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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Bodies

Martin Ferris

Question:

10 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will detail the full international and domestic annual cost of administration including staff, property, energy and so on of the Industrial Development Authority, Enterprise Ireland, county enterprise boards and Shannon Development. [20908/12]

IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are the only economic development agencies for which I have responsibility who have offices outside of the island of Ireland. Shannon Development and County Enterprise Boards have domestic offices only.

Each of these Agencies publishes an Annual Report and Accounts which outline the income and expenditure of the Agencies and give breakdowns of their various costs and expenses. This document is posted on each of the Agencies' websites and is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Each of the Agencies report on their finances in a slightly different fashion so it is not easy to provide an exact comparasion on an agency to agency basis.

In an effort to assist the Deputy, I have asked each of the agencies to provide me with a breakdown of their figures for 2011 and I am informed as follows:

The total administrative costs, including staffing costs, associated with the running of Enterprise Ireland in 2011 was €89.4m of which €19.8m was for the overseas offices and €69.6m for domestic offices, while, in IDA, the comparable figures were €40.1m, of which €10.5m was for the overseas offices and €29.6m for domestic costs.

The total administrative costs, including staffing costs associated with the running of Shannon Development, including its tourism arm, was €12.6m in 2011.

The total administrative costs, including staffing costs, associated with the running of the 35 County Enterprise Boards was €11.9m in 2011.

The Agency staff whose pay is included in these figures are primarily not part of the administration cost of those agencies but are employed full time on the delivery of core programmes such as winning FDI projects, engaging with and advising client companies or promoting exports.

I will arrrange to forward to the Deputy a series of tables, one in respect of each agency, showing a breakdown of these costs into remuneration, advertising, rents, rates, service charges, travelling expenses, printing, postage, light, heating, cleaning, consultancy fees etc.

Competition Law

Barry Cowen

Question:

11 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason for the delays in the consumer and competition Bill; if he will consider dealing with the media mergers aspect of the Bill separately in order to expedite its passage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20923/12]

In July 2011 the Government approved the draft heads of the Consumer and Competition Bill giving,inter alia, effect to the recommendations of the Advisory Group in full with two amendments:

one sees the change in relevant Minister for such public interest considerations from the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the Minster for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and

the other relates to designating the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee as a notifiable body when the Minister is considering proposed media mergers from the public interest aspect.

The recommendations of the Advisory Group are aimed at strengthening the public interest test in respect of media mergers.

While the Advisory Group on Media Mergers reported to the then Minister in 2008, no final decision was reached as to where responsibility for the public interest should lie until this Government approved draft Heads of the Bill in July 2011. This draft is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Priority has had to be given in the implementation of our legislative programme to other areas of competition law, particularly the need to meet EU/IMF commitments that have been incorporated in the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011.

I see no benefit in progressing a stand-alone piece of legislation, to be followed in due course by a more comprehensive package of reforms. The consolidation of the various element of consumer and competition law into a single Act is entirely in keeping with the principles of better regulation and with the trend within Government to consolidate and simplify legislation for ease of reference for all users.

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

12 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason that he has not requested the Competition Authority under Section 30(2) of the Competition Act 2002 to carry out a market study or analysis of the cement, concrete and aggregates industry. [20816/12]

The Competition Authority is the statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State. Section 29(3) of the Competition Act 2002 provides that the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions. Under section 30(1)(b) of that Act, the Competition Authority is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of the Act. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Authority, I have no direct function in these matters.

In its 2011 Annual Report the Competition Authority acknowledges that allegations of anti-competitive activities in the concrete and cement industries are being investigated by it on foot of information received. Furthermore I am aware from media coverage that private court proceedings in this area are on-going. In these circumstances it is inappropriate for me to request the Authority to carry out a market study in this area or to comment further on the matter.

Under section 30 subsection (1) of the 2002 Act, the Authority can study and analyse any practice or method of competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services or any other matter relating to competition. Availing of this provision the Authority has carried out a number of in-depth market studies in various sectors of the economy including professions, banking, transport, private health insurance and the grocery sector. The Authority has published its reports into these sectors and made recommendations aimed at improving competition in these areas. This work can involve a detailed economic analysis of a sector.

Under section 30 subsection (2), I can request the Competition Authority to carry out a study or analysis of any practice or method of competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services. Such a request however is not a request to carry out an investigation into alleged criminal behaviour. One exercise involves an in-depth economic analysis of a market; the other involves a criminal investigation into alleged breaches of the law.

In the context of the Action Plan for Jobs, I have requested the Authority to identify any sheltered areas of the economy where competition is restricted and commission studies on such areas where appropriate.

Enterprise Support Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

13 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20819/12]

Supporting new and existing indigenous and foreign-owned businesses, across all regions, is central to our plans for recovery, growth and jobs. The Action Plan for Jobs contains a number of measures which are aimed specifically at the facilitation and incentivisation of national enterprise development from start-ups to growth companies. It also sets out measures that will enhance linkages between foreign owned multi-national and indigenous Irish companies through for example, enhanced sub-supply opportunities.

The Plan is a whole Government plan with a national focus across all regions. In addition to a continued focus on supporting and growing enterprise, the Action Plan for Jobs sets out an ambitious plan for developing employment initiatives within communities. The range of actions set out in the plan recognises that while it is Government who will create the right operating environment for business growth and job creation, it is the local entrepreneurs who will create the jobs.

The Enterprise Development agencies will be at the forefront of implementing the Action Plan for Jobs across all regions and will ensure that local enterprises can maximise their contribution to economic and jobs growth.

In terms of the specific supports delivered, a total of €15m was approved to indigenous companies in the Midland and Western Regions in 2011, supporting more than 18,000 jobs. Additionally, IDA-supported companies employed over 17,500 people between the two regions.

From the beginning of 2011 to date, IDA Ireland has announced the creation of more than 900 jobs across the two regions in locations including Galway, Tullamore, Athlone and Castlerea Co. Roscommon. Of the 92 High Potential Start-ups assisted by Enterprise Ireland throughout the country in 2011, four are based in the Midlands region and eight in the West.

Job Protection

Dara Calleary

Question:

14 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the efforts he has made to prevent a company (details supplied) from exporting 300 jobs in Leopardstown, Dublin and Dundalk, County Louth, to Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20920/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

31 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he will take with a company (details supplied) to secure a reversal of its strategy to export jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20885/12]

John Halligan

Question:

52 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he will take with a company (details supplied) to secure a reversal of its strategy to export jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20886/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 31 and 52 together.

Vodafone Ireland announced on 22 March that it had completed a review of the company's contracted mobile call-centre operations. As a result of this review, the company adopted a new model for its mobile customer care, resulting in a move to a new provider, Teleperformance.

Vodafone Ireland and Rigney Dolphin have entered a six-week consultation process with employee representatives. With effect from 8 May, 27 Vodafone roles and 290 Rigney Dolphin contract roles will transfer to Teleperformance. Rigney Dolphin will remain a provider to Vodafone for other purposes.

I have been assured by Vodafone Ireland that the transfer of service will observe the Transfer of Undertakings — Protection of Employees (European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003) Regulations.

I recently met with Vodafone Ireland and the company has confirmed that it is likely that work will move to the Teleperformance site in Newry. I also met representatives of the workers their Union and local public representatives. I understand this transfer process will be a matter for Teleperformance, although Vodafone will continue to participate in the consultation period. I understand that Vodafone has agreed with Teleperformance that in the event of a move to Newry, all affected Vodafone and Rigney Dolphin employees will have the option to transfer to Newry when their role relocates. Teleperformance have guaranteed that terms and conditions will carry forward to Newry for those who choose to move, and alternatives for those who choose not to transfer will be discussed through the consultation process. While the situation that has arisen on this occasion is regrettable, it is nevertheless reflective of the competitive forces that affect the sector concerned.

In my meeting with Vodafone, the company made it clear that this decision has been taken for commercial reasons and they are not in a position to reverse it. The company have indicated that the work which they have on fixed line customer service is not under review and is performing well.

Enterprise Support Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

15 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to ensure that small and medium enterprises can benefit from the EU progress micro enterprise fund. [20894/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

35 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the first loans to businesses will be granted through the new proposed micro enterprise scheme. [20893/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 35 together.

Work on the Microfinance Loan Fund is being progressed rapidly to achieve an early launch. The Fund will stimulate lending to sustainable microenterprises and is targeted at start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people. It will provide loans of up to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks.

Heads of a Bill to give effect to the Microfinance Fund have been agreed by Government and the Bill is due for publication in Quarter 2 2012. The Fund will be managed and controlled by the Social Finance Foundation (SFF).

Funding of €10m has been allocated as seed capital for the Fund in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation's Vote for 2012. It is anticipated that this €10m will be supplemented by leveraging further funding from private sources, including the banks.

The €10m allocation, supplemented by a further €15m raised from private sources over the short to medium term should generate €40m or so in increased lending to microenterprises, creating up to 4,000 jobs over a 5 year period. This is based on an estimated €9 million of loan demand annually.

Extrapolating further, the same model should generate between €90m-€100m in additional lending, finance 5,500 microenterprise loans and generate some 8,000 jobs over a 10 year period.

Initial engagement has taken place with the EIF in relation to the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation which will continue in Quarter 2. Following EIF approval of the guarantee facility, and subject to completion of the statutory process it is anticipated that the Loan Fund will commence lending in late Summer.

Industrial Disputes

Sean Fleming

Question:

16 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he intends to intervene in the dispute at Irish Cement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20929/12]

Industrial action by 110 workers at the Irish Cement production plants at Platin, Co. Meath and Castlemungret, Co. Limerick began on 3rd April last.

I understand that the Labour Court's most recent Recommendation of January 2012 in relation to this dispute was the culmination of a protracted dialogue between the company and the group of unions representing the workers on restructuring issues that had already involved three successive Labour Court Recommendations.

The Labour Court noted in its Recommendation of last January that it was not in a position, on the basis of the information provided through a report of a Financial Assessor undertaken following agreement between the parties, to make a definitive recommendation on an adjustment of pay rates and pay structures for the future. The Labour Court had, accordingly, urged the parties to engage with each other regarding the total cost base of the company.

The Labour Relations Commission was subsequently closely involved in facilitating talks between the company and the group of unions which were aimed at finding an agreed solution to the matters in dispute. That process of dialogue proceeded to the stage at which proposals for a settlement of the dispute were rejected by the trade unions concerned and a work stoppage commenced.

I would urge the parties involved in this dispute to have regard to the continuing availability of the industrial relations dispute resolution bodies to assist them in seeking a settlement and in addressing the underlying challenge of a major restructuring of the company in the face of the dramatic changes in the building industry.

Departmental Agencies

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

17 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way the success of Enterprise Ireland client advisors are assessed; and the way improvements can be made. [20913/12]

Enterprise Ireland has an established Performance Development system for all staff working in the agency and as part of this process objectives are set out for staff to be achieved in their specific role and in an agreed timeframe. The agency itself has key organisation targets and outputs, including delivery of the specific tasks in the Action Plan for Jobs in the timelines agreed.

The key organisational metrics and targets, including those set by Government, are allocated to each Division in Enterprise Ireland and cascaded down to individual staff in the organisation. This is an evolving process and enhancements are made on an ongoing basis.

The Board monitors the key organisational targets of the agency against the tailored and comprehensive suite of metrics, which reflect the strategic and public policy objectives of the agency (e.g. targets for exports, high potential start-up support, and job creation). Achievement of these targets is driven by Senior Management working with each relevant Business Unit in Enterprise Ireland. In addition to rigorous monitoring of the Agency's performance by the Board, Enterprise Ireland is also closely monitored and assessed against agreed metrics by my Department. Liaison meetings between officials from my Department and Enterprise Ireland take place on a bi-monthly basis to discuss progress against objectives. This process will be strengthened with the introduction of a Service Level Agreement between the Department and the Agency which is currently being drafted.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 8.

Job Creation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

20 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has contributed any proposals to the Department of Social Protection to enhance the hiring of workers living locally off the live register when job vacancies arise in a particular area and in particular if there is high unemployment rate in that area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20815/12]

There are two major elements to the Government's response to unemployment — theAction Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work. The goal of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the creation of new jobs in the economy, while the aim of Pathways to Work is to help to ensure that as many of those jobs as possible are filled by people from the Live Register. Both documents are fundamentally linked and recognise the need to reform our policies and our structures to secure long-term and lasting results for our enterprise base and for job-seekers.

The aim of Pathways to Work is to develop a new approach in engaging with people on the Live Register. It contains a number of targets, including the objective of ensuring that at least 75,000 of those currently long-term unemployed will move into employment by 2015, and to reduce the average time spent on the Live Register from 21 months to less than 12 months by the end of 2015. The public employment services are being reformed to provide better targeted services to both job seekers and employers.

