City

186,496

Galway Trav. Support Group Limited

Galway City

24,786

Glenamaddy Community Care Limited

Glenamaddy

173,933

Gort&Dist.Com Dev.Group Limited

Gort

125,899

Headford Community C.E.

Headford

272,349

Irish Wheelchair Association

Tuam/City

89,721

Kilcoona Parish Community Ses

Kilcoona

168,834

Kilcornan Community Development Association Limited

Kilcornan

167,051

Killimor T.F.Q. Co Limited

Killimor

91,223

Knocknacarra District Cmty CE

Galway City

125,531

Le Cheile Westside Project

Galway City

95,737

Loughrea Parish Council

Loughrea

227,286

Milltown Community Council

Milltown

243,422

Mountbellew Development Co-Operative

Mountbellew

458,103

Moylough Parish Services

Moylough

277,048

Multiple Sclerosis Society Of Ireland

Galway City

180,730

Oughterard Com Enterprises Limited

Oughterard

145,013

Redemptorist Monastery

Galway City

203,969

Renmore Parish Development Association

Renmore

123,210

Ryehill Community Council

Ryehill

46,212

Shantalla Community Development Co Limited

Galway City

292,529

Sliabh Aughty CommunityAssoc Limited

Abbey

165,058

St. James Community Centre

Galway City

300,866

Tuam & District Mental Health

Tuam

212,671

Tuam Travellers Education & Development Group

Tuam

270,965

Williamstown Development Co.

Williamstown

145,816

Woodlawn Heritage Group Limited

Woodlawn

106,005

Youth Work Ireland Limited

Galway City

121,625

The organisations engaged in delivering the Jobs Initiative in county Galway during 2011 are listed in the table.

Jobs Initiative Organisation

Location

Grant Value

Galway Peoples Resource Centre

Galway City

619,220

Forum Connemara Limited

Letterfrack

182,072

Connemara West Centre

Cliften

205,289

Under the Activation and Family Support Programme funding can be made available by the Department to assist individuals and families to enhance their employability through education, training and personal development. In the main, these activities are organised and delivered by community and voluntary bodies involved in the provision of training, family support and specific activities. The organisations to which funds were granted under the programme during 2011 are set out in the table.

Activation and Family Support Programme Organisation

Location

Grant Value

Ballinasloe Communty Resources Ltd

Ballinasloe

62,576

Ballinasloe Job Club

Ballinasloe

9,600

Ballybane Community Resource Centre Ltd

Ballybane

27,950

Galway City Partnership

Galway City

57,300

Galway Traveller Movement Ltd

Galway City

13,253

Home Start Programme Athenry

Athenry

700

St. Brendan’s Education Centre

Loughrea

2,310

Time4us Ltd

Tuam

30,000

Tuam & District Mental Health Association

Tuam

3,990

Tuam Adult Education Centre

Tuam

10,000

Tuam Community Training Centre

Tuam

20,000

Western Traveller Intercultural Development Centre

Tuam

2,000

The Department also funds the community services programme which supports locally based not-for-profit organisations to provide services to their communities. The table summarises the funding committed to in 2011.

Community Services Programme Organisation

Location

Contract Value €

Tearmann Éanna Teoranta

Baile na hAbhainn

108,132

Inishturk Community Club

Inishturk Island

42,066

Mountbellew Community Development

Mountbellew

38,066

Cumann Peile Naomh Anna

Leitir Móir

70,066

Clifden Town Hall

Clifden

38,066

Gort & South Galway Community & Leisure Centre

Gort

38,066

Ionad Peile Na Gaillimhe

Baile Chlair na Gaillimhe

51,033

Inisbofin Community Services Programme Co Ltd

Inishbofin

116,132

Athenry Arts & Heritage Centre

Athenry

95,099

Ballybane Community Resource Centre

Ballybane

89,099

CLEAS

Oileáin Arann

108,132

Athchúrsáil Árann Teoranta

Aran Islands

165,231

Glenamaddy Community Development Company

Glenamaddy

117,649

Mervue United AFC Ltd

Mervue

165,231

Oranmore Community Development Assocation Ltd

Oranmore

112,889

Oughterard Leisure Centre Ltd

Oughterard

70,066

Oughterard Tourism & Development

Oughterard

93,099

Westside Age Inclusion

Bothar Le Cheile

108,616

Galway Teleworking Co-Op Society Ltd

Mountbelllew

74,066

Galway Traveller Movement

Galway City

172,542

Aonad Resource Centre Limited

Ballygar

95,099

SEG Integrated Rural Development

Portumna

70,066

Westside Resource Centre

Galway City

58,389

In general, the Department of Social Protection and FÁS do not hold the names of the officers of these organisations and contact is maintained with managers, supervisors or other staff members employed. The members of the boards of management may be obtained by contacting the organisations directly or by consulting the Companies Registration Office.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

152 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection the increments made payable to public sector workers within her Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38365/11]

There is currently a total of 6,042 staff serving in my Department, including staff who transferred from the Community Welfare Service on 1st October 2011. The number of increments which have been paid by my Department, or are due to be paid during the period in question, is set out in the table.

Year

2010

2011

Due in 2012

Increments Awarded

2,176

2,368

2,585

The figure provided for increments which may be due for payment in 2012 includes former Community Welfare Service staff and 131 officers currently employed on temporary contracts, whose contracts may terminate in advance of the consideration of an increment. The annual increment is normally paid on the anniversary of appointment, provided performance, which includes attendance and punctuality during the year, is satisfactory. Therefore, the figure provided for 2012 is provisional and indicates the number of officers who are due to be considered for the award of an increment next year. Details of officers transferring from FÁS on 1st January 2012 are not included as the personal details of the officers concerned are not yet available to my Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Niall Collins

Question:

153 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [38370/11]

I confirm than an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Appeals

Niall Collins

Question:

154 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a supplementary welfare allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied ) in County Cork. [38373/11]

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 on 15 December 2011. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

155 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo and if it will be expedited as matter of urgency. [38375/11]

I confirm than an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Jack Wall

Question:

156 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. [38376/11]

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on 27th October 2011. Her claim was awarded on 30th November and the person concerned is now in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

157 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38399/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Creed

Question:

158 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38407/11]

I confirm than an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Code

Noel Grealish

Question:

159 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on community welfare officers not paying rent supplement direct to compliant landlords in situations where tenants have lost cases of rent arrears by determination orders from the Private Residential Tenancies Board; her views that continued payment to claimants in such cases can contribute to fraud, notwithstanding that the legislative provisions provide that the tenant’s relationship is with the Department and previously the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38415/11]

Noel Grealish

Question:

160 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will undertake a review of the legislation regarding the payment of rent supplement to tenants; if she will acknowledge that there are three parties involved, tenant, social services and landlord, and that evidence of non-payment by the tenant to a compliant landlord should be considered as fraud; if she will acknowledge the role of compliant landlords in eliminating fraud against her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38416/11]

Noel Grealish

Question:

161 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is a specific form to be completed by a tenant requesting that rent supplement be paid direct to a compliant landlord, or another third party; if the request has to be made and signed in the presence of the community welfare officer; if a signed letter from a tenant, given to a landlord, is acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38417/11]

Noel Grealish

Question:

162 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection the circumstances in which a tenant can request payment of rent supplement to a compliant landlord; her views that it is best practice for tenants to agree to this in their own interests and to help combat fraud; her views that the provision for direct payment to landlords and others, repeated in many circulars to community welfare officers, should be the norm, or only in exceptional cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38418/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 to 162, inclusive, together.

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. Under the legislative provisions governing rent supplement, the Department's relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs. There is no direct relationship between the landlord and the Department in the administration of the scheme.

Current legislation provides for the making of a rent supplement payment to another person (e.g. a relative, a landlord or landlord's agent) on behalf of the recipient, at the tenant's written request and subject to the consent of the Department. Where a tenant wishes to have the rent supplement paid directly to the landlord, the tenant is requested to sign an indemnity form authorising payment of the supplement directly to the landlord. The form does not have to be signed in the presence of the Department's representative. Approximately 20% of rent supplement payments are currently paid to a person other than the tenant.

Under the current arrangements, even with direct payment, landlords still have to collect the tenant contribution towards their rent (a minimum of €104 per month). The amount of rent supplement payable depends on the tenant's income; in some cases tenants pay only the minimum contribution while for others the tenant makes an additional contribution to their rent based on their financial circumstances. For example, where a person is in part-time income and receives just 10% of his or her rent directly from the State, the landlord would receive the 10% directly whilst still having to collect the 90% from the tenant.

It is open to the landlord to bring to the attention of the Department any instance where a tenant is receiving rent supplement but is not paying their rent. Where the Department becomes aware that a person receiving rent supplement is not using that supplement to meet housing costs, payment of the supplement is suspended and the matter investigated. Any overpayment of rent supplement incurred in circumstances of this kind may be recoverable from the tenant. Where a landlord has a grievance in relation to the non-payment of rent by a tenant, s/he may apply to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to have the dispute resolved through the Board's dispute resolution process.

Social Welfare Appeals

Billy Kelleher

Question:

163 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38423/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Social Welfare Services who was of the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for Disability Allowance. He appealed this decision and in that context he was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for Disability Allowance. At this stage the Social Welfare Services have been requested to submit relevant documents to the Social Welfare Appeals Office in this case. 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.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

164 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38425/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 22nd 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 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.

Employment Support Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

165 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason persons on one-parent family payments are ineligible for the JobBridge scheme; her plans to revise the eligibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38437/11]

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme, including its eligibility criteria, on an ongoing basis. However, there are no plans to amend the following participant eligibility criteria:

currently be in receipt of a live claim (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/Signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits) on the Live Register; and

have been in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance or signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits for a total of 78 days or more in the last 6 months.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, one of the objectives of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent their drift into long-term unemployment. For these reasons, the eligibility for the JobBridge scheme is confined to those whose primary payment is a Jobseekers payment and who are on the Live Register. In so designing the scheme, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it and ensure a reduction in exchequer costs over time.

