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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 9 Feb 2012

Vol. 755 No. 1

Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Grant Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

12 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers who will lose out under the new stocking rate criteria; the number of farmers who will lose out on a county basis on the proportionate payment between land in disadvantaged areas and land out of disadvantaged areas; and the number of farmers who will lose out as a result of horses not being taken into account in the stocking rate calculation. [7257/12]

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

Faced with the task of achieving significant savings in the annual budget for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, I chose to take the opportunity to make the Scheme more targeted, rather than simply apply an across the board cuts to all participants. Any analysis of the Scheme must take into account the impact of the various enterprises on the local economy. As is clearly evident, the main benefits arise from (i) beef rearing, (ii) dairying and (iii) sheep breeding enterprises. There are an increasing number of applicants under the Scheme, who have discontinued livestock (cattle or sheep) farming, but who continue to benefit from aid under the Scheme by grazing some horses on their land. It is proposed that horses and donkeys will no longer be eligible for the stocking density calculation on the basis that these applicants' contribution to the rural economy is minimal. However, equine (horse) breeding enterprises will continue to be eligible on the basis of the contribution they make to the local economy. The precise definition of an equine breeding enterprise is being formulated.

With the intention of targeting those farmers who are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, it is proposed that farmers, whose holdings consists of land situated both in Disadvantaged Areas and non-Disadvantaged Areas are in a better positioned from a farming viewpoint than those farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas. Therefore, it is proposed that where some of an applicant's land declared is Disadvantaged land and his or her main holding is in a non disadvantaged area, a digressive rate of aid under the Scheme will be payable. This digressive payment does not affect applicants whose main holding is in a disadvantaged area. This proposal is regarded as fair in that the greater proportion of Less Favoured Areas land in the holding, the greater the level of payment.

I am, however, particularly mindful that any proposed changes in scheme qualifying criteria, regardless of how focused and targeted their aim, will result in anomalies, because of which I have already indicated that specific provision will be made for those farmers, as described by the Deputy, who may find that their stocking rates are less than now required. Specifically, I have directed that a formal procedure be put in place to cater for all who consider that their inability to meet the proposed revised scheme requirements is due to force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Those affected will be invited to outline such details to my Department, each case then being considered on its merits. Again with specific regard to the proposed stocking provisions, where individuals can show that their inability to meet the revised requirements are due to their participation in a recognised environmental programme, for example, the necessary allowance will be made. Consideration will also be given to new entrants to farming.

It will be appreciated, therefore, for the reasons outlined, it is not possible, at this stage, to break the Scheme changes down on a county by county basis, nor on a sectoral basis.

Deputies will be aware that the Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

Electronic Tagging

Martin Ferris

Question:

13 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce a streamlined, simplified and inexpensive system for sheep tagging and movement tracking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7066/12]

As part of the revision to the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS) consequent, on the introduction of electronic identification of sheep in 2010, across the E.U, my Department has already introduced a new system for sheep tagging. Before introducing this new system my Department consulted widely with the industry. The purpose of these discussions was, within the regulation, to implement a system that best suited Irish conditions.

I can tell the Deputy that as a result of these consultations it was decided to apply the so called slaughter derogation. The result of this decision is that all lambs going for slaughter before 12 months of age are permanently exempted from EID. This decision means that the vast majority of Irish sheep can still continue to be tagged with a single conventional tag and the mandatory application of electronic tagging has been confined to a relatively small proportion of the national flock, namely, breeding sheep born since 2010 and sheep being exported live.

My advice to farmers in relation to tagging is that where lambs are going directly to the slaughterhouse from the holding of origin, a single conventional slaughter tag will, as before, continue to suffice. However, where farmers are selling lambs through a mart there is a definite advantage in tagging them with an EID tag set or bolus set when leaving the holding of origin. Animals so identified require no further tagging to comply with EU or NSIS rules and can be slaughtered, retained for breeding or exported and traceability is fully maintained.

On the question of cost, there are a variety of NSIS approved tags types available from a number of approved suppliers which allows farmers to shop around for the cheapest and most appropriate tags for their own particular requirements.

With regard to sheep movement, these are recorded on my Departments Sheep Movement Database which is contained within the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) System. In order to keep movement recording as simple as possible while meeting the EU requirements for traceability, the system records sheep movements on a ‘lot' basis rather than an individual animal basis. The vast majority of movements are notified on behalf of keepers by the factories, marts, abattoirs etc. that are dealing with the sheep and the only movements that farmers are required to notify the Department of are sheep purchased directly from another farm.

I should add that my Department has again held recent consultations with stakeholders regarding the current design of the NSIS and continues to liaise regarding further possible improvements to the system that may be required in the light of experience.

Departmental Agencies

Catherine Murphy

Question:

14 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, in regard to any potential sale of all or part of Coillte, he can assure Dáil Éireann that each of the following factors are being explicitly considered by him in advance of any decision on the former, the potential role that Coillte can play in mitigating the effects of the State’s carbon emissions, the potential for private interests to become involved in the Irish carbon capture market, the potential loss of public amenity countryside and forestry-related tourism, the issue of harvesting rights; if he will list all other such factors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7200/12]

I wish to advise the House that no decision has been taken by the Government in relation to the potential sale of Coillte. As I have advised the House on a number of occasions, I consider that it is essential to maximise the information available to the Government in order to make an informed decision which will not compromise the State's core asset, which is the land Coillte manages on behalf of its shareholders, amounting to some 7% of our land mass.

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

In addition to the economic aspects, the issues which the Deputy has raised are also important considerations. My Department is considering the role that Coillte's forests, both pre-1990 (under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol) and post 1990 afforestation (Article 3.3), play in climate change mitigation. The potential for private interests to become involved in carbon-capture in forestry will be influenced by the upcoming proposed Regulation on Land Use, land-use change and forestry (LULUFC) which is being prepared by the European Commission following the conclusions reached on the matter at the Durban climate change conference. The role of Irish forestry as a carbon sink is an important current and future factor.

I am conscious that Coillte, as part of its management of some 442,000 hectares of the national forest estate, plays a significant role in the provision of forest recreational activities, Coillte's forests provide a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing a long tradition of open access to state owned forests. The company currently manages 10 Forest Parks and over 150 recreation sites throughout Ireland and has done significant work developing recreational facilities, with assistance for other state bodies such as Fáilte Ireland.

Such recreational facilities are very valuable resources in their own right as tourism attractions in the various regions. One of the conclusions of a joint study, undertaken by Coillte and the Irish Sports Council in 2004/2005, was that economic activity generated in local communities by visits to the forest is worth some €270 million per annum. Both in terms of their importance to citizens for ongoing recreation and to visitors during their stay in Ireland, as I have previously advised the House, any sale will take account of public access to recreational land.

In relation to the issue of harvesting rights, as I mentioned last October, one of the ideas under consideration is that a crop, or asset, could be sold through harvesting rights for the next 30 or 50 years, depending on how much value the State wishes to maximise. At the end of the process, the land would revert to the State, with a requirement in place for reafforestation. While the sale of harvesting rights is an option, I want to reiterate that no decision has been made on the sale of Coillte as a company or in terms of forest assets. The large-scale of Coillte land is not an option.

Other factors to be considered include strategic issues relating the forestry sector overall, implications for employment, carbon rights and the protection of the People's Millennium Forests, some of which are located in the Coillte forest estate. I wish to assure the Deputy, and the House, that, given the wide range of issues involved, the consideration of the possible sale of Coillte or its separate assets will be detailed and comprehensive and that no decisions on asset sales have been taken by the Government to date.

Common Agricultural Policy

Denis Naughten

Question:

15 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to construct an alliance at member state level to support Ireland’s case for reform of common agricultural policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7007/12]

Since I took up office in March of last year, I have made it a priority to build up alliances with my counterparts in like-minded Member States in order to garner support for my position on the proposed reform of the CAP. Last year I had formal bilateral meetings with the EU Agriculture Commissioner and with my German, French, UK, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish and Danish Ministerial colleagues. I also took the opportunity to meet with my Ministerial colleagues from the other Member States and the EU Commission at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings held each month in Brussels or Luxemburg and at the Informal Ministerial Councils held in Hungary and Poland. In November of last year I addressed a meeting of the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament and last month I had the pleasure of hosting a second visit to Ireland of the EU Agriculture Commissioner.

Over the coming months I plan to intensify these contacts. I have meetings scheduled later this month with a number of members of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament and with Irish MEPs. Next month I will host a visit to Ireland by the Finnish Minister for Agriculture.

As negotiations develop, and, particularly in the run-up to the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013, I will continue to engage actively with Ministerial colleagues from other Member States, the Commissioner and Members of the European Parliament. My intention is to maintain and develop alliances with like-minded Member States to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland in the CAP reform negotiations.

I should add that my contacts at Ministerial level are supplemented by a parallel process of detailed engagement at official level by my Department with counterparts from the Commission, European Parliament and other Member States.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 11.

Proposed Legislation

Seán Crowe

Question:

17 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will introduce a new fisheries Bill to decriminalise those involved in the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7081/12]

The Programme for Government committed to replacing the criminal sanctions system for minor fisheries offences with administrative sanction system to bring Ireland into line with other European jurisdictions.

I sought the advice of the Attorney General on the matter. The Attorney General has responded with a detailed advice on the issue which I am currently examining. The advice highlights the difficulties in relation to the Constitution and in relation to the laws of the European Community relevant to the question of implementing a system of administrative sanctions for fisheries.

There are many significant differences between the legal systems in Ireland and that of other EU Member States. Ireland's constitutional and legal position provides certain basic rights which must be respected within our system of justice.

Furthermore, European Union legislation requires that penalties for fisheries offences must be "effective, proportionate and dissuasive”. That is, they must act as a deterrent and they must also ensure that there is no benefit gained by infringing the rules.

Given the nature of the penalties involved, there is a general requirement under the Constitution that alleged breaches of fisheries control regulations must be tried in a court of law. I am continuing to actively examine the issue in the context of the Attorney General's advice in relation to the Programme for Government commitment.

At EU level, a new fisheries control framework was introduced in 2009 which came into force at the beginning of 2010, following fisheries control failures identified by the EU Court of Auditors across the EU. This new framework including the application of electronic reporting of catches by all large and medium sized vessels, a new penalty points system, a payback system for overfished quotas and provisions to allow for the suspension of Community assistance in the event of non-compliance by Member States with the agreed control provisions. The new control system is designed to promote a level playing field. I am fully supportive of all measures that promotes effective controls across the EU and that promotes a culture of compliance within the Irish and EU Fishing industry. The future of our industry is totally dependant on healthy fish stocks and fishing must be carried out on a sustainable basis in accordance with the rules in place across the EU.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

18 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will allow for the deregulation of small fishing boats and classify them as artisan fishing boats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7085/12]

Article 6 of Council Regulation No. 1224/2009, establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, provides that a fishing vessel may only be used for commercial fishing if it has a valid fishing licence. This EU legal requirement is reflected in our national fishing boat licensing system and I have no discretion in the matter.

The registration of all commercial fishing vessels serves important functions. It is an essential element of our control systems for ensuring that we comply with the Common Fisheries Policy and with EU environmental law.

It is an essential element of our systems for managing access to quota species and to certain non quota species which are the subject of management plans to ensure the long term sustainability of particular stocks.

It is also worth noting that financial assistance under the European Fisheries Fund for improving hygiene, product quality, energy efficiency, gear selectivity and safety on board is only available to licensed fishing boats.

Milk Quota

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

19 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether milk prices will drop in 2012; when quotas finish will dairy farmers be producing milk under cost once again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7071/12]

Market forces have a major influence on the price paid to farmers for milk, as world market prices for dairy products determine the returns received by dairy processors which are reflected in the price paid to farmers. While 2011 was a very successful year for the dairy industry, with an average milk price paid to farmers of 34 cent per litre, the milk price paid to dairy suppliers is ultimately a commercial matter between the dairy farmer and his/her processor.

However, dairy markets appear to be relatively stable at the start of 2012, and the short term outlook is quite positive. Due to the volatility of international markets there will always be fluctuations in dairy prices, but it is important to remember that the medium term prospects for dairy markets are good. Growth in global population and wealth is forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products. These positive medium-term forecasts are what the Food Harvest 2020 report seeks to exploit in setting out the strategic vision for the agrifood and fishing sector. From a dairying perspective, the ending of milk quotas in 2015 represents an exceptional opportunity to increase our milk output, and Food Harvest 2020 has targeted a 50% increase in milk production in the next decade. This target is ambitious but I also believe it is realistic, because the dairy sector has the capability to expand at producer and at processor level, and to exploit the significant potential in expanding international markets.

In relation to on-farm production, it is important for producers to focus on profit rather than milk price, and therefore to focus on increasing efficiency and reducing cost. My Department provides €6 million per annum through the Dairy Efficiency Scheme to encourage the adoption of technology and best practice at farm level. This scheme will help to equip farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to maximise their output, reduce their costs of production and increase margins.

Harbours and Piers

Michael Colreavy

Question:

20 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to address the problem of the build up of mud and silt in the harbour at Dunmore East, County Waterford, which is preventing larger vessels from entering the harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7063/12]

Dunmore East Fishery Harbour Centre is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres, which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department.

I am aware of the difficulties that the build up of mud and silt at Dunmore East Fishery Harbour Centre causes for the various vessels using the harbour. Dredging costs are always significant and my Department did commission a feasibility study in relation to the dredging of the harbour in 2009. The study was undertaken by RPS Engineering Consultants, and in their report they addressed both the proposed dredging methods and related costs.

The report has indicated that 80% of the harbour sediment contains Tributyltin (TBT). Unfortunately the costs associated with the disposal of dredge spoil containing TBT is significantly higher than for uncontaminated material.

The options examined for dredging the harbour and disposing of the dredge spoil material in an appropriate manner are estimated to cost in the region of €6 million. This is a significant outlay in the current context of the national finances and competing exchequer demands. My officials are actively engaged in examining alternative and more economical solutions for dredging and disposal of dredge spoil containing TBT. On completion of their examination I will assess the proposals in the context of available exchequer funding and other national priorities.

Food Industry

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

21 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason pasture-fed beef is being sold as a cheap commodity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7084/12]

The Irish beef industry has had remarkable success in the last decade in transforming its focus from commodity markets to high value EU markets. In fact some 96% of Irish beef exports go to EU markets.

In 2011, beef exports were worth around €1.8 billion to the economy and it is estimated that 96% of total Irish beef exports in volume terms were within the EU where they were destined for an expanding portfolio of high-value retail and food service businesses.

Reflecting the export orientation of the beef industry and consistent with this Government's emphasis on export growth as a path to economic recovery, the marketing strategy for Irish beef is focused on improving and enlarging its position in export markets. Bord Bia's promotional strategy is one of differentiation and premiumisation thereby assisting the industry to target the best paying customers in order to secure the best possible returns across Europe. One measure of the efficacy of this strategy is that high-value channels now account for 62% of export volumes, an increase of 26%, or 52,000 tonnes, since 2007. Stronger shipments to Germany and the Netherlands in 2011 can be attributed to a large degree to the positioning of Irish beef as a premium product in those countries. Indeed, the profile of Irish branded beef products in those markets provides irrefutable evidence of the benefits of this strategy for the industry and the country generally.

Industry efforts to develop premium beef brands add product value through innovation which when combined with the promotional work of Bord Bia in highlighting the natural, grass-fed attributes of Ireland's beef production system have resulted in steady gains in target markets. Underpinning the brand reputation of Irish beef is the Bord Bia Beef Quality Assurance Scheme which has 32,000 certified members who collectively account for over 70% of domestic production. In partnership with The Carbon Trust and Teagasc, Bord Bia has secured accreditation for its beef carbon footprint model. This is now part of the Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme making it the first such scheme to include environmental criteria. Complementing these activities are the financial supports provided by my Department to fund the work of Teagasc and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation in enhancing producer competitiveness, efficiency and profitability.

Departmental Agencies

Clare Daly

Question:

22 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason Teagasc is spending millions on classrooms in the Botanic Gardens, when such facilities already exist in Kinsealy, Dublin, and all the practical work has to be undertaken in that area. [7005/12]

This is an operational matter for Teagasc. Under the Agriculture, (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988 Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the delivery of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. Teagasc develops its programmes, services and activities in conjunction with its clients and partners overseen by an Authority that is representative of the main stakeholder groups in the agrifood sector. It is a matter for Teagasc and its Board to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities.

The College of Amenity Horticulture is based at the National Botanic Gardens and it trains students for employment in the amenity horticulture industry through the provision of courses at Certificate and Degree levels in Amenity Horticulture, Greenkeeping and Floristry. The College currently provides training for 380 full and part-time students. I understand Teagasc is investing €2.5m to upgrade educational facilities in the Botanic Gardens because the existing building facilities are below standard to conduct the courses currently undertaken there and to address quality issues relating to student welfare etc. The planned investment involves refurbishing the existing educational facility and the building of new classroom facilities. I understand that the decision to invest at the Botanic Gardens site predates any decision to move operations from Kinsealy.

Job Creation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

23 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will realign fishing quotas to provide more jobs in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7079/12]

My statutory role in relation to the allocation of fishing quotas is contained in Sections of 12 and 13 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 which requires me to act for the for the proper and effective management and conservation and rational exploitation of the State fishing quotas and opportunities. I consider that the industry itself is best placed to advise me on the management of fish quotas, including in terms of providing jobs in the sector. When making decisions in relation to developing policy concerning the allocation of quota, I go to considerable lengths to ensure that those likely to be affected by the decisions are fully consulted.

In relation to the monthly allocation of whitefish stocks, my Department officials and the representative producer organisations in the industry, both fishermen and onshore processors, meet each month to make recommendations to me in relation to the quota to be allocated in the coming month.

When making decision on the policy governing the allocation of pelagic stocks, such as mackerel and herring, an extensive consultation process is undertaken. These consultations provide the opportunity for those involved in the industry, to highlight their concerns and make recommendations concerning the policy. This is the process which was used to determine the polyvalent mackerel policy, the boarfish policy and the revised herring policy which is nearing conclusion.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Denis Naughten

Question:

24 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to support agricultural development in less favoured areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7008/12]

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

Faced with the task of achieving significant savings in the annual budget for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, I chose to take the opportunity to make the Scheme more targeted, rather than simply apply an across the board cuts to all participants. By focusing the proposed changes on those farmers who (i) are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, (ii) make a significant contribution to the maintenance of a viable rural community and (iii) contribute to the enhancement of the environment, these savings will be achieved without the need to reduce the existing rates of aid. Furthermore, there will also be no reduction in the maximum area payable — 34 hectares.

I am, however, particularly mindful that any proposed changes in scheme qualifying criteria, regardless of how focused and targeted their aim, will result in anomalies, because of which I have already indicated that specific provision will be made for those farmers, as described by the Deputy, who may find that their stocking rates are less than now required. Specifically, I have directed that a formal procedure be put in place to cater for all who consider that their inability to meet the proposed revised scheme requirements is due to force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Those affected will be invited to outline such details to my Department, each case then being considered on its merits. Again with specific regard to the proposed stocking provisions, where individuals can show that their inability to meet the revised requirements are due to their participation in a recognised environmental programme, for example, the necessary allowance will be made. Consideration will also be given to new entrants to farming.

I would again stress that, in proposing the changes in question, the intention is to better focus the Scheme, which is to the benefit of the majority of those farming in areas with recognised constraints, while at the same time attempting to cater for those genuinely prevented from achieving the revised minimums.

The Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

Pigmeat Sector

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

25 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to seek the introduction of a quality assurance scheme for free range pork produced here; if he has considered or performed any studies on the potential market for free range and organic pork products here and abroad; his views that it is a potential growth industry for Irish food producers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7061/12]

Given that EU marketing standards legislation does not include pigmeat it is not possible to classify pigmeat production as being free-range or organic in the same way as poultry and egg production are categorised.

Furthermore, as free-range pig production is not defined in legislation there are no objective criteria by which my Department can accurately measure the numbers involved.

The Bord Bia Quality Mark was introduced in 1989 with the pigmeat sector in response to consumer demand for information on where their food comes from and how it has been produced. Bord Bia regularly reviews and updates their Quality Assurance schemes with the most recent for pigmeat being in 2006 when the Pig Quality Assurance Standard for producers and processors was published.

Notwithstanding the difficulties in classifying pig production systems as free-range, Bord Bia are considering a proposal to add free-range or outdoor production to the Pig Quality Assurance Scheme (PQAS). This follows some interest being expressed by a small number of outdoor pig producers in joining the scheme. The Bord Bia Pig Technical Advisory Committee, which includes a member of the Free Range Pig Breeders Assoc, is currently working on agreeing a definition of free-range/outdoor production for inclusion in the PQAS.

The Development Strategy for the Irish Pig Industry, prepared by Teagasc in 2008 acknowledged the small scale nature of both free range and outdoor pig production. This report also highlighted the difficulties particularly with regard to sourcing organic feed ingredients, management and animal health issues, together with problems achieving expected premium prices. These factors, together with a number of other issues highlighted, would appear to militate against any significant expansion in either of these production methods.

On the question of organic production generally, my Department works closely with the organic control bodies and is managing the Organic Farming Action Plan 2008-2012. This plan has four main objectives, namely to increase production in line with market trends, increase the knowledge base, develop the organic market at home and abroad, and encourage the development of public procurement opportunities for organic products. During 2011, ten priority actions were identified and extracted from the original plan. The lead responsibilities in relation to the various actions were largely divided between Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Department.

The Government's recognition of the potential of the Organic Sector is reflected in the Food Harvest 2020 Report, which maps out policy for the next ten years. Within this report, the most compelling picture that emerges of the decade ahead is one of opportunity. This report highlights the opportunity for the Irish agrifood industry to grow and prosper sustainably through the delivery of high-quality, safe and naturally based produce.

To achieve growth, the key strategy of the Food Harvest 2020 Report involves prioritisation of environmental protection, capitalising on our natural advantages and resources, conserving biodiversity and aligning sustainability across the food chain. The Irish organic sector is a forerunner in this regard and is therefore in a prime position to achieve further growth in the years ahead.

There are export opportunities, particularly in the area of beef and lamb, with demand especially strong in Germany and the United Kingdom. However, in respect of horticulture, difficulties remain in supplying even the home market, particularly in crops such as potatoes. At present some 70% of organic fruit and vegetables are imported. There is considerable potential for expansion of the sector in many areas. Pigmeat however, remains problematic with less opportunity for expansion in either organic or free range production.

Fisheries Protection

Sandra McLellan

Question:

26 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way he plans to police the licensing of mussel farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7078/12]

Mussel farming is regulated in accordance with the provisions of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997.

Key features of the process are examination of each application by key scientific and technical advisors to my Department, Environmental Impact Assessment pre-screening, written consultation with statutory and non-statutory consultees and a period of general public consultation. In addition, following Ministerial determination in respect of the application, the process provides for an appeal by any party to the independent Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board.

Matters considered in reaching a licensing determination include potential impacts on safety and navigation; suitability of waters; other beneficial users; likely effects on the economy; statutory status of the area; ecological impacts on wild fisheries, natural habitats, flora and fauna. In the case of areas designated as Special Areas of Conservation and/or Special Protection Areas for birds there is an additional process of Appropriate Assessment in respect of flora, fauna and birds to ensure compliance with EU and national legislation governing these areas.

Once a licence is granted, the licensed site is subject to ongoing inspections by my Department's Engineers and the Marine Institute in accordance with their technical and scientific roles.

Tax Code

Brian Stanley

Question:

27 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase financial support for start-up farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7068/12]

In addition to the range of measures already available number of new measures are being implemented to assist younger farmers as part of a budget 2012. These include:

1. A new stock relief incentive to encourage farm partnerships . An enhanced 50% stock relief will be available for all registered farm partnerships, and a 100% stock relief will be available for certain young trained farmers forming such partnerships. Subject to EU State Aid approval, this new incentive will be available until December 2015.

2. Reducing the stamp duty rate on agricultural land from 6% to 2%. A half rate (1%) will be applicable to transfers to close relatives until the end of 2014. This change will substantially reduce the stamp duty payable on transfers of farm land by gift or by sale. It should stimulate a stagnant land market — currently only 0.5% of total agricultural land is offered for sale annually. It will also promote inter-generational transfer, with the cost of lifetime transfer to transferees who do not qualify for the young trained farmer stamp duty relief reduced considerably.

3. Restructuring of the retirement relief on Capital Gains Tax to incentivise the earlier transfer of farm assets to the next generation, and to encourage the sale of land by those farmers with no successors. These changes will apply from 2014 onwards, thereby allowing time for older farmers to plan for transfer. These changes will aid land mobility and improve the age profile of Irish farmers.

4. The VAT rate applied to open farms will be 9% rather than the new standard rate of 23%. This will be of significant benefit to such farms, which offer an important opportunity for farm diversification. It brings the treatment of open farms into line with the VAT rate applied to museums and other cultural attractions.

5. A Capital Gains Tax incentive for property purchased before the end of 2013 should also stimulate the land market. A property bought during this period and held for at least seven years will be relieved from Capital Gains Tax.

6. Consistent with the commitment in the Programme for Government on carbon tax, farmers will be allowed a double income tax deduction in respect of the increased costs arising from the change in carbon tax (the carbon tax is to increase from €15 per tonne to €20 per tonne).

7. An amendment to the VAT refund order for farm construction will allow farmers to claim a refund on wind turbines purchased from 1 January 2012.

The tax changes in Budget 2012 encourage partnership formation and incentivise inter-generational land transfer. I believe they will be of real benefit to farmers and the economy generally.

There are also proposals at a European level to give additional payments to younger farmers, which will greatly help them to start up or increase their production.