The "Action Plan for Jobs" and "Pathways to Work" both recognise the need to ensure that training provided to jobseekers is consistent with the needs of the labour market. In this context, my Department is represented on the Implementation Team, chaired by the Department of Social Protection, which is working on the delivery of "Pathways to Work".

Details of the specific measures to target the hiring of people from the Live Register are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Ms Joan Burton TD.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Moynihan

Question:

21 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he or his officials have met with the Department of the Environment in relation to the impact that water metering will have on small businesses particularly those that do not have water rates at the moment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20943/12]

Water metering and water charges for business have been in place for a number of years. The process enables businesses to contribute towards the cost of water provision, as well as providing them with a mechanism to monitor and control their water usage and reduce waste of the resource.

Current proposals in relation to the introduction of domestic water metering should not impact negatively on business. If anything, broadening the base of water charges to include a contribution from domestic users should help businesses by spreading the burden of contributions, further reducing wastage and enabling the relevant water authority to use increased revenue to upgrade supply.

It is important that we reduce the costs of doing business in every way possible in order to improve the competitiveness of the economy and support jobs. I have recently written to all of my Ministerial colleagues, with a view to identifying charges to business which can be reduced or frozen over the next two years. Their responses are being collated and I will make a further announcement shortly.

Commercial Rent Reviews

Billy Kelleher

Question:

22 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he intends to instruct the Industrial Development Agency to end all upward only rent review agreements it holds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20932/12]

Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, which provides for the abolition of upwards only rent views in commercial leases, became operative on 28 February, 2010.

IDA Ireland has informed me that it currently has 73 occupational leases across its Private Finance Building Portfolio. 64 of these leases were granted prior to 28 Feb 2010 at which time all leases would have contained up-ward only rent reviews. There are currently 9 leases that were granted after 28 Feb 2010 which are linked to market rent.

IDA Ireland has confirmed that, where businesses are in difficulties, it has, on a case by case basis, responded to and facilitated companies' requests for reduced rent and will continue to do so.

Job Protection

Denis Naughten

Question:

23 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress made to date on protecting employment of staff at a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20818/12]

Following the successful sale of Bank of America's credit card operation which serves the Irish market to Apollo Global Management, 250 of the 650 jobs based in Carrick on Shannon have been secured.

I am pleased that the Bank of America UK operations served by the Carrick facility, which employs the remaining 400 people, are continuing as a going concern. The IDA is in regular contact with Bank of America management in Carrick-on-Shannon and Dublin and also at corporate level, to monitor developments.

I will continue to ensure that every possible action is being taken to secure all jobs in the Carrick-on-Shannon operation for the long-term.

Job Creation

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

24 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of money allocated to the Innovation Fund for Ireland and the draw down to date; the total investments achieved to date by the Innovation Fund for Ireland; the number of projects supported; and the number of jobs created. [20898/12]

Innovation Fund Ireland (IFI) is a key pillar of support for dynamic new industries, and investments through the Fund will facilitate job creation in innovative export focused sectors as well as providing a return to the exchequer over time.

€250 million was made available to the Fund to make commitments. This funding runs along two parallel tracks. The first comprises a €125 million pool of funds provided by the Exchequer and managed by Enterprise Ireland. The second is for a similar amount and designed to allow Ireland's National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) to make a similar level of commercial investments assuming its criteria are met.

Following the first call for expressions of interest in September 2010, a large number of responses were received from a sectorally and geographically diverse group of companies. Enterprise Ireland made a number of commitments alongside the NPRF and the first investment by Enterprise Ireland was the commitment of $25m from Enterprise Ireland, along with $12.5m from the NPRF, to Sofinnova SVP VIII, announced in March this year.

As well as its investment in Sofinnova Ventures, the NPRF have made three other investments. The first investments were in DJF Esprit and DFJ Venture Capital resulting in a partner being hired on the ground in Ireland to invest in Irish companies. The other NPRF investment is in Polaris which has resulted in the establishment of the first Dogpatch Incubator Lab outside of the United States.

The Government looks forward to announcing the other commitments as the fund managers' process of fundraising is completed. Irish investment activity will be announced by the fund managers over the lifetime of the fund. Due to commercial sensitivities, Enterprise Ireland does not disclose individual drawdowns.

Under the Scheme, Enterprise Ireland requires the VC to establish an office in Ireland and to invest the equivalent of the Enterprise Ireland commitment in Irish companies or companies with significant operations in Ireland. Aside from these conditions, Enterprise Ireland invests on the same terms as the private sector sharing the risk and the rewards.

Following a commitment made in the Action Plan for Jobs a second call for proposals was issued last month following the announcement of the first investment under the first call for expressions of interest. Both Enterprise Ireland and the NPRF are actively marketing this second call at present.

Cross-Border Enterprise Initiatives

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

25 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the practical steps taken by him over the past year to reduce the enterprise impediments of the Border and to develop an all Ireland approach to economic development and job creation; if he will provide the quantitative details of each initiative and his plans in this regard in the next 12 months. [20889/12]

Arising from our commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, my Department and its agencies play a strong role in promoting the development of the all-island economy through involvement in cross-border enterprise initiatives, which have resulted in benefits to both parts of the island. A key development has been the establishment of InterTrade Ireland (ITI), one of the North/South Implementation Bodies, established under the Good Friday Agreement. This Agency is jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland with a budget of approx. €10m.

The Agency operates a wide range of Trade and Innovation and business support programmes, partnerships and networks.

In summary, the following overall achievements have been recorded by ITI to date—

19,000SMEs have benefited from its cross-border information activities, 2,400 have taken part in their all-island programmes, £600 million worth of trade and business development has been generated, 1,300 new jobs have been created.

Last year alone, almost 3,000 companies used its services. The Agency has a range of performance targets in its Business Plan.

In addition, close co-operation has been established in particular between Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland. Since 2006, clients of both agencies can access market services, trade missions, overseas offices, trade fairs, seminars, market development programmes etc., provided by each agencies.

An example of close agency cooperation is the Acumen Programme, a key all-island business development programme managed by InterTradeIreland and supported by Enterprise Ireland, Invest NI, FAS, Udaras, and the County Enterprise Boards. The Programme is designed to stimulate cross-border sales and coordinate development amongst SMEs, North and South, to establish and build market presence in the other jurisdiction. This is an excellent example of all relevant bodies coming together to drive enterprise development in the region.

My Department, along with the enterprise development agencies, will continue to work diligently with our Northern Ireland counterparts and their agencies to increase the economic benefits accruing from cross-border co-operation, as well as through the work of the North South Bodies, and the North South Ministerial Trade and Business Development Council.

I am satisfied that there is strong ongoing cooperation between the enterprise development agencies, North and South, which makes a valuable and tangible contribution to the cross-border region.

Employment Rights

Brian Stanley

Question:

26 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline changes that he would like to see to ensure compliance with the judgements of any new employment rights and industrial relations bodies. [20905/12]

I have commenced a reform process to deliver world-class workplace relations service. My aim is to provide a simple, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time. Enforcing the awards of the Workplace Relations Bodies will be an important element of this reform.

It is my intention to develop a new and more effective method of enforcing awards of the bodies. I propose to deal with this matter in the Workplace Relations Bill which I aim to have enacted in the autumn of this year.

The new Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court will deal with both industrial relations and employment rights. It is important to differentiate between recommendations delivered as part of the voluntarist industrial relations systems and awards made under employment rights legislation.

The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntarist in nature. The State provides a framework and institutions through which good industrial relations can prosper. It is expected that the parties to a dispute come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the recommendations made. It should be noted however, that either party to a dispute may reject such recommendations. Accordingly I have no plans to make any changes to alter this voluntarist principle.

The mechanism for enforcing awards made under employment rights legislation by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Rights Commissioners or the Labour Court is prescribed in the relevant legislation under which the award was made. Generally, this involves an application by, or on behalf of, the employee to the Circuit Court or District Court. The Minister may also, on the request of the employee, take enforcement proceedings on the latter's behalf.

I am aware from the cases in respect of which such requests were made to the Minister during the last twelve months and from the consultation process I undertook last autumn that there is increased concern regarding the number of employers who are failing or refusing to comply with awards of the bodies.

When I came into office last year I identified the need to reform the entire Workplace Relations structures and processes including the enforcement mechanisms. The problems had been well documented and the issues had been extensively reviewed over many years. The system was so complex that even practitioners had difficulty understanding and accessing it. There were, and in some cases still are, long delays scheduling hearings and further delays in issuing decisions. I did not believe that this was an acceptable level of service. I have commenced a major process of reform.

Work has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to the new two-tier structure. I intend to have this legislation enacted by autumn this year.

Substantial progress has already been made and a number of important priority actions that I identified last July have been successfully delivered within the target timescale. These include:

The establishment of a single contact portal called "Workplace Relations Customer Services" which provides a single point of entry into the system for workplace relations complaints and information.

Complaints are now acknowledged and the employer is notified within, on average, five working days of the complaint being lodged which increases the likelihood of employers and employees resolving issues sooner and has substantially reduced the backlog for certain hearings. This process was taking up to eight months in some cases prior to the reform.

A Single Complaint Form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints and an interim website, workplacerelations.ie, were launched on the 4th of January this year.

Delivery of a pilot Early Resolution Service has commenced. This service, which will enter a pilot phase in early May this year, will assist parties to a dispute to resolve the issue themselves with the assistance of a Case Resolution Officer.

I sought the views of all interested parties on how the system can be improved as part of the consultation last autumn and more recently in the Blueprint I published on April 5th this year. This document sets out, in considerable detail, how reform of the workplace relations structures and processes will be achieved. It also provides a further opportunity for interested parties to contribute comments and feedback on the future design of the State's workplace relations structures.

In that regard views have been sought on how awards of the Workplace Relations bodies can better be enforced. I am open to positive suggestions and advice in relation to how this can be achieved.

Copyright Infringement

Catherine Murphy

Question:

27 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will clarify if the terms of reference of the copyright review committee established by him in May 2011 includes scope to directly examine the issue of copyright-holders recourse to seek injunctions against intermediaries whose customers and users may be infringing copyright; if this particular issue is planned to be addressed by means of new primary legislation on copyright in the lifetime of this Government; if so, when such legislation is expected to be prepared and tabled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20817/12]

I wish to point out that the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr. Richard Bruton, T.D. established the independent Copyright Review Committee on 9th May, 2011 to examine the current Copyright legislative framework to identify any areas of the legislation that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation and to make recommendations to resolve any problems identified. The terms of reference of the Copyright Review are as follows:

Examine the present national Copyright legislation and identify any areas that are perceived to create barriers to innovation.

Identify solutions for removing these barriers and make recommendations as to how these solutions might be implemented through changes to national legislation.

Examine the US style "fair use" doctrine to see if it would be appropriate in an Irish/EU context.

If it transpires that national copyright legislation requires to be amended but cannot be amended, (bearing in mind that Irish copyright legislation is bound by the European Communities Directives on Copyright and Related Rights and other international obligations) make recommendations for changes to the EU Directives that will eliminate the barriers to innovation and optimise the balance between protecting creativity and promoting and facilitating innovation.

The Copyright Review Committee published a wide-ranging Consultation Paper on 29th February, 2012 which examines the current Copyright legislative framework to identify any areas of the legislation that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation. The Consultation Paper is a discussion document which sets out issues and concerns which were expressed to the Committee in submissions from a broad spectrum of interested parties on foot of an initial consultation process held during the summer of 2011 (in the region of 100 submissions were received during the initial consultation process).

The fundamental aim of this Paper is to begin the process of sketching reforms to Irish copyright law to further innovation without denying protection to those who need copyright law to innovate. I would specifically refer to Chapter 6 of the Review Committee's Consultation Paper which is concerned with intermediaries and it is stated that "One of the main questions for the present Review is whether the copyright balance between rights-holders and intermediaries now requires further amendment, in particular to incentivise innovation." If any interested party has any concerns in this regard, I would suggest that they engage with this review process.

It should be noted that the Review Committee is carrying out the review of the existing Copyright legislation independently of the Department and/or Government. The Review Committee will ultimately present a Report with a set of recommendations for legislative change. It is anticipated that this Report will be completed by the end of 2012. I wish to state that the recommendations for legislative change which are put forward in the Review Committee's final Report will be afforded careful consideration.

Departmental Bodies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

28 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of complaints currently lodged with the Competition Authority; the number still extant after one year; the number of cases still extant after two, five and ten years; and his views on the resources and powers required by the Competition Authority to ensure timely and full compliance with Competition Law. [20895/12]

Details of the number of complaints received by the Competition Authority and the number of active investigations are available in the Authority's Annual Report 2011 which is available on its website:www.tca.ie.