Individuals in receipt of One Parent Family Payment may access a wide range of activation supports including the FÁS Work Placement Programme, which is designed to provide participants with valuable work experience, thereby improving their prospects of securing employment.

Departmental Staff

Finian McGrath

Question:

166 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will clarify a matter (details supplied). [38452/11]

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out the standards required of civil servants in the discharge of their duties and is an important element of the framework within which all civil servants are expected to work. Areas of the Code that may be relevant in this situation are outlined below.

Section 13 of the Code of Standards states that civil servants are not allowed to use their official positions to benefit themselves or others with whom they have personal, family, business or other ties. Section 14 of the Code states that civil servants may not at any time engage in or be connected with any outside business or activity which would in any way conflict with the interests of their departments/offices, or be inconsistent with their official positions, or tend to impair their ability to carry out their duties as civil servants. For this reason, civil servants intending to be engaged in or connected with any outside business or employment should inform their Personnel/Human Resources Management Section of such an intention.

A civil servant who, in the course of his or her official duties, comes into contact with any matter affecting any commercial undertaking in which he or she has an interest, must immediately disclose the nature and extent of that interest to the Secretary General or Head of Office. A civil servant is not permitted to make representations on behalf of an outside association or organisation, either as an individual or as a member of a delegation, in relation to matters for which his or her Department/Office has responsibility except with the specific prior consent of the Head of his or her Department/Office.

The officer concerned should be advised to contact the Personnel Officer of my Department to clarify the position in relation to their role as a Director on the Board of Marino Fairview Home Help Care Service Limited.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a medical examination will be carried out in respect of an appeal for illness benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if she will arrange for expeditious review of this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38455/11]

Payment of illness benefit to the person concerned was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. An appeal was registered on 3rd November 2011 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be notified when arrangements for the examination have been completed. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

168 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost to her Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38469/11]

The estimated cost to the Department of Social Protection of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT would be of the order of €3.3m. per annum. The Department's expenditure on goods and services that are liable for VAT can vary from year to year. The estimate given above is based on relevant expenditure figures for 2010.

Social Welfare Appeals

Noel Coonan

Question:

169 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for invalidity allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38500/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29 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 07 October 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 22 November 2011 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

170 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for a position as carer in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38506/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer's decision. 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:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when payment will issue in respect of one-parent family payment or a basic social welfare payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38513/11]

The person concerned was 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 as she failed to provide information requested. She has appealed this decision to the social welfare appeals office.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when an appeal will be heard in respect of an application for supplementary welfare allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38525/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when an appeal will be heard in respect of an application for mortgage interest supplement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38526/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence disallowed the supplementary welfare allowance (mortgage interest supplement) appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer's decision. There is no trace of an application for basic supplementary welfare allowance for the person concerned. 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

Clare Daly

Question:

174 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Dublin could sign on in their local office and collect their payment in their local office. [38528/11]

The person is currently on the part-time job incentive scheme. This scheme is for those working less than 24 hours a week who had been on jobseeker's allowance for more than 15 months. It allows them to take up part-time work and get a part-time job allowance instead of jobseeker's allowance.

Due to technical constraints, payment under this scheme must be made manually. Manual payments are authorised from the maintenance section of each Local Office and paid at the nearest Post Office. The local office in this case is Swords and currently, the services for Swords are provided from a number of locations, pending the acquisition of suitable premises in Swords itself. Fresh claims, enquiries and claim decisions are dealt with from two separate premises in Swords while the signing centre and maintenance section for Swords is located in North Cumberland Street, Dublin 1.

My Department appreciates the inconvenience but under the current arrangements until such time as suitable premises are available in Swords, the person must attend the maintenance section in North Cumberland Street to collect authorisation for a manual payment to be made at Parnell Street Post Office.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sean Fleming

Question:

175 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal for a disability allowance will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38552/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer's decision. 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.

Sean Fleming

Question:

176 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal for a disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38553/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, has allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision. 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

Patrick Nulty

Question:

177 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for redundancy in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and when a decision will issue. [38563/11]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was awarded on 1 December 2011. A cheque payment will issue shortly.

Social Welfare Code

Robert Dowds

Question:

178 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider means testing children’s allowance so that families with incomes of greater than €100,000 are not eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38580/11]

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 reducing 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 currently.

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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has no current income; if she will expedite this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38603/11]

I can confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. The average time taken to process a claim to completion, including assessment of the claimant's means, medical condition and habitual residence status is currently approximately 17 weeks. If the person is in need of urgent income support he can apply for the means tested supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) from the Department's community welfare service.

Question No. 180 withdrawn.

Redundancy Payments

Finian McGrath

Question:

181 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding redundancy payments. [38645/11]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 19 July 2011. Redundancy lump sum claims received at the start of May 2011 are currently being processed. My officials have written to the person concerned informing them of this position.

Question No. 182 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Noel Harrington

Question:

183 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reinstate the carer’s allowance that was granted in April 2011 to a person (details supplied) in County Cork, which was returned in error to the Department due to it being delivered to the wrong house; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38736/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 6 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. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

John O'Mahony

Question:

184 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a reply in respect of their carer’s allowance appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38745/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 2 June 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 23 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

185 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38752/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 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 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 17 November 2011, if she will facilitate an appeal and review under section 311 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 against the previous decision with a view to clarification of the sequence of events and the extent of information provided over a series of months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38754/11]

For the reasons stated in my response to Parliamentary Question Ref. No. 35427/11 on 17 November 2011, the claim of the person concerned for rent supplement was disallowed by an Appeals Officer of the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive on 23 May 2011. The person was informed of his right to a further appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer and that such appeal must be made, in writing, within 21 days of the date of that decision. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that no appeal by the person concerned has been received by that office. 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:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a review will take place of the eligibility for payment under the disability allowance scheme in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38755/11]

No application for disability allowance has been received to date from the person concerned. An application form and an information booklet have been sent to him. If the person in question wishes to apply for disability allowance, he should complete the form and return it to the Department and his entitlement to disability allowance will be examined. He will be notified in writing of the outcome.

Social Welfare Code

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

188 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is currently using the definition of “cohabitation” in the new Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, Part 15, section 172; and if the statement published on the website in the section, Civil Partnership FAQs, question 14, section A paragraph (c), as updated 24 March 2011, is correct. [38759/11]

The term "cohabitant" is defined in the social welfare code in accordance with section 172 (1) of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations Act, 2010, which states that "a cohabitant is one of two adults (whether of the same or the opposite sex) who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship and who are not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship or married to each other or civil partners of each other". This definition is also published on the Department's website in the section Civil Partnership FAQs, Question 14, section A, Paragraph c. Since 1 January 2011, the social welfare code recognises all cohabiting couples and the Department treats same and opposite sex cohabiting couples in a similar way.

In relation to cohabiting couples, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, creates a cohabitant's redress scheme for same-sex and opposite-sex couples giving protection to an economically dependent party at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship (at least five years or two where there is a child of the relationship) where the couple has not chosen to marry or to register in a civil partnership as the case may be. Qualified cohabitants are not able to make a claim on the estate of a deceased cohabitant where their relationship ended more than two years before that person's death (except where a court decides that the qualified cohabitant is still dependent on the deceased person). This allows the economically dependent partner at the end of the relationship, whether by break-up or bereavement to apply to court for certain reliefs, including for provision from the estate of the deceased partner, or for maintenance, pension adjustment orders or property adjustment orders, (the reliefs available on application to the Courts are at the courts discretion) and gives legal recognition to cohabitant agreements enabling cohabitants to regulate their joint financial affairs.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

189 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an illness benefit appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38811/11]

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.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 146.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

191 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38842/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 07 June 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 01 November 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.

Employment Support Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

192 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the plans in place regarding the implementation of an exit plan for graduate recruits in JobBridge to increase their chances of employment after the internship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38865/11]

The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals bridge the gap between unemployment and the world of work. JobBridge offers individuals a unique opportunity to develop new skills and earn valuable experience, while simultaneously showing a potential employer the valuable contribution they could make to their organisation. Upon completing a JobBridge internship an intern will have enhanced their employability. Anecdotal evidence shows that several individuals have secured employment as a direct result of their JobBridge experience.

There is no specific exit plan for participants of JobBridge as referred to by the Deputy. However, if an employer offers a JobBridge intern employment they may be able to avail of the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme. Under this scheme employers will be exempt for 12 months from having to pay their share of PRSI for new employees who have been in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance for at least 6 months. This may also include eligible JobBridge interns. A full evaluation of JobBridge will commence in early 2012. The evaluation will assess the impact of the scheme on the unemployed so as to inform future policy development in this area.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

193 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the provisions being made to measure the effectiveness of current and future employment schemes; if any measurement exists specifically for graduate unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38866/11]

My Department funds and operates a wide range of initiatives to support the unemployed and other recipients of social welfare payments. Schemes and programmes are monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure they remain fit for purpose. Initial work on a review of certain activation measures has commenced. The format of the review has recently been agreed and it will take a number of months to complete. Employment and training programmes delivered by FÁS were the subject of a review undertaken by Forfás which was published in February 2010. In addition, my Department last month issued a request for tender for the evaluation of the JobBridge scheme which will be undertaken in 2012. The closing date for receipt of tenders is 9 December.

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick Nulty

Question:

194 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding fuel allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; the reason the payment has been suspended; if it will be reviewed and put into payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38876/11]

The person concerned has been in receipt of illness benefit since 27 June 2011. Illness benefit is a short-term income support. Fuel allowance is not payable under the illness benefit scheme. Previously, the person concerned was in receipt of jobseeker's allowance and qualified for fuel allowance under that scheme. If a person has an urgent or exceptional need they may apply to their local Community Welfare Officer for assistance under the supplementary allowance scheme.

Question No. 195 withdrawn.