Forestry Sector

Catherine Murphy

Question:

28 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, in view of the numbers of annual visitors to Donadea Forest Park, County Kildare, approximately 140,000, and the importance of the park to the local community and visitors from the greater Dublin area, he proposes any mechanism to preserve the distinct character, biodiversity, walking trails and visitor amenities of the park to ensure continued public use in the event of the sale of all or part of Coillte; if this forms part of a national plan for all such forest parks and woodlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7199/12]

I am aware of the recreational importance of Donadea Forest Park and the work which has been undertaken there over the last number of years such as the upgrading of the facilities, the development of Walks and the erection of the 9/11 Memorial.

I wish to reiterate that no decision has been taken by the Government in relation to the potential sale of all or part of Coillte. The consideration of a number of options in relation to the possible disposal of State assets is currently being undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in consultation with relevant line Departments and NewERA. In any event any decision on the future of Coillte will not involve the sale of land.

I am also conscious that Coillte's forests throughout the country provide a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing a long tradition of open access to state owned forests. While the development of a mechanism in relation to Donadea Forest Park specifically or the formulation of a national plan to safeguard such access would be somewhat premature at this stage, I wish to advise the Deputy that any potential disposal of Coillte assets will address the issue of public access to recreational land.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

29 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views that the use of last year's stocking rates as criteria for eligibility for entry to this year's disadvantage areas scheme, DAS, is inequitable and a deliberate attempt to eradicate so-called non-productive farmers; his further views that a farmer's circumstances can change and that their stocking density may have been low in the previous year for many reasons and to use previous stocking density is not necessarily a reflection of their current rate of stocking; his views that the spirit of the DAS is to assist farmers in disadvantaged areas and not to reduce the number of farmers on the land as this new criteria will inevitable do; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7009/12]

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

31 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason he has removed horses from the criteria for disadvantaged area scheme; his views that this will impact the smaller farmer disproportionately and also that in the longer term the exclusion of horses from DAS assessment will reduce the size of the national horse herd and weaken our position as a renowned horse-breeding nation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7010/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 31 together.

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

Faced with the task of achieving significant savings in the annual budget for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, I chose to take the opportunity to make the Scheme more targeted, rather than simply apply an across the board cuts to all participants. By focusing the proposed changes on those farmers who (i) are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, (ii) make a significant contribution to the maintenance of a viable rural community and (iii) contribute to the enhancement of the environment, these savings will be achieved without the need to reduce the existing rates of aid. Furthermore, there will also be no reduction in the maximum area payable — 34 hectares.

There are an increasing number of applicants under the Scheme, who have discontinued livestock (cattle or sheep) farming, but who continue to benefit from aid under the Scheme by grazing some horses on their land. It is proposed that horses and donkeys will no longer be eligible for the stocking density calculation on the basis that these applicants' contribution to the rural economy is minimal. However, equine (horse) breeding enterprises will continue to be eligible on the basis of the contribution they make to the local economy. The precise definition of an equine breeding enterprise is being formulated.

I am, however, particularly mindful that any proposed changes in scheme qualifying criteria, regardless of how focused and targeted their aim, will result in anomalies, because of which I have already indicated that specific provision will be made for those farmers, as described by the Deputy, who may find that their stocking rates are less than now required. Specifically, I have directed that a formal procedure be put in place to cater for all who consider that their inability to meet the proposed revised scheme requirements is due to force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Those affected will be invited to outline such details to my Department, each case then being considered on its merits. Again with specific regard to the proposed stocking provisions, where individuals can show that their inability to meet the revised requirements are due to their participation in a recognised environmental programme, for example, the necessary allowance will be made. Consideration will also be given to new entrants to farming.

I would again stress that, in proposing the changes in question, the intention is to better focus the Scheme, which is to the benefit of the majority of those farming in areas with recognised constraints, while at the same time attempting to cater for those genuinely prevented from achieving the revised minimums.

The Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

30 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to alleviate the burden of those involved in agriculture due to high fuel prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7075/12]

The price of fuel and other input costs for farmers have risen in recent times. However, feed prices are likely to fall during 2012. Fuel prices are dependent on many factors, including exchange rates and international crises outside of Ireland's control.

A double income tax deduction in respect of the increased cost from the change in carbon tax means that the effective difference in the excise duty paid by farmers on agricultural diesel compared to that on auto diesel remains largely unchanged. The excise duty on green diesel is significantly less than that on ordinary diesel and it is also subject to a lower rate of VAT. This is consistent with the commitment in the Programme for Government and will ensure that farmers' costs are kept to a minimum.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 29.

Credit Availability

Brian Stanley

Question:

32 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to use his office to impress on the Department of Finance the need to ensure that bank credit facilities are made readily available to young farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7067/12]

My officials are in regular contact with farm bodies, various national banks and the Banking Federation concerning the availability of credit to farmers. I am aware that, like many other sectors, farmers are finding it difficult to get credit due to the strict assessments introduced as a result of the global financial crisis. However, despite concerns a relatively small number of cases from the Agrifood sector have come before the Credit Review Office. My officials have recently assisted one of the farm organizations in explaining the work of the Credit Review Office.

Central Bank data also shows that agriculture is one of the sub-sectors receiving the most new lending in the period Q1-Q3 2011. A Micro-Finance Start-up fund currently being developed by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is also being monitored to ensure that opportunities for the Agrifood sector under it are fully utilised.

I will continue to meet with relevant parties, including the Irish Banking Federation, on a regular basis to discuss all credit-related issues.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Dessie Ellis

Question:

33 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will confirm that disadvantaged area conditions will continue to apply to farmers whose main business is in disadvantaged areas but who also have land rented or owned in non-disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7070/12]

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

With the intention of targeting those farmers who are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, it is proposed that farmers, whose holdings consists of land situated both in Disadvantaged Areas and non-Disadvantaged Areas are in a better position from a farming viewpoint than those farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas. Therefore, it is proposed that where some of an applicant's land declared is Disadvantaged land and his or her main holding is in a non disadvantaged area a digressive rate of aid under the Scheme will be payable. This digressive payment does not affect applicants whose main holding is in a disadvantaged area. This proposal is regarded as fair in that the greater proportion of Less Favoured Areas land in the holding the greater the level of payment.

It is also proposed to exclude land situated more than 80 kilometres from a farmer's holding from aid under the Scheme. This exclusion will be confined to applicants, whose main holding is situated in a non-Disadvantaged Area, and who declares land situated more than 80 kilometres from the main holding. It is contended that the local impact of the farming of those lands situated in the Disadvantaged Areas is marginal.

I would again stress that, in proposing the changes in question, the intention is to better focus the Scheme, which is to the benefit of the majority of those farming in areas with recognised constraints, while at the same time attempting to cater for those genuinely prevented from achieving the revised minimums. That the Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

Food Industry

Pearse Doherty

Question:

34 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to alleviate the damage caused by the MERCOSUR deal to the beef industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7073/12]

With regard to the current EU/MERCOSUR bilateral trade negotiations, no market access offers have been made to date and none are likely to be exchanged before the summer.

I am, nonetheless, acutely aware of the vulnerability of the beef industry arising from any MERCOSUR deal. I have repeatedly expressed Ireland's serious reservations at European level about the negotiations with MERCOSUR, particularly concerning the adverse impact a deal would have on the market for Irish beef. In doing so, I have carefully highlighted the importance of the beef sector to Ireland where 90% of our production is exported, almost all of it to other EU countries.

Ireland has been at the forefront in raising these issues at European level. Our position has been clearly and consistently enunciated in the Agriculture Council, in COREPER and at several meetings of the Trade Policy Committee. Moreover, my Department has been very active in pursuing the issue of mitigating measures in relation to the beef sector with the Commission. Ireland has also highlighted the sustainability arguments. We have written to the Commission several times both at Ministerial and official level. A series of papers (six in all) have been presented, following consultation with industry, detailing mitigating measures and comparing the relative efficiency of beef production systems in Ireland and Brazil. These submissions have been followed up by seven meetings at official and Ministerial level. The Commission has indicated that it is receptive to Irish suggestions on mitigation but has not yet indicated how precisely it will incorporate these views in its negotiating stance.

Ireland also applied for and was accepted as a member of the MERCOSUR Potsdam Group which advises the Commission on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) matters and in that capacity attended negotiations on the SPS chapter.

I am of the view that any agreement must not undermine the continued viability of a particular economic sector in individual Member States. Because of the potentially grave and long-term implications for the European agrifood sector, the EU must take special account of its critical interests in this area. Having regard to the economic importance of the sector to the EU as well as its contribution to food security, sustainability and the delivery of the EU 2020 strategy, I will continue to engage with the Commission and to build strategic alliances with like-minded colleagues in order to ensure that Ireland's voice is heard and heeded at the negotiating table. In short, I will take advantage of every opportunity in discussions with our European partners to articulate and advance Ireland's case on this important matter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

35 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the continued and or further expansion of the beef and dairy herds with a view to maximisation of benefit for the food production sector and the economy in general thereby facilitating increased employment in the sector and in the associated services such as processing, transport and value added production; the extent to which he can foresee the competitiveness of the industry on European and world markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7197/12]

The Food Harvest 2020 report, which was developed in collaboration with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, lays down ambitious plans for the development of the agrifood sectors, including the dairy and beef sectors. I am personally chairing a High Level Implementation Group to ensure that all of the stakeholders in these very important sectors are fully committed to achieving the ambitious targets the industry has set for itself.

In relation to the dairy sector in Ireland, the ending of the Milk Quota regime from April 2015, provides a significant opportunity for the sector to capitalise on the competitive advantage conferred by its grass based production model, against the background of strengthening European and world markets for dairy products.

International dairy markets have recovered fully from the 2009 price collapse and analysts consider the short term outlook to be positive. This increased market buoyancy is good for Ireland, as we export over 80% of our dairy production and the value of our exports have increased dramatically over the last three years. The tangible effect of this recovery can be seen in the average milk price paid to Irish farmers which has increased from 24 cents per litre in 2009 to 34 cents a litre in 2011 and in an increase in exports of 17%, bringing the value of dairy exports in 2011 to almost €2.7 billion. In order to ensure that Ireland can continue to exploit this expanding European and World demand for dairy products my Department identified the steps necessary to reach the headline dairy target set out in Harvest 2020 of increasing milk production in Ireland by 50% by the end of the current decade. A Dairy Expansion Activation Group established within my Department produced a Road Map setting out 55 actions required to achieve this target. My Department is monitoring progress in the implementation of these actions. From the perspective of my Department and its agencies, key elements include the continuing work of Teagasc in the area of production research, advice and training at farm level, and its continuing work with industry, for example in the area of food research and product development, the provision of €6 million per annum for a Dairy Efficiency Programme to encourage improved efficiency and profitability at farm level, the provision of almost €9 million in 2012 to fund investment in dairy equipment at farm level, and of course the continuing work to develop new market opportunities in emerging markets for the dairy and other sectors.

Food Harvest 2020 targets a 20% increase in the value of output in the beef sector in the period to 2020. The Beef 2020 Activation Group, which concluded its work in 2011, laid down a more ambitious target of 40%. There has been a significant change in the dynamics of beef markets in recent times which has led to an increase of 15% in the value of beef exports in 2011 to more than €1.8 billion. A relatively tight supply situation is expected to help maintain European cattle prices during 2012. Given the likely supply/demand dynamics in the EU beef market in 2012, the challenge for the Irish beef industry is to ensure that it positions itself to maintain this momentum against the background of a difficult economic environment in Europe and elsewhere.

I am committed to the development of a strong beef sector in Ireland. In 2012, my Department will continue to operate the Suckler Cow Scheme which has been allocated €25 million of Exchequer funding. This is an important measure in the development of quality stock in the national herd. Also, I have secured funding of €5 million for a Beef Technology Adoption Programme, which I hope to be in a position to announce shortly, and of course my Department and its agencies are working hard with industry and with Irish embassies across the globe to ensure that quality Irish beef has access to as many international markets as possible. In this context, my Department will continue to provide critically important funding to support the work of Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.

In conclusion, I am extremely optimistic about the potential dairy and beef sectors. I will be working assiduously, in collaboration with all of the stakeholders in the sectors, including through the negotiation of the best possible deal for Irish farmers in the context of the post-2013 CAP, to ensure that these vitally important sectors reach their full potential in the period to 2020 and beyond.

Tax Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

36 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will set up a system whereby farmers could establish a separate bank account for their profits and could pay tax on these profits as they are drawn down in order to provide more financial stability for farmers, as is the system in Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7076/12]

Questions relating to taxation are a matter for the Minister for Finance. However tax legislation currently provides a scheme of taxation, known as income averaging, for certain farmers. Under this scheme, eligible farmers can elect to be charged income tax on the average of their farming profits over a three year period, rather than on the basis of their assessed profits over each separate 12-month period.

The scheme allows participating farmers who experience fluctuations in their trading profits to average those profits over three years, thus reducing the effects of those fluctuations on their taxation position.

The Common Agricultural Policy also provides a degree of income stability to Irish farmers, through the system of direct payments, that would not be available in Australia.

Fisheries Protection

Seán Crowe

Question:

37 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the action being taken to police Dutch super trawlers fishing in Irish waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7082/12]

Operational issues in relation to sea fisheries control are a matter for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). I have asked the SFPA to respond directly to the Deputy.

Fishing Industry Development

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

38 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to encourage those who fish the Irish quota to land their fish in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7080/12]

As a member of the EU, Ireland is obliged to ensure that national laws do not restrict the freedom of establishment of economic operators, including persons or companies, to carry on an economic activity in one or more Member States. The Treaties also establish the right to freedom of movement of goods between Member States. Derogations may be granted but are subject to strict tests regarding their purpose (such as the protection of human health and life) and cannot be based solely on a restriction on trade between Member States.

On this basis, to oblige fishermen to land catch from Irish waters in Irish ports would not be in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties. Contravention would run the risk of a successful challenge by operators or others in the EU Courts. The principles of freedom of establishment and freedom of movement of goods are at the core of the operation of the EU internal market, the main destination for Irish seafood exports. Accordingly, mandatory obligations are not feasible.

These are the concerns I have in relation to the introduction of any form of privatisation of national quotas (Individual Transferable Fishing Concessions) as has been proposed by the EU Commission in the Common Fisheries Policy Reform. The principles of freedom of establishment and freedom of movement of goods would preclude, I believe, the successful application of conditions to land into Ireland in respect of Irish quotas purchased by international companies. I am very concerned that this policy proposal from the EU Commission would pose a high risk of Ireland's coastal communities losing the benefit of our national quotas in terms of economic activity and employment.

I promote initiatives that encourage vessel owners, both Irish and non-Irish, to land into Irish ports. BIM has taken a strong lead in working with industry to increase landings into Ireland and value added processing. Most recently BIM held an intensive networking seminar on 25th January where key seafood companies in Ireland met to discuss how to achieve scale in the Irish seafood sector. BIM's Seafood Development Centre (SDC) has been open for two years now and in that time has brought market-led seafood innovation and new product development to the forefront in the Irish seafood industry. The SDC is working with over 330 large, small, and innovative start up companies to develop Ireland into an international seafood leader. New product sales developed by the Centre are estimated at roughly €10 million per annum to date and growing. The Centre is also leading graduate placement and sustainable innovation through training programmes. BIM will continue to work closely with the seafood sector to promote initiatives that will strengthen the seafood sector in Ireland and deliver on the substantial potential of this sector.

My overarching goal for Ireland's Fishing industry, is for a sustainable, profitable and self reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector, while balancing these objectives with the need to deliver a sustainable and eco-centred fisheries landscape for future generations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

39 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he can envisage the growth and or redevelopment of the fishing industry with particular reference to the need for adequate income for fishing dependent families; the extent to which the fishing industry here remains or expects to be competitive in the European context; if sufficient emphasis has been placed on the need to process the catch to final or added value stages here; the extent to which processing facilities have been upgraded; the degree to which specific coastal areas deemed to have suffered a reduction in activity arising from conservation or other measures have been identified for specific or particular supports in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7198/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total number of jobs generated by the fishing industry in this country at all levels; the extent to which this might be increased or expanded in the future in view of the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7463/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 200 together.

I am committed to continuing the path set out in Food Harvest 2020 for the development of the seafood sector in Ireland into 2012. Food Harvest 2020 identifies the potential of the seafood industry to increase employment from the present level of 11,000 to 14,000 full time equivalent jobs by 2020, mostly in peripheral coastal communities. It also identifies the potential to increase turnover in the sector from €700 million to €1 billion by 2020. These opportunities for the growth of our seafood industry will be driven by an expected growth in world population, particularly in Asia, and a consequent increased demand for seafood.

I am pursuing three key strategies to grow the Irish seafood industry and realise the potential identified in Food Harvest. These are — growing our aquaculture production, adding value to our product and improving the scaling and competitiveness of our processing sector.

Access to raw material supply will be a key issue in the increasingly global marketplace. All indicators suggest that in the medium to long-term, wild caught fish quotas will not increase to any great degree, limiting access to raw material. Growing our aquaculture industry will be essential in increasing the raw material supply to fuel the expansion of our processing sector. Irish Organic Salmon is considered of exceptional quality on the global market, but we are not producing enough product to meet the demand. In order to increase production, create employment and raise revenue BIM is promoting the development of three deep sea salmon farms. It is expected that each farm will be capable of producing up to 15,000 tonnes of Irish organic farmed salmon annually, valued at €102 million. My Department is also working with BIM and the Marine Institute to overcome the present constraints on aquaculture development in our inshore waters, by systematically conducting the environmental assessments required under the EU Habitats Directive. The first three bays were assessed in 2011 and this process is continuing and gathering pace.

As the global demand for seafood continues to rise, there is an opportunity for Ireland to position itself as a producer of premium, sustainable seafood with a clean green branded image. In tandem with Bord Bia promotional activities, Irish seafood can develop a unique and differentiating brand in the internal market place. BIM has targeted the creation of an additional €50 million in value added sales by 2013 through a number of actions. For example, by encouraging the European fishing fleet to partner with Irish processors, value can be added to raw material here rather than shipping direct to the continent. This will provide logistical advantages to both parties. Also, BIM's Seafood Processing Investment Scheme supports value-added investments in the sector. In 2011, investment in seafood processing amounted to €7 million, including State grant aid of €1.7 million. The 21 projects supported are projected to generate 191 jobs and increased sales of €38 million by 2014.

BIM's Seafood Development Centre (SDC) has been open for two years now and in that time has brought market-led seafood innovation and new product development to the forefront in the Irish seafood industry. The SDC is working with over 330 large, small, and innovative start up companies to develop Ireland into an international seafood leader. New product sales developed by the Centre are estimated at roughly €10 million per annum to date and growing. The Centre is also leading graduate placement and sustainable innovation through training programmes.

In relation to scaling and competitiveness, there are 40 key Irish processing companies handling nearly 80% of seafood for the export and domestic markets. The companies range in size from €5 million to €50 million in turnover. There are a further 70 smaller companies operating at under €1 million in turnover. In contrast, the turnover of a typical European competitor is in the order of €20 million. The lack of scale in the Irish sector leads to higher production costs, lower investment in strategic areas of planning, business development, marketing and product innovation, all adversely affecting profitability. The peripheral location of the Irish seafood industry can, for companies relying on group logistics, result in a time to market from order to delivery of between 4 and 6 days, compared to 24 to 48 hours for a competitor based on mainland Europe. The effect of this is reflected in the average net profitability of Irish seafood processing companies which stands at 0.94% compared to that of European competitors which is typically between 4%-6%. Last month, BIM convened a workshop of senior managers of Irish seafood processing companies to consider these competitive disadvantages and to encourage the industry to work together to overcome them. I understand the workshop was well attended and very well received by all involved.

Ireland's coastal areas reflect many of the central challenges facing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors both nationally and in the wider EU. To aid coastal communities face these challenges it is proposed under the Seafood Development OP 2007-2013 to form 6 Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGS) in 2012. These FLAG's will operate in a bottom up approach, with the fishing communities having a major input into developing local strategies to tackle socio-economic problems in these areas while endeavouring to maintain economic prosperity and jobs in peripheral coastal communities. Grant aid of €1.6 million, co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund, will be made available to the FLAG's to develop and implement their local strategies up to the end of 2015, leveraging an additional €0.7 million of private investment. This area of support is given a much greater emphasis under draft proposals for the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to operate from 2014, and the level of future investment is likely to reflect this.

International Agreements

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

40 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is taking any initiatives at EU and UN level to advance an arms trade treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7284/12]

My officials will be participating fully in the forthcoming meeting of the Preparatory Committee from 13-17 February and in the Diplomatic Conference from 2-27 July where I hope agreement can be reached on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Our objective in these meetings will be to secure the most robust legally-binding and comprehensive treaty with universal application possible. Ireland strongly supports the process of developing strict controls on arms and works to promote the objective of strengthening arms controls globally. We have been active from a very early stage in supporting work towards an ATT, including through co-sponsorship in 2008 of a UN Resolution establishing an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to consider the elements that might be included in an ATT. Ireland has participated fully in the EU Working Group on the ATT and we will continue to work with the EU and with other like-minded countries to agree an instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms that takes full account of human rights obligations and international humanitarian law.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

41 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding Ireland’s possible ratification of the Antarctic Treaty; if he has had discussions with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government or if his officials have had any discussions regarding this treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7345/12]

The matter of Ireland's possible accession to the Antarctic Treaty is under continuing consideration in those Government Departments which have responsibility for the areas covered by the Antarctic Treaties. The previous Government tasked relevant Ministers with conducting preparatory work on Ireland's possible accession to the Treaty. In this regard, a process of inter-departmental consultation, chaired by my Department and including the participation of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the other Departments concerned, is continuing.

As a complement to the inter-departmental preparatory work, a seminar on the Antarctic Treaty System was hosted by my Department in co-operation with the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin, on 25 May 2011. The seminar was attended by relevant Government Departments and also benefited from the participation of the Shackleton Society. The seminar was addressed by Norwegian experts in this area, who shared Norway's experience as a founder member of the Antarctic Treaty System.

The preparatory work being undertaken includes an assessment of the legislative implications of accession to the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) and it is apparent that these may be significant. Depending on the scale of the legislative undertaking that would be required, the resulting costs could be substantial, in terms of draws on Departments' resources in preparing the necessary legislation, as well as the cost of maintaining any standing national structures, such as licensing systems, consequent on accession to the ATS.

It is intended that further inter-departmental work will focus on identifying the optimum means, having regard to potential costs as well as best international practice, by which Ireland might ratify the Antarctic Treaty, should the Government so decide in due course.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

42 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7528/12]

Since February 2011, the Export Trade Council and the Standing Committee on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance have been established in my Department. The Export Trade Council which subsumes the previous Foreign Trade Council held its first meeting on 29th September 2011. The objective of the Council is to strengthen cooperation and coordination across all key Departments and State Agencies involved in promotion and development of trade and exports as well as overseeing the progressive implementation of the recommendations set out in the Government's Trade Strategy and Action Plan, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, the private sector is represented on the Export Trade Council. All Council members serve on a voluntary basis and without remuneration. Private sector participants include representatives of IBEC and the Irish Exporters Association as well as a number of individuals from private sector companies with a track record in the export sector.

In January 2012, I approved the formation of a Standing Committee on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance. The purpose of the Committee is to provide a mechanism to help coordinate Holocaust education, research and remembrance activities in Ireland, and Ireland's engagement with the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, an organisation Ireland joined in December 2011. The Standing Committee on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance consists of representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Education and Skills, the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration of the Department of Justice and Equality, Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, the Irish Jewish Museum, and academia.

The term of office of members of the Committee is two years. Members of the Committee are not remunerated for participation in the Committee.

State Banking Sector

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

43 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of chief executive officers who have availed of redundancy since the State started funding the banks; the length of each of their tenures as CEO; and the total cost of their redundancy packages. [7279/12]

I am informed by the respective covered institutions that no Chief Executive Officers' position at these institutions have been made redundant since September 2008. Details on the terms of the departure of certain incumbent Chief Executive Officers at the covered institutions have been fully disclosed in the published respective Annual Reports of the institutions concerned.

Tax Reliefs

Jack Wall

Question:

44 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is in receipt of the proper tax allowances; if the person is or was entitled to any tax credits; if the person is entitled to any tax rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7305/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the information available the taxpayer currently has the tax credits to which she is entitled. As a new certificate of tax credits issued on the 4th February 2012 she will receive a refund, through her payroll, of any tax overpaid in 2012 to that date. Her liability for 2011 will be reviewed and any refund due will issue shortly.

Tax Code

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

45 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance the progress the Revenue Commissioners have made in dealing with correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7319/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that officers in the Cork South West Revenue District are in ongoing correspondence with the person concerned in respect of a number of matters he has raised. Revenue appreciates the importance of the issues raised and is addressing them. It is of course impossible for Revenue to report back to the person on any enquiries they may deem necessary, or on the outcome of such enquiries for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality. This has been explained to the person concerned.

Banking Sector Regulation

Finian McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the European Central Bank and mortgage repayments in respect of persons (details supplied) on welfare. [7351/12]

I assume the Deputy's concern is about mortgage lenders not passing on European Central Bank interest rate cuts. Neither the Central Bank nor I have any responsibility for the variable mortgage interest rates charged by mortgage providers. I have no power to compel mortgage providers to pass on European Central Bank interest rate cuts. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

47 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the possibility of introducing a tax free weekend in either August or September of each year to be applied solely to personal computers and related products to assist students in purchasing the necessary equipment for the coming academic year. [7355/12]

VAT is governed by the EU VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. The VAT Directive provides that the supply of goods and services by taxable persons is subject to VAT, unless specifically exempted under its terms. The terms of the Directive do not provide for the non-application of VAT to supplies for specific periods and as such it is not possible to provide for a scheme of the kind proposed.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

48 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 19 January 2012, his plans to publish the findings to date of the review referred to therein; when he expects the review to be completed; his plans to publish the review once it has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7364/12]

I have indicated to the Deputy, in response to his previous questions on the subject (ref. 3222/12 of 19 January 2012 in particular referred to above) the position on the remuneration review. I would not consider it appropriate to publish incomplete interim data at this stage as suggested.