A review of the staffing resources of the Authority has recently been undertaken in accordance with an EU/IMF commitment in this area to ascertain whether resourcing is sufficient to allow adequate enforcement capacity of the legislative framework. On foot of this review I am pleased to announce that I have approved an additional ten staff for the enforcement function of the Authority. The necessary steps to fill these posts are being undertaken within the Department and the Authority in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Job Creation

Micheál Martin

Question:

29 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of targets missed in the Action Plan for Jobs; if the targets have been reset; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20935/12]

The first quarterly Progress Report on the implementation of the Action Plan was published on 20th April, and is available on my Department's website,www.djei.ie. It shows that 80 of the 83 measures due to be delivered in the first Quarter of 2012 have been completed.

The 3 measures which were not fully completed relate to:

the launch of a newWomen in Business Start-Up drive;

the development of an approach and a programme to support industry-led clustering; and

the development of a Cloud Computing Strategy for the Public Service.

While these 3 measures were not fully completed on schedule, significant progress has been made on these items and I fully expect them to be finalised during the second Quarter. Some important deliverables already achieved under the Action Plan include the development of the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme and the publication of legislation to bring it into effect, the launch of the“Succeed in Ireland” initiative, the design and launch of Enterprise Ireland’s Development Capital scheme, the enactment of pro-jobs measures in the Finance Bill, and the establishment of a new Education and Training Fund.

Enterprise Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which it has been found possible for Irish firms to avail of start up or recovery support in terms of capital borrowing requirements or working capital; if it has been possible to address such issues in respect of small and medium enterprises of an indigenous nature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20859/12]

The issue of access to credit is critical to support economic growth and encourage start-ups and entrepreneurship. It is explicitly addressed in the Action Plan for Jobs in the context of the introduction of a Micro-enterprise Loan Fund, which has a significant entrepreneurship focus, the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, and in the range of actions listed to encourage and measure new bank lending.

The Microfinance Loan Fund will provide small loans of up to €25,000 to start-up, newly established, and existing Microenterprises with under 10 employees, across all industry sectors. The Government are allocating €10 million as seed capital for the Fund. It is anticipated that the Fund will supplement this seed capital by leveraging further funding from private sources, including the banks. The €10m allocation, supplemented by a further €15m raised from private sources over the short to medium term, should generate €40m or so in increased lending to microenterprises, creating up to 4,000 jobs over a 5 year period. This is based on an estimated €9 million of loan demand annually. Extrapolating further, the same model should generate between €90m-€100m in additional lending, finance 5,500 microenterprise loans and generate some 8,000 jobs over a 10 year period.

The Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €150m of additional lending per annum to micro, small and medium enterprises who are on the margins of commercial lending decisions. This Scheme will provide a 75% guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to both start-ups and existing businesses. The Scheme will facilitate new lending, encourage investment and company growth (scaling), save jobs and facilitate the creation of new jobs, and will boost trade. The benefits forecast to arise from this intervention in each year of operation, on the basis of each tranche of €150m of additional lending to SMEs, include:

Over 1,300 jobs created;

Over €25m of exchequer benefits in tax revenues and welfare cost savings.

These interventions will benefit enterprises by enabling them to access credit that they would not otherwise obtain, for various purposes such as improving cashflow, developing new products and markets, and job creation. The Government's commitment to improve the financing environment and the key actions we are delivering under the Action Plan for Jobs will create new jobs, sustain existing jobs, and create economic opportunities for both new and existing businesses.

These targeted measures supplement the initiatives already taken by the Minister for Finance to restructure, re-capitalise, reorganise and deleverage the banking system to ensure a properly functioning banking system and stimulate an adequate flow of credit into the economy, thereby supporting economic growth for all business including indigenous SMEs.

These Government initiatives are being implemented as a priority to ensure a properly functioning banking system and stimulate an adequate flow of credit into the economy, thereby supporting economic growth for all business including indigenous SMEs.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 14.

Small and Medium Enterprises

Michael McGrath

Question:

32 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the recommendations of the advisory group on small businesses which have been implemented; if he intends to implement all of the recommendation [20940/12]

The Advisory Group's Report "The Voice of Small Business" was published in November 2011. The Report sets out the recommendations of stakeholders in the small business sector and lists the actions that they consider need to be put in place by Government to assist SMEs to cope with the current economic crisis and to position them for future growth and job creation.

Thirty-four of the Advisory Group's actions/recommendations were included in the Action Plan for Jobs, published in February.

The first Quarterly Progress Report on the Action Plan for Jobs, covering Quarter 1 of 2012, was published by Government on Friday 20 April 2012. This Progress Report is available on my Department's website, under the "Publications" link:

http://www.djei.ie/publications/2012APJ_First_Progress_Report.pdf.

The Progress Report shows that 12 of these 34 Actions which had a Quarter 1 2012 target set down in the Action Plan for Jobs, met that timeline. One of these Actions, on the publication of the Official 15 Day Prompt Payment Notice, has been fully implemented. No deadlines were missed. 22 further Actions have different timelines over the remainder of 2012 and will be reported on in subsequent Quarterly Reports.

The remaining 23 Actions from the Advisory Group's Report, not included in the Action Plan for Jobs, will be progressed to the greatest extent possible, by the respective stakeholders through the Advisory Group's Work Plan for 2012/13.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

33 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress made to date in respect of the realisation of job creation targets in the manufacturing and service sectors through the country on a monthly basis over the past 36 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20858/12]

Job creation is at the top of the Government's agenda. Since we came into office, we have been working hard to create the improved economic conditions which will support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones. Our objective is to put the country back on the road to economic recovery and full employment. The Action Plan for Jobs, which I launched on 13 February, outlines the Government's plan to rebuild the economy and create jobs. The plan includes measures aimed at exploiting sectoral opportunities, including those in the manufacturing and services sectors.

The measures planned include the establishment of a Manufacturing Development Forum (MDF) to assist the Government in identifying the needs of manufacturing enterprises and to progress a transformation agenda in this area. With the assistance of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, we will seek out new investment in manufacturing, particularly in the growth areas of the sector.

In terms of the services sector, the Action Plan outlines a range of sectoral initiatives, with particular focus on International Financial Services, Business Process Outsourcing/Shared Services, Education Services, Retail and Wholesale, Tourism, Construction Services and ICT Services. Details of the sectoral actions can be found in Chapter 7 of the Action Plan.

The figures in respect of jobs in Enterprise Development Agency-supported companies are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. As the information is compiled on an annualised basis, monthly figures are not available.

Details of jobs created in agency-assisted companies in the manufacturing and services sectors over the last three years are set out in the table below:

Jobs Created in Agency-assisted companies in the Manufacturing and Services Sectors

Sector

2009

2010

2011

Manufacturing

6,794

8,167

9,042

Services

6,590

11,371

11,191

Total

13,384

19,538

20,233

Cross-Border Enterprise Initiatives

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

34 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has received a copy of the Cross Border Economic Renewal Report by John Bradley and Michael Best; and if he intends to respond to the recommendations of the report. [20900/12]

My Department has received a copy of this research, carried out for the Centre for Cross Border Studies. This interesting study proposes a new development strategy for the border region within the framework of a proposed cross-border ‘Border Development Zone'. The detailed contents of this report will be considered in due course by the relevant Departments and Agencies, taking due account of resource constraints.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 15.

Job Creation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

36 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way he intends to tackle regional disparities in job creation across this State; and in particular the steps being taken to promote job creation along the border corridor. [20899/12]

The achievement of balanced regional growth is a core objective of Government. Promoting entrepreneurship, attracting inward investment and facilitating the key infrastructural needs of Irish enterprise across all regions is vital to ensuring a vigorous pipeline of new business leaders, new business ideas and entrepreneurial activity. The Action Plan for jobs is a whole of Government, national strategy aimed at creating and sustaining jobs across all regions of the State.

The objective of balanced regional development is supported by the EU Commission's Regional Aid Guidelines, which recognise that some regions can face significant structural disadvantage. The Guidelines permit member states to grant higher investment aid to these areas. Under Ireland's current Regional Aid Map, the highest rates are afforded to the Border, Midlands and West (BMW) region.

Under the Action Plan for jobs, the establishment of a one-stop-shop to provide micro enterprise support through the dissolution of the existing CEB offices and the creation of a new network of Local Enterprise offices (LEOs) will ensure an enhanced delivery of support to micro enterprises in the regions in question and nationally.

Specifically in relation to the regions in question, Enterprise Ireland's network of offices includes Sligo, Letterkenny and Dundalk. This regional spread allows the agency to drive take-up of its services and supports such as entrepreneurship programmes focused on identifying new business opportunities, at a local level, thereby maximising take up and impact.

It is worth noting that over the last four years, Enterprise Ireland supported 64 High Potential Start Ups in the Border, Midland and West Regions region (17 in 2008; 16 in 2009; 13 in 2010 and 18 in 2011).

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

37 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of additional jobs targeted for creation in the fields of cloud computing, electronic gaming, financial services, construction and retail over the next three years. [20888/12]

The sectors referred to by the Deputy are amongst those areas identified in the Action Plan for Jobs as sectors where Ireland can realise jobs growth. The objective of the Action Plan is to support the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016.

In general, specific targets have not been set for each of the individual sectors. The Action Plan envisages that 20,000 new additional jobs can be created in manufacturing, and 30,000 in internationally traded services, over the next five years. An additional 50,000 indirect spin-off jobs can be created over the same period.

However, various studies have identified the jobs potential in some key sectors. For example, a study carried out by Goodbody Economic Consultants for Microsoft Ireland suggests that Cloud Computing has the potential to create more than 8,000 jobs within the ICT sector by 2014. A Forfás study on Digital Games estimates that employment in this sector could double from 2,500 to 5,000 by the end of 2014. The Strategy for the International Financial Services industry sets an objective to increase employment in this sector by 10,000 by 2016. Employment in the construction and retail sectors has been particularly affected by global economic downturn. However, Government investment in infrastructure under the Capital Programme will support in the region of 30,000 jobs in construction in the period to 2016.

The Action Plan for Jobs sets out specific measures to realise the jobs potential in each of these sectors. However, the challenges facing each sector are also identified. Ensuring that all of the measures in the 2012 Action Plan — and in the Action Plans for subsequent years — are implemented will provide the best means of ensuring that employment opportunities are maximised in each sector.

Cross-Border Projects

Gerry Adams

Question:

38 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the actions he has taken to replace competition with co-operation with the north for foreign direct investment to benefit all the people of the island. [20890/12]

In the context of regional and all-island economic development, and recognising the opportunity to pursue mutually beneficial cross border co-operation on aspects of economic policy and infrastructure/spatial planning, IDA Ireland cooperates on a number of initiatives with Invest Northern Ireland. Both agencies also share a strategic focus on attracting companies from the targeted sectors of ICT, Financial Services and Clean technologies.

IDA Ireland and Invest NI have jointly developed the North West Business and Technology Zone (NWBTZ). The fundamental aim has been to capitalise on the combined strengths of Letterkenny and Derry City as an economic corridor, to develop compatible infrastructure and property solutions, which are now in place, and to make the region more attractive for investment. Overall, the joint project has drawn down €10 million in EU Interreg IIIA funding (IDA €4M and Invest NI €6M) towards the development of cross border property solutions and research facilities.

The initiative has provided the catalyst for Eircom, Bytel and BT to invest independently in the telecoms infrastructure between Letterkenny and Derry. Also, work undertaken by IDA and INI has led to the development of Project Kelvin, which is the first direct International Communications link of its kind into the North West of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Another objective of the NWBTZ has been the facilitation of greater interaction between Third Level Institutions and Industry in the Letterkenny-Derry corridor in areas such as Collaborative R&D and Industry relevant training programmes in sectors of strategic interest to both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland both have a highly educated workforce and IDA Ireland highlights this competitive advantage to perspective investors. IDA Ireland's target is to ensure that 50% of FDI projects secured between 2010 and 2014 will be located outside of Dublin and Cork. The education and skills of the catchment area of a region is vital to the success of this strategic target. The skills pool available, both north and south of the Border, is presented to potential investors as a key competitive advantage of investing in the Border region on the island of Ireland. Up to 15% of IDA supported companies in the Border region employ staff living in Northern Ireland, increasing employment and prosperity in areas north of the Border. A recent example of this is PayPal who chose to invest in Dundalk based on the pool of skilled staff it could recruit from the large catchment area incorporating both sides of the Border.

Education and Training

Pearse Doherty

Question:

39 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he has taken with the Department of Education and Skills to develop synergies in training and mentoring between Enterprise Ireland, the newly formatted county enterprise boards and the proposed SOLAS. [20912/12]

The Implementation Group set up as a result of the Government Decision to establish SOLAS is made up of representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS, the Irish Vocational Education Association and the Department of Social Protection. The Group is charged with the preparation of an Action Plan and is chaired by the Minister for Training and Skills, Ciaran Cannon T.D. The Group has been meeting regularly to drive the process forward.