Robert Troy

Question:

196 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is not being granted a full transition pension having been in full-time insurable employment since 16 years of age; if she will honour all social welfare contributions made by the person and whose employers may not fulfil their obligations to the Revenue Commissioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38906/11]

The qualifying conditions for State pension (transition) require the applicant to:

have entered insurable employment before attaining the age of 55 years (age 56 for State pension contributory).

have at least 260 paid contribution weeks, since entry into insurance.

have a yearly average of at least 24 paid/credited contributions.

According to the records of the Department, the person concerned has self-employment contributions paid from April 1989 to 2011. The Department does not have a record of the person concerned paying PRSI contributions as an employed contributor prior to that date. Self-employment (S-class) PRSI is not a reckonable class of social insurance for State pension (transition). A social welfare inspector has been requested to investigate the position relating to his employment as a mechanic during the period 1959 to 1980, and to confirm if any additional PRSI contributions would be due for this period. When this investigation has been completed, his claim to State pension (transition) will be reviewed and he will be notified of the outcome. The person concerned satisfies the conditions for entitlement to a State pension (contributory) at 98% of the maximum rate, payable from age 66.

Question No. 197 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

198 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38916/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 28th March 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 19th September 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 15th November 2011 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Employment Support Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

199 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if any evaluation was carried out of the piloted part-time job opportunity programme between 1994 and 1998; the finding of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38919/11]

I am aware of the proposal advanced by Social Justice Ireland (SJI) that seeks to create 100,000 part-time working positions in the public, community and voluntary sectors. The proposal is based on a similar approach piloted between 1994 and 1998 where the participant is required to work the number of hours required to earn the equivalent of their social welfare payment and a small top-up. SJI propose that access would be on a voluntary basis and participants would be paid through the reallocation of social welfare payments to the employing organisations. Additionally, participants would be allowed to take up other paid employment in their spare time without incurring loss of benefits and would be subject to normal income tax and payroll deductions in the normal way if their total income brought them into the tax net.

The previous scheme was administered by CORI and operated for three years from June 1994. My understanding is that an evaluation was conducted by then Department of Enterprise and Employment which identified a number of innovations which were subsequently mainstreamed with a restructuring of community employment, the introduction of spousal swaps and the development of Jobs Initiative which was modelled on a 39 hour working week with the participant receiving the equivalence of their former social welfare rate of payment. The Jobs Initiative was subsequently closed to new applications in 2004 and currently supports over 1,300 people in employment.

Given the range of interventions my Department currently funds and operates, I would need to be convinced that the approach advanced by SJI could not be accommodated within the range of existing schemes that my Department currently funds and operates. I have already indicated that I wish to look at the effectiveness of the existing range of initiatives and schemes to see if better output can be achieved. At present, community employment has capacity to engage 23,300 participants; the rural social scheme supports 2,700; Tús — the community work placement initiative — has 2,000 on payroll and will have 5,000 participants in place in 2012. JobBridge currently has placed over 3,000 people in internships with a target of 5,000.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

200 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a decision relative to a claim for domiciliary care allowance and carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [38979/11]

The person concerned applied for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) in respect of her two sons. These applications were referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the children were not medically eligible for the Allowance. She was notified of the decision on 19th August 2011 and has since appealed the decisions. Currently, one appeal is being reviewed by one of the Department's Medical Assessors and the second appeal has been sent to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for their consideration.

Carer's Allowance can be paid to persons providing full-time care to a child with a disability provided the child is in receipt of DCA and the applicant satisfies a means test. An application for Carer's Allowance was received from the person concerned on 31st May 2011 in respect of her two sons. This application was refused on 8th November as neither child is in receipt of DCA. The person concerned was notified of the decision and informed of her right to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Code

John McGuinness

Question:

201 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans, if any, to provide some form of benefit or guaranteed income for self-employed persons who are now unemployed and have no income; if the benefits and pension entitlements enjoyed by the public sector will be extended to the private sector; if the guarantees outlined in the national pensions framework 2010 will be extended to all workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38981/11]

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits, including jobseeker's benefit, pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

In this context it should be noted that self-employed workers generally achieve better value for money by paying social insurance compared with employees. The 2005 Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund found that the fund favours the self-employed over the employed when both employer and employee contributions are included in respect of the employed person. For example a male married self-employed contributor earning gross average industrial wages had a value for money index of 10.3 compared with an index of 3.1 for an equivalent employee. In basic terms this means that, with regard to benefits, the self-employed contributor can expect to receive over 10 times what he contributes to the social insurance fund compared to the employee who, even with access to a broader range of benefits, only gets 3 times what he and his employer contribute. The analysis demonstrates that, despite the fact that they are eligible for a narrower range of benefits, self-employed persons can gain substantially more from the fund than employees.

Any changes to the PRSI system in order to provide access to short-term benefits such as jobseeker's benefit would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare earlier this year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will, inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable.

The Deputy should be aware that self-employed persons may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments including payments such as jobseeker's allowance. In general, assessment of means account will be taken of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate account is taken of the downward trend in the economy.

The National Pensions Framework (NPF) which was published in March 2010 provides for a range of reforms across all types of pension provision — private sector occupational schemes; voluntary or personal pensions, public sector pensions and the State pension. As such it impacts on a range of workers, including people who are self-employed. Elements of the NPF are specifically intended to assist those in the lower to middle income ranges to provide for pensions in order to improve their post retirement income. However, the NPF aims to deliver security, equity, choice and clarity for all and to ensure that State support for pensions is equitable and sustainable.

Pension arrangements for public servants are the responsibility of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. You will be aware that the reform of public sector pensions is a key element of the wider public sector reform agenda and a commitment in the agreement with the EU/IMF/ECB. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has been working on the development of a new single pension scheme for new entrants to the public sector and legislation providing for this scheme was published in September 2011.

Question No. 202 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment under the rent allowance scheme will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38999/11]

The person concerned has been awarded rent supplement. Payment, including arrears, will issue to the landlord's bank account on 29th December 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment under the domiciliary care allowance scheme will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39000/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 28th September 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 26th November 2011 advising of the decision. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

Social Welfare Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 17 November 2011, if she will clarify that rent allowance is not available to a parent who has less than full-time custody of his or her children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39001/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when it was decided to withdraw rent support from parents who do not have sole custody or are not the primary carer of their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39002/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent support is payable to either parent or not at all in the case of shared custody of a child or children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39003/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 to 207, inclusive, together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme 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. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

Every claim for rent supplement is determined having regard to the particular circumstances of the applicant. Any person seeking a rent supplement must first satisfy the Department's representative that they have a housing need that they are unable to meet from their own resources. In addition, the Department must be satisfied that the residence is reasonably suited to the residential and other needs of the claimant. The Department must also be satisfied that the rent payable is reasonable having regard to the nature, character and location of the residence.

In a case where parents have joint custody of a child, the needs of both parents to have adequate accommodation to look after the child are taken into account when an application for a rent supplement is being determined. In such cases, documentation is normally required showing that a joint custody arrangement is in place and being availed of before a decision can be made. The fact that one parent is in receipt of rent supplement would not in itself preclude the other parent from being entitled to assistance towards their rent.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

208 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that was a beneficiary of same. [38334/11]

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the grants and amounts paid by my Department to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011 is set out in the following table. As the Deputy will be aware, my Department, as currently configured, was established on 2 June 2011 and therefore the available information is being provided from that date. As the Deputy will be further aware, on foot of the reconfiguration of Government Departments earlier this year, the prime responsibility in relation to community affairs now rests with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The Deputy will appreciate that, generally speaking, details of the names of the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of such groups would be a matter for the groups themselves. However, if the Deputy has a concern in relation to a specific group, I would be glad to provide any further information that may be available to my Department.

Community & Voluntary Group in Galway City and County

Amount Paid since 2 June 2011

Coiste Forbartha an Mháma

€10,667

Óige na Gaeltachta

€6,041

Ionad Pobail Cill Chiaráin

€35,400

Coiste Pobail Chamuis

€20,749

Coiste Pobail an Tulaigh

€7,057

Ionad Tacaíochta Teaghlaigh Teo

€13,058

Comhar Chaomhán Teo

€8,340

Coiste Spreagadh na nAosach

€30,709

Coiste Pobail na bhForbacha

€4,182

Ionad Fóillíochta Bhaile Chláir

€10,000

Coiste Forbartha Chorr na Móna

€32,987

Comhairle Chonnachta

€32,721

Comhairle Chonnachta

€82,637

Óige na Gaeltachta

€7,566

Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

€3,000

An Gaelacadamh

€146,190

Comhlacht Forbartha an Spidéil

€9,261

Fibín Teo

€9,008

Comhairle Chonnachta

€32,721

Campa Sacair Chumann Sacair Chois Fharraige

€950

Campa Saoire Chois Fharraige

€21,450

Campa Spóirt Dhúiche Sheoigheach

€3,150

Campa Samhraidh na Ceathrún Ruaidh

€1,700

Campa Samhraidh Liathróid Láimhe

€1,950

Campa Camógaíochta Chois Fharraige

€1,150

Campa Spraoi Leitir Mucú

€3,420

Campa Kayakadóireacht Inis Meáin

€500

Campa Snámh agus Tarrthála na Ceathrún Ruaidh

€9,300

Campa CLG an Cheathrú Rua

€5,050

Campa Samhraidh na Ceathrún Ruaidh

€1,350

Campa Camógaíochta Chois Fharraige

€2,500

Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta

€3,270

Comhar Chuigeal

€2,500

Campa Clár Críochnú Scoile

€400

Cumann Peile Micheál Breathnach

€7,775

Comhar Chuigeal

€5,800

Conradh na Gaeilge

€10,160

Campa Liathróid Láimhe An Cnoc

€950

Dréimire

€1,740

Campa Sacar an Cheathrú Rua

€2,600

Ionad Tacaíochta Teaghlaigh

€2,060

Muintearas

€7,159

Naíonra Dhúiche Sheoigheach

€1,350

Ógras

€1,000

Pléaráca Teo

€1,700

Seirbhís Spóirt Chonamara

€3,100

Sportlann Naomh Anna

€200

Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe

€174,089

Gaillimh le Gaeilge

€66,000

Spleodar (Cúrsaí Samhraidh agus Imeachtaí don Óige) Orán Mór

€33,120

Druid Lane Theatre (Arts Capital Payment)

€37,227

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

209 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38353/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on 2nd June 2011. The following table sets out the number and the annualised value of increments paid to staff in my Department from that date until end-2011, as well as those due for payment in 2012.