I am currently examining how best to progress the review and am considering utilising outside expertise not currently available to my Department to promote the efficacy of the findings and outcomes of the exercise.

As I have said previously, I fully recognise that there is a real public interest in the levels of remuneration at the covered institutions and have committed to placing the details underpinning the review into the public domain.

Tax Collection

Jack Wall

Question:

49 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to a rebate in regard to stated savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7396/12]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that any person over the age of 65 whose total income (including the gross deposit interest) is less than the relevant exemption limit can claim a repayment of Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid by submitting a Form 54D. The relevant exemption limits for 2008, 2009 and 2010 were €20,000 for a single person and €40,000 for a married couple; for 2011 and 2012, the exemption limits are €18,000 for a single individual and €36,000 for couples in a marriage or in a civil partnership. Forms 54D for years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 have been sent directly to the individual concerned to facilitate a claim for any refund due. Finance Act 2007 introduced new arrangements that allow any interest earned on money on deposit credited to a savings account in a financial institution to be paid without deduction of DIRT, where the following conditions are satisfied:

Either the individual or her/his spouse or civil partner (if appropriate) is aged 65 or over when making the declaration; and

His/her/their total income for the year will be below the relevant annual exemption limit.

If the taxpayer meets these conditions, an application can be made directly to the financial institution to have the interest paid without deduction of DIRT.

The application is made on Form DE1. A copy of this form has been sent directly to the taxpayer for completion and submission to the financial institution.

Jack Wall

Question:

50 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if proper taxation is being deducted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7398/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the information available the taxpayer currently has the tax credits to which he is entitled. He is in receipt of a Department of Social Protection State Contributory Pension (DSP) in addition to a pension from his previous employer. The tax credits and rate bands available against the latter pension have been restricted to collect the tax due on his DSP pension.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

51 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the bank stress tests for 2012 are expected to commence; when he anticipates that they will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7419/12]

The application of the stress tests of Irish Banks is not a function of the Department of Finance but the Central Bank has informed me that it is preparing for the 2012 Financial Measures Programme, including the application of an updated bank solvency stress test. The Irish PCAR stress test shall be run in the second half of 2012, in order to align with any EU-wide bank solvency stress test being applied by the European Banking Authority, but the Irish PCAR results shall be published by no later than 30 November 2012. The Central Bank is conducting much of the preparation for this stress test in the first half of 2012, including a review of deleveraging activities, liquidity metrics, arrears resolution strategies and detailed credit portfolio reviews.

International Agreements

Michael McGrath

Question:

52 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the role the new permanent rescue facility, the European Stability Mechanism, has in providing funding to countries to recapitalise banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7420/12]

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) treaty was signed by euro area member states on 2 February 2012. Its purpose will be to provide financial assistance to its members that are experiencing or being threatened by financing problems. The ESM will take over the tasks currently fulfilled by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM). Aside from loans to beneficiaries, it will provide precautionary financial assistance and loans to member states for recapitalisations of financial institutions. The decision to grant financial assistance will be made by the Board of Governors of the ESM, following assessment by the European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission, and under strict economic conditionality. The terms and conditions upon which financial assistance for recapitalisation shall be granted will be specified in a financial assistance facility agreement.

Michael McGrath

Question:

53 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on when Ireland signed up to the reinforced Stability and Growth Pact, known as the six-pack; if he will set out details of the way the fiscal measures contained therein affect Ireland; when the six-pack became effective in Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7421/12]

The 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing turmoil in sovereign debt markets highlighted the need to introduce reforms designed to address the weaknesses that had become evident in the European Union's economic governance. In September 2010 the EU Commission published six pieces of draft legislation designed to enshrine many of these reforms in the form of an economic governance package comprising six legislative measures known as the Six-Pack. Having gone through the normal consideration processes, the Six-Pack was adopted by the ECOFIN Council and approved by the European Parliament in September 2011.

The five Regulations (two amending and three new) in the Six-Pack subsequently entered into force on 13 December 2011, when they became part of the national law of every Member State in the EU. The sixth element of the Six-Pack is the Directive on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States. Article 15 of this Directive requires that "Member States shall bring into force the provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 31 December 2013".

The Six-Pack measures apply to all 27 EU Member States or to the euro area 17 as appropriate.

The Six-Pack provides for:

Stronger preventive action through a reinforced Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and deeper fiscal coordination: Member States are required to make significant progress towards medium-term budgetary objectives (MTO) for their budgetary balances. Under the Six-Pack, expenditure benchmarks will now be used alongside the structural budget balance to assess adjustments towards the MTO. An interest-bearing deposit of 0.2% of GDP will be imposed on non-compliant euro-area countries.

Stronger corrective action through a reinforced SGP: The launch of an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) can now result from government debt developments as well as from government deficit. Member States with debt in excess of 60% of GDP should reduce their debt in line with a numerical benchmark. Progressive financial sanctions kick in at an earlier stage of the EDP. A non-interest interest-bearing deposit of 0.2% of GDP may be requested from a euro-area country which is placed in EDP on the basis of its deficit or its debt. Failure of a euro-area country to comply with recommendations for corrective action will result in a fine.

Minimum requirements for national budgetary frameworks: Member States are to ensure that their fiscal frameworks are in line with minimum quality standards and cover all administrative levels. National fiscal planning should adopt a multi-annual perspective, so as to attain the MTO. Numerical fiscal rules should be introduced that promote compliance with the Treaty reference values for deficit and debt.

Preventing and correcting macroeconomic and competitiveness imbalances: Over the past decade, Member States have made economic choices which have lead to competitiveness divergences and macroeconomic imbalances within the EU. A new surveillance mechanism will aim to prevent and correct such divergences. It will rely on an alert system that uses a scoreboard of indicators and in-depth country studies, strict rules in the form of a new Excessive Imbalance Procedure (EIP) and better enforcement in the form of financial sanctions for Member States which do not follow up on recommendations.

Also under the Six-Pack enforcement is strengthened by the expanded use of ‘reverse qualified majority' voting. Under this voting system, a Commission recommendation or proposal to the Council is considered adopted unless a qualified majority of Member States vote against it.

The Six-Pack measures represent the most comprehensive reinforcement of economic governance in the EU and the euro area since the launch of Economic and Monetary Union. It marks a concrete and decisive step towards ensuring fiscal discipline, helping to stabilise the EU economy and preventing a new crisis in the EU.

It is the Government's view that all of the measures contained in the Six-Pack — including those with relevance to fiscal matters — provide a sound basis for helping all EU Member States to work together for a return to financial and economic stability and towards achieving the core objective of sustainable growth and jobs. Ireland is committed to observing all of the requirements under the Six-Pack.

National Debt

Michael McGrath

Question:

54 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the expected cost of servicing the national debt in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. [7423/12]

The cost of servicing the national debt, as estimated by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), in each of the years 2012-2015 is set out in the table below. These estimates are consistent with those forming part of the Budget 2012 fiscal forecasts:

€ billions

2012

2013

2014

2015

Estimated National Debt Servicing

7.4

8.1

8.9

9.2

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Question:

55 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements in place between Revenue and mortgage lenders regarding the implementation of the increased mortgage interest relief to first time buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7427/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when residential mortgage holders entitled to benefit from the increase in the rate of tax relief at source announced in budget 2012 will receive the additional payment due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7448/12]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

66 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the total number of mortgage holders to whom the increased rate of mortgage interest relief has been passed since it came into effect on 1 January; the banks that have passed on the relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7506/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 61 and 66 together.

As I announced in the Budget, the proposed new 30% rate of tax relief in respect of interest paid on qualifying home loans for first time buyers who took out their first qualifying home loan in the period between 2004 and 2008 (both dates inclusive) comes into effect as regards the 2012 tax year and subsequent tax years. The necessary legislation is included in the Finance Bill which I published yesterday.

I should point out that mortgage interest tax relief, including the proposed new 30% rate of relief, in respect of interest paid on qualifying home loans is given by qualifying lending agencies, including local authorities, through the tax relief at source (TRS) system. This requires the various lending agencies to make the adjustments in their computer systems.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in advance of the legislation, they have been in contact with all qualifying lenders to ensure that the necessary software changes to the lenders' tax relief at source (TRS) systems are made to cater for the new 30% rate of tax relief and to ensure that the relief can be passed on to borrowers by qualifying lenders without undue delay. All lenders have been requested to confirm when they will be in a position to make the necessary software changes to grant the new 30% rate, however, the speed with which the software changes can be developed and implemented by lenders may vary from lender to lender. Revenue is currently engaging with all of the lenders in arranging to have the new rate tested and implemented as soon as possible.

As an interim relieving measure Revenue has applied a 25% rate that had previously been tested with lenders to the 189,000 eligible mortgage accounts that will qualify for the 30% rate involving some 270,000 individuals. When the 30% rate is subsequently applied by the lenders in due course the additional relief arising from 1 January will be automatically applied by the lender without the need for any action on the part of the mortgage holder.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Michael McGrath

Question:

56 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will review if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to a refund of income tax in respect of a certain matter. [7432/12]

The person concerned retired in 2006 but it is unclear from records held by Revenue when he made a payment in respect of superannuation contributions to his former employer. He should contact Mr. Diarmuid O'Connor, Revenue Commissioners, Blackpool, Cork (Tel 021-6027506) to clarify this matter as it has a bearing on his entitlement to relief in respect of the superannuation contributions paid. A revised Tax Credit Certificate (TCC) has been sent to this person and to his pension provider, granting exemption in respect of the Universal Social Charge.

International Agreements

Pearse Doherty

Question:

57 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance with respect to the annual one 20th reduction in debt-to-GDP ratio outlined in the proposed intergovernmental treaty, if he will confirm if the annual target reduction applies to the excess debt over the 60% debt-to-GDP ratio or to the full amount of debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7433/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

58 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance based on current assumptions and projections, if he will indicate the level of adjustment that will be required in budget 2016 to meet the one 20th reduction in our debt-to-GDP ratio as required under the terms of the proposed intergovernmental treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7434/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

59 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if the one 20th reduction in our debt-to-GDP ratio as required under the terms of the proposed intergovernmental treaty would be a percentage of debt-to-GDP target that would need to be reached each year, that is assuming that the State had a debt-to-GDP ratio in 2015 of 120% that the reduction required under the terms of the treaty would be 3% reduction; and if so, if he will estimate the cost of this reduction in monetary terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7435/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 to 59, inclusive, together.

The debt correction requirement in the new intergovernmental treaty, which will apply to Ireland, as our General Government debt/GDP ratio is currently above 60%, is the same as is already required under the reforms of the Stability and Growth Pact as part of the so-called ‘six pack' of legislative reforms.

Specifically, we will be required to reduce our debt/GDP ratio annually by at least one-twentieth of the difference between the actual rate and the threshold rate of 60%. A transition period will apply for all countries that are currently subject to the excessive deficit procedure on the basis of the deficit criterion, including Ireland. During this transition period, which would last for three years following the correction of the excessive deficit on the basis of the deficit criterion, the requirement under the debt correction rule is deemed to be fulfilled if we are making "sufficient progress" towards compliance.

Based on Budget 2012 projections, the General Government debt/GDP ratio is forecast to peak at 119% in 2013 before declining to 115% by 2015. Ireland will be coming out of the excessive deficit procedure as a result of reducing the General Government deficit below 3% of GDP in 2015 and so the three year transition period referred to above will apply. The precise details as to what will constitute “sufficient progress” towards compliance during the transition period have yet to be worked out between the European Commission and those Member States coming out of excessive deficit.

Furthermore, as there are no specific macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts for the period post 2015, the exact policies that will be required are conjecture at this stage.

In this regard, in terms of the fiscal implications of this debt correction rule, it is important to remember that it is the debt/GDP ratio that is important. In other words, on the basis of reasonable assumptions over the medium-term, we can expect economic growth to do much of the "heavy lifting". Furthermore, it's also worth pointing out that, irrespective of our international commitments, we need to reduce the debt to more manageable levels. Otherwise we will just spend more and more of our revenues on servicing the debt burden, which reduces the amount available to spend on education, health, social welfare, and other areas.

Personal Debt

Michael McGrath

Question:

60 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that analysis of mortgage data conducted by the Central Bank of Ireland indicates that up to 46% of mortgages were in negative equity at the end of 2011; his views on the implications of this for the wider economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7447/12]

I note that the Central Bank, in its January 2012 Quarterly Bulletin, published a paper by economists in the Bank on "The Irish Mortgage Market: Stylised Facts, negative Equity and Arrears". This paper, which is based on research material previously released by the Bank at a Conference it held on the Irish mortgage market last October, provides very useful and detailed data on the Irish mortgage market, including the value of mortgages in negative equity. From an economic perspective, negative equity is an issue of some concern not least because it can act as a barrier to labour mobility and weigh on peoples' willingness to consume. For these very reasons, we have taken steps to encourage the domestic economy, such as the Jobs Initiative which focused on sectors such as tourism. Indeed, the Government has sought to address the necessary ongoing repair of our public finances in a manner that is the least damaging to the economy. Furthermore, yesterday's Finance Bill provided for an increase in the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30% for those who bought during the period 2004-2008.

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 55.

International Agreements

Michael McGrath

Question:

62 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the changes to the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism to which he recently agreed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7449/12]

The ESM treaty was signed by euro area member states on 2 February 2012. The ESM will be an international financial institution based in Luxembourg. Its purpose will be to provide financial assistance to its members (euro area member states), experiencing or being threatened by severe financing problems, if indispensable for safeguarding financial stability in the Euro Area as a whole. The original version of the treaty was signed on 11 July 2011, but it has been modified to incorporate decisions taken by the Heads of State and Government (HoSG) of the Euro Area on 21 July and 9 December 2011, aimed at improving the effectiveness of the mechanism.

The treaty will have to be ratified by the 17 Euro Area member states; it will enter into force and the ESM become operational as soon as possible: the target date is July 2012, a year earlier than originally planned. As a permanent mechanism, the ESM will take over the tasks currently fulfilled by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM). With the accelerated entry into force, the ESM will now operate alongside the EFSF for 12 months. Their joint lending capacity is currently set at €500 billion, subject to reassessment in March 2012.

With the subscribed capital of €700 billion (€80 billion as paid in capital, the rest as callable), the initial maximum lending capacity of the ESM is set at €500 billion.

As decided on 9th December 2011, the HoSG will reassess the adequacy of resources under the ESM and the EFSF in March 2012.

The following are the main changes made by the updated treaty:

1) new financing tools.

2) more flexible pricing.

3) link with fiscal compact.

4) new emergency decision-making procedure.

5) alignment with IMF practice as regards private sector involvement.

6) timing of capital contribution.

Further information on the main changes are as follows:

New Financing Tools

1) The future ESM will be able to use a range of new instruments that have been put in place for the EFSF. Besides loans to beneficiaries, it will provide precautionary financial assistance (article 14) and loans to member states for recapitalisations of financial institutions (article 15). It will also be able to purchase bonds of beneficiary member states on primary and secondary markets (articles 17 and 18). This enlarged range of instruments is aimed at increased efficiency of the ESM.

The previous version of the treaty only provided for financial assistance in the form of a loan to an ESM member state, while the purchase of bonds on the primary market was only provided for "as an exception". The updated treaty eliminates the exceptional nature of primary market purchases and also provides for bond purchases on secondary markets, precautionary financial assistance "in the form of a precautionary conditioned credit line or in the form of an enhanced conditions credit line" and financial assistance throughloans to an ESM member state for the specific purpose of recapitalising its financial institutions.

More Flexible Pricing

2) In order to help beneficiary member states ensure sustainability of their debt, the conditions for financial assistance have been eased in comparison to the original text. The new ESM treaty no longer includes an annex with pre-defined margins on its loans. Instead, the price should be equivalent to the lending rates of the EU's balance of payments facility (for non-euro member states), whilst covering financing and operating costs and including an appropriate margin (article 20). Maturities can extend up to 30 years.

Link with Fiscal Compact

3) Assistance will be provided under strict economic policy conditionality. Furthermore, the modified treaty establishes a new precondition for benefiting from such assistance as of 1 March 2013 (recital 5): member states concerned must ratify the "fiscal compact", i.e. the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, and implement the balanced budget rule as specified in that treaty within the agreed timeline (one year after entry into force).

It has been clarified that the linkage of both the ESM and the Intergovernmental Treaties refers to new applications for assistance under the ESM and will not affect the transfer to the ESM of undisbursed amounts under the EFSF to Ireland (and other programme countries).

In this context it is important to note that the Euro Area HoSG, in their conclusions of 21 July and again on 30 January 2012, committed to continuing to provide support to countries under a programme until they have regained market access, provided they successfully implement their programmes. This reaffirmation is a welcome confirmation that commitments in relation to provision of funding will be met.

The ESM will replace the EFSF. While the ESM may assume the rights and obligations of the EFSF, this should not affect the terms and conditions of the amounts transferred to the ESM and subsequently disbursed to Ireland.

New Emergency Decision-Making Procedure

4) The most important decisions under the ESM will be taken by its board of governors (ministers with responsibility for finance) by mutual agreement. However, the modified Treaty provides for an emergency procedure whereby a decision to grant financial assistance can be taken by qualified majority of 85% of votes cast. This procedure can be used where the Commission and the European Central Bank both conclude that a failure to urgently adopt a decision to grant or implement financial assistance would threaten the economic and financial sustainability of the euro area. When this procedure is used, "a transfer from the reserve fund and/or the paid-in capital to an emergency reserve fund is made in order to constitute a dedicated buffer to cover the risks arising from the financial support granted under this procedure" (article 4(4)).

Alignment with IMF Practice as regards Private Sector Involvement

5) The ESM will cooperate very closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in providing stability support. The active participation of the IMF will be sought, both at technical and financial level. In accordance with IMF practice, in exceptional cases an adequate and proportionate form of private sector involvement will be considered in cases where stability support is provided, accompanied by conditionality in the form of a macro-economic adjustment programme. This provision has been moved from an operative article, in the initial treaty, to a recital in the update treaty (recital 12). The treaty requires collective action clauses to be included, as of 1 January 2013, in all new euro area government securities with maturity above one year (recital 11 and article 12(3)).

Timing of Capital Contribution

6) ESM members are required in principle to ensure the required amount of paid-in capital gradually, within the first five years from the ESM's creation. The modified treaty however enables them to accelerate this process (article 41 (3)).

Primary legislation will be required to enable Ireland to ratify the ESM Treaty and implement its decisions. It is expected that the required legislation will be published this term.

Financial Services Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of registered moneylenders here at the end of 2011; his views on the extent of legislative protection for consumers availing of the services of moneylenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7450/12]

I have been advised by the Central Bank that the number of registered moneylenders with the Central Bank at the end of 2011 was 48. Any firm wishing to operate in the State as a moneylender has to apply to the Central Bank for a moneylender's licence and must have their licence renewed annually. Section 93 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 (as amended) sets out the Central Bank's powers in relation to the grant or refusal of a moneylender's licence. The appropriate money lending application form (new or renewal) must be completed and returned to the Central Bank with a number of items, for review and consideration.

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

The European Communities (Consumer Credit Agreements) Regulations 2010 provide consumer protection measures for loans ranging from €200 up to €75,000. These Regulations apply to money lenders.

The Central Bank monitors compliance with the Code on an ongoing basis through themed inspections, mystery shopping, consumer intelligence and complaints from the Financial Services Ombudsman.

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

State Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

64 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the value of senior and subordinated bonds outstanding in the covered institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7451/12]

The information requested, as at 31 January 2012, has been supplied by the covered institutions as follows:

AIB

BoI

IBRC

ILP

Total

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

Senior Unsecured (Unguaranteed)

4.64

2.60

1.40

0.80

Senior Unsecured (Guaranteed)

6.47

2.68

4.53

Senior Secured

4.60

15.20

2.71

Total Senior bonds outstanding

15.71

17.80

4.08

8.04

45.63

Dated Subordinated Debt

0.12

0.30

0.15

0.02

Undated Subordinated Debt

0.00

0.10

0.36

0.00

Total Subordinated Debt Outstanding

0.12

0.40

0.51

0.02

1.06

Contingent Convertible Capital Instruments

3.00

4.06

There is currently c. €1.0bn of outstanding subordinated debt remaining in the Irish banks. This is split between — BoI (€0.4bn), AIB (€0.1bn) and IBRC (€0.5bn). Further details regarding the remaining amounts on these instruments are shown below:

IBRC has a tier one debt of c. €335m outstanding. On 21 January 2009, under the terms of the Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Act, 2009, ownership of the 300,000 Non-Cumulative Preference Shares in issue was transferred to the Minister for Finance. IBRC also has c. €140m of dated Tier two subordinated bonds, with the bank currently involved in a legal challenge with the owner of these notes.

BoI generated gains of c. €0.3bn from the repurchase of securitizations in December 2011 completing its remaining PCAR 2011 requirements, avoiding the need for a SLO. As a result the bank still has €0.4bn of subordinated debt left outstanding. Further LMEs on this remaining debt could occur if required in the future.

AIB has c. €0.1bn of outstanding subordinated debt. The owners of the notes chose not to participate in the LME exercises conducted over the summer. As a result of the SLO on these remaining bonds, the maturity date of the bonds has been extended to 2035 and the bank has discretion over whether to pay coupons on these instruments.

Exchequer Savings

Jim Daly

Question:

65 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Finance the savings that would be achieved by the Exchequer if a new tax was introduced on a temporary basis to tax all pension payments to retired public servants in excess of €50,000 at seventy five per cent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7492/12]

Retired public servants in receipt of a pension in excess of €50,000 per annum are currently subject to income tax at 41% and Universal Social Charge at 7% or 4% if they are 70 years old or over. A new temporary charge of 75% on income in excess of €50,000 could bring their tax liability on this income to 123%. I assume that this is not the Deputy's intention. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that imposing a temporary tax of 75% on a specific class of pensioner may be considered arbitrary and disproportionate and could, therefore, pose constitutional difficulties.

The Deputy may be making the point that savings could be made for the Exchequer by reducing pensions paid to public service pensioners. This is a matter in the first instance for my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Deputy may be aware that the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 has reduced public service pensions, in a progressive manner, with reduction rates of 12% and 20% applying to public service pensions in excess of €60,000 and €100,000, respectively.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 55.

Disabled Drivers

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

67 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 119 of 31 January 2012, if a person with a disability is prevented by law from driving a vehicle with an engine size more than two litres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7512/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a person with a disability, driving a vehicle with an engine size over two litres is not entitled to relief under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994. I am not aware of any law that would prevent a person with a disability from driving a vehicle with an engine size over two litres.

Consultancy Contracts

Michael McGrath

Question:

68 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 4 October 2011, if he will arrange for the report to be supplied. [7513/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the following payments were paid in respect of professional services as referred to in the Deputy's question. The Department of Finance has made the payments outlined below in relation to professional services on the banking crisis:

Consultant

2008

2010

2011

Description of advice provided

Mercer (Ireland) Ltd.

€3,308

Advice to CIROC

Watson (Wyatt) Ltd.

€7,290

Advice to CIROC

Hay Group Ireland Ltd.

€4,860

Advice to CIROC

Arthur Cox Solicitors

€1,628,024

€5,875,869

€4,804,884

€1,287,182

Legal advice in relation to the Bank Guarantee Scheme; Eligible Liabilities Guarantee (ELG), recapitalization and restructuringissues; general bankingadvice.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

€118,580

Professional Fees in respect of accounting advice on promissory notes.

A&L Goodbody

€2,977

€2,783

€2,823

The provision of company secretarial services in relation to Sealuchais Arachais Teoranta

The NTMA has advised me that they have provided an aggregate figures for the NTMA and the NPRF as if they break out year by year, the figures will not reconcile back to their Annual Accounts which are compiled on an accrual basis as opposed to a cash basis.

NTMA

Consultant

Total paid 2008-end January 2012

Description of service provided

Arthur Cox

€7.74m

Legal advice

McKinsey & Co Inc Ireland

€2.61m

Advice on bank restructuring, (AIB/ EBS and Anglo and INBS projects).

PwC

€0.44m

Accountancy and Tax advice

Lazard

€0.18m

Sovereign debt advisory services

Davy

€0.05m

Advice in relation to transfer of deposits of Irish Financial Institutions

Goldman Sachs

€6.29m

Advice on the capital raising exercise of the four financial institutions (AIB, BoI, EBS and IL&P), following the announcement of the results of the Central Bank’s PCAR/PLAR process on 31 March 2011.

Merrill Lynch

€7.33m

Provision of banking advisory services to the Minister for Finance acting through the NTMA.

Rothschild

€6.96m

Provision of banking advisory services to the Minister for Finance acting through the NTMA.

NPRF

Consultant

Total Paid2008-end Jan 2012

Description of service provided

Arthur Cox

€2.18m

Legal due diligence on BoI and AIB prior to recapitalisation by the NPRF (2009) and legal advice in respect of directed investments (2010).

PWC

€1.58m

Due diligence on BoI and AIB prior to recapitalisation by the NPRF.

Sir Andrew Large

€0.12m

Trusted Advisor on certain aspects of the due diligence process.

Sullivan & Cromwell

€0.10m

Legal Advice

Allen & Overy

€0.15m

Legal Advice

William Fry

€0.05m

Legal Advice

The Central Bank of Ireland has advised that it cannot provide details of payments to individual consultants due to commercial confidentiality reasons. The Central Bank has however advised that the aggregate consultancy costs related to the banking crisis are as follows:

Year

Total paid

2008

3,800,000

2009

3,400,000

2010

1,300,000

2011

29,900,000

2012 (to February)

55,000

The Deputy may wish to note that as consultancy costs paid by the Central Bank of Ireland, the NTMA and the NPRF are not held by my Department, this information has to be requested from the relevant bodies. The Deputy may find it more convenient in the future to request this information directly from those bodies.