My Department, in consultation with the industrial development agencies under its aegis made a submission to the Department of Education and Skills outlining their views on the role and remit of SOLAS. My Department will continue to be involved in driving the process forward.

The Action Plan for Jobs calls for the establishment of a one-stop-shop to provide micro enterprise support through the dissolution of the existing CEB offices and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit in Enterprise Ireland that will work with Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise offices (LEOs) in each Local Authority. The new LEOs will combine the enterprise support service of the previous CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities. A key role will be providing mentoring for micro-business.

In addition, it is my firm intention that the new LEOs will develop a close working relationship with a range of other bodies working at local level and, specifically, there is a commitment to developing a closer connection to the National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES) and SOLAS services in terms of appropriate referrals and access to training and development.

Public Procurement

Dessie Ellis

Question:

40 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he has taken to ensure that small and medium enterprises are resourced, trained and supported to tender for State contracts [20903/12]

Public procurement affords an opportunity for SMEs to secure new business and grow employment; approximately €14 billion will be spent by public bodies this year in purchasing goods and services. The Action Plan for Jobs sets out a series of measures to improve access to public procurement for SMEs. My Department is working collaboratively with key players such as the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the National Procurement Service (NPS), Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland to deliver the commitments in the Action Plan.

The National Procurement Service (NPS), Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland, collaboratively and separately, organise events on a regular basis to advise and train SMEs in the public procurement process.

The NPS organised or participated in 26 such events over the past 14 months, which were attended by over 2,700 people. These included events to advise local SMEs on tendering for public sector contracts, training sessions for public sector buyers, workshops aimed at assisting SMEs to access the public procurement market, and — in conjunction with InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland —"Meet the Buyer" events which bring together procuring authorities and potential suppliers.

Enterprise Ireland is assigning advisors and mentors to help client companies to prepare better for public procurement opportunities. The agency also plays a key role in introducing procuring authorities to suitable innovative SMEs through workshops specially convened for this purpose.

InterTradeIreland organises two day training/workshops for SMEs, held north and south of the Border, followed by two days of "one to one" mentoring support. The participating SMEs can also apply for an additional 3 days consultancy/mentoring thereafter to assist in actual tendering, scoping markets and tailored advice. These workshops are often over-subscribed and more are planned to be held in 2012 to meet demand.

The continued close engagement by the agencies with SMEs is helping companies to prepare better to tender for State contracts.

Job Creation

Martin Ferris

Question:

41 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the elements of the jobs action plan that have been implemented and how many jobs have been created so far. [20907/12]

The first Progress Report on the Action Plan was published by the Government on 20th April. The report shows that 80 of the 83 measures due for delivery across the whole of Government in the first Quarter of 2012 have been implemented. Some of the key measures which have been delivered include:

The launch of the "Succeed in Ireland" initiative, aimed at delivering at least 5,000 jobs in five years.

The Launch of a new Potential Exporters Division in Enterprise Ireland, targeting 1,800 new exporting companies.

The publication of legislation for the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme.

The design and launch of the new €150 million Development Capital Scheme, aimed at addressing a funding gap for mid-sized, high-growth companies.

The issue of a global second call under Innovation Fund Ireland worth more than €60 million, to target investment in high-growth technology companies.

The allocation of €20 million to a new Education and Training Fund.

The extension and simplification of the Employer's PRSI exemption scheme; and

The enactment of the Finance Bill, giving effect to several pro-jobs measures.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with a longer term objective of having two million people at work by 2020. The progress achieved in the first Quarter of 2012 is just the first stage in delivering on the 270 measures in this year's Action Plan. The impact of the process in terms of jobs created will be measurable over a longer period. However, I am encouraged by a number of recent significant job announcements which show an increased level of confidence from investors in the Irish economy and in the Government's policies.

Industrial Relations

Brian Stanley

Question:

42 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to address the backlog of cases within the Labour Court, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority. [20906/12]

When I came into office last year I identified the need to reform the State's workplace relations structures and procedures as a key priority. The problems had been well documented and the issues had been extensively reviewed over many years. The system was so complex that even practitioners had difficulty understanding and accessing it. There were, and in some cases still are, long delays scheduling hearings and further delays in issuing decisions. This is not an acceptable level of service.

The current situation with regard to the workplace relations bodies is as follows:

The National Employment Rights Authority has no inspection backlogs,

The Rights Commissioner Service has no backlogs in respect of hearings,

The Labour Court are now working within a reducing backlog of three months,

The average waiting period for claims to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to be heard is 76 weeks in Dublin and 80 weeks elsewhere.

The EAT has been pro-active in dealing with the volume of cases presented. The Tribunal has increased the number of cases finalised in 2011 by 11% against the previous year, this in itself being a 29% increase on 2009. The number of claims being disposed of to end March 2012 continues to show an increase.

While various short-term steps have been taken to address these delays, my long term objective is to deliver a world-class Workplace Relations service and framework that serves the needs of employers and employees and provides maximum value for money.

The Reform Programme I have commenced will deliver a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court into a new Body of First Instance, to be known as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be incorporated into an expanded Labour Court.

My aim is to provide a simple, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time. The system must operate to the highest standards and earn the confidence of employers, employees and all who will use it.

All WRC hearings will be conducted by a single person. The objective of the hearing will be to obtain a just, fair, speedy and efficient resolution of a dispute. The system will be configured in a way that facilitates early resolution of disputes and should remove the risk of lengthy delays for hearings or other services developing.

Substantial progress has already been made and a number of important priority actions that I identified last July have been successfully delivered within the target timescale. These include the establishment of a single contact portal called "Workplace Relations Customer Services" which provides a single point of entry into the system for workplace relations complaints and information. Complaints are now acknowledged and the employer is notified within, on average, five working days of the complaint being lodged which increases the likelihood of employers and employees resolving issues sooner and has substantially reduced the backlog for certain hearings. A Single Complaint Form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints and an interim website, workplacerelations.ie, were launched on the 4th of January this year. In addition, delivery of a pilot Early Resolution Service has commenced. This service, which will enter a pilot phase in early May this year, will assist parties to a dispute to resolve the issue themselves with the assistance of a Case Resolution Officer.

Work has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to the new two-tier structure. I intend to have this legislation enacted by autumn this year. On 5th April this year I published a Blueprint Document setting out a clear path for the delivery of the remainder of the Reform Programme. I am inviting feedback on this document and I will consider any constructive advice or suggestions.

Information Technology

Pearse Doherty

Question:

43 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps taken to ensure that microbusinesses and small and medium enterprises can fully develop innovative practises using cloud computing. [20892/12]

The Government's Action Plan for Jobs outlines a number of actions to ensure that Ireland can reap substantial benefits in terms of jobs and growth from the global expansion of cloud computing. It recognises the opportunity for Ireland to promote the growth of cloud computing by supporting the emergence of start-up companies providing technology solutions and services in cloud computing and by simulating its take up and use by small businesses.

Earlier this month I announced details of the €1.2 million industry led Cloud Computing Research Centre which is being funded by Government on foot of a commitment in the Action Plan. This centre brings together a team of researchers from DCU, UCC and Athlone Institute of Technology with a cohort of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland companies to establish ways to generate business from cloud computing. One of the priority objectives for the team is to conduct research on maintaining and managing cloud based applications for businesses of all sizes.

A number of other actions, which will assist micro enterprise and SMEs provide cloud computing services and avail of the opportunities offered by cloud computing, are being progressed this year in accordance with the Action Plan. These include:

To support industry groups, such as the Irish Software Association, to develop and deliver a practical tool kit to assist SMEs in assessing the adoption of Cloud Computing for their business;

To examine the potential for demonstration projects in cloud computing to promote Ireland as a centre of excellence for this technology, provide a reference site for Irish companies, while potentially lowering costs and improving services;

To develop a Cloud Computing Procurement Standard with Industry experts through an NSAI Standards group; and,

To support research groups in areas of relevance to exploitation of cloud computing, such as semantic web and financial stock analysis, through, for example, support for the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI). In other areas, such as middleware, information security, distributed computing, researchers are furthering research in this area with direct application in the cloud computing context.

Progress reports on all of these actions will be provided on a quarterly basis throughout the year.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Sandra McLellan

Question:

44 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the anticipated take up of the new partial loan guarantee scheme. [20897/12]

The Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, the legislative details of which were published on 3rd April, will have the capacity to facilitate up to €150 million of additional lending to SMEs per annum through the Scheme.

Calculations on the volume of additional SME borrowing proposals which would be supported by the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, and estimations of take up are based on:

1. Irish Central Bank gross new SME lending data and,

2. Consultation with SME representative bodies and the Enterprise Development Agencies.

In addition, we recognise that there will be a cohort of discouraged borrowers who may be supported by the Scheme. Essentially these are businesses which have not applied for finance as they believed that any application would be rejected. They may also have engaged in informal discussions about the possibility of borrowing but chose not to pursue an application.

The annual value of the potential demand from this cohort of discouraged borrowers is by definition difficult to assess. It is also anticipated that the introduction of the Scheme may result in an initial surge of pent-up demand from previously discouraged borrowers.

At this stage an average loan value of €80,000 is assumed, with an estimated 1,875 loans per annum provided to micro, small and medium enterprises. These loans will be used for various purposes such as improving cashflow — one of the main constraints on growth by smaller businesses, — developing new products and markets, and expanding activities, thus assisting both job maintenance and creation.

Performance and take up will be closely monitored by the Operator on my behalf, and the Scheme will be subject to review by my Department after the first year.

Industrial Relations

Catherine Murphy

Question:

45 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if, with regard to his proposals for merger and reform of the current employment and workplace dispute resolution bodies, if he will outline the expected impact the transition to the new structures will have on staffing numbers, staffing deployments, staffing roles and competencies, organisational arrangements, facilities and accommodation; if he will outline the expected cost to the Exchequer to achieve the expected reorganisation and retraining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20914/12]

My objective is to deliver a world-class Workplace Relations service and framework that serves the needs of employers and employees and provides maximum value for money. The Reform Programme will deliver a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court into a new Body of First Instance, to be known as the Workplace Relations Commission. The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be incorporated into an expanded Labour Court.

Substantial progress has already been made and a number of important priority actions that I identified last July have been successfully delivered within the target timescale. These include the establishment of a single contact portal called "Workplace Relations Customer Services" which provides a single point of entry into the system for workplace relations complaints and information. Complaints are now acknowledged and the employer is notified within, on average, five working days of the complaint being lodged which increases the likelihood of employers and employees resolving issues sooner and has substantially reduced the backlog for certain hearings. A Single Complaint Form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints and an interim website, workplacerelations.ie, were launched on the 4th of January this year. Finally, delivery of a pilot Early Resolution Service has commenced. This service, which will enter a pilot phase in early May this year, will assist parties to a dispute to resolve the issue themselves with the assistance of a Case Resolution Officer.

Work has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to the new two-tier structure. I intend to have this legislation enacted by autumn this year. On 5th April this year I published a Blueprint Document setting out a clear path for the delivery of the remainder of the Reform Programme.

The implementation of the Reform Programme will necessarily impact on staff numbers, staff deployments, staff roles and competencies, organisational arrangements, facilities and accommodation and will deliver significant savings to the Exchequer in terms of both reductions in staff numbers and associated costs. A detailed action plan to deliver change and associated savings will be drawn up on completion of the current consultation process at which time we will have greater certainty on the new structures and framework and on the organisational structures and associated staffing. This year we will spend around €20m of taxpayers' money on the five existing employment dispute resolution bodies. My aim is to effect significant savings against this expenditure in future years while at the same time providing a greatly enhanced service.

Employment Action Plan

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

46 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to support businesses in crisis before they are forced to close. [20911/12]

The Government's commitment to supporting business is evident from the range of initiatives outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs.

The Plan tackles the issue of access to finance through a range of measures, such as the introduction of a microfinance fund to provide loans of up to €25,000 to micro-enterprises and the roll-out of the temporary partial credit guarantee scheme. At a most practical level my Department and Enterprise Ireland (EI) will be working closely with the banking sector to assist them in achieving a cultural shift in lending practices towards those companies and sectors that are crucial to economic growth.

Additionally, under Action Point 3.27, my Department and Small Business Representative organisations are, as part of the ongoing work of implementing the recommendations of the Report of the Advisory Group for Small Business, developing a one page guide, entitled, "Managing out of the Crisis". This Guide will set out warning signs to encourage small businesses to ask for help and outline services available to help them to get through the current economic environment. The Guide will be published shortly in accordance with the commitment in the Action Plan for Jobs.

The micro-enterprise supports in Ireland will also be reshaped to put in place an improved enterprise support structure for small businesses throughout Ireland. EI will work with the Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in each Local Authority, which will combine the enterprise support service of the previous CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities.