Period

No. of staff due increments in period (WTE)

Estimated annualised cost of increments

2 June — 30 Nov 2011

173.4

€236,374

1 Dec — 31 Dec 2011

14.5

€18,659

1 Jan — 31 Dec 2012

285.8

€401,163

Payment of increments to staff in my Department is subject to staff receiving a satisfactory rating through the Performance Management Development System.

Turbary Rights

Paul Connaughton

Question:

210 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is widespread opposition to the proposal to transfer the fee simple and rights of turbary on plot Nos. 7, 17, 19, 25-33, 44-49, 52, on 10.307 hectares in the townland of Meelickmore, Barony of Dunmore, County Galway from the Irish Land Commission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the transfer of fee simple only and subject to rights of turbary of plot Nos. 22, 23, 24 are also involved; if he is aware that the local landholders adjacent to this property tendered to purchase these bogs a number of years ago but were never notified of the result and urgently want this process to be stopped, particularly in view of the difficult circumstances that many bog owners now find themselves in across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38403/11]

I understand that it has been established practice for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to offer the opportunity to my Department from time to time to acquire land or turbary rights which it holds on former Land Commission sites, such as those referred to in the Deputy's Question. As Minister, I consider that there is significant potential value for my Department in having access to such lands, most particularly in cases where the relocation of turf cutters affected by the requirement to cease the cutting of turf on Ireland's 53 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation might be facilitated.

I would, of course, be happy to discuss with the Deputy any issues around the acquisition of the particular sites referred to, in the context of the overall efforts by my Department to meet the needs of turf cutters affected by the cessation requirements.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

211 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38457/11]

As my Department typically cannot reclaim VAT incurred on goods and services, it is not a requirement of my Department's Financial Management System that VAT be recorded separately in all instances. It is not therefore possible to provide the estimate requested by the Deputy of the cost to my Department of a change in the standard rate of VAT.

Grant Payments

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

212 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding a grant application in respect of an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38844/11]

An application for capital funding to provide for the proposed development referred to by the Deputy was submitted to my Department in October 2008. The proposed facility had an anticipated cost at that time of €800,000, of which some €450,000 related to construction costs. Having evaluated the project in the context of significant changes in available resources and competing priorities, the applicant was informed in June 2010 that my Department would not be in a position to provide capital funding towards the project. A similar response to a subsequent application submitted in May 2010 was also issued by my Department. In the context of the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and, notwithstanding the merit of the project in terms of the provision of the proposed facilities, it is unlikely that my Department will be in a position to provide funding for this project in the foreseeable future.

Energy Projects

Tom Fleming

Question:

213 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is prepared to issue a policy decision, as allowed for under legislation, to eliminate the blockade in the establishment of a company (details supplied) in which a €500 million investment is at stake, involving the employment of 350 persons at the construction phase. [38879/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 49 of 29 November 2011.

This matter, currently under consideration by the Commission for Energy Regulation, is a highly complex regulatory question given not least the implications for gas and electricity business and domestic consumers. As I previously advised, the CER's ongoing deliberative process in this regard is at a very advanced stage with a decision expected to be made in the next two months. There has been no change in the CER's timeframes in this regard.

I would again make the point to the Deputy that the CER's own process has been delayed by the formal complaint made by Shannon LNG to the EU Commission alleging that the options being considered in the CER's consultation amount to unlawful State-Aid.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

214 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that was a beneficiary of same. [38336/11]

I can provide the Deputy with information in relation to the Warmer Homes and eInclusion Schemes. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers Better Energy: Warmer Homes on behalf of my Department, which is delivered through a range of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), augmented by a panel of private contractors. The energy poverty strand of Better Energy aims to provide energy efficiency improvements to low-income homes unable to afford the cost of implementing such measures. This is enabling over 20,000 low-income homes to benefit from energy efficiency retrofit measures this year.

Grant support is provided to a CBO for delivery of energy efficiency retrofits to eligible fuel poor homes and is directly linked to delivery by a CBO in any given year. The following table outlines the drawdown to date for each CBO in Galway city and county.

Community Based Organisation

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (Connemara) *

Forum Connemara

Galway Traveller Movement T/A First Class Insulation

Chairperson

N/A

Mary Gannon

Patsy Sweeney

Treasurer

N/A

Mary Gannon (Acting)

Clare Davey

Secretary

N/A

Yvonne Keane

Lisa McDonagh

Drawdown to 2/12/2011

€29,705.00

€62,885.91

€293,556.88

*Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (Connemara) liquidated since September 2011

Separately, my Department also provides grant assistance to community and voluntary sector organisations throughout Ireland to support projects providing basic Internet use training. The most recent scheme (Bene fIT 3) awarded grants amounting to €1.6m to date in 2011. The training will be available at several locations including county Galway, between November 2011 and June 2012. Training is being provided through 19 Grantees involving over 200 organisations (National and local) in a wide variety of venues spanning approximately 700 locations.

While it is not possible at this stage to ascertain the precise amount of grant funds that pertain to Galway it is my understanding that 12 of the grantee organisations, listed in the following table, will be providing training throughout the County of Galway to approximately 1,560 people — this represents almost 4% of the total number of beneficiaries under the scheme. Further details on this scheme including the specific sum of grants awarded to organisations are available on my Department's website at www.eInclusion.ie.

Organisations providing training under the (Bene fIT 3) in County of Galway

Name

Active Retirement Ireland

Age Action Ireland

Ballyfermot IT Centre

Caring for Carers

Craol. Community Radio forum of Ireland

Dublin Employment Pact

ICS Skills

Ideas Institute (SIPTU)

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)

Irish Internet Association

Irish Rural Link

National Learning Network

Proposed Legislation

Alan Farrell

Question:

215 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his reasons for legislating for geothermal energy; the main issues this Bill will tackle; when he expects the Bill to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38349/11]

Geothermal energy is a new area of legislative endeavour which will create a legislative framework to facilitate the exploration for and development of geothermal energy resources. It will provide significant support to the geothermal energy sector with considerable security of tenure for potential investors. The Bill sets out an approach to the licensing of exploration for, and exploitation of, geothermal energy. It is modelled on the approach taken in respect of minerals exploration and development, but also deals with a range of ancillary issues such as entry onto land.

The general scheme of a Geothermal Energy Development Bill was published in July, 2010. It was also decided to publish the Regulatory Impact Assessment. Both these documents are available on my Department's website. I would expect that the Bill will be published in 2012.

Alan Farrell

Question:

216 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his reasons for legislating for offshore gas storage facilities; the main issues this Bill will tackle; when he expects the Bill to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38350/11]

Natural gas plays a key role in Ireland's economy and fuels around 60 per cent of national power generation. The Government is committed to actions to ensure security of gas supply and the delivery of essential and timely investments in Ireland's energy infrastructure. It is also committed to continuing to actively encourage private sector interest in investing in gas storage. Offshore gas storage facilities can help provide more secure gas supplies for all consumers. Ireland's dependence on natural gas combined with EU gas security of supply obligations make it an imperative that a regulatory framework be put in place that encourages the market to provide new gas storage.

Ireland's sole offshore gas storage facility is operated in conjunction with commercial gas production activities at the South West Kinsale gas field. It is licensed under the petroleum production lease between the Minister and the company.

There is currently no legal mechanism to provide for Ministerial consent for the use of a depleted gas field as a solely stand-alone gas storage facility i.e. at a site where there is no gas production. Nor is there statutory basis to explicitly authorise stand-alone gas facilities in offshore geological features such as salt caverns. Given the growing market interest in exploring opportunities for offshore gas storage, it is timely to progress a legislative framework.

Legislation is required to regulate offshore gas storage as a stand-alone activity and thereby provide certainty to potential developers and to gas consumers. A legislative framework will provide the necessary signal to the market.

Following a consultation process undertaken earlier this year by my Department, the drafting of Heads of a Bill is currently under way. It is envisaged that the legislation will provide a regulatory regime for gas storage at offshore sites under the seabed, at sites where extraction activities are taking place, at depleted gas wells and at virgin sites.

In general terms, the regulatory regime will provide for the granting of exclusive rights over areas under the seabed for the purpose of gas storage and for the terms and conditions under which gas storage activities may be carried out.

Following the preparatory work now under way, I will be in a position to seek the approval of the Government for the drafting of the Bill in the first half of 2012 with a view to its publication later in the year.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

217 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38355/11]

In the time available, it has not been possible to compile the information requested by the Deputy.

Officials within my Department are continuing to compile the data relevant to the request and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

218 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38459/11]

As VAT is a tax on expenditure incurred it is not possible to accurately predict the effect of a 2% increase in the standard rate. However, based on my Department's standard rate VAT cost for the last twelve month period, a 2% increase would result in an additional cost of €36,000 per annum.

Inland Fisheries

Joe McHugh

Question:

219 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider allowing angling clubs or volunteers to carry out some rehabilitation works on spawning beds in County Donegal rivers that are listed by him as closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38477/11]

I believe stakeholder involvement is crucial to ensure the conservation of our salmon stocks. In that context Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) operated a successful pilot scheme in 2011 whereby funds were made available to angling clubs and voluntary organisations for projects to facilitate the rehabilitation of salmon stocks. The scheme has proven to enhance habitat, knowledge and ultimately the angling and commercial fisheries in Ireland and I am pleased at its extension to 2012.