As the Deputy is aware, I do not have a role in the day to day commercial decisions taken by the boards and management of the covered banks, including in respect of the employment of external consultants and advisors. The management and board of the banks are aware of their duties to their shareholders to ensure that all costs incurred are necessary and reflect the needs to the business. The financial institutions covered by the State Guarantee use consultants in respect of many aspects of their operations. The Department of Finance does not compile a comprehensive list of these consultants. Such fees paid in respect of arrangements entered into with individual firms are deemed commercially sensitive.

Tax Code

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

69 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance his views that layers in the betting industry, that is individuals who take and lay a bet and who operate without a betting licence, should be liable for tax as per all other bookmakers here; if he acknowledges that betting exchanges will only pay a 15% gross profit tax on their commission, which is at the discretion of the exchange and, thus, tax collected on it would fluctuate greatly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7517/12]

The proposed betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will amend the 1931 Betting Act to inter alia establish the regulatory framework for the licensing of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, including measures to enforce the regulatory framework. The drafting of the Bill, which is fairly complex, is well advanced. The Finance Act 2011 contained measures to allow for the extension of the 1% betting duty to remote bookmakers and for a 15% gross profit tax to betting exchanges. The taxation provisions are subject to a Ministerial Commencement order which can only be commenced when the Betting (Amendment) Bill is enacted. In relation to the taxation treatment of betting exchanges, it is the operator of the betting exchange that will be liable to the gross profit tax which is also the position in the UK.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

70 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7527/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following bodies under the aegis of my Department have been set up or abolished since February 2011: New Economy and Recovery Authority (NewERA) was established within the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). The Fiscal Advisory Council has been established as an independent non-statutory body. It will be put on a statutory basis underpinned by legislation to be brought forward by Government in the coming months in the proposed Fiscal Responsibility Bill. The Commission on Credit Unions was established by Government Decision dated 31st May 2011. It met for the first time on 20th June 2011 and is to complete its work by 31st March 2012. The Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector was established by Government Order on 21 September 2010. The Commission was dissolved following the submission of its final report to the Minister for Finance on 22 March 2011. The Commission's report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 19 April 2011.

I have announced my intention to ask a small group to advise me on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) . Mr Michael Geoghegan will act as chairman of the group.

Tax Reliefs

Dan Neville

Question:

71 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding tax relief at source in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7535/12]

As I announced in the Budget, the proposed new 30% rate of tax relief in respect of interest paid on qualifying home loans for first time buyers who took out their first qualifying home loan in the period between 2004 and 2008 (both dates inclusive) comes into effect as regards the 2012 tax year and subsequent tax years. The necessary legislation is included in the Finance Bill which I published yesterday. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax relief (including the proposed new 30% rate of relief) in respect of interest paid on qualifying home loans is given by qualifying lending agencies through the tax relief at source (TRS) system. This requires the various lending agencies to make adjustments to their computer systems.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have been in contact with all qualifying lenders to ensure that the necessary software changes to the tax relief at source (TRS) system are made to cater for the new 30% rate of tax relief and to ensure that the relief can be passed on to borrowers by qualifying lenders without undue delay. All lenders have been requested to confirm when they will be in a position to work with Revenue to implement the Budget rate change. However, the speed with which the software changes necessary to grant the new 30% rate of tax relief to borrowers can be developed and implemented by lenders may vary from lender to lender. As an interim relieving measure, a 25% rate that had previously been tested with lenders has been applied to the appropriate cases in advance of legislation.

In the case of the person concerned, the rate of 25% has been applied as an interim measure until the new 30% rate can be implemented. The lender in question has not to date informed Revenue when it will be in a position to test the increased 30% rate on its ICT system.

Adult Education

Dan Neville

Question:

72 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the back to education initiative programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7443/12]

I am aware of the matter that the Deputy has raised and officials in my Department have contacted the VEC and resolved the issue. I should advise the Deputy that currently participants in the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) who would be eligible for the Youthreach or Senior Traveller Training Centre (STTC) programme may be eligible for a training allowance, on a pro rata basis. Budget 2011 provided for the phasing out of the STTC programme by June 2012 and therefore from that date, only Youthreach eligible BTEI participants may be eligible for pro rata training allowances.

Educational Disadvantage

Dan Neville

Question:

73 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding under the higher education access route in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7518/12]

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third-level admissions scheme for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme is operated by a number of higher education institutions and not by my Department. Admissions to the institutions under this programme are regulated by the institutions themselves. Further details are available at www.accesscollege.ie.

Higher Education Grants

John Deasy

Question:

74 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in processing a third level grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford for the academic year 2011/2012; and when payment will issue. [7273/12]

I understand that the awarding authority in this case, Waterford County Council, was awaiting outstanding documentation in order to process the application from the student referred to by the Deputy. This documentation has just recently been received and a decision will issue to the student shortly.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

75 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will advise the family income thresholds for the awarding of a third level grant in respect of the school term starting in September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7275/12]

As a matter of routine, my Department reviews the student grant scheme each year to prepare policy proposals and to include changes announced under the relevant Budget. A decision on the reckonable income limits under the Student Grant Scheme for 2012/13 academic year will be taken in the context of this review and the Scheme will be published in due course with this detail.

Special Educational Needs

John Lyons

Question:

76 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of a special needs assistant in respect of a child (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and in view of this child’s pressing need for assistance, if he will expedite a decision on same. [7297/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts. The NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school. The NCSE recently published statistical information on SNA allocations on a county by county and school by school basis on its website www.ncse.ie.

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.

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

77 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the recommendations made in the Children’s Rights Alliance report card 2012, he will develop a blueprint for delivering the vital services and supports for children with special educational needs by finally publishing and executing the plan to implement the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7313/12]

The Deputy will be aware that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act have already been commenced. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) made recommendations which suggested that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act. My Department's opinion is that the level of investment required would be greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report.

In the light of the very difficult economic situation, and these significant costs, the previous Government deferred the full implementation of EPSEN. Given the costs involved and current fiscal constraints, addressing this issue will be very challenging. I will be considering how we can develop a plan to implement the objectives of the EPSEN Act so as to deliver improved educational outcomes for students with special needs.

School Accommodation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

78 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a proposed school (details supplied); the proposed location of same; if it will open for September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7322/12]

As the Deputy is aware, approval has been given for the opening of a new primary school under the patronage of Educate Together in September 2012 in the area concerned. Arrangements for accommodation for this school are currently being advanced by my Department, in liaison with the Patron Body.

School Staffing

Michael McCarthy

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a teaching post at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if the current base arrangement will be maintained following the review of learning support teachers due to be published shortly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7382/12]

The new simplified approach to the General Allocation Model of support for schools will make it easier to automatically update it annually in line with the changes in the number of classroom teachers in each school. Schools will also have autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support depending on their specific needs. The arrangements for the staffing allocation under the General Allocation Model (GAM) are specifically designed to facilitate GAM hours being clustered into full-time posts — either entirely within their own school or with a nearby neighbouring school. The new GAM allocations are being done in 5-hour blocks which is the equivalent of the tuition time for a full school day. Teachers who are in shared posts between schools can therefore operate local arrangements that enable their travel to a neighbouring school to be done, where possible, from the start of the school day thus avoiding loss of tuition time. Any re-clustering of learning support (GAM) and language support hours into full-time posts will be operated at school level with schools having greater autonomy rather than the previous Department led approach. However, because of the later timeline for the allocation of resource hours by the NCSE, schools will not be permitted to combine GAM and NCSE approved resource hours together into full-time posts.

My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for 2012/13 school year.

Disadvantaged Status

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

80 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the format his review of cuts to the DEIS programme will take; if it will involve a one by one assessment of individual schools affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7383/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

81 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has corresponded directly with each primary school which will be affected by cuts under the DEIS programme; the way the primary schools will be affected; the way they may appeal the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7384/12]

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

As announced in the house on the 11th January, I have asked my Department for a report on the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools. This report, which is currently being finalised, will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year. It is only when the report is finalised and submitted to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved. Schools will be notified in the coming weeks of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangements for 2012/13.

Special Educational Needs

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

82 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has evaluated the National Council for Special Education’s, The Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland policy advice paper; if he intends to implement any of the recommendations of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7386/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published its policy advice on The Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland on 3 February, 2012.

This paper provides a comprehensive blueprint for the development of deaf and hearing impaired educational services. An implementation group will now be established to consider and implement the recommendations of this report. The group will be tasked with developing an implementation plan which will identify recommendations that can be implemented on a cost neutral basis or without significant additional costs, while also planning for the implementation of further recommendations as soon as possible and as resources permit.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

83 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if students currently completing a masters qualification are entitled to the education allowances under the review being undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7399/12]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

84 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a teacher who has a pass primary degree may avail of the masters allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7400/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 84 together.

Under Circular 70/2011 teachers who have been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Existing teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011.

The position of existing teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the public service-wide review of allowances announced in Budget 2012 which is to be led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Circular 3/2012 issued on 31 January 2012 provides that, pending the outcome of a review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; ie those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. Examples of such allowances include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to the Board of Management allowance paid to school principals. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

85 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if teachers who were under the impression that the masters allowance would be available may claim back all college costs in lieu of the removal of the allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7401/12]

Under Circular 70/2011 teachers who have been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Existing teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011.

The position of existing teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the public service-wide review of allowances announced in Budget 2012 which is being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Circular 3/2012 issued on 31 January 2012 provides that, pending the outcome of a review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; ie those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. Examples of such allowances include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to the Board of Management allowance paid to school principals. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances.

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

86 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the number of early retirements taken in 2012 from schools in the following locations (details supplied); and if he will provide a breakdown of the retirements by school. [7430/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is not compiled in the format sought. Officials in the Pension Unit of my Department are currently fully occupied addressing the pension benefit entitlements for those who are retiring at this time. The number of teachers in Primary Secondary, Community and Comprehensive schools who have applied to retire in the period 1 January to 29 February 2012 is 1,166. Information received from the Vocational Education Sector indicate that 220 teachers have applied to retire in that sector during that period. A circular was issued by my Department, in July, 2011 requesting School Boards of Management to inform all staff in their schools (who are members of an occupation pension scheme) who intend to retire on or before 29 February 2012 that they are required to give 3 calendar months' notice of their date of retirement. The circular also stated that a notification may not be withdrawn on or after the date indicated as the last day of service. It was pointed out in that circular that failure to give the required notice could result in a delay in payment of pension benefits.

Accordingly, the actual number retiring will not be accurately known until after 29 February, 2012. When the work of processing pension benefits for those retiring has been addressed it is intended to commence work on compiling detailed statistical data on the number of teachers who retired and to publish this information on my Department's website.

It is important to stress that any vacancies left by retiring primary and post-primary teachers may be filled in a temporary capacity for the remainder of the school year in accordance with the existing recruitment procedures. I am confident that the large pool of qualified and registered teachers will be in a position to continue to provide high quality education to students.

Teaching Qualifications

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

87 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 31 January 2012, the number of teachers currently carrying out their probationary period in Limerick; the nationwide figure for teachers who are on their probationary period; of the national figure, the number carrying out their probationary period through the national internship programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7436/12]

There are currently 37 teachers carrying out their probationary period in Limerick City and 54 in Limerick County which means there are 91 in total carrying out their probationary period in Limerick.

There are 2,132 teachers carrying out their probationary period nationally and of these 16 are carrying out their probationary period through the national internship programmes — FÁS Work Placement Programme and JobBridge.

Proposed Legislation

Brendan Smith

Question:

88 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when it is proposed to publish the legislation in respect of the establishment of the statutory trust fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7488/12]

Work on the drafting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in the coming weeks.

Departmental Expenditure

Jim Daly

Question:

89 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of payments to teachers and staff under different headings other than basic salary for each of the past five years in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7494/12]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to teachers in Primary, Secondary, Community and Comprehensive Schools is being compiled and will be forwarded directly to him. My Department does not pay allowances to other staff in these schools. My Department does not hold information on payments other than basic salary to employees of vocational education committees (VECs). Each VEC is a separate employer operating its own payroll system and, accordingly, the information sought would require an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile.

European Globalisation Fund

Michael McNamara

Question:

90 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of the 8,779 redundant construction workers who were notified on the 19 of December 2011 that they were eligible for access to European Globalisation Fund training grants and who have notified the Department of their interest to apply for European Globalisation Fund funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7502/12]

Full details and statistical information on the number and types of responses from the cohort of 8,779 redundant workers who were notified by the Department of relevant EGF services under the EGF construction programmes on 19 December 2011 are contained in a report prepared recently for the Department by WRC Social and Economic Consultatnts Ltd. who are providing certain administrative and technical support services to programmes funded by the EGF in Ireland. The WRC report specifically covers the period from the date of the notification letters outlining additional EGF services to the 8,779 redundant workers which issued on 19 December 2011 and the 27th January 2012. The report will be made publicly available in the next few days on the Department's dedicated website www.egf.ie. A copy of the report will be issued to the Deputy for his information by the Department. Based on data supplied to date by relevant service providers, the Department estimates that at least 4,500 EGF related interventions have been commenced in the areas of guidance, training and third level education for this particular cohort of redundant workers prior to the period covered by the WRC report.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

91 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7525/12]

The following have been established since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills:

(1) Advisory Group to convene the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector

In addition to convening the Forum, the Advisory Group was required to receive and distil the various views and perspectives of participants and thereafter to provide the Minister with policy advice having regard to the Forum's terms of reference. The Advisory Group held a number of meetings in public (22-24 June and 17th November) and received almost 250 submissions from the public as part of its work. The Advisory Group will present its report to the Minister shortly.

(2) Student Grants Appeals Board

This Appeals Board was established under Student Support Act 2011 (Student Grants Appeals Board) (Establishment Day) Order 2011, S.I. 451 of 2011, with the 8th September 2011 appointed as the establishment day for the purposes of subsection (2) of section 25 of the Student Support Act 2011. The Board is independent in the performance of its functions. Its establishment allows students who have applied for a grant under the 2011/12 student grant scheme and subsequent schemes to have any appeals determined by the Board.

(3) SOLAS Implementation Group

This Implementation Group is chaired by the Minister of State with responsibility for Training and Skills, Ciarán Cannon T.D. Membership of the Implementation Group includes representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS, the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) and the Department of Social Protection. The consultation process with key stakeholders is currently underway. The Implementation Group will develop an Action Plan to implement the changes necessary to put SOLAS in place following the passing of the relevant legislation in 2012. The Group reported to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs on progress in November in keeping with the Government decision on the creation of SOLAS.

(4) The Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Advisory Group

This Group met for the first time in December 2011. The membership consists of representatives of Government Departments and agencies with implementation responsibilities as well as national and international experts in the field of literacy and numeracy. The Group will review progress and advise on the implementation of the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020.

(5) Advisory Group on Suitability of Qualifications for Higher Capitation Rates

This group was established in October to advise the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on the equivalence of qualifications in other disciplines to a Level 7 Qualification in early Childhood Care and Education. The composition of the group included representatives from the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Irish Universities Association, Ireland's Institutes of Technology and from both my Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The group has completed its work.

(6) Junior cycle Implementation Advisory Group

The general remit of the Group is to advise on and progress the implementation of the proposals on Junior cycle reform. The composition of the group includes representatives from my Department, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the State Examinations Commission, School Management, Principals and Teacher unions and Parents.

(7) New Schools Establishment Group

In June 2011 I announced that twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools are to be established in the next six years. I also announced the establishment of new arrangements for the recognition of new primary and post-primary schools. These new arrangements included the establishment of a New Schools Establishment Group which will advise me on patronage of the new schools following its consideration of a report on the applications received to be prepared by the Department.

The Deputy may wish to note the following:

In June 2011, the functions of the National Educational Welfare Board transferred to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

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 Deputy will also be aware that there are a number of major structural reform projects and other initiatives being progressed in the Education sector (of which some are included in the Public Sector Reform Plan published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last November). These include: 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. The amalgamation of the 33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs) / establishment of 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. A single awarding authority for student grants. 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 2012/13 academic year. The consolidation of Higher Education provision under the Strategy for Higher Education to 2030. The establishment of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland which involves merger of the National Qualifications Authority, FETAC and HETAC. The merger the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences into a consolidated single council under the HEA. 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.

Departmental Expenditure

Jim Daly

Question:

92 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of salary increments, bonus payments and all irregular payments other than basic salary to public sector workers across all grades in tabular form for each of the past five years. [7490/12]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 249 of 27 January in relation to the cost of increments in 2012. The data sought by the Deputy is not available to my Department.

Pension Provisions

Jim Daly

Question:

93 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons who receive a retirement pension in excess of €50,000 annually; the total cost of such payments after each recipient has been paid an amount of €50,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7491/12]

On the basis of data provided by the Office of the Paymaster General, the number of Civil Service pensioners in receipt of pensions in excess of €50,000 is 645. The estimated yield from capping Civil Service pensioners at €50,000 is of the order of €10 million.

The data for the wider Public Service would be a matter for the respective line Departments.

Jim Daly

Question:

94 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the savings that would be achieved if all lump sum payments to public servants at retirement were to be capped at €100,000 on a temporary basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7493/12]

My Department has responsibility for administering the pension of 40 per cent of retiring civil servants. On the basis of data provided by the Office of the Paymaster General, the estimated saving from capping lump sums in 2011 of this group who have lump sums over €100,000 is €4.7 million.

Based on the above estimate, the other 60 per cent of civil service retirees could add a further €7 million approximately, giving a total saving of around €12 million, if their lump sums were capped at €100,000.

The data for the wider Public Service would be a matter for the respective line Departments.

Public Sector Staff

Michael McGrath

Question:

95 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in view of the fact that the number of persons expected to leave the public service at the end of February 2012 is now known, if he will provide details of the estimated gross salary saving in 2012; the additional pension costs that will be incurred in 2012; the amount of the lump sums that will be paid in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7424/12]

The Government's public service numbers target for 2012 is 294,000. It is estimated that meeting this target will yield gross Exchequer pay bill savings of €400m in 2012 over the 2011 estimate of €15.7bn. The Budget 2012 allocation for public service pensions is €3bn, an increase of €100m over the REV 2011 estimate. The Budget 2012 allocation for lump sum payments to public service retirees this year is €600m.

Exchequer Savings

Michael McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way the payment of lump sums to the public servants retiring at the end of February 2012 will be accounted for in the monthly Exchequer returns and the national accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7425/12]

The payments of lump sums for public servants retiring before the expiry of the grace period on 29th February 2012 will be accounted for in a manner consistent with the treatment of pension and lump sum payments as they are currently presented in the Monthly Exchequer Statement and in the Revised Estimates Volume.

The Exchequer Statement presents a high level, cumulative, monthly account of Exchequer receipts and expenditure. In the Statement net voted expenditure is presented on a Departmental basis and as such does not classify lump sum payments separately. Expenditure ceilings for each Vote have already been set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012 — 2014, published on 5 December, and will be further detailed in the publication of the Revised Estimates for Public Service 2012 in late February. This document will present estimates for pensions across all Vote areas in table 5.

Public Sector Staff

Thomas Pringle

Question:

97 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the numbers of persons employed in the public sector, including the Health Service Executive, broken down by Department or unit whose gross salary as of the latest date available was in each of the following bands (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7500/12]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 295 of 11 January 2012. The data in the format sought by the Deputy (broken down by Department or unit) is not available to my Department.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

98 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7532/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following bodies under the aegis of my Department were set up or abolished since February 2011.

Governance structures have been put in place to support the delivery of the HR Shared Service Centre (HRSSC). These include the setting up of the HRSSC Management Board which is accountable for project delivery, budget and cost benefit analysis.

The HRSSC Design Authority which is accountable for the design of quality HR processes, staffing and technology which deliver the value outlined in the cost benefit analysis.

The HRSSC Working Group responsible for attending workshops and providing input and discussion on current and future HR service provision.

The Senior Public Service (SPS) Management Committee was established in December 2011 in order to oversee issues including leadership development and mobility for the Senior Public Service.

The Civil Service Workforce Planning Group was established in 2011 to assist civil service departments and offices (and non-commercial state bodies) in the preparation of Workforce Action plans and the exchange of experience and best practice in this area.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group which had not met since April 2010, was formally disbanded on foot of the cancellation by Government of the Decentralisation Programme in November 2011.

National Lottery Funding

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

99 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 128 of 12 January 2012, if he will accept that, while An Post National Lottery Company does not have any role in relation to the way the surplus generated by the national lottery is distributed, it could play a role in rendering accessible such information as there is on the mechanics of that distribution; if he sees scope for the board to organise to compile a compendium report that would detail each year’s national lottery surplus expenditure, compiled from an analysis of individual departmental Votes and subheads; if he will agree that the identity of those who received National Lottery and dormant accounts funding, and objects to which such funding is applied in practice, are legitimate matters of public interest; and if his attention has been drawn to the National Lottery Beneficiary Compendium, published by the Government of which he was a member and if he sees that model being replicable today. [7536/12]

The case which the Deputy makes for information regarding the distribution of funding raised by the National Lottery to be made available by the National Lottery Company is noted. However, for the past number of years, funding raised by the Lottery has only part-funded various programmes across a range of Votes. The remaining funding comes from the exchequer. It is not possible to indicate the amount or percentage of Lottery funding provided to any individual Vote or subhead or indeed to any individual grant. Therefore, it is no longer feasible to compile a list of programmes or organisations that receive Lottery funding per se as it is now not possible to indicate the level of funding that they receive specifically from the Lottery.

As I indicated in my reply to your previous Parliamentary Question on 12th January 2012, for the past number of years, each Government Department with responsibility for expenditure that is part-funded by the National Lottery surplus publishes details of such expenditure (including lists of recipient organisations and amounts involved) on the Department's website. In view of this, there are no plans to prepare an updated National Lottery Beneficiary Compendium.

Departmental Agencies

Jack Wall

Question:

100 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made regarding the sale of Industrial Development Agency lands (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7320/12]

Under the Industrial Development Acts 1986-2006, IDA Ireland has the power to acquire, hold and dispose of land, and any other property or any interest therein, for the purpose of facilitating an industrial undertaking.

I am informed by IDA Ireland that the agency holds approximately 1.57 hectares of land at Castledermot, Co. Kildare. In line with IDA Ireland's Property policy this land, which is zoned for general development under the Castledermot Local Area Plan 2009, is currently for sale on the open market through auctioneers Lisney/Conway. Offers from interested parties should be directed to Lisney/Conway or the Property Management Division in IDA Ireland.

The lands are being sold with the benefit of Freehold Title.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

101 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will set out the details of the severance package arrangements agreed with a person (details supplied). [7422/12]

Mr Appleby is retiring under the terms of the Cost Neutral Retirement Scheme on 29 February 2012. He will be entitled to an actuarially reduced pension and lump sum. Mr. Appleby will be entitled to receive his lump sum on his retirement date. However, his pension will be abated for the period that he has agreed to remain on in his post in an acting capacity. Under the terms of Mr. Appleby's fixed term contract as Director, he will also be entitled to two weeks pay on its termination.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a work permit might be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7484/12]

The Department of Justice and Equality determines the immigration status of persons within the State. A student on an Immigration Stamp 2, issued by the Department of Justice and Equality, is permitted to remain in Ireland to pursue a course of studies and is permitted to engage in casual employment which is defined as not more than 20 hours per week during term, and up to 40 hours per week during holidays. A student on a Stamp 2 is prohibited from engaging in full time employment and cannot be issued with an employment permit unless they have been granted permission to remain by the Department of Justice and Equality under the "Third Level Graduate" or the "Timed-Out Student" Schemes.

Full details of both of these Schemes can be found on the Department of Justice and Equality website at http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Students. The purpose of the permission to remain in the State under these Schemes is to seek employment and apply for a Green Card or Work Permit under normal criteria.

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, otherwise, cannot be filled.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

103 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7530/12]

In relation to the various bodies to which the Deputy refers, the following table sets out details of the new Groups and Committees that I have established since I assumed office in March 2011:

Name of Committee / Advisory Group / New Position

Purpose

Date Established

Copyright Review Committee

To review the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 in the context of its operation in the digital environment.

May 2011

Advisory Group on Small Business

To facilitate structured and regular dialogue between the Minister and representatives of the small business sector on issues of interest. The membership is focused on people engaged in and having direct experience in running a business.

June 2011

Cloud Computing Implementation Group

To support the implementation of the commitment in the Programme for Government on Cloud Computing.

June 2011

Steering Group on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME)Access to Public Procurement

To examine further opportunities to improve SME participation in tendering for public contracts.

July 2011

Inter-Departmental Committee on the Internal Market and Services Directive

The Committee will enhance cross-Departmental consultation and coordination in the context of the EU’s Single Market priorities, in particular with regard to the EU’s Single Market Act and the on-going implementation of the Services Directive.

The inaugural meeting will take place on 23rd February 2012

Implementation Group on Streamlining of Employment Dispute Resolution Bodies

To advise on, support the integration of employment resolution bodies

July 2011

No bodies of the nature outlined by the Deputy have been formally abolished in this period. In terms of agencies under my Department's remit, there are currently 13 State Agencies supporting us in our work. These are, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Shannon Development, the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the InterTradeIreland (the North/South Trade and Business Development Body), Forfás, the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority, the Irish Auditing and Accounting Standards Authority, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. In relation to the abolition of such organisations and bodies, my Department is working to effect the merger of the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and the Competition Authority. As work on a review of the operation and implementation of the 2002 Competition Act was well under way, rather than give effect to the amalgamation of the NCA and Competition Authority in a stand-alone piece of legislation, to be followed in due course by legislation to amend, reform and update the 2002 Act, it was decided to introduce a single comprehensive Bill. The Government approved the drafting of the Consumer and Competition Bill in July 2011. It is expected that drafting of this Bill will be completed later this year.