I am also very encouraged by recent developments in the private sector such as the initiative launched by Chartered Accountants Ireland, which sees the its voluntary advice service extended nationwide.www.charteredaccountants.ie.

I am confident that these types of private sector initiatives combined with the focus that this Government has brought to bear on the issues that are of particular concern for business, will yield real benefit to individual enterprises and the economy as a whole in the short to medium term.

County Enterprise Boards

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

47 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the stage at which his plans are at for the county enterprise boards [20910/12]

The Government has approved the establishment of a new "one-stop-shop" micro-enterprise support structure to be achieved through the dissolution of the existing CEBs and the formation of a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). On foot of this Government Decision the first meeting of an Implementation Working Group will be convened shortly and the matter will also be formally progressed with the Office of the Attorney General.

The LEOs will be situated within the local authorities and will build on the work of the CEBs and the local authority Business Support Units in order to deliver enhanced, integrated and seamless supports to the microenterprise sector. Enterprise Ireland will be mandated to work with Local Authorities to develop a structure, detailed functions and staffing levels from both organisations for LEOs. As Minister, I will retain overall responsibility for national enterprise policy and budgets.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Sandra McLellan

Question:

48 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the cost of administration of the new partial loan guarantee scheme; if these costs are fixed or relative to the drawdown of the scheme by small and medium enterprises; the expected loan default ratio; the cost to the State. [20896/12]

The costs of the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme arise in relation to the expenditure on the guarantees paid out when loans default and the operational cost of administering the scheme. Costs will be partially offset by receipts of premiums paid by borrowers and recoveries achieved in respect of loan defaults.

It is important to note that the Scheme will facilitate new lending, encourage investment and company growth (scaling), save jobs and facilitate the creation of new jobs, and will boost trade.

The benefits forecast to arise from this intervention in each year of operation, on the basis of each tranche of €150m of additional lending to SMEs, include:

Over 1,300 jobs created;

Over €25m of exchequer benefits in tax revenues and welfare cost savings.

The net cost for an annual portfolio of €150 million of guaranteed lending is approximately €6.38 million, including estimated administration costs of €0.5m per annum. The proposed three year temporary nature of the scheme caps the costs to the exchequer at approximately €19m. Assuming that:

1. The Scheme is open for three years (i.e. supports three distinct annual tranches of guaranteed lending),

2. That for each loan guaranteed the Guarantee is valid for three years (or the term of the loan if shorter) and,

3. The maximum lag between a default occurring and a claim against the Guarantee being settled is two years,

then a delivery infrastructure will need to be in place for a total of eight years. The costs are broken down as follows:

Cost of Scheme Administration (estimated x 8 years) —€4.00m,

Gross Cost of Scheme Claims —€33.75m,

Premium Receipts —€18.60m,

Net Cost of Scheme —€19.15m,

Net Cost per €150m Annual Portfolio —€6.38m.

My Department does not have the inhouse infrastructure, capacity and skills resources required to operate the Scheme. Therefore, the Government have agreed that the operation of the initiative should be outsourced in order to maximise efficiency, ensure skills capacity and to manage relationships between the State and lenders.

Having considered a range of possible combinations of guarantee rate and portfolio default limit which, when applied to the guaranteed portfolio, will deliver the desired overall risk share, a guarantee rate of 75% and a portfolio default limit of 10% has been agreed by the Government. This sets the overall portfolio claim limit at 7.5% (75% x 10%). For a given portfolio of lending allocated to each bank, each loan in the portfolio would carry a 75% guarantee, but potential claims under the guarantee are capped by the 7.5% portfolio claim limit. Therefore, the actual default performance of a portfolio may in fact exceed the portfolio default limit. However, the extent to which the State covers overall losses is capped at the default rate of 10%, and any losses in excess of that must be borne by the Lender.

Industrial Development

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

49 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the recent new €1.2 million funding programme for the cloud computing sector; the projected jobs and economic benefit to the Irish economy of the cloud computing sector of the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20814/12]

Cloud computing is a key target sector identified in the Action Plan for Jobs as offering major potential for Ireland, and establishing a Cloud Computing Technology Research Centre is one of the actions contained in the plan aimed at realising this potential.

Earlier this month, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD announced details of a €1.2million initial research programme in the Cloud Computing Technology Research Centre, aimed at helping to make Ireland a world leader in this fast-growing area, and at making a significant contribution to jobs and economic growth. The funding will be allocated over 12 months to a consortium of Higher Education Institutions (DCU, UCC and AIT with input from NUIM) to carry out the initial research programme of the Centre.

This initiative involves collaboration between Enterprise Ireland and IDA and is led and strongly supported by Irish companies and multinational companies in Ireland. The research will focus on cloud computing technology architecture, service management, business research and cloud security. This initial research programme will last 12 months and is a significant step in the context of a Government funded 5 year investment in a Technology Centre for Cloud Computing.

A recent study by Goodbody Economic consultants projects that cloud computing sales by Irish firms could reach €9.5 billion per annum by 2014 and provide jobs for 8,600 people as current information technology activities migrate to the Cloud. In addition, new services and markets will also emerge as a result of the Cloud, creating additional opportunities for Irish firms.

Job Creation

Gerry Adams

Question:

50 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the specific action and plans that have been implemented and developed to create new posts in the financial services sector to replace those that have recently been lost. [20891/12]

The Government are fully conscious of the importance of the Financial Services sector and the opportunities represented by that sector for job creation, especially to replace jobs lost. TheAction Plan for Jobs, initiated by my Department last February, assessed the sector, among others and specified a suite of actions to be undertaken this year. Work is underway on addressing these and, as set out in the progress report for Q1 2012, published last week, good progress has been made already on the relevant actions, in that a new Global Institution Group has been established by the IDA and this group has identified and is engaging with large global financial services groups and preparing an operational plan. As set out in the Plan, a range of other actions to develop this sector will be pursued over the remainder of this year.

IDA Ireland is fully committed to the further development of this sector. The current IDA strategy is reflected in that Agency's overall strategy“Horizon 2020” published in 2010. At present, the active IDA Ireland International Financial Services portfolio comprises approximately 150 global companies which have more than 220 operations on the ground in Ireland and employ more than 20,000 people. These companies, comprising all of the leading firms, and the total industry in Ireland has more than 1,000 entities and employs more than 25,000. Examples of key IDA clients include: Citigroup, Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, State Street, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. A number of international financial services companies are now among the largest multinational employers in the country — irrespective of sector — with both Citi and State Street employing more than approximately 2,000 staff each.

A number of new initiatives are underway as part of IDA's on-going development of the sector to encourage further inward investment and to support the continued development of their existing clients. These include research and promotional initiatives, involving active promotion of the sector in both new markets, e.g. the Gulf region and also traditional centres, such as London, Frankfurt and New York.

This work has borne solid results. Significant announcements for the sector in 2011 and 2012 to date include Asset Control (50 jobs), Fidelity (100 Jobs), BNY Mellon (50 jobs), Butterfield Fulcrum (60 jobs), HedgeServ (300 jobs), Allianz World Wide Care (128 Jobs), Mastercard (130 jobs) and Blackrock (25 jobs). In addition to pursuing new projects, IDA's financial services team are actively engaged with existing client companies and potential new entrants both at home and overseas, to encourage expansion of existing business lines, win new mandates and attract fresh investment.

A very welcome development over the last 20 years has been that the geographical footprint of the industry in Ireland has expanded beyond the IFSC to include some significant regional operations in Donegal, Sligo, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Kilkenny. The industry in Ireland now comprises a diverse range of activities including back, middle and front office operations and both regulated and non-regulated entities.

Collectively, these investments are significant achievements in view of the global crisis that has impacted the industry over the last two years and highlight Ireland's on-going attractiveness for investment and the Government's sustained commitment to the development of the sector.

Industrial Development

Michael Colreavy

Question:

51 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of co-operative models of business promoted and developed by Enterprise Ireland or the county enterprise boards over the past three years; and the steps taken to promote the development of cooperatives as a model for job creation and business growth. [20902/12]

The Enterprise Ireland (EI) client base includes, amongst others, a number of co-operative societies. It is a matter for each enterprise, in consultation with its own legal advisers, to determine what legal structure best suits its own particular requirements. While EI does not offer any advice to clients in this regard, it does encourage networking between client companies. EI facilitates such networking through various industry events, seminars, workshops, trade missions and client management development programmes such as Leadership for Growth and International Selling.

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases. Whilst priority must be given to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector, Community Groups and Cooperatives can access CEB supports provided that they conform to the normal eligibility criteria. It is my understanding that a number of CEBs have had varying levels of interaction with cooperatives over the years.

Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 14.

Foreign Conflicts

Finian McGrath

Question:

53 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will condemn the recent attacks on the Venezuelan Embassy in London on 10 April by a group of right wing opposition groups. [20967/12]

I am aware of the incident to which the deputy refers, which took place on 13 April last at the Venezuelan embassy in London. The Government condemns, in the strongest possible terms, any act of violence against a diplomatic mission or its personnel.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

54 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the situation in Bahrain regarding the hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja who has been on hunger strike for 70 days; if he has made representations to the Danish Government in support of his extradition to Denmark; if any measures have been taken to urge the Bahraini authorities to find a humanitarian solution to this matter as Mr. Khawaja’s health is increasingly in jeopardy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20971/12]

I am gravely concerned about the situation of Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. He has entered his 78th day of hunger strike, and is currently refusing to take any liquids. His health is rapidly deteriorating and there is clearly only the shortest window remaining to find a solution. Mr Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life imprisonment last June in a trial that did not meet international standards. The verdict in his appeal had been scheduled to be announced this week but has been postponed until next Monday. This delay is unfortunate but I very much hope that next week's hearing will result in some positive developments in relation to Mr Al-Khawaja's case.

I discussed this case with Danish Foreign Minister Sovndal at the Gymnich meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Copenhagen in March, and offered any assistance that the Government could provide to assist the Danish authorities in reaching an agreement with the Bahraini authorities in relation to the case of Mr Al-Khawaja, who is a dual Bahraini-Danish citizen. Officials in my Department have remained in regular contact with the Danish authorities since as well as with other concerned international partners. The case was also discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council earlier this week. I fully support the statement of HR Ashton on 17 April which urged the Bahraini authorities to find a compassionate, pragmatic and humanitarian solution as a matter of urgency.

My officials have also directly relayed my concerns to the Bahraini authorities, both to the Bahraini Ambassador in London and, through our Ambassador in Riyadh, to the Bahraini Chargé there urging positive consideration of the Danish request that Mr Al-Khawaja be released to Denmark for medical treatment. I again impress on the Bahraini authorities the need to find a pragmatic and humanitarian solution at this critical juncture.

The overall human rights situation in Bahrain continues to give rise to concern and the demonstrations arising from last weekend's holding of the Formula 1 Grand Prix again underline the urgent need for follow-up to last November's Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. I urge the Bahraini authorities and the opposition to engage genuinely and meaningfully in Bahrain's national reconciliation process. A way must be found through dialogue to chart a new and inclusive future for Bahrain.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

55 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Parliamentary Questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21151/12]

From 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012 my Department transferred 47 Parliamentary Questions to other Departments. Of these, 34 were deemed to have been submitted to my Department in error, with the subject matter proper to another Department. The remaining 13 were fall-on transfers where an identical question was put to more than one Department and the lead Department answered on behalf of all.

Community Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

56 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21166/12]

As Tánaiste, I support the objective of balanced regional development, and consequently of measures which enhance both the employment opportunities, and the living standards, of rural communities. I would also welcome any positive engagement by civil society on these issues, and look forward to any constructive ideas or solutions which they may put forward to complement the Government's own programme of work in this area, which focuses on employment growth and economic recovery.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government is progressing its Action Plan on Jobs, together with Pathways to Work, to ensure that those currently on the live register can access the training and supports necessary to enhance their employment prospects.

As the Deputy will also be aware, the Government is working to exit the EU-IMF programme entered into by the previous government, and to regain Ireland's economic independence. This requires determined action to reduce Ireland's deficit, which this Government is endeavouring to do in as sustainable and fair a manner as possible.

EU Funding

Michael Creed

Question:

57 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the relationship between the fiscal compact and the European stability mechanism; if he will clarify the legal status of the ESM; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21051/12]

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, was signed by Euro Area Member States on 2 February 2012. 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, 9 December 2011 and 2 March aimed at improving the effectiveness of the mechanism. These decisions included the agreement on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (Stability Treaty) in the Economic and Monetary Union. The original ESM treaty, signed in July 2011, needed to be updated to take account of the additional flexibilities agreed by the Euro Area HoSG for the EFSF in late July 2011. The recital, or preamble to the ESM Treaty provides at recital (5) that member states concerned must ratify 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).