IFI launched the Salmon Conservation Scheme for 2012 on 2nd December. The scheme will facilitate the rehabilitation of salmon stocks giving priority to rivers below their conservation limit, which have the greatest prospect of recovery.

Application forms and full details of the scheme are available on www.fisheriesireland.ie or from any IFI office and completed applications must be returned by March 31st, 2012, following which evaluation will take place.

Electricity Supply

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

220 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there has been any discussions about the ESB extending their meter reading service to six times a year as opposed to the current four times a year with the additional two bills calculated on estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38531/11]

ESB is an independent commercial State body and the matter referred to by the Deputy arises from ESB operational matters in which I have no function.

Broadcasting Services

Robert Troy

Question:

221 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the Communications Regulator, ComReg, has estimated to him or his officials the amount of additional licence fee income that might be generated by lowering to the draft condition of 70% of population the coverage requirement under the new spectrum licences in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands. [38543/11]

The management of the radio spectrum is a statutory function of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) under the Communications Regulation Act 2002.

ComReg believes that the 70% of population coverage requirement is sufficient to ensure that cherry picking solely of high-density urban areas could not occur. It is also modest enough to avoid the duplication of build-out in low population density areas. While no estimate is available regarding the amount of extra licence fee income that might be generated by the draft condition of 70% of population, I am advised by ComReg that unnecessary duplication of build-out would incur additional costs for industry, would be inefficient, and could consequently impact on licence fee income.

ComReg has undertaken an extensive and comprehensive public consultation process on its proposals for the forthcoming spectrum auction and I expect that it has examined every aspect in great detail with a view to ensuring the maximum possible benefit for consumers, in accordance with ComReg's statutory obligations. Details of ComReg's proposals are available in ComReg's latest published document "ComReg 11/60" and associated documents.

Waste Disposal

Clare Daly

Question:

222 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has assigned funding for the Nevitt landfill, Lusk, County Dublin. [38562/11]

Brendan Ryan

Question:

231 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the proposed super dump (details supplied) in north County Dublin; if compulsory purchase orders will be issued before 14 December; and his views on the short, medium and long-term plans for the site. [38557/11]

Clare Daly

Question:

233 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm if Fingal County Council has requested him to re-examine the proposed major landfill at Nevitt, Lusk, County Dublin; and if he has made available funds for the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase order and to carry out the works necessary to develop the site. [38561/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222, 231 and 233 together.

Fingal County Council has brought the matter of the decision in relation to the proposed Nevitt landfill to the attention of my Department.

However, in accordance with the provisions of the Waste Management Acts, the preparation and adoption of a waste management plan, including matters in respect of infrastructure provision, are the statutory responsibility of the local authority or authorities concerned. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

Financial arrangements and site plans in relation to proposed local authority waste infrastructure are primarily a matter for the relevant local authority or authorities, in this instance Fingal County Council.

In line with national policy, my Department does not provide capital funding for new heavy waste infrastructure, including landfills, and, accordingly I have not provided funds for the acquisition of land or for the development of the proposed Nevitt landfill.

Security of the Elderly

Liam Twomey

Question:

223 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will remove the obligation for a means test in view of the fact that it discourages elderly persons from applying for senior alert scheme alarms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38739/11]

My Department manages the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages and assists the community's support for older people by means of a community-based grant scheme to improve the security of people over 65 years of age. The Scheme is administered by local community and voluntary groups with the support of my Department.

The Scheme is not means-tested. However Community and Voluntary groups are asked to determine whether persons who apply for the grant have the means to purchase the equipment without grant support. This is established before an application for the grant is made so as to ensure that the most vulnerable people that the Scheme wishes to facilitate are in a position to receive the grant.

Regional Road Network

Mattie McGrath

Question:

224 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the condition of the country’s roads in particular rural country roads that are being neglected by local authorities; his plans to ensure that these roads are not further neglected; his further views that the long term neglect of these roads will lead to increased cost to him and local authorities and have a devastating effect on local infrastructure and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38311/11]

Under the Roads Act 1993 the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a matter for the relevant local authority and the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport. I have no function in this matter.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

225 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [38338/11]

The table below details grants paid to Community and Voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011 from various programmes within my Department. Board membership of Community & Voluntary organisations is a matter for the organisations in question, and can be obtained directly from the groups — contact details for each of the groups is listed below.

Name of Organisation

Town

Contact No.

Amount paid in 2011

Purpose/Programme

Community Workers Co-operative

Tuam

091-755090

€23,899.60

Scheme for National Organisations

INCADDS — Irish National Council of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder Support Groups

Claregalway

091-798266

€33,467.87

Scheme for National Organisations

National Federation of Voluntary Bodies Providing Services to People with Intellectual Disability

Oranmore

091-792316

€18,087.84

Scheme for National Organisations

National Traveller Womens’ Forum

Tuam

091-771509

€38,087.84

Scheme for National Organisations

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Galway City

091-563676

€81,175.68

Scheme for National Organisations

Community Platform

Tuam

091-779030

€20,000

Social Partnership Funding Scheme

Galway Volunteer Centre

Galway City

091-539930

€105,070

Scheme to Support Volunteering

Active Retirement Aughrim

Aughrim, Ballinasloe

086-8893262

€537.40

Seniors Alert Scheme

Annaghdown C A

Annaghdown

091-791985

€891.90

Seniors Alert Scheme

Aonad F R C

Ballygar

090-6624484

€7,892.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Ballinakill Active Age Club

Letterfrack

095-41064

€2,700.10

Seniors Alert Scheme

Ballindereen C A

Kilcolgan

091-796780

€825.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Bullaun C A

Bullaun, Loughrea

091-841883

€932.20

Seniors Alert Scheme

Claregalway Carnmore Senior Citizen Comm

Claregalway

086-8500390

€6,074.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Cregmore C A

Cregmore, Claregalway

087-2507457

€950.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Galway Contact

Galway City

091-527581

€30,589.75

Seniors Alert Scheme

Glenamaddy Community Care Ltd

Glenamaddy

094-9659269

€1,921.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Gort Neighbourhood Watch

Gort

087-2722218

€6,857.25

Seniors Alert Scheme

Inishmann Order of Malta

Aran Islands

099-73053

€6,960.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Knocknacarra Active Retirement

Knocknacarra

091-522898

€4,486.40

Seniors Alert Scheme

Loughrea Lions Club

Loughrea

086-3651488

€7,195.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Menlough C A

Mountbellew

0909-684797

€1,335.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

New Inn ICA

Ballinasloe

090-9675879

€515.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Newcastle C A

Newcastle, Athenry

087-2701693

€840.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Oughterard C A

Oughterard

087-2560913

€1,307.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Solas F R C

Headford

093-36446

€23,901.40

Seniors Alert Scheme

SVDP Ballinasloe

Ballinasloe

090-9645707

€14,536.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

SVDP Tuam

Tuam

093-25222

€2,400.00

Seniors Alert Scheme

Tearmann Eanna Teo

Baile na hAbhann

091-505540

€1,271.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Westside Age Inclusion Ltd

Galway City

091-589861

€11,421.50

Seniors Alert Scheme

Mervue Active Retirement

Mervue

091-756059

€74

Once-off Grants

Ballinalsoe GAA Club

Ballinasloe

091-509000

€3,415

RAPID — Sports Capital Grant

Galway City Council

Galway

091-536400

€11,000

RAPID

Galway City Council

Galway

€5,500

RAPID

Brothers of Charity Services

Renmore

091-721493

€5,000

Dormant Accounts

Westside Kickboxing Club

Galway

€300

Dormant Accounts

Ballybane Community Forum

Galway

091-768300

€339.40

Dormant Accounts

S.C.C.U.L. Enterprises Ltd

Galway

091-755825

€1,200

Dormant Accounts

S.C.C.U.L. Enterprises Ltd

Galway

091-755825

€500

Dormant Accounts

Western Traveller and Intercultural Development Ltd

Tuam

093-25456/ 25244

€1,900

Dormant Accounts

Ballinasloe Social Club

Ballinasloe

0909-644728

€324

Dormant Accounts

St Joseph’s College

Ballinasloe

0909-642504

€270

Dormant Accounts

COPE (Crisis Housing Caring Support) Ltd

Galway

091-778750

€8,880.70

Dormant Accounts

Galway Regional Youth Federation Ltd

Galway

091-561637

€21,000

Dormant Accounts

COPE (Crisis Housing Caring Support) Ltd

Galway

091-778750

€3,128

Dormant Accounts

Renmore Judo Club

Ballybane

€28,000

Dormant Accounts

Galway City Partnership Ltd

Galway

091-773466

€3,450

Dormant Accounts

Ballybane Community Centre Ltd

Ballybane

091-768300

€28,000

Dormant Accounts

Ballybane Comm. Forum

Ballybane

091-768300

€3,600

Dormant Accounts

Ballinfoile Mór RAPID Cttee

Galway

€800

Dormant Accounts

Western Traveller and Intercultural Development Ltd

Tuam

093-25456

€13,050

Dormant Accounts

St Joseph’s Garbally College

Ballinasloe

0909-642504

€460

Dormant Accounts

Ballinasloe Social Services Ltd

Ballinasloe

0909-643217

€2,374.70

Dormant Accounts

Clann Resource Centre, Oughterard Ltd

Oughterard

€2,700

Dormant Accounts

Crib na nÓg

An Cheathrú Rua

€3,150

Dormant Accounts

Portumna “Sign Out” Youth Company Ltd

Portumna

€3,150

Dormant Accounts

Forum Connemara

Connemara

095-41116

€473,686.73

Axes 3&4 Rural Development Programme (RDP)

Galway Rural Development (GRD)

All areas of Galway outside of Connemara and Gaeltacht areas

091-844335

€969,362.61

RDP*

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG)

Gaeltacht Areas of Galway (No longer in Business)

Contact DECLG

€178,975.04

RDP*

Comhar na nOileain

Galway Islands

099-75096

€380,632.49

RDP*

Galway RuralDevelopment Company

Galway

091-844335

€1,079,177.20

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Galway CityPartnership

Galway

091-773466

€1,082,275.17

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Forum Connemara

Connemara

095-41116

€291,170.25

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Comhar na nOileán

Galway Islands

099-75096

€483,848.19

Core funding under LCDP Programme

National TravellersWomen’s Forum

Tuam

091-771509

€105,136.50

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Connemara Radio

Connemara

095-41616

€115,311.00

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Tuam Community Development Project

Tuam

093-25340

€22,615.54

Core funding under LCDP Programme

Ballybane Mervue Community Development Project

Ballybane

091-773466

€4,119.00

Grant aid towards the cost of winding up the company

Na Calaí Community Development Project

091-844335

€1,197.90

Grant aid towards the cost of preparing the 2010 Audited Accounts

* Please note that under the Rural Development Programme the Department does not pay project promoters directly. It does so instead through the Local Action Groups contracted to deliver the Programme on behalf of the Department. It should also be noted that the Rural Development Programme does not cover Galway city.