In relation to the Employment Rights and Industrial Relations bodies within my Department's remit, I have announced my intention to streamline the work of five bodies dealing with employment disputes in the workplace into a two-tier structure. Four of the existing bodies — the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, The Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court — are currently within my remit. One of them — the Equality Tribunal — is currently within the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality. I expect this reform and streamlining project to deliver a measurable improvement in the quality of services provided to users of the State's employment rights and industrial relations dispute resolution services and reduce the burden of accessing such services for users and reduce costs to the State. I have announced an ambitious timeline for delivery, including a number of initiatives that have already been delivered, including a single portal of entry for all claims, a single website containing all relevant information and a single application form for workplace dispute complaints.

Regarding the Enterprise agencies, I am considering how the policy and research functions of Forfás could be integrated with my Department's resources to further enhance the formulation and development of national enterprise policy. As agencies operating under the aegis of my Department, the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards support micro-enterprises (employing up to ten people) in the start-up and expansion phases and also promote economic activity and entrepreneurship in their areas. Work is well advanced in my Department on determining the extent of a restructuring of the network of County and City Enterprise Boards in a way that brings greater cohesion to the way that local enterprise supports are embedded into the national enterprise policy framework and interact with key local stakeholders. My intention is to ensure appropriate and targeted local delivery of enterprise supports within the context of national enterprise policy in a manner which eliminates overlap and duplication and provides an enhanced focused model for entrepreneurs.

Redundancy Payments

Michael McCarthy

Question:

104 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a company (details supplied) in County Cork will receive its employer rebate of statutory redundancy payments; the reason for the delay in processing same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7274/12]

A redundancy rebate claim in respect of the company concerned was received on 28 June 2011. We are currently processing redundancy rebate claims received in May 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Dara Calleary

Question:

105 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo. [7281/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 26 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 they have been 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.

Martin Heydon

Question:

106 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7282/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 16 January 2012 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Questions Nos. 107 and 108 withdrawn.

Pat Breen

Question:

109 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7321/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 14 November 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 30 January 2012 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

110 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 when a decision may be expected. [7324/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Redundancy Payments

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

111 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection when the processing of a RP50 redundancy payment from the social insurance fund will be complete in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when payment will issue. [7325/12]

There is no record of any redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned. My officials have discussed the matter directly with the person concerned.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

112 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection when a domiciliary care allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7327/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeals from the person concerned were referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in these cases.

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

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

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

Social Welfare Fraud

Brendan Smith

Question:

113 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will clarify the view or perception that some self-employed persons, for example, tradesmen, mobile repair persons and others who need and use commercially taxed and insured vehicles to operate, are claiming jobseeker’s allowance while working and thus defrauding the system; if there is any sharing of data between the Departments to combat such abuse; if data such as cross-checking lists of names of persons taxed and insured for driving commercial vehicles is permissible; her plans to set up such checking; if any pilot scheme specifically targeted at this perceived abuse has taken place; if same can now be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7335/12]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the 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.

Self-employed people can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance (JA) if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. Self-employed customers do not have to de-register as self-employed persons in order to claim (JA).

Legislation provides for the assessment of ‘all income in cash and any non-cash benefits which the person or his or her spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the succeeding year'.

Where the income in the coming 12 months is not readily ascertainable, the income for the last 12 months is taken as a guide, allowing for any factors which it is known will vary.

If the means of the family are equal to or in excess of the family rate payable on (JA) then the claim is disallowed.

If a self-employed person's situation changes after they have made an initial claim for (JA), they can apply to have their means reviewed in the light of their changed circumstances. In addition, it is open to the individual if he or she is dissatisfied with the means assessed to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

My Department has a wide ranging programme to combat social welfare fraud and abuse. The Fraud Initiative 2011-2013 takes a revised and renewed approach to the challenges posed by social welfare fraud and sets out a range of actions to ensure an integrated approach to the prevention, deterrence and detection of social welfare abuse across the Department's services.

The emphasis of the Department's control activities is on direct intervention and engagement. High visibility operations by the Department's Special Investigation Unit are regularly and systematically undertaken. The effectiveness and cost-benefit of these operations and projects are continuously analysed and operational experience critically informs whether to continue, escalate or terminate the specific projects. New control projects will be developed and introduced, where appropriate. In the context of self-employed trades people who may be engaged in social welfare fraud, a range of specific activities are being undertaken in the under the Fraud Initiative including:

Where intelligence or reliable reports are received about persons engaged in concurrent working and claiming or under declaration of income, reviews of eligibility are immediately undertaken;

A series of high visibility site visits and employer inspections are systematically conducted to detect incidences of social welfare fraud. These visits and inspections are undertaken in those sectors where the risk of fraud is most prevalent; and

Multi agency checkpoints are undertaken with the Garda Traffic Unit and Revenue. Persons driving commercially taxed vehicles are interviewed as part of these projects.

My Department will continue to use data matching as an effective tool to curb abuse of the social welfare system.

To date, the Department has not undertaken specific analysis of persons driving commercial vehicles but as the Deputy is aware, legislation permits data sharing between Government departments and agencies for control purposes. Section 261(2) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 permits the Department to share data with another Department or specified body for control purposes in the administration of the Social Welfare Acts and does so on individual basis. The suggestion made by the Deputy can be examined in that context.

Social Welfare Appeals

Billy Timmins

Question:

114 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7341/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence, partially allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer decision on 30 January 2012.

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:

115 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not been facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7347/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 28 November 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 27 January 2012 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.

Question No. 116 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Sean Conlan

Question:

117 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views that a delay of eight months and more in the processing of carer’s allowance applications is acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7369/12]

The average time taken to award a claim for carer's allowance to quarter ended Sept 2011 was 17 weeks. The average time to award for the last quarter of 2011 is unavailable as, due to the phased introduction of a new claims processing system in the carer's allowance area, new claims are being processed on the new system while older claims are still being processed on the old system.

Although the average processing time is not at the eight month level indicated by the Deputy I share his concern at the length of time taken to process Carers' claims. I am however satisfied that the Department is taking a number of initiatives that will see performance improve over the coming months.

As mentioned above, a major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. The first tranche of new carer's allowance claims began to be processed under the new system in August 2011. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times which is expected to continue until the completion of the modernisation project when all existing carer's allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer's allowance claims at present is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate steps to resolve the situation. In addition to dealing with the approximately 330 new carer's allowance applications that are received each week, overtime working is being applied to help reduce backlogs that have built up chiefly as a result of the effort associated with the service delivery modernisation project. As a consequence the Department has made progress in addressing claim backlogs with the number of applications awaiting a decision at present down by 12% from 8,540 at the beginning of September 2011 to 7,552 in January.

While the new systems and processes will facilitate a significant improvement in overall processing times, it should be noted that the intake of new carer's allowance applications continues to increase and that individual claims may continue to take some time to process. Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on satisfying medical, means and residency conditions. In determining entitlement to the allowance, in certain cases unavoidable time lags are involved in making the necessary investigations and inquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Delays can also arise if those applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim.

Finally, if a person's means are insufficient to meet his or her needs while awaiting a decision on a claim, he or she can apply for a means tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.

Sean Conlan

Question:

118 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she will take to shorten processing times for social welfare applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7370/12]

My Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. All scheme areas are subject to continuous business process improvement supported by modern technology, the potential of which is continuously harnessed and applied to maximum effect. Claims are processed in the most efficient and expeditious way possible, having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply to each scheme and to ensure insofar as is possible that funding is targeted at those most in need.

Processing times vary across schemes because of both the volume of applications and the differing qualification criteria. For example, means assessments are required for all of the social assistance schemes; medical examinations are required for some of the illness related schemes and customers must also satisfy the habitual residence conditions. In the case of the insurance-based schemes, it may be necessary to ascertain details of foreign insurance records.

In managing these issues the Department has also had to adapt to a large increase in the volume of claims as economic conditions deteriorated and the scope of schemes was expanded. In order to meet this challenge, the department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation, including the deployment of new computer systems. Arrangements have also been made to augment Departmental resources and increase the staff numbers available to process claims.

For example, since May 2008, 900 staff have been assigned to my Department, mainly through the transfer and redeployment of staff from other Government departments. These staff have filled additional posts and critical vacancies in local offices, support units, scheme areas and the Department's inspectorate. In addition, the Department has recruited new medical assessors and appointed additional staff to the social welfare appeals office. The Department also makes judicious use of overtime and employs temporary staff as appropriate to address particular service issues as they arise.

In order to offer a more streamlined, efficient and integrated service to customers, the Department is also undergoing a process of intensive organisational change in establishing the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES). The establishment of the NEES under the management of my Department brings together the Community Welfare Service (CWS), the Employment Services and Community Employment Programmes of FÁS, the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services Programme from the Department of Community, Equality and the Gaeltacht and the Redundancy and Insolvency Schemes from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

It is my intention that the NEES will integrate all employment and benefit support services in a single delivery unit. This new service will provide a coherent integrated and more personalised service to customers and will help minimise the duplication that characterised services which were provided separately in the past.

Brian Walsh

Question:

119 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection if the employer job, PRSI, incentive scheme is to be extended for 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7374/12]

This matter is being considered in the context of the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs.

Community Employment Schemes

Robert Troy

Question:

120 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding cuts to community employment schemes, where CE contracts expire on 6 April 2012, the reason the material allowance has been reduced from €20 a week to €10 a week since 1 January 2012 and training has been proposed since November 2011, and if this situation is to remain. [7377/12]

The reductions in training and employment grants were decided in the context of the available reports on Community Employment and the need to ensure that expenditure is targeted appropriately.

My Department will seek to minimise the effects of these changes on those schemes most affected and will examine the income and expenditure of schemes with reference to their capacity to absorb the changes made to the grant. The National Training Fund will provide €4.2 million for training on CE in 2012. In addition, SOLAS will continue to provide access to its training programmes to CE participants. The need for training on CE varies depending on the needs of participants and how long they have already been on the scheme and the training already received.

In the event that the changes in the training and material grant announced in the budget create financial difficulties for schemes, my Department will continue to provide funding for those schemes until the completion of the financial review. The internal guidance to officials is that up to €1,000 may be available to a scheme in respect of the training and materials grant for this year, subject to demonstration of need. Any training that has been fully approved through the Individual Learning Plan prior to Budget 2012 will be funded.

I would like to stress also that community employment participants can continue to avail of education and training programmes that are available to them free of charge from existing State-funded providers.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

121 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection if a contributory pension is being unreasonably denied to a person (details supplied) in County Cork when Revenue have confirmed no outstanding PRSI liability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7378/12]

A claim for a State pension (contributory) was received from the person concerned on 31 August 2011. The claim was disallowed on 7 November 2011 as he had an outstanding PRSI (self-employment) liability, and the reason for this decision was communicated to him on that date.

The Department has today been advised by Revenue that the PRSI liability has been fully discharged by the person concerned. He has now been awarded State pension (contributory) and arrears due will issue shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the grounds on which carer’s allowance was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7466/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on two separate issues, firstly on the grounds that she is working outside the home for more than 15 hours per week and secondly that the care recipient is not so invalided or disabled as to require full-time care and attention as laid down in legislation. On 25 January 2012, she was notified of this decision and the reasons for it.

Following recent communication from her employer the actual number of hours worked per week has now been clarified and her claim is currently being reviewed. She will be notified of the outcome of the review shortly.

Employment Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the employment options available through various incentive schemes in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7467/12]

A Departmental facilitator has been in touch with the person concerned and has made arrangements to meet him next week in Maynooth health centre to advise him of the education, training and employment supports that are available to him.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if back to education allowance is payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7468/12]

To qualify for back to education allowance (BTEA) a person must secure a place on an approved course of education and satisfy the qualification conditions immediately prior to the commencement of the first year of the course.

If the persons concerned are due to commence a full-time second or third level course of education they should complete an application form for BTEA. A deciding officer can then decide on their eligibility based on the facts presented on their application forms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent allowance is payable in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7469/12]

The person concerned has been in receipt of rent supplement since 5 August 2011. She is in receipt of her full entitlement based on her household circumstances. There is no record of a rent supplement application in respect of her sister. If the person concerned wishes to apply for rent supplement she should complete an application form and return it to the Central Rents Unit, PO Box 11758, Dublin 24.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent arrears as of the 18 May 2010 were not paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7470/12]

All arrears of rent allowance due to the person concerned were paid in three payments between April and July 2010.

Redundancy Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Protection when redundancy payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7497/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 28 July 2011. We are currently processing redundancy lump sum claims received at the start of June 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael McNamara

Question:

128 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of landlords in receipt of rent allowance nationally; the annual cost to the Exchequer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7503/12]

Michael McNamara

Question:

129 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of moneys paid annually to landlords, for rent allowance in the Ennis area, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7504/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 129 together.

Rent supplement provides short-term income 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 in general made to the tenant and not to the landlord. 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.

The number of persons claiming rent supplement increased from almost 60,200 persons in 2005 to over 96,800 as at end 2011, a 61% increase. The number of recipients for Clare during the same period rose from 1,233 to 1,961, a 59% increase.

Since 2005, rent supplement expenditure has increased from €369 million to a provisional outturn of €503 million in 2011. Information on expenditure by county is not available.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pearse Doherty

Question:

130 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in the hearing of an illness benefit appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and when the person may expect a final decision on the matter. [7510/12]

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 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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

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

Social Welfare Code

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

131 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of her new guidelines for community welfare officers in processing requests for financial supports for Catholic children celebrating their First Holy Communion and Confirmation, the assistance available to other religious faiths for example, Jewish boys and girls to celebrate their Bat Mitzvah/Bar Mitzvah or Muslims to complete the Hajj in view of the cultural and religious diversity that now exists here, if she will outline her supports for non-Catholic faiths seeking financial supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7514/12]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. These ENP payments are a vital component of the SWA scheme and link the income support function of the scheme with the wider welfare role of the Department's community welfare service.

There is no automatic entitlement to a payment, or no predetermined amounts under the different categories for exceptional needs payments. ENP's are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

A review of the guidelines on Exceptional Needs Payments has recently been carried out by the Department by a working group made up of former community welfare service staff. One of the recommendations emanating from this review is to address the different approaches taken, in different areas, in relation to the payment of exceptional needs payments in respect of religious ceremonies and to ensure that the SWA scheme is responding to a specific financial need and not to the occasion. In future, where the Department is satisfied that an exceptional need exists, it is recommended that a maximum payment of €110 can be made in respect of the religious ceremony. This will be the first step towards limiting these payments to cases of significant hardship only, in 2013.

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

132 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the recommendations of the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2012, it is her intention to reform the current social welfare system and make it more responsive to individual families’ needs through the strategic integration of the tax and welfare systems and if, when the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare publishes its reports, if she will make these reports available to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7515/12]

The Children's Rights Alliance Report Card for 2012 assesses progress in the implementation of the Programme for Government from a non-governmental organisations' perspective. In the context of children and the social welfare system, the report acknowledges the progress made with regard to the establishment of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare and suggests that the Advisory Group should map out the practical steps to reform the current social welfare system through the strategic integration of the tax and welfare systems by the end of 2012.

The Advisory Group was established in June of last year to harness expert opinion and experience in order to address a number of specific issues and to make cost-effective proposals for improving employment incentives and achieving better poverty outcomes, particularly child poverty outcomes. The Advisory Group has been asked to examine a number of issues and make recommendations on these, including child and family income supports, working age income supports, the appropriate unit of assessment in both the tax and social welfare codes, the interaction of the tax and social welfare codes, issues concerning social insurance for self-employed people and any other issues that may be referred to it.

The Group is currently prioritising the issue of child and family income supports. It should also be noted that I have recently asked the Group to examine and report on the policy objectives underpinning the Budget 2012 proposals regarding changes in eligibility criteria and rates of payment for Disability Allowance and the increase in the age threshold for payment of Domiciliary Care Allowance and to assess the overall effectiveness of these proposals in delivering on these objectives.

The Advisory Group's method of working is based on producing modular reports on the priority areas identified in the terms of reference and decisions in relation to publication will be made when appropriate.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

133 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by her since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7533/12]

I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare in June 2011 in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government. Members of the Group have expertise in economic and social policy as well as other relevant areas and include a mix of experience and expertise from within and outside the public sector.

I appointed a Steering Group on the National Internship Scheme in May 2011 to advise me on the implementation of the scheme. The Steering Group is comprised of representatives from the private, public and voluntary sectors.

A working group on Pension Charges to gather information on the level and distribution of pension charges and expenses across all occupational pension types was established in July 2011. The group comprises of representatives from the Department, the Pensions Board and the Central Bank.

The three groups established since I came into office last March are still in place as the work they are doing is valuable and pertinent to the particular areas and issues with which they are concerned.

Special Areas of Conservation

Frank Feighan

Question:

134 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if an individual has a legal interest in one of the 53 designated sites and had not been extracting turf in the relevant five year period and is anxious to receive compensation rather than relocation will he facilitate such arrangement and pay compensation. [7445/12]

In April 2011, the Government announced a redress package for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation. The package offers qualifying turf cutters the option of a financial payment of €1,000 per year, index linked, over 15 years or, where feasible, relocation to non-designated bogs, where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of cut turf while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State.

One of the qualifying criteria for this Cessation of Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme is that the claimant must have been cutting turf on the lands in question in the relevant five year period. If an individual has a legal interest in one of the 53 designated sites and had not been extracting turf in the relevant five year period, my Department is willing to examine the feasibility of relocating such interests to alternative non-designated bogs. It is not proposed to make the financial payment in such cases.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

135 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7521/12]

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. I am assuming that the Deputy is not referring to routine internal committees and working groups, established within my Department to support the delivery of its goals and I have not included details of these. However, the following groups have been established since 2 June 2011: The Peatlands Council — established to respond to commitments set out in the Programme for Government and to assist Ireland in responding in a strategic way to the provisions of the EU Habitats Directive, which require Ireland to protect and conserve important peatland habitats; Inter-departmental committee to examine the feasibility of the implementation of the Creative Capital Report —Building Ireland’s Audiovisual Creative Economy; working group to review the operation of Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Planning and Development Act 2000; the High Level Steering Group and the Biodiversity Working Group under the New National Biodiversity Plan.

The Deputy should note that the Cross-representative advisory/working group which was set up last year to consult across the arts sector and recommend actionable steps in the area of philanthropy in relation to the arts has submitted its report and is no longer in operation. I should say that no other groups of the nature referred to by the Deputy were abolished since the establishment of my Department.

Telecommunications Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

136 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when broadband will be rolled out in the Gaeltacht area of an Sean Phobal, County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7505/12]

Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators.

In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention. EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas where existing service providers operate. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

The mapping exercise undertaken by my Department at the time of designing the NBS in 2008, found that broadband services were available in the area referred to in the Deputy's Question and consequently the locality was excluded from the Scheme.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission's "Digital Agenda for Europe" target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. I intend to consider the findings and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce as quickly as possible and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

137 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7523/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that two Task Forces and one Advisory Group have been established by my Department since February 2011.

I convened the Next Generation Broadband Task Force in Summer 2011 to provide a forum for detailed discussions with certain industry stakeholders on their views regarding the optimal policy required to facilitate investment in next generation broadband infrastructure in Ireland. The Task Force, which operates on a voluntary basis, is currently finalising its deliberations. I intend to consider the findings and recommendations of the report of the Task Force as quickly as possible and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

I established the Oil Emergency Planning Task Force (OEPTF) in September 2011, with membership drawn from my Department, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA) and the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA). The purpose of the OEPTF is to develop and refine existing national oil supply disruption contingency plans.

In so far as broadcasting is concerned, an Advisory Group was set up in February 2011 to address matters relating to the digital switchover which will take place in October 2012.

Local Authority Charges

Sean Fleming

Question:

138 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a receipt will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Laois in respect of their payment of the household charge for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3924/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for the issue of a receipt in respect of the payment of a household change. The provision of a receipt for this purpose is a matter for the Local Government Management Agency, which is administering the household charge on a shared service/agency basis on behalf of all county and city councils. I have no function in the matter.

Tom Fleming

Question:

139 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the household charge is payable in cases in which the bond is still held by a local authority due to unfinished works or when there is a request to be renew the bond because of unfinished works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7267/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge.

The Act provides for a number of exemptions and waivers from payment of the household charge.

The exemptions from payment of the household charge are — Residential properties that are part of the trading stock of a business and have not been sold or been the source of any income since construction; Residential property owned by a Minister of the Government, a housing authority or the Health Service Executive; Voluntary and co-operative housing; Residential property subject to commercial rates and wholly used as a dwelling, Residential property owned by certain charities or discretionary trusts, and Residential property which an owner has vacated due to long-term mental or physical infirmity (e.g. elderly person that has moved into a nursing home).

The waivers which apply concern owners of residential property entitled to mortgage interest supplement, and owners of houses in certain unfinished housing estates.

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows: Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist; Category two, where a receiver has been appointed; Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include, inter alia: the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development; the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission; the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007; the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act; the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned and where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

In some cases a local authority may have found that conditions in respect of a certain phase of a development were relatively good and that, for example, no serious public safety issues could be identified. This phase of the development may have been categorised under category 1 or 2. Conversely, safety issues may have been identified in another phase of the same overall development, or development in that second phase may have been abandoned altogether, implying a category 3 or 4 identification for that phase.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge.

Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. This list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 and forms the complete list of such developments for this year. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end. Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Water Services

Paul Connaughton

Question:

140 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the guidelines that will govern the new septic tank inspection process; if any courses are available for persons wishing to start up a small business conducting the necessary remedial works to septic tanks or if there are any guidelines on the standards that will be enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7277/12]

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides that the Environmental Protection Agency will draw up a national plan for the inspection of on-site wastewater treatment systems and each local authority is responsible for implementing the plan in its functional area. Strict criteria regarding professional or technical qualifications and training and professional indemnity insurance requirements will have to be met by those seeking appointment as inspectors. My Department, in consultation with the Agency and local authorities, is developing a training course for inspectors and details will be published in due course.

I intend to carry out a public consultation on draft performance standards for domestic wastewater treatment systems which are being finalised by my Department in consultation with the EPA. These standards will also include the minimum requirements for the maintenance and de-sludging of treatment systems. Full details of the draft standards and the consultation process will be published in the coming weeks.

Finian McGrath

Question:

141 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way unemployed plumbers may access or apply for water metering jobs. [7308/12]

The Government has indicated its intention to commence the installation of water meters in households connected to public water supplies later in 2012. This will facilitate moving to a charging system for domestic water users that is based on use above a free allowance as provided for in the Programme for Government.

It is envisaged that the metering programme will create up to 2,000 jobs per annum over a three-year period and that installation contracts will be awarded to a significant number of private contractors. The nature of the work will involve minor excavation and reinstatement works and will provide much needed employment in the construction sector. The types of jobs involved will cover the spectrum of skilled and unskilled positions and could include general operatives, plumbers, fitters, supervisors, contract managers, accounts and administration staff. However, the recruitment of any staff will be the responsibility of the private contractors. The procurement strategy for the metering programme is being finalised and no contracts have yet been awarded. Tendering and procurement processes will be managed in accordance with national and EU procurement guidelines.

Local Authority Housing

Sandra McLellan

Question:

142 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if housing authorities are permitted to ask a person to prove that they do not own property in another country even though it is not part of the application form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7329/12]

It is open to any person or household to apply to a housing authority for an assessment of their housing need. It is a matter solely for the housing authority concerned to determine whether an applicant for social housing support is eligible for and in need of that support.

Regulation 22 of Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provides that an applicant household for long-term social housing support is ineligible for social housing support if a household member owns alternative accommodation that it could reasonably be expected to use to meet its housing need, either by occupying it or by selling it and using the proceeds to secure suitable accommodation. Part 11 of the prescribed application form therefore seeks information on current and past property ownership either here in the State or abroad. A local authority may, if necessary, require additional information to confirm the details given.

In general, my Department would not consider that referring an applicant to an embassy is an appropriate course of action to obtain information on property ownership.

Planning Issues

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

143 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe, if any, that exists for decisions to be made by An Bord Pleanála in respect of deliberations into the planning and route selection of new roads being commissioned by the National Roads Authority; his views on whether An Bord Pleanála should make decisions within timeframes set out by statute to give certainty to applicants and those making observations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7361/12]

Under section 126 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010, it is a statutory objective of An Bord Pleanála to determine appeals and certain other matters within 18 weeks. The statutory objective period was achieved in 81% of all cases in 2011, a significant increase on the figure of 63% achieved for 2010.

Local Government Reform

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

144 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will give details of his plans to reform local government through the abolition of town councils, a reduction in the number of county councils and a cut in the number of councillors; if he will give further details of the consultations that he has had or plans to have with elected representatives, the public and other stakeholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7496/12]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to a fundamental reorganisation of local government structures. Decisions have already been taken to merge the city/county councils in Limerick and Tipperary and implementation work is proceeding in both cases. The main objective is to bring about stronger, more cohesive local government, with greater capacity to address challenges, maximise efficiency and promote economic and social development. I have also established a Local Government Committee to consider whether Waterford City and County Councils should be unified.

Building on these early actions, I intend to bring wider policy proposals to Government in the near future for an action programme on local government, with particular attention being given to strengthening local government structures generally at regional, county and sub-county levels and expanding the role of local government. This will include proposals in relation to municipal governance within counties.