The linkage between the ESM and Stability Treaty ratification was accepted in the interests of securing agreement on the ESM and its accelerated entry into force by July 2012. In the negotiations, the Government sought to ensure that it was made clear that the link between ratification of the Stability Treaty and the ESM Treaty applied only to new applications for assistance under the ESM, and that it will not affect the transfer to the ESM of undisbursed amounts under the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) for Ireland and other programme countries. The Government also sought to ensure that sufficient time was provided for ratification of the Stability Treaty before the link enters into effect.

The Stability Treaty is part of a broader package of measures aimed at improving confidence in the Euro Area, which include the ESM. It is entirely logical and reasonable that a country receiving the support of its partners under the ESM should be prepared to run sensible budgetary policies as required under the new Treaty. That is the basis of the linkage. We believe the linkage between the Treaties will further contribute to confidence, solidarity and financial stability in the euro area.

In accordance with the terms agreed under the ESM Treaty, the ESM will be established as an International Financial Institution under public international law and will be located in Luxembourg. As agreed by the HoSG on 9 December, Ireland is aiming to ratify the Treaty by July 2012. Primary legislation will be required to enable Ireland to ratify the ESM Treaty and implement its provisions.

State Savings Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

58 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the operation of the State savings scheme; his plans to make the schemes more attractive to savers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21058/12]

The National Treasury Management Agency is responsible for State savings schemes. An Post and the Prize Bond Company act as agents of the National Treasury Management Agency for the sale of these products. There is an attractive range of products available to the public from the ordinary deposit account to fixed saving products with maturities from 3 to 10 years. The rates on offer are appropriate so as to give the investor an attractive return while balancing the cost of the funding to the Exchequer. The schemes have been very successful. In 2011 they raised funding of €1.36 billion for the Exchequer and in the first Quarter of this year €0.44 billion was raised from that source. The amount outstanding under the State savings schemes at 31 March 2012 was €14.5 billion or 12% of the National Debt. The following are the current rates on the State savings schemes:

Product

Gross AER

%

3 year Savings Bonds

3.23

4 year National Solidarity Bond

3.56

5.5 year Savings Certificates

3.53

6 year Instalment Savings

3.37

10 year National Solidarity Bond

4.14

Deposit Account Plus (30 day notice Account)

3.00

Ordinary Deposit Account

1.00

The annual coupon of 1% on the National Solidarity Bonds and the interest on the Deposit Account Plus and the Ordinary Deposit Account are subject to DIRT. Otherwise the returns on State savings schemes are not subject to tax.

The NTMA keeps the suite of State Savings products and the interest rates paid on them under constant review to ensure that the products remain competitive and attractive to retail investors.

General Government Debt

Michael McGrath

Question:

59 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the composition of the general Government debt at the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21059/12]

The first estimate for end 2011 General Government debt was transmitted by the Department of Finance and the Central Statistics Office to Eurostat on 31st March as part of the Maastricht Returns. Following the usual clarification process, the return was published by my Department and Eurostat on Monday 23rd March. The CSO compiles quarterly estimates of General Government Debt one quarter in arrears. General Government Debt at end 2011 is reported as €169 billion, or 108% of GDP. Of this €137 billion is Gross National Debt and €28 billion is debt outstanding on the IBRC promissory note.

€ billion

Government bonds

85.3

State savings (retail debt)1

14.0

Promissory note obligation

28.3

Programme assistance

35.7

Local Authorities and HFA debt

1.5

Short-term debt

2.9

Other2

1.05

1State savings are defined on page 10 of the NTMA Annual Report 2010

2“Other” includes other loans, swaps and related collaterals, coinage, the debt of the non-commercial semi-state sector and small savings accruals.

This is the latest official estimate of General Government Debt. The estimate is based on the latest available data from the NTMA, the CSO and within the Department.

National Pensions Reserve Fund

Michael McGrath

Question:

60 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the future of the National Pensions Reserve Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21060/12]

The Government is committed to ensuring a continuing level of investment in Ireland in the interests of boosting economic activity and generating employment. It believes that the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) can make a significant contribution to that objective through its involvement in the Strategic Investment Fund and through investment opportunities in Ireland such as the new Irish infrastructure investment fund, as well as through commercial investment in projects in this country, such as the €450 million the Fund has committed to finance the national roll out of domestic water meters, and the Fund's continuing participation in Innovation Fund Ireland. The resulting greater concentration of investment in Ireland on the part of the NPRF is expected to require the amendment of the NPRF's investment policy, which is set out in the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. Officials of my Department are liaising with the National Treasury Management Agency, as the Manager of the NPRF, in identifying and drafting the necessary amendments to the legislation and I expect to bring forward proposals for amending legislation as soon as possible once that work is completed.

As background, I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency, as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), that the provisional total value of the Fund was €14.5 billion at 31 December 2011, comprising the Discretionary Portfolio, valued at €5.4 billion, and the Directed Portfolio, currently held at €9.1 billion pending completion of an independent valuation review of the Fund's investments in ordinary shares in Allied Irish Banks (provisionally valued at €0.01 per share) and in preference shares in Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland.

It should be noted that the funds in the Discretionary Portfolio are not all readily accessible. The NPRF Commission has legally committed €1.2 billion to various fund investments, of which over €800 million is for investment in Ireland. The €800 million includes a commitment to provide funding on a commercial basis for the roll-out of the water metering programme subject to certain pre-conditions.

The establishment of the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) was announced by the Government in September 2011. The SIF will channel commercial investment from the National Pensions Reserve Fund towards productive investment in the Irish economy. As well as money from the NPRF, the Fund will seek matching commercial investment from private investors and target investment in areas of strategic significance to the future of the Irish economy. It will comprise a series of sub-funds targeted at commercial investment in critical areas of the Irish economy, including infrastructure, venture capital and provision of long-term capital for SMEs. The NPRF will take a lead role in the development and implementation of each sub-fund.

The NPRF's investment in the SIF will, like its existing investments, be on a commercial basis. Accordingly, such investment will not be classified as General Government expenditure in statistical terms and there will be no implications for the continued achievement of the General Government Deficit targets we are committed to under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support to Ireland. Further investment by the NPRF in Ireland on a strictly commercial basis does not represent a material change in the purpose of the NPRF.

The NPRF announced in November 2011 a commitment of €250 million to a new Irish infrastructure investment fund which is seeking up to €1 billion from institutional investors in Ireland and overseas and which will invest in infrastructure assets in Ireland, including assets designated for disposal by the Government and commercial State enterprises and also new infrastructure projects. Marketing of this fund in Ireland by Irish Life Investment Managers and abroad by AMP Capital commenced in the first quarter of 2012. Normally the period from commencement of marketing of an investment fund targeting illiquid assets to closure of financial commitments by investors in such a fund can extend up to one year. In parallel, AMP Capital, the infrastructure manager of the fund, has commenced a process of building a pipeline of appropriate investment opportunities.

The NPRF has also committed €450 million to finance the national roll out of domestic water meters. In addition, the NPRF is actively supporting the development of the market for venture capital in Ireland through its continued participation in Innovation Fund Ireland in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland. On 15 March 2012, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation announced the commencement of the second call for expressions of interest from appropriately qualified international venture capital managers.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he expects the National Asset Management Agency to purchase any further loans from the covered institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21061/12]

I am advised by NAMA that it does not, at this stage, expect to acquire any additional loans from the participating institutions. However, I am advised that, in NAMA's engagement with a minority of debtors, certain loans have come to light which were not initially deemed eligible by the institutions concerned but which, following review, are now considered to be eligible. In cases where acquisition of these loans is considered vital to enable a debtor's exposure to be managed effectively, NAMA reserves the right to acquire them.

Official Engagements

Michael McGrath

Question:

62 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has held discussions with his ECOFIN colleagues on the possibility of the EU issuing euro bonds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21062/12]

In November of last year, the European Commission published a Green Paper on the feasibility of introducing Stability Bonds. The paper analyses the potential benefits and challenges of a number of approaches to common sovereign debt issuance among euro area Member States. While there are potentially significant benefits attached to common debt issuance, there are clearly differing views among the Member States at this point in time. These issues are evident from the discussions I have had with my ECOFIN colleagues.

Departmental Agencies

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the operation of the State Claims Agency, its success in limiting costs arising from personal injury and property damage claims against the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21063/12]

State indemnity for personal injury and third party property damage is set out in the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act, 2000 where the management of personal injury and third party property damage claims against certain State authorities, and underlying risks, was delegated to the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). When performing these functions, the NTMA is known as the State Claims Agency (SCA). The principal objectives of the State Claims Agency are:

To ensure that the State's liabilities in relation to personal injury claims, and the expenses of the SCA in relation to their management, are contained at the lowest achievable level;

To implement its employer liability, public liability and clinical risk work programmes, including the minimisation of litigation risk factors in State authorities and healthcare enterprises, and the implementation and audit of risk management systems.

Where State indemnity applies the State does not purchase insurance for personal injury (employer's and public liability) and third party property damage and as such will not have to bear associated premium costs. Indemnity works on a pay as you go basis so that all costs associated with personal injury and third party property damage claims are paid directly by the State through a reimbursement system operated by the SCA. Analysis has demonstrated that the States cost of dealing with claims directly is significantly lower than the premium cost of insuring the risk. This has yielded significant annual savings as the State no longer has to pay insurance premiums for delegated classes of claims.

In order to maximise the savings the State must manage the claims made against it at the best possible cost. In conjunction with the State the SCA has a strong track record in reducing the cost of managing claims under its remit. For example during 2011 the SCA achieved significant savings on claims and related legal costs associated with the management of the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS). An independent actuarial assessment projected that €106 million would be required to satisfy CIS claims and related costs in 2011. The outturn for the year was €81 million, representing a saving of €25 million.

To date the SCA has managed over 10,000 personal injury (including clinical negligence claims) and third party property damage claims. The SCA manages a claim from the point of claims notification through to final resolution. Claims are investigated in a thorough and timely fashion in order to facilitate early decision-making in relation to liability and strategy. The SCA uses panels of service providers, such as solicitors, medical consultants and engineers to provide expert advice on the State's behalf. Each claim is allocated a notional estimated liability and this is updated as new medical and other expert information becomes available. The SCA then decides, in relation to each claim, whether it should be contested in the courts or whether settlement negotiations should begin and then manages the claim through to final resolution.

Risk Management

The SCA hosts a national electronic reporting system which facilitates the identification of clusters of adverse incidents and allows for root cause analysis of claims. The lessons learned from this analysis support the improvement of employee, public and patient safety and contribute to the reduction of incidents and claims in delegated State Authorities. When serious adverse events or trends are identified by the SCA, it responds by undertaking detailed analysis, providing advice and making recommendations. The SCA responds by undertaking detailed analysis and/or reviews/audits and providing advice and making recommendations. Annually, the SCA plans and implements employers liability, public liability (including clinical risk) and third party property damage risk management work programmes in conjunction with State Authorities under its remit, based on claims and incident data trend analysis, legal requirements and precedents and recent developments in litigation risk management, nationally or internationally.

Significant projects implemented in 2010 and 2011 included:

Rollout of the new safety management system to all Irish Prison Service locations and certification of two locations to the international specification OHSAS 18001 — the first prison locations in Europe to receive this award;

Training in general health and safety and field risk assessments to almost 400 staff in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine;

Issuance of the ‘Guidelines on Managing Safety and Health in Post-Primary School's — a joint project undertaken with the Department of Education and Skills, the Health and Safety Authority and the School Development Planning Initiative. This was supported by subsequent educational seminars;

A self-assessment on-line survey of over 700 State buildings, including over 400 Garda Síochána locations, focussing on fire safety management. All participating authorities and locations were presented with a report of the findings and recommendations.

Systems Analysis Training — courses delivered to Hospital consultants and multidisciplinary HSE clinical staff;

Presentations provided to numerous forums ranging from medical emergency services, graduate medical programmes in various universities, clinical nurse management staff, mental health services, paediatric units, etc;

Bi-annual obstetric forum meetings, hosted by the Agency, of all maternity and maternity units in the State.

State Authorities who have actively engaged in these initiatives have shown significant reduction in numbers and costs of incidents and claims. In addition to this, over 2,500 ad-hoc requests for advice and consultancy services are received annually. This includes insurance advice on contracts, licenses, schemes and tenders in circumstances where State indemnity applies or on insurances required where it does not apply. This ensures that the State's liabilities are minimised in the most cost-effective manner.