Departmental Staff

Alan Farrell

Question:

226 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the increments made payable to public sector workers within his Department in the years 2010 and 2011; the increments due in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38358/11]

The number of staff who received increments in 2010 was 593, with 367 due to receive increments before the end of 2011. These numbers reflect the reconfiguration of the Department following the formation of the Government in March 2011. The increments paid in 2010 and 2011 were in line with the approved rates of pay at the time as outlined on the websites of the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Once increments are paid on the CorePay system, it is not possible to extract historical increment data from the system on a global basis. Historic costs could be calculated manually on an individual basis but this would take a prohibitively long time to calculate.

In 2012, 324 staff are expected to receive increments at an estimated cost of €300,000.

Local Authority Housing

Áine Collins

Question:

227 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applicants on the housing waiting list of each housing authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38387/11]

My Department does not hold information on the number of households on local authorities' waiting lists. This figure continuously fluctuates as households are allocated housing and new households apply for housing support. Detailed information on the latest statutory assessment of housing need carried out in March 2011, including a breakdown by housing authority, is available on my Department's website —www.environ.ie or on the Housing Agency’s website at www.housing.ie.

Recycling Policy

Paul Connaughton

Question:

228 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if triple rinsing of containers prior to recycling is necessary; if there are any estimates on the amount of water lost in the process in view of the current volume of household recycling of plastic and cardboard containers; his plans to change the recommendation to single or double rinsing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38401/11]

In line with the objectives of the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012 and certain requirements of the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council dated 19 November 2008), measures to promote high quality recycling, such as the separate collection of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable, are to be welcomed. In this regard, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and my Department are satisfied that certain farm plastics such as high density polyethylene (HDPE) chemical containers (used pesticide containers) can, where collected in a manner similar to the current farm plastics scheme and subject to certain conditions, be collected for recycling. These conditions are set out in my Department's circular letter No. WP16.10 of 19 May 2010 entitled National Hazardous Waste Management Plan — collection of other farm plastics, which is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. One of the conditions is that the containers concerned should be triple rinsed before collection. Triple rinsing, where conducted effectively, should reduce the hazard associated with the containers (particularly where the original cap is refitted) to enable the material to be handled safely (while not necessarily rendering it non-hazardous). The circular letter does not refer to such containers in the context of household waste as no similar collection scheme exists in that sector.

Data on the level of water used in the rinsing process are not available but in view of the relatively small tonnage of such waste collected — less than 10 tonnes in 2010 — the amount of water involved is not considered to be significant.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McGrath

Question:

229 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the estimated cost to his Department of a 2% increase in the standard rate of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38462/11]

In general, my Department cannot reclaim VAT incurred on goods and services. Accordingly, VAT is not required to be recorded separately in my Department's financial management system and it is not possible to estimate the cost of an increase along the lines referred to in the Question.

National Spatial Strategy

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

230 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is his intention to alter, edit or redevelop the national spatial strategy. [38508/11]

The 2002 National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is a twenty-year planning framework designed to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development and population growth between regions, and it provides the spatial vision and principles for statutory regional planning guidelines across eight regions and for development plans at a local level. A comprehensive review of implementation of the NSS was undertaken during 2010, culminating in the publication in October 2010 of the NSS Update and Outlook Report (available at www.environ.ie). This report reaffirms the commitment to implementing long-term planning frameworks such as the NSS and identifies new priorities and objectives to deliver more consistent implementation at all levels, taking account of experience since 2002 and the new environmental, budgetary and economic challenges that we are currently facing. In particular, the 2010 Report identifies a series of actions in respect of:

better alignment and prioritisation of sectoral infrastructure investment,

improved governance at national, regional and local levels, and

the promotion of more sustainable patterns of development, both in rural and urban contexts, through more effective, evidence-based planning policies,

with the aim of maximising the role of NSS implementation in supporting overall economic recovery.

In addition, the adoption of updated Regional Planning Guidelines in 2010 for the twelve-year period to 2022 and the new legislative provisions to include core strategies in development plans, taking account of regional policies, targets and priorities, are further embedding the NSS principles into the forward-planning process, and should help to deliver more co-ordinated, coherent and sustainable planning outcomes.

My Department will as necessary consider the need for any further such review in the light of the current evolving economic circumstances and the beneficial deployment of the currently more constrained resources.

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 222.

EU Directives

Patrick Deering

Question:

232 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of EU directives within his Department that have not been acted upon; if he will provide a list of same; and the deadlines on them. [38558/11]

There is currently one EU Directive within my Department's area of responsibility — Directive 2009/30/EC regarding the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil — which has certain provisions still to be transposed into Irish law. With the exception of Article 1(5) of Directive 2009/30/EC, which provides for the insertion of Article 7a into Directive 98/70/EC regarding the quality of petrol and diesel fuels, the European Communities Act, 1972 (Environmental Specifications for Petrol, Diesel Fuels and Gas Oils for use by non-road mobile machinery, including inland waterway vessels, agricultural and forestry tractors, and recreational craft) Regulations 2011 and European Communities Act 1972 (Sulphur Content of Heavy Fuel Oil, Gas Oil, and Marine Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 transposed Directive 2009/30/EC into Irish law on 31 March 2011. I understand that there are ongoing discussions within the European Commission concerning comitology provisions and the methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emission reductions and I expect that transposition of Article 7a into Irish law will follow resolution of this matter.

In addition, some elements of Directive 2009/30/EC mirror similar provisions of Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of energy use from renewable resources, which falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Transposition of those provisions of the Directive are a matter for his Department.

My Department is currently preparing transposing regulations in respect of two Directives which are due to be transposed by the end of 2011. In respect of Directive 2009/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on Stage II petrol vapour recovery during re-fuelling of motor vehicles at service stations, my Department conducted a public consultation, during September and October 2011, on the proposed introduction of the Directive provisions and all submissions are currently being examined with a view to finalising and making the transposing Statutory Instrument later this month. I also expect to make the transposition regulations in the coming weeks in respect of Directive 2011/37/EU of 30 March 2011, amending Annex II to Directive 2000/53/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on end-of-life vehicles.

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 222.

Departmental Schemes

Dessie Ellis

Question:

234 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on development contribution schemes relating to lapsed or abandoned capital projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38577/11]

Section 48(12)(b) and (c) of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 provide that where a local authority has not commenced specified works included in a special development contribution scheme within 5 years of the date of payment of the contribution, or the final instalment if the payment is phased, or have commenced but not completed the works within 7 years of the payment, or the final instalment if the payment is phased, or if the local authority decides not to proceed with the works or part thereof, the contribution must be refunded to the applicant together with any interest that may have accrued over the period while the contribution is held by the local authority.

A local authority is entitled where expenditure is incurred within the required period in respect of a portion of the proposed works to limit the refund of the amount of the contribution to the proposed works that have not been carried out.

Local Government Bodies

Robert Dowds

Question:

235 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the powers and functions undertaken by the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly. [38581/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

236 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the costs involved in running the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly. [38582/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

237 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will examine if it is worth maintaining the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38583/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

238 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the powers and functions undertaken by the northern and western regional assembly. [38584/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

239 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the costs involved in running the northern and western regional assembly. [38585/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

240 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is worth maintaining the northern and western regional assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38586/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 to 240, inclusive, together.

The Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Regional Assembly and the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regional Assembly were established under the Local Government Act, 1991 (Regional Authorities) (Establishment) Order, 1999. The functions of Assemblies are set out comprehensively in that Order. Their principal activities relate to the management of regional operational programmes, which are part-funded by EU structural and cohesion funds.

The accounts of the Assemblies show that the total expenditure in 2010 was €3.438 million in case of the BMW Regional Assembly and €7.683 million in the case of the S&E Regional Assembly.

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 24, 44, 42 and 122 on 30 November 2011 in which I indicated that I intend to bring proposals to Government in the New Year in relation to local government structures generally, including at regional level.

Local Authority Housing

Joe Carey

Question:

241 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total funding available to Clare County Council for energy efficiency retrofits in council houses and the amounts claimed or drawn down by the council in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38627/11]

Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers.

An allocation of €675,000 was provided to Clare County Council in respect of the programme for 2011. To date, some €340,471 of this has been paid to the Council. Further claims have been received from the Council and these are currently being examined in my Department with a view to payment shortly.

Local Authority Charges

Brendan Griffin

Question:

242 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter regarding the non-principal private residence tax (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38635/11]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being collected by local authorities. The Act places the onus on an owner of residential property to assess his or her liability to the charge on the liability date and, if liable, to declare that liability and to pay the charge in respect of that property by the due date.

The Act provides for the application of late payment fees of €20 in respect of each month or part of a month for which the charge remains unpaid after the due date. In addition, both the €200 charge and any accumulated late payment fees remain as a charge against the property concerned.

A person who does not pay a charge by the relevant payment date is liable to prosecution by the local authority to whom the payment is due under section 5 of the Act. A person guilty of an offence under section 5 is liable to a fine of €2,000 on summary conviction and to a fine not exceeding €100 per day that the offence is continued.