The reform programme will also reflect work under way in relation to alignment of local and community development with local government, efficiency implementation and development of a system of local government funding which is fair, stable and effective and brings greater local responsibility in relation to financial matters. The programme will, in addition, broadly map out further aspects of the local government system on which reform proposals will be considered, including a range of governance matters such as ethics, local political and executive leadership and the balance between elected members and the executive in the performance of functions. I will engage with stakeholders when proposals are developed.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

145 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7526/12]

Since my appointment in March 2011 the following have been established by my Department:

Two independent statutory Referendum Commissions, in accordance with the Referendum Act (1998);

A Constituency Commission under the Electoral Act 1997 to review Dáil and European election constituencies;

Local Government/Local Development Alignment Steering Group;

Local Government Efficiency Review Implementation Group;

Independent Group to review staffing levels in Cork City Council;

Limerick Reorganisation Implementation Group;

Tipperary Reorganisation Implementation Group;

Waterford Local Government Committee;

Historic Landfills Working Group;

Waste Management Planning National Coordination Committee;

Environmental Law Implementation Group;

National Radon Strategy Group;

Foreshore Advisory Group;

National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments;

Joint Working Group on the transfer of Rent Supplement from the Department of Social Protection to this Department;

Independent Panel to facilitate a resolution to the problem of pyrite;

Local Authority Mortgage Arrears Guidance Group;

Steering group to oversee independent assessment being undertaken by consultants on the establishment of a water utility;

Inter-Departmental Group on Property Tax;

Fix Your Street Review Group.

A review Group for the Environmental Protection Agency presented its report to me in May 2011.

An Independent Group to review staffing levels in Dublin City Council presented its report to me in July 2011.

As part of a rigorous appraisal of the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department, the overall number of agencies is being reduced from 21 to 12.

In this regard:

An Chomhairle Leabharlanna will be dissolved.

The sustainable development role currently performed by Comhar, the Sustainable Development Council, is to be integrated into the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

The Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency (HSCA) rationalises the functions of three Agencies.

The Local Government Management Services Board and the Local Government Computer Services Board are merging as the Local Government Management Agency.

The Limerick Northside and Southside Regeneration Agencies will be replaced through the development of new management arrangements in the context of the merger of Limerick City and Limerick County Council, and,

The Dormant Accounts Board (Amendment) Bill 2011 proposes to dissolve the Dormant Accounts Board.

The agency rationalisation/efficiency agenda will be kept under review, taking account of the Public Service Reform Plan, insofar as other agencies under my Department's aegis are concerned.

Local Authority Charges

Joe Higgins

Question:

146 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of households that have registered for the €100 household charge to date, in tabular form, under the following headings and broken down by local authority area: paid €100 in full, registered for quarterly payments, registered as exempt, and the total amount remaining to register within the given areas as a total figure and as a percentage of the total amount due to register in that local authority area; and if he will provide the same breakdown for the State overall. [7537/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is administering the household charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils. I understand, from data provided by the LGMA, that as of 6 February, 2012, a total of 78,637 properties were registered for the household charge and that it has been paid in full in respect of 64,728 properties while 13,909 are making payment by direct debit in four instalments. The LGMA does not have the sub national details of the registrations sought in the question.

Proposed Legislation

Seán Kenny

Question:

147 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the blasphemous libel provision in the Defamation Act 2009; if he views it as a matter of concern; if he has any plans to repeal this provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7268/12]

The Deputy will be aware that Article 40.6.1.i of the Constitution places an obligation on the legislature in regard to blasphemous libel. Successive Attorneys General had advised the Government that until the Constitution is amended by referendum, it is necessary that blasphemous libel remain a crime and that legislation must make provision for punishment of this crime.

In reforming our defamation laws, the previous Government opted to make minimum provision in regard to blasphemous libel in the new legislation. Section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009, therefore, removes the possibility of prison sentences and private prosecutions for blasphemous libel. It also provides for a defence to a defendant who proves that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

The Constitutional Convention that is proposed in the Programme for Government will include blasphemy in its review.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

148 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to tighten the law relating to the exploitation of elderly persons in vulnerable situations such as long-term residential care, in conjunction with the mental capacity Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7269/12]

The Mental Capacity Bill, due to be published in the current Dáil Session, will reform the law on mental capacity and will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity. In drafting the Bill, attention is being given to putting in place safeguards to protect vulnerable adults, lacking capacity to manage their own affairs, from exploitation. In particular, the Bill will contain detailed provisions for the supervision of personal guardians of adults lacking capacity and also of donees of enduring powers of attorney.

As the Deputy is aware, policy and responsibility for the regulation of standards in residential care settings, including protection from abuse and exploitation, lies with the Minister for Health and HIQA under the Health Act 2007.

Garda Strength

Dara Calleary

Question:

149 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown, by grade and by station, of Garda staffing levels in the Dublin metropolitan area on 1 March 2011 and on 1 Febuary 2011. [7285/12]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the figures requested by the Deputy are compiled on the last date for each month. The break down by Garda Station and rank in the Dublin Metropolitan Region on the 31 January and 28 February 2011 was as set out in the table below.

Station

31/01/2011

28/02/2011

C/Supt

Supt

Insp

Sgt

Gda

C/Supt

Supt

Insp

Sgt

Gda

Blackrock

4

12

83

4

12

82

Dundrum

1

9

66

1

9

65

Stepaside

3

26

3

27

Cabinteely

1

6

32

1

5

33

Dalkey

2

27

2

29

Dún Laoghaire

1

2

3

19

87

1

2

3

19

83

Kill O Grange

2

26

2

27

Shankill

1

10

47

1

11

47

Balbriggan

1

3

6

59

1

3

6

59

Garristown

1

2

1

2

Lusk

1

6

1

6

Rush

1

4

1

4

Skerries

1

10

1

10

Ballymun

1

1

2

24

100

1

1

2

23

99

Dublin Airport

4

18

4

18

Santry

3

9

70

3

9

70

Whitehall

2

5

36

2

5

37

Coolock

1

5

13

101

1

5

13

100

Malahide

5

33

5

32

Swords

1

12

72

1

11

73

Clontarf

1

10

68

1

10

68

Howth

1

5

32

1

5

32

Raheny

1

3

8

63

1

3

8

63

Bridewell

1

7

32

137

1

7

31

136

Fitzgibbon Street

1

4

14

96

1

4

14

96

Mountjoy

11

89

11

89

Store Street

1

2

5

32

248

1

2

5

32

244

Crumlin

1

2

5

17

82

1

2

5

17

82

Sundrive Road

11

65

11

65

Rathmines

8

60

9

60

Terenure

1

6

16

82

1

6

16

82

Rathfarnham

8

68

8

67

Tallaght

1

5

19

174

1

5

19

174

Donnybrook

1

3

12

113

1

3

13

113

Irishtown

1

9

44

1

7

43

Kevin Street

1

6

13

136

1

6

13

138

Kilmainham

16

67

16

65

Harcourt Tce

9

71

11

71

Pearse Street

1

2

7

33

222

1

2

7

31

220

Blanchardstown

1

2

4

31

157

1

2

4

31

157

Cabra

8

60

8

62

Finglas

3

14

105

3

14

104

Ballyfermot

2

13

85

2

13

85

Clondalkin

1

3

13

83

1

3

13

83

Rathcoole

2

26

2

26

Lucan

1

3

9

67

1

3

9

67

Ronanstown

1

14

81

1

14

80

For the information of the Deputy I have also attached the figures for the 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available.

Station

31/12/2011

C/Supt

Supt

Insp

Sgt

Gda

Blackrock

1

4

10

76

Dundrum

1

9

63

Stepaside

3

26

Cabinteely

1

5

32

Dalkey

2

29

Dún Laoghaire

1

2

2

18

81

Kill O Grange

2

27

Shankill

1

9

47

Balbriggan

1

3

6

60

Garristown

1

2

Lusk

1

5

Rush

1

4

Skerries

1

10

Ballymun

1

1

2

18

91

Dublin Airport

6

27

Santry

3

9

69

Whitehall

2

5

37

Coolock

1

5

13

98

Malahide

4

31

Swords

1

10

66

Clontarf

1

9

67

Howth

6

33

Raheny

1

3

6

58

Bridewell

1

6

29

131

Fitzgibbon Street

1

4

14

94

Mountjoy

11

89

Store Street

1

2

5

28

238

Crumlin

1

1

4

16

80

Sundrive Road

11

60

Rathmines

7

59

Terenure

1

5

15

78

Rathfarnham

8

65

Tallaght

1

5

19

169

Donnybrook

1

3

13

105

Irishtown

1

7

44

Kevin Street

1

6

11

135

Kilmainham

16

58

Harcourt Tce

11

68

Pearse Street

1

2

7

27

218

Blanchardstown

1

2

4

24

155

Cabra

9

66

Finglas

3

14

103

Ballyfermot

2

11

83

Clondalkin

1

3

13

81

Rathcoole

2

25

Lucan

1

4

6

61

Ronanstown

1

15

81

The Deputy will appreciate that these station's strengths are augmented by members of national units, e.g. CAB, GBFI, NBCI and other specialist units, as when required.

Dara Calleary

Question:

150 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown of numbers and grades of members of the Garda who have applied for the public service early retirement scheme; and if he will supply a breakdown of the stations to which these retirees are currently attached. [7286/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

152 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown of staff, by grade, within the various specialist crime units of the Garda who have applied for the public service early retirement scheme. [7288/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

165 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of early retirements taken in 2012 from Garda stations in the following locations (details supplied); and if he will provide a breakdown of the retirements by Garda station. [7428/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 152 and 165 together.

Members of An Garda Síochána who joined the force prior to 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension once they have served for at least 30 years and they have reached 50 years of age. Members of An Garda Síochána who joined the Force on or after 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension once they have served at least 30 years and have reached 55 years of age. In both cases members must retire once they reach 60 years of age.

Members of An Garda Síochána who are over 50 years of age and do not have 30 years service may also avail of a cost neutral early retirement (C.N.E.R.) scheme. Their pension and lumps sums are actuarially reduced depending on their length of service and age at the time of retirement.

Almost all Gardaí take voluntary retirement i.e. they leave before the compulsory retirement age of 60 years of age, rather than early retirement. In 2010 there were 353 voluntary retirements, 9 compulsory retirements and 1 CNER, and in 2011 there were 428 voluntary retirements, 8 compulsory retirements and 2 CNER's.

Public servants, including Gardaí, who retire on or before 29 February 2012 will receive pension benefits based on their salary scales applicable on 31 December 2009 and they, like others presently in receipt of public service pensions, will pay a Public Service Pension Reduction (P.S.P.R.) on their pensions thereafter. This reduction is a scaled percentage of their actual pension. Public servants, including Gardaí, who retire after 29 February will receive pension benefits based on their then current salary scales (as already affected by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009) but they will not pay the Public Service Pension Reduction on their pensions.

I have been informed by the Commissioner that since 1 January 2010, 3 members have availed of the CNER scheme, details of which are in the table below. No one from the specialist crime units has applied for the CNER scheme.

Cost Neutral Early Retirements — 01.01.10-29.02.12 (as at 06.02.12).

Rank

Station

Year of Retirement

1 Garda

Charlestown

2011

1 Sergeant

Clara

2011

1 Sergeant

Garda HQ

2010

Dara Calleary

Question:

151 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown of staffing levels, by grade, within the various specialist crime units within the Garda on 1 March 2011. [7287/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that it has not been possible to provide the information required in the limited time available. However, the information is currently being collated and will be sent to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 150.

Citizenship Applications

Martin Heydon

Question:

153 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7294/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 509 on 7th February, 2012. The position remains as stated.

Reply to Parliamentary Question 509 of 7th February, 2012:

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in April, 2010.

The application is at an advanced stage of processing. The person concerned will be informed of my decision on her application in due course.

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Departmental Programmes

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

154 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the immigrant investor programme recently announced, if he will clarify the review process that will apply after two years in respect of those whose applications have been accepted. [7352/12]

The review process will consist of an appraisal of the foreign national in question to determine if he or she is continuing to abide by the conditions of their residence permission. In effect, it will be a continuation of the due diligence process undertaken at the time of application. I would anticipate that ordinarily residence permission would be approved for a further period of 3 years. While I cannot obviously be exhaustive, the circumstances where this would not happen would include for example where an applicant did not act in good faith or where adverse information came to light about his/her good character. Also, where a person failed to honour the terms of their qualifying investment this too would have negative consequences.

I will publish more information on the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme when both programmes are formally launched in mid-March.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

155 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 1 February, his views that nightclubs should be permitted to serve alcohol in glasses in view of concerns arising from broken glass harming persons accidentally or unintentionally. [7353/12]

As I indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 1 February, neither the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 nor the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1996 regulate the type of containers in which alcohol is sold or supplied. The position is that the majority of licensed premises, including those operating as nightclubs, are operated in a peaceable and orderly manner by the licensees concerned and the imposition of a statutory prohibition on the use of glass containers would be disproportionate and unreasonable. Of course licensees have a duty of care towards their customers and this may necessitate the use of alternative types of containers in certain circumstances and the use of such containers is not prohibited.

Control of Firearms

Charles Flanagan

Question:

156 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he proposes a review of the licensing system in respect of the issue of firearms to ensure a fair and transparent process; and if in view of recent High Court proceedings, he considers the current firearms regulatory arrangement to be satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7365/12]

I take it the Deputy is referring to a recent High Court case involving Judicial Reviews of decisions by Chief Superintendents in firearms cases. What was at issue were decisions by Chief Superintendents to refuse applications for licenses for high calibre handguns. That case was settled with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the State but with an undertaking to consider applications afresh and give reasons to applicants where applications are turned down.

In the light of issues which arose in those proceedings I sought a report from the Garda Commissioner. I have now received a detailed interim report. The Commissioner has indicated that he shares the concern expressed by the Judge in the case about the alteration of documents after proceedings had commenced and, in the first instance, has sought an explanation as to the circumstances in which this occurred.

In the case of the evidence given by another member of An Garda Síochána, the Commissioner has indicated that, while an issue did arise in relation to the completion of parts of the application forms, he is satisfied that the applications were decided in accordance with that person's understanding of the relevant firearms legislation, decisions were recorded in notifications to applicants, and those decisions were informed by understandable concerns of public safety in the light of the difficult situation concerning crime in his Division. The Commissioner points out that the parts of the forms in question are not a statutory requirement under the Firearms legislation and are geared towards the requirements of recording data on the PULSE system through the ticking of a number of boxes.

The Commissioner is addressing as a matter or urgency the whole process of firearms licensing and the administrative functions associated with it in the light of the outcome of those Court proceedings. The Commissioner has assured me that he, of course, accepts fully the desirability of application forms being completed fully and properly and has indicated that as part of that review he intends to remove any impediments being experienced by his Officers in achieving this. The Commissioner is to report to me again when he has completed that review and I will of course consider that report when it is available. Tragically, the House will have been reminded in recent days of the dangers which licensed firearms can pose for members of An Garda Síochána and others and of the dangers of firearms generally. For my part, I am determined to ensure that in the operation of the firearms licensing system, the question of public safety is paramount.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

157 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that the Garda Commissioner completed his annual review of the operations of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7366/12]

I understand that the Annual Review the Deputy is referring to is currently being compiled by An Garda Síochána and I expect to receive it in due course.

Proposed Legislation

Catherine Murphy

Question:

158 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the citizenship status of children born outside the State whose fathers are of Irish citizenship but who are born to surrogate mothers who are not of Irish citizenship; if a mechanism, framework or other measure exists which would allow such children to become citizens of Ireland; if so, the requirements that must be satisfied in order to avail thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7376/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

159 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current status of the production of guidelines by him on the issue of legal guardianship as it relates to children born through surrogacy; the timeframe within which such guidelines are likely to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7380/12]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

163 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation which will address issues surrounding surrogacy; if the proposed legislation will address issues such as legal guardianship, the recognition of genetic relation to determine legal guardianship to a child born to surrogacy; if the proposed legislation will address those children already born to surrogacy and resident here but who are not legally recognised by the State; if legislation will ensure that children born to surrogacy will receive the same legal treatment as children born to birth parents in Ireland as well as respected equally in terms of children and human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7402/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 159 and 163 together.

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question Number 497 of 31st January 2012, in which I stated:

"The law as it stands allows children born through surrogacy arrangements to acquire Irish citizenship, provided the commissioning father is the biological father of the child. Such a father may apply to court for a declaration of paternity under section 35 of the Status of Children Act 1987. Once paternity is established the child can be determined to be an Irish citizen.

Establishment of paternity also allows the father to apply for a guardianship order which requires and enables him to exercise full legal responsibility for the child including decision-making on the child's health and medical treatment, upbringing and education.

Given the complex way in which existing law, domestic and international, applies to surrogacy matters, a guidance document for people who are considering arranging for a surrogate mother to give birth to a child outside the State has been prepared by an interdepartmental group in consultation with me and the Office of the Attorney General. I expect that the guidance document will be published shortly."

I have already indicated that I intend in due course to develop proposals for legislation on surrogacy to deal with matters concerning the legal relationships of commissioning adults with children born through surrogacy. In developing these legislative proposals the welfare and best interests of children will be key considerations.

Integration Policy

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

160 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has evaluated the recommendations from the Integration Centre’s Roadmap to Integration; if he intends to act on this report; if he intends to introduce any of the measures suggested in the roadmap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7385/12]

I am aware of the report and recommendations produced by the Integration Centre, an independent, non-governmental organisation. Most of the recommendations made are relevant to Departments other than the Department of Justice and Equality. In so far as recommendations relevant to my Department are concerned, I have made changes, for example, new arrangements and procedures where the grant of citizenship is concerned, new arrangements for those wishing to establish businesses here, etc. which while not directly making the changes suggested by the Integration Centre, do represent changes for the better. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill will also address issues raised in the report. I will continue to have regard to the recommendations as policy evolves.

Visa Applications

Jack Wall

Question:

161 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the mechanism available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to address a family matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7394/12]

On the basis of the information provided by the Deputy it is unclear as to the nationality of the person who will be seeking entry into the State. If the person is a national who is not exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa (as per Statutory Instrument 345 of 2011. Immigration Act 2004 (Visas)), the person referred to is required to be in possession of a visa prior to seeking entry to the State.

All persons who are visa required and who are not in possession of same should refer to the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie). The visa application process and procedures are available there. Each visa application is considered on its individual merits the onus resting with the applicant to satisfy the visa officer as to why the visa sought should be granted. Queries in relation to general immigration matters may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Family Law

Jack Wall

Question:

162 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the entitlements of a parent under family law in a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7397/12]

If the Deputy could provide me with additional background in relation to this particular case, I would be happy to investigate the matter further for him.

Question No. 163 answered with Question No. 158.

Legal Aid Service

John McGuinness

Question:

164 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if legal aid will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will expedite the matter. [7418/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that as the Legal Aid Board is a statutory, independent body in accordance with the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, any decision to grant or refuse legal aid is a matter for the Board. Under Section 7(3) of the Act, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which the Legal Aid Board is or may be concerned. Furthermore, the solicitor/client relationship is protected by privilege in accordance with the terms of section 32 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and therefore the Board does not provide information to third parties regarding a person who may or may not be a client of the Board. Notwithstanding the above, in terms of providing more general information to the Deputy I can advise that the Board offers a priority service to persons seeking legal services for cases involving domestic violence, child care, child abduction and for certain other matters where there are statutory time limits. These cases are dealt with immediately and are not put on a waiting list. Finally, persons refused legal aid have the right to appeal such decisions to an Appeal Committee which is made up of non-executive members of the Board but again I have no role in this process.

Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 150.

Adoption Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

166 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there any plans to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2010 to allow civil partners adopt and to be considered as joint adoptive parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7437/12]

I refer the Deputy to my response to question number 506 of 31 January 2012, in which I indicated as follows: "Responsibility for adoption legislation and policy lies with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs who recently indicated in responding to a similar question (number 235 of 19 January 2012) that ‘Under the provisions of the Adoption Act 2010, the only persons who can jointly adopt are married couples. There are currently no proposals to change the legislation in this regard.' "

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7472/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 248 on 15th December, 2011. The position remains as stated.

Reply to Parliamentary Question 248 of 15th December, 2011.

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

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

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of residency status and stamp 4 update in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7473/12]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 6th March, 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 has been facilitated by way of temporary travel documents to obtain a national passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7474/12]

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) informs me that, as an exceptional measure, the person concerned was issued with an Irish temporary travel document for travel purposes. It is understood that the person now holds a valid national passport. An Irish temporary travel document would not be issued to an individual who holds a valid national passport. The person concerned should contact their own national authorities should they have any issues with their passport.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current status and progress made to date in the determination of a decision in respect of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7475/12]

Officials in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question. It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent of progress made to date in the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7476/12]

The person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order which was notified to him on 10 June 2010. Judicial Review proceedings were lodged on 24 June 2010 challenging the Deportation Order and the refusal of the application for Subsidiary Protection. Accordingly, as the matter is sub judice I do not propose to comment further. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the NIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position in regard to the determination of residency and citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7477/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in September 2006. The application has been decided and the person concerned has been informed in a letter issued to him on 18 October, 2011 that I intend to grant the application. Before the certificate is granted the person concerned must attend a citizenship ceremony at which he will make a declaration of fidelity to the Irish Nation and loyalty to the State. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that the person concerned has submitted the required documents and certification fee and will be allocated a place at the next citizenship ceremony, details of which will be issued shortly, where he will receive his certificate of naturalisation.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of naturalisation on the basis of marriage to an Irish citizen in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7478/12]

The person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State, on Stamp 4 conditions, on 25 June, 2010. This permission was renewed subsequently until 26 December, 2011. The person concerned applied for a renewal of permission to remain and a decision to grant him permission to remain in the State for a further year was conveyed in writing to him on 20 December, 2011. He should now register with his local Garda Immigration Officer.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of residency and naturalisation status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7479/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Questions No. 247 of 15 December, 2011 and No. 208 of 19 January, 2012 which are set out below. The position is unchanged since then.

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted permission to remain in the State in 2002 under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish born children. The permission has been renewed on a regular basis and is currently valid until 22 April, 2012.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to was received in the Citizenship Division of INIS in June 2006. On examination of the application submitted, it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 21 October, 2006.

Section 15 of that Act provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must—

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

have, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows—

(i) made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, and

(ii) undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include—

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study

periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. To date no new application has been received.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an upgrade of stamp 2 to stamp 4 can be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7480/12]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that no application has been received from the person for the purposes set out in the Deputy's question. The person concerned must make an application to the General Immigration Service of INIS to have their case considered.

Queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when stamp 4 will be updated in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7481/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 218 of Tuesday, 19th January, 2012 — copied beneath. The position is unchanged since then.

The person concerned has had her permission to remain in the State renewed for a further two year period, to 7th June, 2012. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 21st July, 2010. This communication advised the person concerned of the conditions attaching to her permission to remain and of the requirement that she attend at her local Garda Registration Office to have the registration process completed. Given that the person concerned does not appear to have completed the registration process to date, it is recommended that she should attend at her local Garda Registration Office without further delay so that the registration formalities can be completed.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of residency status and procedure for issue of passport in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7482/12]

The person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State in February 2002, under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish born children. This permission to remain was renewed on a regular basis and is currently valid until 30 June 2012. I am advised that the daughter of the person concerned was granted permission to remain in line with that granted to her mother on stamp 4 conditions in November, 2011 and her permission is currently valid until 30 June, 2012.

Irish Passports are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in April 2008. I made the decision, at my absolute discretion, to refuse the application. The person concerned was informed of my decision in a letter dated 23 May 2011.

An application was made by the person referred to by the Deputy on behalf of her minor child in December 2009. This application was refused and the applicant parent was notified by letter dated 2 February 2010.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation can be made at any time, if an applicant considers that they are in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7483/12]

The first named person concerned has had his temporary permission to remain in the State renewed for a further one year period, until 11th April, 2012. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 31st March, 2011.

The second person referred to by the Deputy was granted permission to remain in the State on 14 June, 2005 under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1 January, 2005, commonly known as the IBC/05 Scheme. This permission to remain was renewed in 2007 and in 2010, and is currently valid to 14 June, 2013.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Citizenship Applications

Tom Fleming

Question:

179 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will investigate applications for naturalisation which was applied for with over a year now in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [7495/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that applications for certificates of naturalisation were received from the persons referred to by the Deputy in September 2011 and May 2010 respectively.

The application from the first named person is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether he meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The application from the second-named person is at an advanced stage of processing and she will be informed of my decision in due course.

I can inform the Deputy that good progress is being made towards eliminating the backlog of standard cases awaiting a decision for more than 6 months and it is my expectation that this objective will be achieved by late May 2012.

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

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Housing Management Companies

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

180 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will direct each of the city and county managers to compile in 2012 a comprehensive register of estate management companies in each of their functional areas; if he will collect and publish figures on the numbers of households paying management charges; if he is satisfied that the services provided by estate management companies to residents are of a reasonable standard and are proportionate to the estate management costs levied by such companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7516/12]

The principal objectives of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, which entered into force on 1 April 2011, are to ensure the timely transfer of the common areas of multi-unit developments to owners' management companies and to facilitate the fair, efficient and effective management of such companies. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have no statutory powers over the functions or activities of city and county managers in relation to multi-unit developments and owners' management companies.

As regards service charges, the position is that section 18 of the Act requires each owners' management company to establish and maintain a scheme of annual service charges to fund the costs of insurance, maintenance and other common or shared services. The service charge must be calculated on a transparent basis, be apportioned on an equitable basis between apartment owners and be approved at a general meeting of the apartment owners. In this way, the Act gives apartment owners a direct role in determining the level of annual service charge, the level of services to be funded and the manner in which such services are to be provided.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

181 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7531/12]

I can inform the Deputy that in response to his question the following is the position since I took up office on 9 March 2011:

1. Expert Group on Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights was established on 17 May 2011. It was established following the European Court of Human Rights findings against Ireland in the McFarlane case.

2. ICT Governance Group — this has been been established within my own Department and is chaired at Assistant Secretary level. The body is charged with the review and oversight of ICT spending within my Department and agencies.

3. Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) was responsible for overseeing the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. It was established by an agreement between the Irish and British Governments, signed on 26 August 1997, and by legislation enacted in the two jurisdictions. It was dissolved on 31 March 2011.

4. Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) was responsible for monitoring and reporting on paramilitary activity across Ireland and also for monitoring the security normalisation measures undertaken by the British Government in the North. It was dissolved on 31 March 2011.

5. Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries is independently chaired by Senator Martin McAleese and was established on foot of a Government decision taken on 14 June 2011.

6. Inter-Departmental Working Group on Corporate Manslaughter was established by me last July following the decision of the previous Government in December 2010 to progress this matter.

7. National Disability Strategy Implementation Group (NDSIG) was established by Ms. Kathleen Lynch, T.D. Minister of State at my department with responsibility for disability. The Group was established the on 30 November 2011. The NDSIG is not an additional group in the sense that it has replaced and will build on the former National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group, which was in place under the previous Government.

8. National Steering Committee on Violence against Men which met for the first time on 14 December 2011.

9. Prisons Authority Interim Board was abolished on 26 July 2011.

10. Task Force on Cost Reductions in Criminal Legal Aid was established on 13 May 2011. It reported in October 2011.

11. Thornton Hall Review Group was established to review the need for the Thornton Hall Prison Project. It was set up in April 2011 and reported to me in July 2011.

12. Working Group on Efficiencies in the Criminal Justice System in the Circuit and District Courts was established on 16 November 2011. It was established to carry out an examination to identify any structural changes necessary to effect cost reductions in the criminal justice system.

13. Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Human Rights and Equality Commission was appointed on 6 October 2011 to advise me on this extremely important matter. The Group has had a relatively short timeframe in which to complete their work as it is intended to have a new Commission in place early in the near future.

Finally, the Deputy might wish to note that new groups/committees set up since I came into office were established for very specific reasons such as dealing with complex issues that require consultation with a range of stakeholders and in which it is anticipated that the outcome will be in the public interest, achieving savings or cost reductions for my Department and agencies or responding to requirements under Ireland's international commitments in, for example, the area of human rights.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

182 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7524/12]

The bodies under the aegis of the Department of Defence are the Civil Defence Board, the Board of Coiste an Asgard and the Army Pensions Board. The Civil Defence Board was established under the Civil Defence Act 2002. Legislation is currently being drafted to dissolve the Board and transfer its functions back into the Department of Defence.

In the context of settling the Estimates for the Department of Defence for 2010, the Government decided that the national sail training scheme operated by Coiste an Asgard would be discontinued as recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure. As a result, no funding was provided in 2010 or 2011. The Board will be dissolved shortly.

No new external agencies, authorities, committees, working groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, or quangos have been established since February 2011.

Grant Payments

Michael Colreavy

Question:

183 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he could outline the difference between a full-time farmer and a part-time, hobby farmer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7542/12]

The following definitions, for farms rather than farmers, are those used by Teagasc in its annual National Farm Survey which details the composition of Irish farms in terms of numbers, size, demographics, financial data and work pattern, etc.:

Full-time farm:

A farm which requires at least 0.75 standard labour units to operate, as calculated on a standard man day basis.

Part-time farm:

A farm which requires less than 0.75 standard labour units to operate, as calculated on a standard man day basis. That is where a Standard Man Day (SMD) is eight hours of work supplied by a person over 18 years of age.

Hobby farms (or farmers) are not defined by Teagasc but could be broadly be taken to be agricultural pursuits undertaken for recreational rather than financial purposes.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

184 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the provisions that will be made for farmers with no entitlements for new schemes in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7280/12]

It is understand that the Deputy is referring to the proposed changes to the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, specifically those farmers who are new claimants under the 2012 DAS scheme.

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

I am, however, particularly mindful that any proposed changes in scheme qualifying criteria, regardless of how focused and targeted their aim, will result in anomalies, because of which I have already indicated that specific provision will be made for those farmers, as described by the Deputy, who may find that their stocking rates are less than now required. Specifically, I have directed that a formal procedure be put in place to cater for all who consider that their inability to meet the proposed revised scheme requirements is due to force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Those affected will be invited to outline such details to my Department, each case then being considered on its merits. Again with specific regard to the proposed stocking provisions, where individuals can show that their inability to meet the revised requirements are due to their participation in a recognised environmental programme, for example, the necessary allowance will be made. Consideration will also be given to new entrants to farming.

I would again stress that, in proposing the changes in question, the intention is to better focus the Scheme, which is to the benefit of the majority of those farming in areas with recognised constraints, while at the same time attempting to cater for those genuinely prevented from achieving the revised minimums.

Deputies will be aware that the Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

185 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive any payment entitlements from the national reserve for the years 2005 to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7298/12]

No single payment entitlements were established for the person named as he did not submit applications under the Direct Payment schemes in the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002. The person named submitted applications for entitlements under Category A of the 2005, 2006 and 2008 National Reserve and also Category C of the 2007 National Reserve. In order to have been eligible to apply to the National Reserve for an allocation of Payment Entitlements, applicants must have met the criteria applicable to one or more of the categories within the Reserve for the scheme year applied for.

Category A of the 2005, 2006 and 2008 National Reserve catered for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May, 2005 and who had leased out his/her holding to a third party during the reference period 2000 to 2002.

The person named was not eligible for an allocation of entitlements from the 2005, 2006, and 2008 National Reserve as he inherited the land before the commencement of the reference period, i.e. before 1 January 2000. Therefore the land was not leased to a third party by the original owner during the reference period.

Category C of the 2007 National Reserve catered for farmers for whom at least 40% of their Single Payment was derived from direct payments associated with sheep production (Ewe Premium/Rural World Premium) during the reference period, their existing Single Payment was less than €10,000 and individual payment entitlements were less than the District Electoral Division (DED) average value. The maximum allocation under this category was €1,000.

The person named was not eligible for an allocation under the 2007 National Reserve as he did not already hold single payment entitlements for sheep production during the reference period.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

186 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a penalty imposed on a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be reconsidered in view of the minor non-compliance issues involved in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7323/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 10 May 2011. This application was selected for a Cross Compliance inspection.

During the course of the inspection breaches were recorded relating to the Tagging of Sheep and the failure to maintain a flock register for the previous 5 years. This resulted in a 5% penalty being recorded against his direct payments for 2011. The person named was informed of this decision on 13 January 2012 and of his right to seek a review. He was also informed of his right to appeal the outcome of a review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals office. To date, no such review request has been submitted. However, the Deputy's question will now be taken as a request for review and same will now be initiated.

As payments under the 2011 Disadvantaged Area Scheme and Single Payment Scheme had already issued, my Department initiated a process to recoup these payments and a letter issued from the Accounts Department of the Single Payment Unit informing Mr. Hallissey of the overpayment and how it could be repaid. To date no repayment has been received.

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

187 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an appeal relating to SFPS late submission of applications in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7328/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme /Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 28 October 2011. As the application was received after the closing date for the scheme of 16 May 2011, it was therefore not eligible for consideration for processing. The person named was informed of this decision on the 15 November 2011 and of his right to seek a review. He has subsequently forwarded additional supporting documentation to my Department on 30 January 2012, which is currently under review. In the meantime, I have arranged for an official from my Department to make direct contact with the person named regarding the matter.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

188 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a 2011 disadvantaged area payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7339/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme /Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 11 May 2011. This application was selected for a ground eligibility inspection. During the course of this inspection discrepancies were found that resulted in a claimed area of 589.94ha being reduced to 583.14ha. If the total area found is not sufficient to support the number of entitlements held penalties will be applied per the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. In this case the number of entitlements held by the person named is 593.0. As the difference between the area declared and the area found is more than 2ha, under EU Regulations, the difference between the area found and the area claimed is doubled and deducted from the area found. As a result the area put forward for payment under the Single Payment Scheme was 569.54ha.

The person named was informed of this decision by formal notice on 17 January 2012 and of his right to seek a review. He was also informed of his right to appeal the outcome of any such review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals Office. To date there is no record of such a request being made. Payment was made under the Single Payment Scheme on 12 January 2012 and payment under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme was made on 19 January 2012.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

189 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will be made on a REP scheme review lodged by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7340/12]

The person named commenced REPS in June 2008 and received payment for the first two years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulation which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments have been finalised.

Following an on farm inspection the person named was informed in writing on 7 December 2011 of the decision to terminate his participation in the above Scheme and to seek recoupment of all moneys paid due to the non-declaration of all lands in the possession of the person named in an Agri-environmental Plan received by my Department on 15 May 2008. In the letter dated 7 December 2011 the person named was also informed of the "right of appeal". The person named has appealed this decision to the Regional Inspector and will be informed of the decision in writing as soon as possible.

World Trade Negotiations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have engaged with representatives of the World Trade Organisation with a view to ensuring the future viability and security of the food industry in Ireland and throughout the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7452/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which agreement has been reached or is likely to be reached between the EU negotiators and the World Trade Organisation with a view to ensuring the future and ongoing development of the food-producing sector in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7453/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 191 together.

The WTO Doha Development Round talks are stalled at present and the prospects for conclusion of an agreement are uncertain at this point in time. Nevertheless, the EU Commission continues to represent the views of Ireland and other EU Member States in discussions with other trading partners based on positions agreed at EU level. These positions take account of the desire of the majority of EU Member States for a strong common agricultural policy that ensures viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and climate action and balanced territorial development. I will continue to maintain pressure to secure an acceptable outcome from the WTO negotiations that does not undermine the development of European and Irish agriculture.

Common Agricultural Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he and his EU colleagues can ensure the future viability of family farms throughout Ireland and the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7454/12]

Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020) represents the strategic blueprint for the development of the agriculture, food, fisheries and forestry sector for the next decade. Its implementation, as well as the parallel negotiations at EU level to ensure an appropriate CAP policy and EU Budget framework post 2013, are the strategic steps which I am pursuing to develop the agri-food sector. FH2020 contained more than 200 recommendations specifically directed at improving farm level viability including restructuring, competitiveness and knowledge transfer. Details of progress made on these and the 215 recommendations are contained in the Annex to Food Harvest 2020 Milestones for Success on my Department's web-site; see page 3 of attached web link http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/publications/2011/FoodHarvestProgressReport 260711.pdf.

At European level, the future shape of the Common Agricultural Policy will be a key driver for the continued viability of family farms. In this respect note that the EU Commission's proposals for reform of the CAP are predicated on the principles of ensuring viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and climate action as well as balanced territorial development. There is good support among my colleagues in the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers for these objectives and I believe it is expected that, notwithstanding differences about the details, future EU agricultural policy should recognise and reward the important contribution of the agri-food sector to economic recovery and growth and to sustainable development.

Food Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have continued to monitor developments in the beef, lamb and dairy sectors in the context of world trade with a view to ensuring the continued competitiveness of Irish products on European and world markets; the factors taken into account in any such considerations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7455/12]

The export performance of the meat and dairy sectors is affected by factors such as currency exchange rates, fluctuations in market prices and tariff rates. The value of beef exports in 2011 is estimated at €1.81 billion, an increase of 15% on the 2010 level. Similarly, lamb exports in same period are estimated to have increased by 10% to an estimated €180 million. In 2011, exports of dairy products were valued at €2.66 billion, which is an increase of 17% on the previous year. These figures underscore the competitiveness of Irish dairy and meat products across a culturally and geographically diverse range of overseas markets. Dairy products, for instance, are exported to over 80 countries. Nevertheless, I am working with industry on an ongoing basis to raise the profile of the Irish dairy sector and the Irish agri-food sector generally in emerging markets.

I have been very proactive in developing relationships in new and expanding markets in order to build the kind of confidence in Irish production and control systems that provide a platform for long-term trading relationships in the future. As part of that effort, I hosted a visit from the Chinese Vice-Minister for Agriculture last year, and signed a mutual co-operation agreement in the agri-food sector. I intend visiting China in the Spring of 2012 to visit my Chinese counterparts there and to further develop this very important relationship. I also visited Algeria to meet my counterpart, Minister Rachid Benaissa, and to open a new Irish Dairy Board Office and Packing Centre in what is already a significant, but expanding market for Irish dairy products, and I am confident that my continuing work in this area will ultimately pay dividends for the dairy and other sectors. In addition, my Department continues to engage with a range of third countries in Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe with a view to opening new markets and facilitating the expansion of Irish dairy products in existing markets.

To conclude, the Deputy can be assured that my Department and the State Agencies under its remit will continue to closely monitor market developments as they affect the beef, lamb and dairy sectors and strive to improve market opportunities for Irish products.

Food Safety Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the quality of food and food products imported to Ireland or other EU countries complies with food processing husbandry and hygiene regulations applicable here and throughout the EU; the number of breaches of any such regulations in each of the past three years to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7456/12]

Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002, which sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law, stipulates among other things, that food business operators at all stages of production, processing and distribution within the businesses under their control must ensure that foods satisfy the requirements of food law and that these requirements are met. In regard to traceability the regulations require that the operator must have systems in place to be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food. They must also have a system in place to identify the businesses to which their product has been supplied.

Food of Animal Origin

For their import from non-EU countries, food products of animal origin are required to meet the relevant requirements of EU food law that are operated in third countries or regions of third countries or conditions recognised by the EU to be at least equivalent. The EU's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out an assessment of third countries wishing to export these products to the EU and submits for Commission approval those where the responsible authorities can provide appropriate guarantees as regards compliance or equivalence with Community feed and food law and animal health rules. Third countries and their establishments that are approved to export are audited and inspected by the FVO with regard to these guarantees and reports of the findings of inspections are published on its website.

All products of animal origin for human consumption imported into the EU from third countries must be inspected at an approved Border Inspection Post (BIP). The products undergo documentary, identity (traceability) and physical examinations to ensure that they comply with relevant EU and national legislation. Imports must be accompanied by health certification provided by the competent authorities of the country of origin. The FVO also approves third-country meat processing establishments wishing to export to the EU and audits Member States' import controls for products from third countries.

When all import controls have been satisfied, compliant consignments may then be imported and placed on the single market, where they are treated the same as other compliant products and subject to the EU's Food Hygiene Regulations. In meat establishments in Ireland which operate under the approval of my Department, the same level of supervision is afforded to both imported and locally produced product. Veterinary inspectors ensure that meat coming into supervised premises must be from an approved source, whether locally produced or imported.

The following table gives details of BIP checks on imports of food of animal origin in the years 2009 to 2011:

Year

The number of consignments of food of animal origin undergoing BIP checks in Ireland

Total number failing BIP checks

Of which:- the number failing Documentary Checks

- the number failing Identity Checks

- the number failing Physical Checks

Of which:- the total number returned to the country of origin

- the total number destroyed

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

2009

1,191

16

10

3

3

16

0

2010

1,150

25

13

12

0

15

10

2011

1,232

7

2

5

0

6

1

Columns 3, 4 and 5 describe Column 2 in terms of the reasons for rejection.

Columns 5 and 6 indicate the fate of these rejected consignments.

Non-Animal Food Products

Food safety import controls on plant products for human consumption are co-ordinated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). I am advised by the FSAI that there are controls in place at points of import for products of non-animal origin. These controls are carried out by the Environmental Health Officers Service of the Health Service Executive. There are specialized port health officers in the main port areas of Dublin, Cork and Shannon. Similar to all EU member states, products of non-animal origin which have not been identified as posing a particular risk can be imported into the European Union through any point of entry without prior notification to the competent authorities. These products would be subject to routine random checks (documentary, identity, physical) at the point of entry to ensure that they comply with EU legislation relevant to the product being imported.

These products are subject to the same rules and controls as other products on the Irish market once they have been released by the Revenue Customs Service for free circulation. Products of non-animal origin produced in other member states can freely circulate in Ireland and are subject to the same controls on the market as similar products produced in Ireland. Certain products of non-animal origin from Third Countries (i.e. outside the European Economic Area) which have a known or emerging risk are subject to increased levels of control depending on the risk posed. Most of these now require prior notification to a designated point of entry. For Ireland these are Dublin Sea Port and Dublin Airport. Some require pre-entry documentation including Common Entry Document, health certification and certificates of analysis to show compliance with relevant EU legislation. Some require specific checks i.e. identity and physical checks including sampling by the Irish competent authorities on some or all of the consignments. In general, these products cannot be released for free circulation / placed on the market until they have favourable results. All consignments which are subject to increased controls or emergency measures must be inspected at the point of entry into the EU. The same requirements apply in all member states.

There are essentially three levels of official controls for the import from Third Countries of food products of non-animal origin set down in EU legislation:

1. Routine official controls under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 (for products of non-animal origin where no specific risks have been identified)

2. Increased official controls due to known or emerging risks under Article 15.5 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 as implemented by Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 as amended

3. Emergency/Safeguard measures

a. under Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002

b. under other legislation

Non-compliances identified for products of non-animal origin where there is a serious risk and they have been imported into Ireland from another member state or from outside of the EU must be notified to the European Commission through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). In addition, reports on all consignments of products subject to the increased controls or emergency/safeguard measures (2 and 3 above) are reported to the Commission on a quarterly basis, including the outcome of the controls carried out.

A total of 3,829 random checks were carried out on consignments/containers by HSE in 2010. Of these, 9 consignments were rejected. There was a total of 365 consignments in 2010 which were subject to increased official controls/emergency measures, 21 of which were rejected. In 2011, there was a total of 945 consignments which were subject to increased controls, 41 of which were rejected. Rejected consignments were in the main destroyed but some were re-dispatched in accordance with the legislation. All of these consignments which are subject to increased official controls/emergency measures were inspected by HSE.

My Department's involvement in relation to controls on imports from Third Countries arises under Regulation (EC) No. 669/2009 and relates to identified pesticide residue risks in imported foods. All of the produce sampled under the requirements of Regulation 669/2009 in recent years has been found to be in compliance and consequently entered into free circulation within the jurisdiction.

Animal Diseases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the full requirement in respect of laboratory facilities and testing remains available or is being made available to facilitate early identification of animal disease in respect of the bovine, equine and pig industries; if all samples are tested here; the extent to which any such tests are referred overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7457/12]

While the Department's laboratory facilities at Backweston have the capability to deal with the bulk of analytical requirements, certain elements (testing for exotic viruses etc) are referred to other national and international laboratory service providers. It is envisaged that the need for such referrals will continue to diminish, as the Department's laboratories continue to introduce and extend the range of analytical methods and technologies available within the laboratories.

The Regional Veterinary Laboratory network is in close contact with local private veterinary practitioners and local farming interests and maintains a close scrutiny of the level of disease occurring in farmed animal species. The Irish Equine Centre provides most of the laboratory testing capacity for the equine industry with the Department laboratories providing additional tests for export certification. An annual report is prepared and published indicating the results of such disease surveillance activities on an all island basis. The most recent disease surveillance report is for 2010 and can be obtained at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/rvlreport/.

Food Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the markets currently showing great potential for growth at EU or worldwide level for Irish dairy products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7458/12]

Exports of dairy products in 2011 were valued at €2.66 billion, which is an increase of 17% on the previous year. Ireland already has access to markets worldwide and exports dairy products to over eighty countries. Nonetheless I am working with industry to raise the profile of the Irish dairy sector, and the Irish agri-food sector generally in emerging markets.

I have been very active in developing relationships in new and expanding markets in order to build the kind of confidence in Irish production and control systems that provide a platform for long-term trading relationships in the future. As part of that effort, I hosted a visit from the Chinese Vice-Minister for Agriculture last year, and signed a mutual co-operation agreement in the agri-food sector. I intend to lead a trade mission to China in spring to further develop this critical and important relationship, and to meet my ministerial counterparts in the Agriculture and Quarantine Ministries to help raise the profile of the Irish agri-food sector in China.

I also visited Algeria in 2011 to meet my counterpart, Minister Rachid Benaissa and to open a new Irish Dairy Board Office and Packing Centre in what is already a significant, but expanding market for Irish dairy products, and I am confident that my continuing work in this area will ultimately pay dividends for the dairy and other sectors. In addition, my Department in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to engage with a range of third countries in Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe with a view to opening new markets and facilitating the expansion of Irish dairy products in existing markets.

Beef Exports

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the markets currently showing great potential for growth at EU or worldwide level for Irish beef and beef products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7459/12]

Ireland exports some 90% of its beef production and around 96% of beef exports go to other EU Member States. The EU is only 96% self-sufficient in beef production and consumer demand for beef is expected to further exceed EU production in the coming years. Irish beef exports were valued at €1.8 billion in 2011 but overall export volumes to particular destinations in a particular period will vary in response to demand/supply dynamics in specific markets which in turn is influenced by such factors as product innovation, changing consumption patterns, competitor behaviour and currency fluctuations. Exchange rate movements, for example, are especially significant for the development of trade with our largest single market — the UK.

The UK remains a key target market by virtue of its size and proximity. In 2011, it accounted for almost half of total export volumes with an estimated 235,000 tonnes valued at €810m, which was an increase of €50m on 2010 levels. Of the Continental European markets, which accounted for an estimated 237,000 tonnes valued at €920m, Germany is seen to offer promising opportunities for export growth. Exports to Germany in 2011 are estimated to have increased by more than 5,000 tonnes to reach 15,000 tonnes. There is also a growing trade in beef and beef offals to the Russian Federation and Far Eastern markets such as Vietnam. Exports of Irish beef to international markets in 2011 benefitted from stronger import demand with shipments rising by around 30% to 20,000 tonnes and were worth around €70m.

Other long-term targets include, but are not limited to, the Chinese and Japanese markets and my Department is engaging actively with the authorities in those countries, amongst others, in order to secure access for our beef products. Last year I hosted a visit from the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture and signed a mutual co-operation agreement in the agri-food sector which I hope will help to build the kind of confidence in Irish agri-food production and control systems that will provide a platform for improved trading relationships into the future.

The market prospects for 2012 are reasonably positive given the likely supply/demand dynamics at work in both the domestic and EU beef markets in 2012. But there are considerable downside risks associated with developments in the macro-economic environment and uncertainty surrounds the prospects for consumer demand generally. However, I will continue to work closely with the beef industry, through Bord Bia and with the assistance of the international network of Irish Embassies, to raise the international profile of Ireland and the Irish agri-food sector in order to facilitate increased exports in traditional and emerging markets.

Poultry Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which Irish poultry exports have developed in each of the past five years and to date in 2012; the prospects for the future at EU and worldwide levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7460/12]

The following table sets out the value and volume of Irish poultry meat exports since 2007. Great Britain and Northern Ireland account for the majority of trade although the proportion destined for these markets has declined. France is the largest Continental EU market while internationally China has become increasingly important in recent years.

2007

2008

2009

2010

’000t

€m

’000t

€m

’000t

€m

’000t

€m

United Kingdom

72.5

212

80

176

85

160

77

162

Other

18.5

27

19

25

20

23

31

38

Total

91

239

99

201

105

183

108

200

An ongoing competitive marketplace limited any potential for poultry price increases during 2011 although strong export volumes helped result in the value of Irish poultry exports rising by 3% to reach an estimated €210 million. The Irish poultry meat sector is very small and as the industry is one which has a high degree of vertical integration it is difficult for Irish companies to break into new markets. EU production is forecast to decline marginally during 2012.

Food Safety Standards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the countries from which beef, lamb, poultry or pigmeat and associated products are imported to this country or the EU; the extent of the regulations in respect of husbandry production or hygiene and traceability applicable in such countries; the extent to which this conforms to EU standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7462/12]

For their import from non-EU countries foods products of animal origin are required to meet the relevant requirements of EU food law that are operated in third countries or regions of third countries or the conditions recognised by the EU to be at least equivalent. Accordingly the EU publishes listings of the countries and regions of countries it has approved for this purpose as well as their approved export food business establishments.

The EU's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out an assessment of third countries wishing to export these products to EU and submits for Commission approval those where the responsible authorities can provide appropriate guarantees as regards compliance or equivalence with Community feed and food law and animal health rules. Third countries and their establishments that are approved to export are audited and inspected by the FVO with regard to these guarantees and reports of the findings of inspections are published on its website.

Where there are concerns with regard to the effectiveness of controls being operated in an approved third country the Commission, in consultation with the Standing Committee on Animal Health and the Food Chain, may introduce specific or additional import control by means of a safeguard measure to ensure the protection of human and animal health. Safeguard measures limiting or banning the export of animal products from third countries or regions of countries may be implemented where, for example, the conditions of an animal disease outbreak could seriously effect production and trade in animal products in the EU or where there is risk to human health. These measures continue until the risk has been removed. Examples of this are the restrictions permitting only treated poultry meat products from certain Asian countries because of high pathogenic Asian Influenza risks.

Importers of products of animal origin from third countries are required to give prior notification of import to an EU approved Border Inspection Post. Veterinary checks comprising documentary, identity (traceability) and physical checks according to EU requirements are applied at the (BIPs) to confirm the products, their origin and health certification comply with the requirements for their entry on to the EU market. The FVO monitors the application of controls in third countries and at the BIPs. Products not complying with import conditions may be seized for return to the country of origin or for their destruction.

Countries and their regions currently approved for export of beef (BOV), lamb (OVI) and pig meat (POR) are those countries listed in Annex II to Commission Regulation (EU) No 206/2010 (as last amended by Regulation (EU) No 1112/2011) where competent authorities of the approved third country/region have undertaken to provide export health certification according to the model required by the EU. In each case this is denoted by a three letter reference for the particular meat product that country/region has been approved for; as well as specific conditions that may apply for import of products from that country/region; and, where relevant, production dates from when export of the product may be undertaken. For poultry meat (POU) a similar listing is provided in Annex I to Commission Regulation (EU) No. 798/2008 as last amended by Regulation (EU) No 1132/2011. I have arranged to have the approved country listings referred to above forwarded under separate cover.

The following link is to the EU Commission's website with information on the current listings of countries/regions and establishments: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biosafety/establishments/ third_country/index_en.htm

Question No. 200 answered with Question No. 39.