Redundancy Payments

Pearse Doherty

Question:

64 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if it is appropriate for the National Assets Management Agency to be preventing the implementation of a Labour Court Recommendation resulting in a group of workers formerly employed by a company (details supplied) being denied payment of an enhanced redundancy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21065/12]

I am advised by NAMA that it has not received a request from the company in question to fund enhanced redundancy payments in this case. NAMA fully appreciates how difficult the situation is for the people who have lost their jobs. However, it is NAMA policy, in cases where it is requested to approve funding for redundancy, to provide approval only for statutory redundancy payments. I understand that the statutory redundancy has been paid in this case by the company in question out of its own resources.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

65 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the money that has been received back into the Exchequer and or any State agency from the banks in respect of the bank guarantee, and any capitalisation to date and the levies and or undertakings that have been given by the banks to the State or any State agency in that regard for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21102/12]

The bank guarantee (schemes) to which the Deputy refers are the Credit Institutions Financial Support Scheme 2008 (CIFS Scheme) which was in operation between 30 September, 2008 and 29 September, 2010, and the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme (ELG Scheme) which came into operation on 9 December, 2009 and has a current issuance end-date of 30 June, 2012, subject to review by the EU Commission. The total fees received to date from the covered banks in respect of both the CIFS and ELG Schemes amount in total to €3.107bn which does not include interest accrued. This amount comprises €758.4m in respect of the CIFS and €2,348.5m in respect of the ELG Scheme.

A breakdown of fees paid by year for each of the covered banks can be seen in the tables below:

ELG fees paid to date by Participating Institutions

€millions

IL&P

BoI

AIB

IBRC

EBS

Total

2010

95.9

275.5

299.3

149.9

34.2

854.8

2011

172.9

448.7

464.8

81.4

62.6

1,230.4

2012

37.9

107.9

95.8

9.9

11.8

263.3

Total

306.7

832.1

859.9

241.2

108.6

2,348.5

CIFS fees paid to date by Covered Institutions

€millions

IL&P

BoI

AIB

Anglo

EBS

INBS

Postbank

Total

2008

32.3

37.9

0.004

70.20

2009

35.4

138.1

174.7

94.8

9.7

23.8

0.020

476.52

2010

14.8

68.3

58.3

54.9

5.9

8.8

0.015

211.01

2011

0.7

.70

Total

50.2

238.7

233.0

188.3

15.6

32.6

0.039

758.43

The bank recapitalisation commitments made by the State to date are set out in the following table:

€bn

AIB/EBS

BoI

IL&P

IBRC (Anglo/ INBS)

Total

Government preference Shares (2009) — NPRF

3.5

3.5*

7.0

Capital contributions (with Promissory Notes as consideration)/Special Investment Shares (2010) — Exchequer**

0.9

30.7

31.6

Ordinary Share Capital (2009) — Exchequer

4.0

4.0

Ordinary Share Capital (2010) — NPRF

3.7

3.7

Total pre-PCAR 2011 (A)

8.1

3.5

0

34.7

46.3

*€1.7bn of BoI's government preference shares were converted to equity in May/June 2010 (€1.8bn still left in existence). The government also received €0.5bn from the warrants relating to BoI's preference shares (excluded from table above).

**The IBRC amount is made up of a total capital contribution for Anglo/INBS of €30.6bn and a special investment share of €0.1bn (INBS). The Anglo/INBS capital contribution impacted in full on the GGB in 2010. The consideration for the Anglo/INBS capital contribution was €30.6bn of promissory notes. These Promissory Notes are an amount due from the State to IBRC. Each year, on 31 March, €3.06bn is paid by the Exchequer to Anglo/INBS as part of the scheduled repayments of the promissory notes. The first such repayment was made on 31 March 2010.

€bn

AIB/EBS

BoI

IL&P

Anglo/ INBS

Total

PCAR 2011:

Capital from Exchequer***

3.9

2.7

6.5

NPRF Capital

8.8

1.2

10.0

Total PCAR (B)

12.7

1.2

2.7

16.5

Total Cost of Recap for State (A) + (B)

20.7

4.7

2.7

34.7

62.8

***The Exchequer cost of the 2011 BoI recap is shown net of share sale to private investors (Completed in October, 2011).

As the Deputy will be aware, the banks were required to raise a total of €24bn as a result of the Central Bank's 2011 Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR). However, primarily as a result of successful private equity contributions, asset sales and burden sharing with bondholders the Government only had to inject €16.5bn into the relevant institutions. The State has also received cash dividend payments from the Bank of Ireland Government preference shares in the amount of €0.4bn to date.

In addition, the State is committed to acquiring Irish Life for €1.3bn to complete the recapitalisation of Irish Life & Permanent. It is expected that the proceeds of an onward sale of Irish Life in due course will reduce the amount the State has committed to the bank recapitalisation.

Negative Equity Mortgages

Michael McGrath

Question:

66 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has an estimate of the number of households in negative equity at the present time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21115/12]

Firstly, I would like to inform the Deputy that the most recent and detailed data on negative equity is presented in the paper entitled“The Irish Mortgage Market: Stylised Facts, Negative Equity and Arrears” which is available on the Central Bank’s website www.centralbank.ie. The Central Bank has advised me that in early 2011, loan loss assessments under conservative, base and stressed case scenarios were carried out on the loan books of four Irish credit institutions. As part of the process, detailed loan level data covering residential mortgages was gathered on the credit portfolios of the institutions involved. Drawing from the data, the Central Bank assess that approximately 145,000 properties were in negative equity in the last quarter of 2010.

Tax Collection

Michael McGrath

Question:

67 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who paid stamp duty of €10,000 or more in respect of the purchase of a residential property for each year from 2000 onwards. [21116/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most appropriate information that can be provided is an annual breakdown for the years from 2000 to 2011 inclusive of the numbers of stamped instruments in respect of purchases and long-term leases of residential property where stamp duty of €10,000 or more applied. The information available on that basis is as follows:

Year

Number of Stamped Instruments

2000

2,408

2001

6,556

2002

9,389

2003

15,025

2004

21,323

2005

24,494

2006

33,192

2007

26,072

2008

14,888

2009

5,809

2010

3,027

2011

646

As many instruments have more than one purchaser who are jointly liable for the stamp duty, payment of the duty to Revenue is normally made by a single payment from an agent representing all parties. Therefore, it is not possible to identify the number of purchasers who individually paid duty greater than €10,000.

It should be noted that:

The figures for the year 2000 cover the period from April 2000 to December 2000.

The instruments listed relate to residential conveyances and long-term residential leases (i.e., exceeding 100 years). Short term residential leases are excluded.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

68 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21150/12]

In the period in question 412 Parliamentary Questions were transferred from my Department to other Departments. These transfers arose as the questions raised were not appropriate to my Department.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

69 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21165/12]

In response to the Deputy's question my Department has no involvement in this matter.

School Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

70 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is realistic is it to ask private bus contractors to tender now for runs next September when they do not know how much fuel will cost next September and all the other associated costs when providing the transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21094/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

71 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is extremely unfair of the Department to advertise now, runs that are already being carried out by competent bus operators; his proposals to offer out to tender the runs that their own bus fleet operate with their own drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21095/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 71 together.

Bus Éireann operates the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department. The opportunity is available now for private operators who are interested in providing school transport services under the school transport scheme to submit a completed pre-qualification questionnaire to Bus Éireann in order to join a panel of suitable operators. Operators who qualify for the panel may be invited to tender at a later stage before the new school year commences in late August 2012. Operators are not being invited to tender at this stage. The tendering process for engaging private operators falls within the scope of the European procurement directives and as such is subject to procurement procedures. Allowing for the notification to the market, the evaluation of pre qualification questionnaires, the evaluation of tender responses, the award of a contract, and the standstill period, this process must commence now in order to have all services in place by late August.

Higher Education Grants

Paudie Coffey

Question:

72 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on an appeal for a third level non-adjacent grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20960/12]

The appeal from the student referred to by the Deputy was considered by the Independent Appeals Board and a reply has recently issued.

Schools Building Projects

Colm Keaveney

Question:

73 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Galway may expect to receive capital investment in view of the chronic over crowding and lack of facilities at the school. [20977/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy has an application with my Department for capital funding for a new school building. Information in respect of the current status of all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie. As outlined in the Five Year Plan, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. Due to the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding to meet future demographic demands, it has not been possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. School building projects in architectural planning, including the school referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be progressed through the various stages of the architectural planning process within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department’s capital budget, it is not possible at this time to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project to construction stage.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Robert Troy

Question:

74 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider the implementation of the wage decrease for newly qualified teachers in view of the fact that this strategy does not offer any incentive for a person to seek a teachers qualification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20989/12]

A 10% reduction in salary applies to new entrants to the public service, including teachers, who commenced employment for the first time on or after 1 January 2011. This is in accordance with the Budget 2011 decision taken by the previous administration. Teachers appointed for the first time on or after 1 January 2011 also commence employment at the first point of the salary scale. Incremental credit for the length of time in college training as a teacher is no longer reckonable. The salary scales applicable to teachers who commenced employment for the first time on or after 1 January 2011 in posts funded by my Department are outlined in Circular 0040/2011.

The Government announced as part of Budget 2012 that, pending completion of the public service-wide review of allowances, changes to teacher qualification allowances were being made with immediate effect. These changes affect both existing teachers and new appointees in the future. Under Budget 2012 teachers appointed before 5 December 2011 are not paid an allowance where they acquire further qualifications after that date. Allowances for teachers first appointed between 5 December 2011 and 31 January 2012 are payable up to a maximum of €4,226 which was the rate applicable to Honours Primary Degree allowance.

Pending the outcome of the review of allowances and premium payments by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries from 1 February 2012. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances and, for a limited period of time, the assistant principal allowance. These decisions were taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. These provisions are outlined in Circular 70/2011 and Circular 3/2012. These measures are concerned with the sustainability of the public service pay bill and in particular the need to find payroll savings in the education vote. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services. I am not in a position to comment further until the outcome of the review is known.

School Staffing

Sandra McLellan

Question:

75 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary schools in County Cork that will lose teaching posts due to the changes in staffing schedules in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20993/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The relevant appointment and retention figures for mainstream staffing for the coming school year have been published on the Department's website. However, the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012. The Primary Staffing Appeals Board met last week. A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the Appeals Board. These appeals were considered in accordance with the appeals criteria set out in Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. 205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools are being notified this week of the outcome of their appeals.

My Department's focus is on notifying schools of the outcome of their appeals and to implement the staffing arrangements for the coming school year. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

Third Level Institutions

Sandra McLellan

Question:

76 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way he intends to address the recent Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings which failed to feature an Irish university; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20995/12]

There is significant debate around the relative importance attached to rankings criteria and on their capacity to fully capture the quality of what is on offer in higher education institutions. The Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings are a new set of rankings in its second year and are based on reputational surveys only. Despite some decline, Irish universities continue to figure prominently in world rankings. Irish institutions are featuring in the top 1% in the world. In 2011, two Irish institutions were in the top 200 and another three in the top 400 Times Higher Education World University ranked institutions out of some 15,000 universities worldwide. Moreover, the overall performance of the Irish system was highly ranked; 17th place overall and 6th place globally relative to our GDP. Delivering high quality higher education for a growing proportion of our population within our current resources will mean that we need to maintain a clear focus on system performance overall rather than a narrower focus on individual institutional performance.

State Examinations

Sandra McLellan

Question:

77 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if recently retired teachers will be employed to oversee the supervision of State exams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20998/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted, including the supervision of examinations. In view of the above, I have forwarded your queries to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McCarthy

Question:

78 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21000/12]

Postgraduate students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme. In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. The lower income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year. Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities. In addition to this, the Student Assistance Fund will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need.

School Curriculum

Simon Harris

Question:

79 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has issued any circular or directive to post-primary schools stating that students who enjoy an exemption from the study of Irish should be offered an alternative academic subject for study during scheduled Irish classes rather than the current norm in which exempted students are often required to attend Irish classes despite not studying the subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21002/12]

My Department specifies the requirements regarding school curriculum and courses of instruction in recognised post-primary schools by way of the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools and a number of departmental circulars. The Rules also apply in the case of post-primary schools in the VEC and Community and Comprehensive sectors. Under Rule 46 of the Rules and Programme a student who is exempted from the study of Irish in accordance with departmental circular M10/94 may be allowed to substitute for Irish any other subject from the list of approved subjects to meet the curriculum requirements of the Junior or Leaving Certificate programmes. The choice of subjects, including those for students with an exemption from the study of Irish, is a matter for the student and his or her parents in consultation with the school Principal. Timetabling is a matter for the school.

Skills Training

Michael McCarthy

Question:

80 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a course fee in respect of a person (details supplied) can be waived in view of the circumstances outlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21081/12]

I am informed that the course in question is being run by a private company. FÁS Training services do not currently run a Water Meter Installer course. FÁS consider that this is a job for plumbers (a large number of which are unemployed) and requires no general skills training above those covered in their apprenticeships. There may be some training needed when the actual information is released on the requirements for retro fitting (meter security, meter registration,etc). There are a large number of private providers offering training for skilled/unskilled people for Water Meter Installation ranging from 1 to 3 days and varying in cost from €300-€1,000 and citing circa 2,000 jobs to be created for installation of meters.