Section 9 of the Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of local authorities. It is therefore a matter for each individual local authority to utilise the provisions of the legislation, including data sharing with the Electricity Supply Board, Private Residential Tenancies Board and the Revenue Commissioners, in the context of any undeclared properties that may be identified. It is understood that local authorities are pursuing those who may have a liability, including those who paid a charge in a previous year, and initiating court proceedings, where it is considered appropriate.

Water Services

Billy Kelleher

Question:

243 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the persons who will be appointed for inspections of septic tanks and the qualifications that will be necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38734/11]

On 3 November 2011 I published the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011 which will introduce a registration and risk-based inspection system for septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. The Bill provides that the Environmental Protection Agency will appoint persons for the purpose of carrying out inspections. Specific criteria regarding professional or technical qualifications and the completion of training courses will have to be met by those seeking appointment as inspectors. I will be specifying the criteria in Regulations to be made following enactment of the Bill. It will also be possible for appropriately qualified and trained local authority staff to be appointed as inspectors.

Job Creation

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

244 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered an option (details supplied) as an employment creating initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38792/11]

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) is divided into 4 Axes. Axis 1 deals with competitiveness of the agricultural sector, Axis 2 aims to improve the countryside and environment and the objectives of Axis 3 are to support the diversification of the rural economy and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Axis 4 or the LEADER Axis provides support for the use of a "bottom up" approach to development which ensures that local people are involved in the decision making thereby facilitating sustainable development in a more inclusive way. In Ireland the LEADER approach is used to implement Axis 3 measures.

A significant number of projects funded under the previous LEADER+ programme (2000-2006) and under the Diversification and Business Creation measures of the current RDP involve support for enterprise initiatives that add value to agri-food products. Basic Agricultural products are listed in Annex 1 to the EC Treaty and are commonly called Annex 1 products. Under the main Rural Development Regulation 1698/2005 support/grant aid for adding value to Annex 1 products is facilitated under Axis 1 of the programme. At the start of this year Ireland was notified by the European Commission that support/grant aid for adding value to agri-food products is not eligible under Axis 3 but rather under Axis 1 as detailed in the regulation. As a result of this, grant aid under Axis 3 of the RDP for this type of activity is currently suspended.

A significant part of enterprise activity in rural areas focuses on food and food- related businesses and the continued provision of support for these businesses is critical as we look to ways to generate employment in rural Ireland. I acknowledge the role these businesses play in the economy of rural Ireland and I am aware of the seriousness of this issue. My Department continues to work with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to seek a solution as soon as possible.

I am not in a position to make any decisions regarding additional funds for the types of project referred to at this time. Any such decisions will be made in the context of the overall budgetary situation in due course.

Election Management System

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

245 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will clarify if the Deputy elected as Ceann Comhairle by Dáil Éireann must be re-elected in the constituency from which he or she was originally elected, or if he or she can move constituency; if he will elaborate on the rules that apply in the event of his or her constituency being abolished in the context of redrawn constituency boundaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38799/11]

Section 36 of the Electoral Act 1992 sets out the provisions regarding the re-election of the outgoing Ceann Comhairle.

Under the provisions of section 36, where the Dáil is dissolved and the Ceann Comhairle has not announced before the dissolution that he does not desire to become a member of the Dáil, he shall be deemed to be elected for the Dáil constituency for which he was a member immediately before the dissolution.

Where a revision of constituencies takes effect on the dissolution of the Dáil and there is a new constituency which consists of or includes the constituency for which he was a member, then he shall be deemed to be elected as a member of the Dáil for that constituency.

Where a revision of constituencies takes effect on the dissolution of the Dáil and the constituency for which the Ceann Comhairle was a member is divided between a number of new constituencies then he must make a declaration specifying a constituency for the purposes of his re-election. The constituency in respect of which he declares must include part of the constituency for which he was a member before the dissolution of the Dáil. Such a declaration must be made as soon as may be after the enactment of the legislation providing for the revision of constituencies or where a person becomes Ceann Comhairle after such legislation is enacted, the declaration should be made as soon as may be after the person becomes Ceann Comhairle.

Local Authority Funding

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

246 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide the funding allocated to each local authority from the local government fund in 2011 in tabular form; if he will outline the allocation rules that apply and if he can clarify if funding is distributed on a per capita basis; if not, the reason therefor; his views that this discriminates against urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38800/11]

I assume the Question refers to General Purpose Grants paid to local authorities from the Local Government Fund. General Purpose Grants are my contribution to meeting the difference between the cost to local authorities of providing a reasonable level of day to day services and the income available to them from local sources and from specific grants.

Local variations in expenditure and in income sources are an inherent feature of the local government system and reflect local circumstances, priorities and decisions of local authorities. General purpose grants from the Local Government Fund are structured to bring about equalisation, over time, so that each authority will have sufficient resources, either from central grants or from its local income base, to provide a reasonable level of day to day services to its customers. For the purposes of allocations, a range of factors is taken into account, including each local authority's expenditure on, and income from, each service, and the overall amount of funding available for distribution.

It is a matter for each local authority to prioritise its spending, within the resources available to it, across the range of services it provides. Equally, local authorities must ensure full value for money for the resources invested, and seek the maximum efficiency across their operations. The 2011 general purpose grant payment in respect of each local authority is set out in the table. In addition, local authorities will retain some €85 million in pension related deductions in 2011 .

Local Authority

2011 payments

Carlow County Council

9,319,519

Cavan County Council

15,381,808

Clare County Council

10,762,263

Cork County Council

36,381,937

Donegal County Council

33,570,767

Fingal County Council

22,472,627

D.Laoire/Rathdown Co Co

28,323,120

Galway County Council

30,405,607

Kerry County Council

20,660,244

Kildare County Council

21,604,877

Kilkenny County Council

16,189,481

Laois County Council

14,018,331

Leitrim County Council

12,629,306

Limerick County Council

19,427,980

Longford County Council

12,033,108

Louth County Council

9,976,131

Mayo County Council

29,685,902

Meath County Council

23,604,137

Monaghan County Council

12,746,531

Tipp NR County Council

15,235,676

Offaly County Council

13,035,084

Roscommon County Council

17,213,351

Sligo County Council

14,121,597

Sth Dublin County Council

18,087,797

Tipp SR County Council

18,860,749

Waterford County Council

19,345,029

Westmeath County Council

17,354,945

Wexford County Council

17,413,069

Wicklow County Council

15,847,851

Cork City Council

18,968,770

Dublin City Council

60,211,447

Galway City Council

6,440,990

Limerick City Council

8,204,778

Waterford City Council

5,486,422

Clonmel Borough Council

2,585,210

Drogheda Borough Council

3,524,508

Kilkenny Borough Council

1,391,511

Sligo Borough Council

2,313,539

Wexford Borough Council

1,948,097

Arklow Town Council

1,388,868

Athlone Town Council

1,424,138

Athy Town Council

628,010

Ballina Town Council

1,398,588

Ballinasloe Town Council

746,185

Birr Town Council

683,013

Bray Town Council

3,629,819

Buncrana Town Council

770,995

Bundoran Town Council

467,601

Carlow Town Council

1,464,060

Carrickmacross Town Council

512,215

Carrick-on-suir Town Council

994,816

Cashel Town Council

567,385

Castlebar Town Council

802,028

Castleblayney Town Council

397,300

Cavan Town Council

718,591

Clonakilty Town Council

521,171

Clones Town Council

510,103

Cobh Town Council

1,046,319

Dundalk Town Council

3,943,890

Dungarvan Town Council

778,635

Ennis Town Council

1,879,448

Enniscorthy Town Council

1,016,035

Fermoy Town Council

726,081

Kells Town Council

397,076

Killarney Town Council

1,447,614

Kilrush Town Council

533,658

Kinsale Town Council

344,812

Letterkenny Town Council

874,805

Listowel Town Council

617,445

Longford Town Council

960,046

Macroom Town Council

525,612

Mallow Town Council

951,776

Midleton Town Council

486,711

Monaghan Town Council

910,206

Naas Town Council

1,234,484

Navan Town Council

430,976

Nenagh Town Council

931,619

New Ross Town Council

857,575

Skibbereen Town Council

370,292

Templemore Town Council

554,945

Thurles Town Council

801,681

Tipperary Town Council

693,230

Tralee Town Council

2,404,057

Trim Town Council

468,025

Tullamore Town Council

1,016,077

Westport Town Council

672,286

Wicklow Town Council

1,320,599

Youghal Town Council

965,305

Total

704,570,302

Proposed Legislation

Robert Troy

Question:

247 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will bring the climate change Bill, as promised in the programme for Government, before the environment committee; and if it will be discussed before the UN talks on climate change in Durban. [38829/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 8 of 30 November 2011 which sets out the position in this matter.

Departmental Expenditure

Colm Keaveney

Question:

248 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide financial details for all local authorities in which budgets to deal with retrofitting and warmer homes initiatives that have been returned to the Exchequer as unspent. [38831/11]

Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers.

This year, some €32 million was provided for the retrofitting measure and, to date, around €16 million of this has been paid to local authorities. A substantial number of payment claims from local authorities are being processed in my Department at present. It is not possible to indicate the outturn for the programme as a whole until all payment claims, including claims which are still awaited from local authorities, have been examined and deemed eligible for recoupment.