Food Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total number of persons currently employed in the mushroom growing industry here; the extent to which employment in the sector and fluctuated in the past four years and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7464/12]

The Department's and Bord Bia's best estimate of those employed in the Irish mushroom industry including growing, marketing and mushroom compost manufacture is the equivalent of over 2,500 full time jobs. Almost 90% of those employed are involved in production of the crop. As the mushroom industry has become more concentrated, and with fewer growers involved in production, the numbers of part- time workers has declined over the years. Numbers employed in the industry have been relatively static over the past four years. The estimate of those employed in the mushroom industry in 2007 was over 2,400. The output from the mushroom industry showed a marginal increase in 2011. Irish mushroom exports increased by 2% in 2011 arising from better consumer demand in the UK. This was partly due to the EU/ Industry co-funded three year mushroom promotion campaign on the UK market, which started in 2011. The medium term prospect for the industry continues to be positive but is still very much influenced by the Sterling-Euro exchange rate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if it is possible to maximise job opportunities arising from the value-added processing of all food and food products in the dairy, meat, fish and poultry sectors with particular reference to addressing issues arising from the downturn in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7465/12]

The establishment of a positive economic environment in order to facilitate job creation is one of the key objectives of this Government. Following last November's Government's Decision to progress an annual Action Plan for Jobs, my Department and its State Bodies have been actively involved in this exercise. Consequently, I expect that the 2012 Action Plan will be announced shortly and will include a specific section outlining the ways in which the agri-food sector will contribute to the overall job target.

This Action Plan links in with the Food Harvest 2020 report which set itself a target of increasing the value added of the agri-food and fisheries sector by €3 billion by 2020. I am particularly confident that there will be increased employment in dairy processing, the seafood and aquaculture industry and in the SMEs and micro industries. Overall, I plan to ensure that the concerted Government focus on jobs will underpin the current employment levels of 135,000, achieve a net gain of 7,500 in food and beverage companies while at the same time augmenting the equally important indirect employment impact.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

203 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7520/12]

My Department has neither established nor abolished any State agencies, authorities, boards, committees, working groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies or other quangos since February 2011 apart from the Beef Policy 2020 Activation Group which was established in February 2011 as part of the Food Harvest 2020 Implementation process. It was dissolved in June 2011 following the presentation of its report to me.

Juvenile Offenders

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

204 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, in view of recommendations made in the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Report Card 2012 to remove children form St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin, and in view of the repeated concerns expressed by international bodies such as the UN Committee Against Torture and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture regarding the same, she will commit capital funds for 2012 to build the national children’s detention facility in Lusk, County Dublin, and extend the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to oversee the concerns of children in St. Patrick’s Institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7312/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

206 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has met with the Department of Finance to seek capital funding for the construction of the new national children’s detention facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6529/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

207 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date from which children of 16 and 17 years will no longer be held in St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6530/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204, 206 and 207 together

I am in ongoing consultations with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the funding of the proposed National Children Detention Facility in Oberstown, Lusk, Co Dublin and I have recently written to him emphasising the priority that should be attached to this project. I do not propose to comment further on these consultations, except to say that the Deputy can be assured that I will continue to make the case at Government level on the priority that should be given to this project.

Regarding the date from which children will no longer be held in St Patrick's Institution, I refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 4271/12 of 25 January 2012 in this matter. The position is unchanged. I am aware that it is suggested that the remit of the Ombudsman for Children should be extended to take complaints from children resident in St. Patrick's Institution. I have considered this issue and am positively disposed to it, and I will be progressing it with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality in the coming months.

Health Service Staff

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the number of child protection workers in County Kerry (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7498/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

Questions Nos. 206 and 207 answered with Question No. 204.

Preschool Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

208 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of the positive comments in the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Report Card 2012 regarding the Government’s record on early childhood care and education, he will extend the early childhood year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7316/12]

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. I very much welcome the positive assessment of the ongoing developments in the early childhood care and education sector by the Children's Rights Alliance. Their Report recognises in particular the significant commitment made by this Government to maintaining the necessary and substantial funding to ensure that the free universal pre-school year continues to be implemented.

In 2011, the ECCE programme cost approximately €163 million. Additional funding has been made available for 2012 when the cost of the programme is expected to rise to €175 million due to changes in demographics.

The Children's Rights Alliance Report also recognises the significant steps taken in relation to the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and I will continue to collaborate closely with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, in implementing this Strategy. Early intervention is crucial and the Strategy provides for a range of actions to support pre-school children and their families, to be undertaken by my Department.

I am aware of the need to further develop the early childhood care and education sector and it is my view that it would be extremely helpful to many children if I could extend the free pre-school provision to a second year. This would be particularly beneficial for children with special needs who currently can avail of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis over two years and I would like to be in a position to deliver on this. However, this development would require considerable additional funding and given the financial constraints under which the Government is currently operating it is not possible to provide for any enhancements to the programme at this time.

However future developments relating to early years care and education will be considered during preparation of the new National Early Years Strategy 2012.

Child Care Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

209 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of the welcome announcement on her commitment to develop a national early years strategy, her plans around the scope of consultation procedures that will inform the strategy to ensure its success; the elements of the early childhood sector and relevant agencies that will be involved in this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7318/12]

The Early Years Strategy will be developed during 2012 and will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life. There will be a consultation process later in the year and I can assure the Deputy that key stakeholders will be consulted. The details of who is to be consulted and how the process will be managed is currently under consideration.

Adoption Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

210 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the Adoption Act. [7349/12]

The Adoption Act already provides that an individual habitually resident in the State, or a couple married to each other, each of whom is habitually resident in the State, may apply to the Health Service Executive for an assessment of eligibility and suitability to adopt. It is currently not possible for two unmarried persons to jointly adopt a child in Ireland. At present there are no legislative proposals in relation to this matter.

Foster Care

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

211 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of unaccompanied minors who having reached the age of 18 years since 1 January 2011, who have received notice, either from the Health Service Executive or the Reception and Integration Agency to tell them they are to be moved out of foster homes and into direct provision centres; the provision, if any, that is made in each of aged out minors in relation to their continued education be it at leaving certificate level or otherwise; if any have been granted the opportunity to remain in their foster placement in order to complete their education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7381/12]

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

212 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies, or other quangos set up by her since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7522/12]

My Department was formally established on the 2nd of June 2011 and since then it has established and abolished the following groups:

Groups Established

Groups Abolished

Children First Interdepartmental Group October 2011

Children and Young People’s Participation Partnership Committee March 2011

Advisory Group on Youth Homelessness May 2011

The Task Force on the Child and Family Support Agency September 2011

Cross Sectoral Project Team on 116000 Hotline January 2012

Thematic Group on the Development of a national policy on children and young people’s participation in decision making. February 2011

The Local Authorities have also established a National Local Authority Play and Recreation Network in conjunction with my Department.

It should be noted that following enactment of the Child Care Amendment Act 2011 the Children's Act Advisory Board was subsequently dissolved by means of the commencement by the Minister of Health of Part 6 of the Child Amendment Act 2011.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Sean Fleming

Question:

213 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health if an appointment will be arranged as soon as possible for a child (details supplied) to see a consultant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7337/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Food Labelling

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number of breaches of food labelling in respect of traceability and other standard that have been identified in each of the past four years to date in 2012; the action, if any, taken thereafter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7461/12]

Responsibility for the enforcement of food labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and its official agents, which include the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Local Authorities (LAs) and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). Traceability figures are counted separately to food labelling figures as they also encompass other areas of food safety. In 2008 the HSE, carried out 18,068 food labelling and 7,031 traceability inspections which identified 2,866 and 552 non-compliances respectively. In 2009 54,177 food and 12,194 traceability inspections identified 8,425 and 2,335 non-compliances respectively. In 2010, 52,571 food and 15,947 traceability inspections identified 7,079 and 2,422 non-compliances respectively. Full data for 2011 is not yet available nor is data for 2012. I will arrange for the FSAI to contact the Deputy directly when this information becomes available.

The HSE follows up on all non-compliances with the food business operators to ensure future compliance. In the other official agencies, food labels are checked at production level as part of routine food controls. The number of inspections specifically on food labels is not separately recorded.

DAFM Egg and Poultry Inspectors verify compliance with labelling and the marketing standards for eggs and poultry from primary production through to retail. In 2008 DAFM undertook 1,409 inspections in poultry producer establishments to verify compliance with these standards for poultry, of which 28 non-compliances were identified. In 2009 DAFM undertook 1,432 inspections in these establishments and identified 20 non-compliances. In 2010 DAFM undertook 1,359 inspections in these establishments and identified 7 non-compliances. FSAI has also carried out, in co-ordination with the official agencies, labelling surveys on specific aspects of the nutrition and health claims legislation, allergen labelling, fish and fish products and gas-flushed chicken fillets.

Following on from the inspections the official agencies undertake appropriate enforcement action with the food businesses. They also verify that compliance is achieved. As already indicated above in most cases breaches of labelling legislation do not pose a serious risk to public health and compliance with the legislation is done through the provision of advice to the food business and appropriate changes to the food label.

In May 2009 a prosecution was taken by the FSAI against a food business in Galway for breaches including the Labelling of Fishery and Aquaculture Products Regulations 2003. One 2009 HSE prosecution cited offences under the 2006 Country of Origin of Beef Regulations and a further prosecution cited the Beef Labelling Regulations 2000. In 2010 four HSE prosecutions cited offences under labelling legislation including the general labelling, country of origin of beef, fish labelling and beef labelling regulations.

Health Insurance

Tom Fleming

Question:

215 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health his plans to address the increases to the cost of private health insurance resulting in thousands abandoning their policies every month as they can no longer afford the rising premium rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7266/12]

I am concerned that private health insurance is becoming harder to afford, especially for older people, as insurers increasingly tailor their insurance plans towards younger, healthier customers. Under Universal Health Insurance, everyone will be insured for health care and the current unfair discrimination between public and private patients will be removed. In the meantime, I am focusing on addressing the problems of the current private health insurance market, where insurers have a considerable financial incentive to cover younger, better risks rather than older, poorer risks.

I am strongly committed to protecting community rating, whereby older and less healthy customers should pay the same amount for the same cover as younger and healthier people. In order to protect community rating, we need a system of Risk Equalisation which ensures that community rating can survive. At present, we have an Interim Scheme, which has been in place since 2009. It is designed to compensate insurers which have older, less healthy customers and therefore higher claims costs, compared to insurers which have younger, less costly customers. It does so by a system of tax credits, based on age, in respect of persons of 60 years and over. Without such a system, community rating cannot survive. The Interim Scheme is funded by a Community Rating Levy, in respect of every health insurance policy written. I extended the Interim Scheme for a further year in 2012 under the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2011, and will introduce a more detailed Risk Equalisation scheme under new legislation from next January.

In order to keep down the cost of health insurance for older people, I increased significantly the age-related income tax credit for insured persons aged 60 years and over, from 1 January 2012. Without this support, health insurers would have had an even stronger financial incentive to ‘segment' the market by offering policies targeted at young people, to the disadvantage of older customers.

I must emphasise that these measures are designed to result in no overall increase of premiums in the market and to spread the risk more evenly between the healthy and the less healthy, the young and the old. The increased levy is balanced by a corresponding increase in tax credits for older people, so that the system is Exchequer neutral overall. In this regard, it is important to note that the levy on policies is not a revenue collecting mechanism for the Exchequer. The Community Rating Levy, under the Interim Scheme, is placed on private health insurance providers for each insured individual, and not on the individuals themselves. It is a matter for the insurance providers as to the extent, if any, they pass the levy on to their clients.

In December 2011, I agreed with the three commercial health insurers to establish a Consultative Forum to tackle issues of mutual concern and this Forum will meet in the coming weeks. It is intended to work cooperatively in driving down costs related to health insurance and to identify savings that could be achieved by both public and private hospitals. I have already indicated to the insurers that I would be happy to hear proposals from them which would result in lower costs for the health insurance sector. A new review of the VHI's claims costs will be carried out to establish what further savings can be made. The review is be completed early this year and will contribute significantly to more effective cost control within the private health insurance market.

I am determined that these and other measures will have a significant impact in containing the level of any future increases in health insurance premiums. The Government's clear objective is for the health insurance market to remain competitive as we move towards a new system of Universal Health Insurance.

Medical Cards

Denis Naughten

Question:

216 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in issuing a person (details supplied) with a medical card; when same will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7271/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

217 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will report on all current initiatives to address waiting times and overcrowding in the six major Dublin hospitals accident and emergency units including Beaumont Hospital, the Mater, St. Vincent’s, St. James’s, Blanchardstown James Connolly Memorial, and Tallaght; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7283/12]

Building on the achievements of 2011 the SDU will work with the NTPF, the HSE Clinical Programmes and hospitals to minimise patient waiting times in emergency departments and reduce waiting periods for in patient and day case elective surgical care. The improvements already won have to be secured and continually improved upon. There is a specific SDU liaison process in place for all of these hospitals with varying degrees of intensity commensurate with the issues on the ground in each location. The next phase of work by the SDU, which will encompass these six hospitals, will include:

February 2012 will begin to see the focus in ED turn to patient journey time monitoring (along with trolley waits) as part of the new national score card for measuring performance.

Unscheduled Care Target to be introduced in 2012: Ensure that 95% of all attendees at EDs are discharged or admitted within 6 hours of registration, and that those who need to be admitted through ED wait no more than 9 hours from registration.

Scheduled Care Targets to be introduced in 2012: Move to reduce maximum waiting time for elective surgery to 9 months or less. 20 weeks or less for elective paediatric procedures. Endoscopy procedures the target is 13 weeks.

Set targets for improved access to outpatient (OPD) services in the first quarter of 2012.

The introduction of hospital groups will provide further opportunities for inter site cooperation. Although achieving these targets will be challenging given the difficult budgetary position the health services are facing I am encouraged by the recent successes of the SDU.

Significant Progress by end 2011

By the end of 2011 very significant progress was made on the two key SDU priority initiatives for 2011 in relation to trolley waits and the 12 month maximum waiting time target for elective in patient and day case surgery.

Trolley Waits 2011

In the area of unscheduled care in Emergency Departments (ED) the cumulative number of patients waiting on trolleys was 27% lower than the previous year. This equates to significant numbers of patients whose experience of our Emergency Departments was markedly improved through the work of the SDU.

Elective in patient and day case waiting lists 2011

In relation to scheduled care the National Treatment Purchase Fund reported that at the end of 2011, 95% (41 hospitals) met the target to eliminate greater than 12 month waiters from their active waiting list. This compares to 28 hospitals at the end of 2010 that had patients waiting over 12 months for treatment on the active waiting list.

Notwithstanding this significant progress to date it is recognised that it will be a significant challenge to maintain these achievements particularly in the initial few months of 2012, typically the busiest time for acute hospitals.

Willie Penrose

Question:

218 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for a operation, which is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7289/12]

Willie Penrose

Question:

219 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for a operation, which is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7290/12]

Willie Penrose

Question:

220 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will have a operation carried out; if same will now be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7292/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218, 219 and 220 together.

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should a patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Health Services

Jack Wall

Question:

221 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for treatment in the USA in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if it is he or the Health Service Executive that has to determine such a decision; the timescale of such an application from submission to determination; if there is any link with Irish American associations or other such bodies in regard to the provision of funding for special cases or links with institutions in the USA in regard to such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7303/12]

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

Hospital Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

222 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the proposed date for the opening of the new medical assessment unit and accident and emergency department at Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7306/12]

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

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

223 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding support in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 [7307/12]

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

Crime Prevention

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

224 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health the projected cost of promoting the Crimestoppers phone line after the abolition of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6542/12]

At the outset, I would like to advise the Deputy that the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing Campaign has not been abolished. Rather, from 2012 onwards, the campaign will be promoted in partnership with CRIMESTOPPERS which will facilitate a more cost efficient approach.

Up to the end of 2011, there were a number of phone lines available to report drug dealing activity, including the dedicated Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phone line which carried with it significant promotional costs. The funding previously available for the operation of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phoneline will be used to raise awareness of the CRIMESTOPPERS line as a counter drug initiative, in order to increase calls to the line concerning drug dealing and drug related crime.

In 2012, funding in the amount of €25,000 will be used to promote the CRIMESTOPPERS phone line in Drugs Task Force areas and other areas where there is a high concentration of drug activity. This is the same level of funding provided for the initiative in 2011.

Hospital Services

Billy Timmins

Question:

225 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding funding for transplants for Beaumont Hospital (details supplied), Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7314/12]

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

Medical Cards

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

226 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for the renewal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if it will be expedited as the applicant is 72 years old [7326/12]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. Under new procedures, a Medical Card will remain valid, irrespective of the expiry date shown on the card, once the Medical Card holder is genuinely engaging with the HSE review process. Eligibility can be confirmed by any Doctor or Pharmacist, or the Medical Card holder online at www.medicalcard.ie or through the GP practice systems.

Sean Fleming

Question:

227 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7338/12]

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

Care of the Elderly

Catherine Byrne

Question:

228 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the special delivery unit funding that has been allocated to St. James’s Hospital, Dublin 8; if this funding is being used to facilitate elderly persons moving into nursing homes while they await the outcome of their application under the nursing home support scheme; the person who is responsible for administering this funding in the hospital; the way patients’ families may apply to be considered under this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7348/12]

During the last quarter of 2011 the SDU sought proposals from hospitals for measures that could be taken to avoid excessively long delays for large number of patients waiting in Emergency Departments. This initiative initially concentrated on hospitals that were contributing most to the overall problem and was later extended to all hospitals which had patients waiting. It was in the context of the extended initiative that the focus came on St. James's and in particular to delays in the discharge of patients who have concluded the acute element of their illness and were ready for discharge.

Based on a proposal received from St James's, the SDU approved a maximum of €140,000 for the transfer of 35 patients from the hospital to Private Nursing Homes on a short term basis for a period of 4 weeks in December 2011 subject to having every effort made to achieve best value for money.

This approval was subject to a range of specific conditions including that the hospital was to select patients in respect of whom an application for Fair Deal was already made, and was to liaise with the HSE in respect of each application.

It was made clear that this funding was approved and would be released only in the event of all the requirements being met. That is to say that the funds could not be used for any other purpose than set out in the proposal and that all conditions attached to the funding had to be adhered to or it would be withdrawn and/or reclaimed. The hospital was obliged to continue these measures from within its core funding for January 2012 as necessary to meet agreed ED targets. Any capacity increases funded through this mechanism could not be offset by reductions elsewhere. Funding under the initiative has been disbursed to the HSE which is responsible for payments to the providers.

This was a once-off initiative designed to increase bed capacity at the hospital over the busy Christmas and New Year period so the issue of applications for inclusion at this stage does not arise. A total of 23 patients were transferred from St. James's Hospital to nursing homes under the initiative at a total cost of €99,268.

Medical Cards

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

229 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied). [7357/12]

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

Sean Fleming

Question:

230 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7358/12]

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

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

231 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7359/12]

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

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

232 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7362/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

233 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [7363/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

234 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7371/12]

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

Billy Timmins

Question:

235 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding medical card applications online when a person needs to be assessed urgently due to an illness; if he or she can forward the medical information online and be assessed for medical reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7373/12]

The Health Service Executive has confirmed to me that where a person has an urgent acute need for a medical card, there is a dedicated contact in the Primary Care Reimbursement Service to facilitate urgent assessment of any such application. Details of this contact should be available to all GPs and consultant medical doctors.

Hospital Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

236 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of hospital managers who have applied to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7387/12]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

237 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of nurses, by hospital, who have applied to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7388/12]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

238 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of midwives, by hospital, who have applied to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7389/12]

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

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

239 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of consultant doctors who have applied to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7390/12]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

240 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of home help workers who have applied to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7391/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 240 together.

The Government has determined that, in line with its commitment to reduce the size of the public service, health sector employment numbers must be reduced to approximately 102,000 in 2012.

The cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost effective health system. The most recent information available from the HSE indicates that, over the period from September 2011 to end-February 2012, some 3,800 health service staff will have retired from the health service. Of this total, approximately 2,200 persons (54%) have already retired during the five-month period to the end of January 2012, while the remainder have indicated that they will leave by the end of February 2012. It should be noted that these figures refer to the number of individuals rather than wholetime equivalents (WTE). This data is subject to change in the event of additional applications being received or existing applications being withdrawn. The number of Home Helps who have stated their intent to retire during the period September 2011 to February 2012 is 192. The number of consultant doctors who have stated their intent to retire during the same period is 93.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

241 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he intends to allow for the re-employment of any persons who have applied to the early retirement scheme; the numbers he intends to allow for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7392/12]

It was a specific condition of the 2010 Voluntary Early Retirement scheme that persons availing of the scheme would not be eligible for re-employment in the public health sector or in the wider public service or in a body wholly or mainly funded from public moneys. The same prohibition on re-employment applied under the 2010 Voluntary Redundancy scheme also, except that the prohibition is for a period of 7 years, after which time any re-employment will require the approval of the Minister for Finance. These provisions also apply in the case of re-engagement on a contract for service which would include employment through an agency engaged in the public service.

However, there is currently no voluntary redundancy or voluntary early retirement scheme available in the public health sector. Therefore, no specific re-employment restrictions apply to persons retiring before the end of the ‘grace period' which expires on 29 February 2012.

I wish to emphasise that the re-engagement of retired staff should only take place in exceptional circumstances and in the short term only.

Medical Cards

Brian Walsh

Question:

242 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Health when a decision on an application for a medical card will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7393/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

243 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health when a general practitioner visit card will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will expedite a response. [7414/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

244 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if an application for a medical card submitted in October 2011 will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [7415/12]

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

Health Services

John McGuinness

Question:

245 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied with the number of staff employed at Caomhnú Kilcreene, Kilkenny and the staff patient ration; his plans to ensure staff, patient and visitor safety at the special unit; his views on concerns expressed by family members that much needed activity for the patients have been cut due to lack of staff; if he will investigate written complaints by family members regarding staff levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7416/12]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

John McGuinness

Question:

246 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange an early date for assessment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [7417/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Pearse Doherty

Question:

247 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the number of early retirements taken in 2012 from hospitals, nursing homes, primary care teams and other Department of Health funded health providers in the following locations (details supplied); and if he will provide a breakdown of the retirements by service provider. [7429/12]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Services

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

248 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health if the Health Information Quality Authority has recommended the closing of St. Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park, Dublin; and if so, the action he intends to take on foot of the recommendation. [7431/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Michael McGrath

Question:

249 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the paediatric diabetes posts for the Health Service Executive south for 2012; and when will the recruitment process for posts be carried out [7438/12]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7485/12]

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

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

251 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if it will be expedited. [7486/12]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Mattie McGrath

Question:

252 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health the reason an application for the nursing home support scheme was refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if she will review this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7508/12]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

253 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is being overcharged in respect of the payment of the fair deal programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7509/12]

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

Hospital Accommodation

Tom Fleming

Question:

254 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the proposed dedicated cystic fibrosis unit at Cork University Hospital; when the unit will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7511/12]

A combined adult cystic fibrosis inpatient designated bed facility and respiratory unit has been identified in a vacated ward site on the CUH campus. Provisional plans and costings for the unit have been progressed. The hospital has established a working group to progress this facility and is working in partnership with the Build4Life organisation. The HSE is currently examining the proposal.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Finian McGrath

Question:

255 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an operation in respect of a person (details supplied) [7519/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or day-case surgery

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Departmental Bodies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

256 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, workings groups, tribunals, council services, task forces or other quangos set up by him since February 2011; the number abolished since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7529/12]

No new agencies or authorities have been set up by my Department since February 2011. Since my appointment in March 2011, three bodies have been dissolved, they are The National Social Work Qualifications Board (31 March 2011), The Children Acts Advisory Board (8 September 2011) and The National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery (31 December 2011). Legislation is at various stages of preparation to deal with a further four. The additional information sought by the Deputy is being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy when finalised.

Taxi Regulations

John O'Mahony

Question:

257 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he proposes to roll out his recently announced local area hackney licence scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7302/12]

The local area hackney licence is one of a range of actions proposed in the Taxi Regulation Review Report which has been approved by Government and was published last month. The full Report is available on my Department's website. The proposal for a local hackney licence aims to facilitate the a low cost entry to the hackney market for transport provision in rural area that, otherwise, would be unlikely to have such services.

The regulation of the taxi industry is a matter in the first instance for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. The NTA is the lead agency with responsibility for implementation of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report, including the proposal for a local area hackney licence.

I have arranged for your question to be forwarded to the NTA for a direct response. If you do not receive a response within ten working days, please notify my private office.

Tourism Promotion

David Stanton

Question:

258 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his policy regarding promoting walking as a tourism activity, in particular the way he is supporting and intends to support walking clubs and walking tours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7304/12]

The promotion and development of various tourism sectors and activities are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland. Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Road Safety

Brendan Griffin

Question:

259 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will review the situation whereby farmers are experiencing difficulty due to EB licences not being granted; if he will consider Irish Farmers’ Association proposals to help resolve this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7311/12]

Prior to 1989, the driver licensing system permitted a car and trailer to be driven under the car licence alone. Licence categories were then changed, with separate categories covering car (Category B) and car and trailer (Category EB). People licensed to drive with trailer before 1989 were allowed to keep their old entitlements, simply by indicating this wish on the application form when renewing their licences. Where a pre-1989 licence holder did not indicate that they wished to retain the entitlement, the category was not included on the renewed licence. However, the entitlement could be restored up to ten years after last holding it. If the entitlement to drive with a trailer was allowed to lapse for longer than the ten years, the person was required to apply as a learner for the purposes of driving with a trailer.

The problems this system has caused for some people have been raised before with me. I have considered the issue, and I believe it is of the utmost importance, from a safety perspective, that people are properly qualified and licensed to drive the vehicles they have c