Details of Exchequer allocations to local authorities in 2011 for improving the social housing stock are set out in the following table:

Local Authority

Allocation

Carlow County Council

310,000

Cavan County Council

620,000

Clare County Council

675,000

Cork County Council

1,375,000

Cork City Council

1,840,000

DunLaoghaire/Rathdown County Council

875,000

Donegal County Council

1,090,000

Dublin City Council

5,500,000

Fingal County Council

925,000

Galway County Council

640,000

Galway City Council

450,000

Kerry County Council

1,275,000

Kildare County Council

700,000

Kilkenny County Council

425,000

Laois County Council

400,000

Leitrim County Council

360,000

Limerick County Council

2,425,000

Limerick City Council

1,150,000

Longford County Council

425,000

Louth County Council

880,000

Mayo County Council

745,000

Meath County Council

470,000

Monaghan County Council

315,100

North Tipperary County Council

593,000

Offaly County Council

375,000

Roscommon County Council

400,000

Sligo County Council

450,000

South Tipperary County Council

1,420,000

South Dublin County Council

2,050,000

Waterford County Council

350,000

Waterford City Council

600,000

Westmeath County Council

415,000

Wexford County Council

850,000

Wicklow County Council

905,000

Total

32,278,100

Foreshore Licences

Thomas Pringle

Question:

249 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in relation to the determination on 22 July 2011 pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended, to grant a foreshore licence in respect of development on the foreshore related to the Corrib gas pipeline; the person who decided on the conservation objectives; the way they were established and the person who carried out the appropriate assessment to allow for the environmental impact assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38886/11]

As stated in the reply to Question Nos. 397 and 398 of 15 November 2011, I made a determination on 22 July 2011 pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Act, 1933 (as amended) to grant a foreshore licence to Shell E&P Ireland Limited, Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited and Vermilion Energy Ireland Limited in respect of development on the foreshore related to the Corrib Gas Pipeline. In accordance with Section 21A of the Foreshore Act, notice of the determination was published in Iris Oifigiuil, the Irish Independent and on my Department's website on 26 July 2011.

I made this determination following the carrying out of an environmental impact assessment and appropriate assessment of the proposed development under domestic and EU law.

The setting of conservation objectives for European sites is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Further information on the application and the decision making process may be foundon my Department's website at: www.environ.ie/en/Foreshore/ApplicationsSubjecttoEIA/ ShellEPIrelandLtd5618/

Housing Regulations

Catherine Murphy

Question:

250 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if smoke alarms are a current requirement for houses rented from public funds; if not, if he intends to require such provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38909/11]

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992.

These Regulations specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, fire safety and ventilation to name a few. With very limited exemptions, the Regulations apply to local authority and voluntary housing units as well as private rented residential accommodation.

Article 11 of the 2008 Regulations specifies the requirement for fire safety in rented accommodation. It states that, subject to certain provisions, the house must contain a fire blanket and either a mains-wired smoke alarm or at least two 10-year self-contained battery-operated smoke alarms.

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 2008 came into effect in their entirety for all new lettings on 1 February 2009, with certain articles, namely 6, 7, and 8, being phased in over a four year period for existing tenancies. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations and the responsibility for the enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

Legislative Programme

Robert Troy

Question:

251 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to amend the Building Control Act 2007 as was previously initiated by the 30th Dáil and which had cross-party support at the time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38915/11]

I have no plans to amend the Building Control Act 2007 along the lines suggested. I understand that the question refers to the Building Control (Amendment) Bill 2010 which was introduced as a Private Members Bill in the 30th Dail. This Bill has now lapsed.

Coroners Service

Mattie McGrath

Question:

252 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cost to the State of carrying out a post mortem; the grounds on which a post mortem is carried out; the reason it was necessary to carry out a post mortem on a 91 year old woman who had been in long-term care in a nursing home and subsequently hospitalised a week prior to her death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38315/11]

The Coroners Act 1962 (Fees and Expenses) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 155 of 2009) prescribe the fees and expenses payable for services provided under the Coroners Act, 1962. The fee payable to a person for performing a post-mortem or a special examination, including preparatory work, any tests required and subsequent report to the coroner is €321.40. The fee payable to a person for assisting at a post-mortem examination is, in the case of a pathology technician, €25.23.

It is in the public interest that an independent legal officer of the State, i.e. the relevant coroner, is empowered by statute to direct the conduct of a post-mortem examination of the body of a deceased person where a medical certificate as to cause of death is not procurable. Whilst no details regarding this case were given to me by the Deputy, I understand from the coroner concerned that the relevant medical practitioner was unable to furnish a clear cause of death. In the circumstances, the coroner was under a statutory duty pursuant to the Coroners Act 1962 to direct a post-mortem examination on the deceased.

The coroner has indicated that everything possible was done on behalf of the next of kin to alleviate the undoubted distress that sometimes affects next of kin when the body of their loved one is subjected to an autopsy. I should also add that the hospital concerned has a liaison officer who is available to next of kin to explain why an autopsy is necessary in circumstances where a medical certificate as to cause of death is not procurable.

Garda Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

253 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the fact that the Garda fleet is being systematically reduced as patrol cars reach the end of their life when cars with 300,000 km on the speedometer are withdrawn; if he will review this policy in the context of the current economic climate if it is deemed that the vehicle can continue service; if he will give this proposal serious consideration in view of the fact that we have so many stations that have no Garda vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38273/11]

Decisions in relation to the deployment of Garda resources, including transport, are matters for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the allocation of Garda vehicles is monitored and reviewed on a continuous basis to ensure that Garda transport is deployed in such a manner as to ensure the delivery of an effective policing service throughout the country.

I am also advised by the Garda authorities that, for safety reasons in accordance with the recommendations of the relevant motor car manufacturers, Garda cars are decommissioned when the odometer reading reaches 300,000 kilometres.

Prison Committals

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

254 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide the figures of those currently in prisons (details supplied) who were previously in industrial schools or other institutions and are presenting in prison with mental health issues; and the services they are offered to deal with these issues. [38276/11]

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that the information requested is not recorded. The Deputy may however be interested in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 14 on Thursday 1st December, 2011 on the issue of mental illness in our prisons.

The prevalence of mental illness is significantly higher among prisoners compared to the general population and that the mental health problems suffered by prisoners range from mild to severe. There is a strong argument that persons with severe mental illnesses who are involved in minor offences should be diverted away from the criminal justice system and measures have been undertaken to progress such an approach. However if a serious crime such as a homicide is involved, the issue has to be addressed by the criminal justice system Furthermore we also have prisoners properly convicted and imprisoned for serious offences who may develop mental illness after their imprisonment. Depending on the nature and severity of that illness the question has to be determined, as with any illness, whether it can be appropriately treated in a prison environment or whether a transfer to a designated centre is required.

A study undertaken in 2003 by the National Forensic Mental Health Service found that there is an excess of those with severe mental illness in all parts of the Irish prison population. The report estimated that 3.7% of male committals, 7.5% of males on remand, 2.7% of sentenced males and 5.4% of female prisoners should be diverted to psychiatric services, while as many as 20% of male committals and 32% of female committals needed to be seen by a psychiatrist.

In 2006 the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy published its report "Vision for Change". That report recognised the pivotal role of primary care in addressing the mental health needs of the population and noted that it is widely recognised that 90% of mental health problems can be dealt with in primary care without referral to a specialist mental health service. In each prison primary care is the model of care through which healthcare is delivered; it is the linchpin of the prison healthcare system and where a prisoner experiences a mental health issue the prison doctor is usually the first point of contact. The Central Mental Hospital National Forensic Mental Health Service provides 20 consultant led in-reach sessions weekly by arrangement at all Dublin prisons and also at Portlaoise and the Midlands Prisons. Specialist in-reach services are in place for consultant led mental health sessions in the remaining prisons.

The World Health Organisation has awarded a "Health in Prisons Best Practice Award 2011" to the recently opened High Support Unit in Mountjoy Prison. The High Support Unit is a 9 bed facility opened in the Medical Unit of Mountjoy Prison in December 2010. It provides expert, supportive, short term input for prisoners who are in an acutely disturbed phase of a mental illness or require increased observation for a physical ailment, which has attendant increased risks. It provides a more controlled and supportive environment for a vulnerable prisoner as a short term intervention. The Irish Prison Service are exploring the possibility of expanding on this initiative by opening similar Units in other prison institutions.

There are prisoners who should more properly be treated in some form of therapeutic environment. The Criminal Law (Insanity) Acts 2006 and 2010 provides for the transfer of prisoners to the Central Mental Hospital.

The existing arrangements do give rise to problems. An interdepartmental group has being designated to examine the issue of people with mental illness coming into the criminal justice system and this is in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Review Group which were approved by Government last July. My officials are consulting with the Department of Health on the arrangements involved including the terms of reference and an announcement will be made shortly.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

255 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of anti-social behaviour orders that have been issued since their introduction; the number of warnings that have been issued under the same legislation to juveniles in the County Limerick Garda district. [38309/11]

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act, which relates to anti-social behaviour by children, was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. With regard to adults, they include a warning and the making of a civil order by the court.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 30 November, 2011, 3,033 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 1,974 to children. Fifteen good behaviour contracts were made in respect of a child. In addition, four civil orders (in respect of adults) and three behaviour orders (in respect of children) have been issued by the courts.

Up to 31 October, 2011, 238 behaviour warnings were issued to children in the Limerick Garda Division. Four good behaviour contracts were made in respect of a child, and two behaviour orders have been issued by the courts.

In setting up the regime in the Act the intention was that the different interventions would address the problem behaviour. If they succeeded, there would be no need to apply to the courts for an order. It is only if they failed to lead to a behaviour adjustment by the person in question, that a court order would be applied for.

Road Traffic Offences

Sandra McLellan

Question:

256 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider providing more information on the speeding fines issued to motorists for example proof of the exact speed the car was travelling in view of the fact that currently all that is given is the registration plate of the vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38316/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a fixed charge notice issued to a motorist for an alleged speeding offence contains information which includes the speed at which the motorist is alleged to have been driving, the speed limit it is alleged has been exceeded, a reference to the relevant statutory provisions, the identification mark (registration number) of the vehicle and the location, time and date of the alleged offence.

As the Deputy notes, the fixed charge notice is accompanied by an image of the registration number of the offending vehicle, which provides an opportunity to confirm the identity of the vehicle involved.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

257 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the grants and amounts paid by him to community and voluntary groups in Galway city and county to date in 2011; and if he will list the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each group that were beneficiaries of same. [3834