The person in question may wish to contact the Department of Social Protection to inquire about the availability of the Technical Employment Support Grant. The Technical Employment Support Grant allows Employment Services Officers to support a range of responses for clients who are experiencing major barriers in progressing from unemployment to the workforce, where this need cannot be met by FÁS directly or any other state provider, within a reasonable timeframe or at a location convenient to the jobseeker.

State Examinations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

81 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding State examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21087/12]

Mock examinations are not part of the State examinations system. The decision to organise and/or charge for mock examinations is made at school level, and mock examinations are not a requirement of my Department

Schools Building Projects

Catherine Murphy

Question:

82 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the new premises for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be available for use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21090/12]

The project to which the Deputy refers is close to completion. However, there are a number of technical issues which need to be resolved before the building can be handed over to the school authority. It is anticipated that these issues will be resolved in the coming weeks.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

83 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21105/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on completing Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction stage at this time.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

84 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding land the subject of storage of construction materials associated with a school (details supplied); when is construction of the new school building for this school due to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21106/12]

The site which is occupied by the two schools referred to by the Deputy is owned by the respective Trustees of those schools and any arrangements regarding shared use of the site are a matter for the school authorities and the respective Trustees.

The project for the post-primary school is at an early stage of architectural planning. It was included in the 2014/15 list of projects on the five year construction programme which I announced in March.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McGrath

Question:

85 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has yet reviewed the proposed withdrawal of special needs assistants posts from a special needs school (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the SNAs concerned have already had their formal employment terminated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21111/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support which now includes a requirement for them to have regard to the overall cap on numbers.

In relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, which is a special school for children with Autism, I understand that this school currently has an enrolment of 24 pupils with staffing of a Principal and 5 mainstream class teachers as well as 16 SNAs.

This is a total of 22 staff catering for the needs of 24 pupils in the school for the current school year. This equates to an SNA to pupil ratio of 1 SNA per 1.5 pupils in the school and an overall adult to pupil ratio of 1 adult per 1.1 pupils in the school.

This is an exceptionally high level of support and considerably in excess of the current recommended SNA ratio for Special Class groups, as outlined in Department of Education and Skills Circular 0038/10, which is a ratio of 2 SNAs per special class group of 6 children, for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Schools have been advised to make applications to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received and in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

In considering applications for SNA support for the new school year, the NCSE will take into account the individual care needs of all qualifying children, supports freed up due to any school leavers, and the identified care needs of newly enrolled children with special educational needs.

The final SNA allocation for the school is question will not be known until all applications, including applications for any new entrants, are submitted for the coming school year. I understand the NCSE is liaising with the school in question in this regard.

The NCSE will advise the school by late May/early June of their SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

86 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21148/12]

My Department does not routinely collect data on the number of Parliamentary Questions transferred to other Departments. It is not possible therefore to provide a definitive response to this question. I can confirm that in the six month period from November 2011 to 25 April 2012 my Department answered approximately 2000 Parliamentary Questions. It has been estimated by officials in my Department that approximately 60 Parliamentary Questions were initially submitted to my Department and transferred to other Departments during this period.

The main reason for transferring a Parliamentary Question is when the subject matter of a particular question falls within the responsibility of another Minister. Questions are also transferred, in accordance with Standing Orders, when the subject matter has been addressed within the previous two weeks in the case of a question for written answer, or within the previous four months in the case of a PQ for oral answer (or in response to an issue raised under Standing Order 21).

Educational Projects

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

87 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21163/12]

Officials within my Department will consider the implications of any issues that arise from the work of this coalition, and the research study that it is undertaking, where they are relevant to the education sector.

National Monuments

Robert Dowds

Question:

88 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works is aware of any fund at a European level which could be accessed to upgrade historical sites; if the OPW has considered applying for such funding to refurbish the historical site of the Round Tower in Clondalkin, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21041/12]

The Round Tower in Clondalkin is owned by the State. There are no plans to upgrade this historical site to facilitate what would be a limited level of public access.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) was requested to improve the appearance of the Tower by replacing existing Perspex windows with a less obtrusive window and to effect improvements to an adjacent gate structure. The work to the windows has been completed and OPW is in discussions with the relevant stakeholders in relation to the gate structure and adjoining local authority land. This office does not have plans for further work to the tower at present. There are sufficient resources available to OPW for the proposed work.

The OPW is currently exploring new approaches to support the management of National Monuments in State care, including closer links with local communities. The cooperation of local communities is seen as an opportunity for improved integration of such sites in their localities, unlocking tourist and visitor potential.

Special Areas of Conservation

Willie Penrose

Question:

89 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will take steps, to have works carried out on the lands of a person (details supplied) which works were to be carried out as part of improvement works in 2011 to address the problem on this person’s land; if same can now be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21068/12]

The Office of Public Works could not undertake the required works in 2011 as planned, as it became aware that the area in question was located in a Special Area of Conservation.

The OPW is therefore required to obtain environmental consent from the National Parks and Wildlife Service before commencing the works. Arrangements are in train to secure the necessary consent, which involve the completion of an Appropriate Assessment into the environmental impacts of the proposed works, as required under the EU Habitats Directive.

This assessment is almost complete. The OPW plans to undertake the works this year, subject to the consent being granted.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

90 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21155/12]

In the last six months my Department transferred 93 Parliamentary Questions to other Departments out of a total of 601 received. All of these transfers occurred because the questions were more appropriate to other Ministerial Offices, which have primary responsibility in their relevant areas. In each case, agreement was reached with the relevant Department prior to any transfer taking place.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

91 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21170/12]

My Department has no responsibility for the organisations mentioned in the Deputy's question.

Industrial Disputes

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

92 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the failure of a company (details supplied) to abide by the rulings of the Labour Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21101/12]

The Deputy's question concerns a dispute between the company and 20 employees in relation to a claim for enhanced redundancy terms of four weeks pay per year of service in addition to statutory redundancy entitlements, following the acquisition of the company and the closure of its Dublin offices in 2011.

The company rejected the workers' claim for enhanced redundancy terms and, following failure to resolve the dispute at local level, the matter was referred to the Labour Court for adjudication, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969. A Labour Court recommendation under Section 20(1) is binding on the union, but not on the company.

A Labour Court hearing took place on 20 January, 2011.

Having considered the position of both sides the Labour Court recommended that the claimants should be paid anex gratia redundancy payment equal to four weeks’ pay inclusive of the statutory payment already paid.

The Labour Court conducts hearings on trade disputes and issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it should be settled. The Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendation.

However, the system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature and recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding. Neither the Labour Court, nor I, can compel a company to comply with such recommendations. Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties to the dispute.

I understand that the company has complied with its obligations in respect of statutory redundancy payments and that a total of 35 redundancy rebate claims have been made to the Department of Social Protection in respect of the company concerned.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

93 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which the availability of skills affects the filling of vacancies for various job descriptions; if it is expected that significant improvements can be made to match the educational skills requirement of the employers to those seeking employment with particular reference to the numbers of the live register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21127/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the average skill level requirement in the case of jobs created over the past twelve months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21129/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 95 together.

Policy related to the development of skills for the economy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills. However, the Government's Pathway to Work Policy on labour market activation commits to improved matching of skills with the needs of enterprise.

The Department of Education and Skills will fund over 450,000 education and training places, this year, across the range of provision in the higher education, further education and training sectors. The alignment of many FÁS training programmes with evolving labour market needs is evidence-based and is ongoing.

In a direct response to specific skills shortages in the ICT sector, earlier this year the Department of Education and Skills published a joint Government-Industry ICT Action Plan aimed at building the supply of high level ICT graduates. As part of the Plan, more than 750 places have been made available on new ICT skills conversion programmes which are being rolled out immediately in higher education institutes across the country. There has been extensive involvement with enterprise in the design and delivery of these programmes.

Additionally, under Springboard 2011, 4,305 people were supported to undertake courses in areas of identified skills needs such as ICT, Pharamachem and the Green Economy. In February 2012, more than 500 additional places were made available and €10 million has been made available to support the roll-out of Springboard in 2012.

With regard to average skill levels in jobs created over the last 12 months, my Department and its agencies do not monitor this type of information. However, the structure of our economy, with our focus on export driven growth in high value added Manufacturing and International and Financial Services, demands high skill levels from its employees.

In 2011, the Enterprise Development Agencies created over 9,000 jobs in the Manufacturing Sector while over 11,000 jobs were created in the International and Financial Services Sectors.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent of discussions he continues to have with the European Commission with particular reference to the need to identify maximum support for employment creating opportunities through enterprise and innovation with particular emphasis on availing of optimum support from the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21128/12]

Since taking office, my colleagues Minister Sherlock, Minister Perry and I, along with senior officials from my Department, have availed of every opportunity to engage with the EU institutions on policies of mutual concern regarding jobs, growth and investment.

Bilateral meetings have been held at both official and Ministerial level with Commission and high ranking EU Officials, EU partners and like-minded Groups. We have discussed with like-minded partners the prioritisation of EU initiatives under the Single Market Act, which, in particular, add value to the jobs, growth and investment agenda.

We are continuing to work to analyse our strategic interests and funding possibilities under the EU's new Research Programme (Horizon 2020 —€80bn) and the proposed Programme for Competitiveness and SMEs (COSME —€2.5bn). These Programmes are part of the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework Budget 2014-2020. In that regard every opportunity will be taken to further Ireland's interests to ensure that we can secure the maximum benefit from the funding available under these Programmes, particularly in relation to maximising the scope for participation by SMEs.

During my attendance at the informal Competitiveness Council in February last, I met with the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, where we discussed the Digital Single Market and in particular maximising the enterprise potential from e-commerce and the strategic digital services sectors. On 19 April, I met with Vice-President and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, where we discussed several key strategic initiatives of national importance for our competitiveness and jobs initiatives including the COSME Programme, access to finance for SMEs, internationalisation of SMEs, reduction in administrative burdens for business, and the pursuance of a free, fair and open trade agenda to further Ireland's export-led recovery.

We will continue to work with our EU partners, the EU Commission and the EP to progress these policy instruments and associated measures through the various Council Working Groups and Committees including through the EU Competitiveness Council.

I will also continue to fully engage in the development of the EU's common commercial policies, which I believe provide a strong stimulus for growth and job creation. This year may see the successful conclusion of the Free Trade Agreements with important markets for Ireland including India, Singapore and Canada. This year should also see the mapping out of future trade and investment relations with the US in the context of the EU-US High Level Group and Jobs which is due to report before the end of 2012.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 93.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

96 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which it is expected to ensure that the manufacturing sector can remain competitive in all markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21130/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he and his Department continues to identify identified competition faced by Irish manufacturers and service providers; his proposals to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21136/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 102 together.

Ireland has built a strong reputation in terms of quality and efficiency in a range of manufacturing and services sectors. Notwithstanding challenges in areas such as costs and skills, Ireland is well positioned to exploit the advances in manufacturing technology and to build and maintain a strong base of manufacturing and services activity, particularly in the growth areas identified in the Action Plan for Jobs.

Manufacturing in Ireland spans a wide range of sectors including food and drink, ICT hardware, medical technologies, pharmaceutical bioprocessing, engineering and industrial products, including "green/cleantech" products. These high value manufacturing sectors are the areas where Ireland is, and can continue to be, competitive, rather than in the high volume, low value-added production processes.

The Action Plan for Jobs sets out a range of specific actions directed at the manufacturing sector to be undertaken by Government this year. Together with a number of other measures set out in the Plan, these will support and grow employment in manufacturing. Key measures include: The establishment of a Manufacturing Development Forum to assist the Government in identifying the immediate needs of manufacturing enterprise and also to assist in the development of a strategic long term plan for the sector, and The evaluation of existing support programmes to ensure they meet the needs of manufacturing enterprises and the exploration of additional financial supports that may be required to support the sector, within the context of EU State aid negotiations.

Other measures in the Action Plan for Jobs which are designed to improve the competitiveness of the economy will benefit both manufacturers and service providers. Details of the specific actions to be taken are set out in the Action Plan which is available on my Department's website.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of jobs created in each of the past three years to date in the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21131/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of jobs created in each of the past three years to date in the services sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21132/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 98 together.

The figures in respect of jobs in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. Details of jobs created in agency-assisted companies in the manufacturing and services sectors over the last three years are set out in the table accompanying this reply.

Jobs Created in Agency-assisted companies in the Manufacturing and Services Sectors

Sector

2009

2010

2011

Manufacturing

6,794

8,167

9,042

Services

6,590

11,371

11,191

Total

13,384

19,538

20,233

Enterprise Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which an early-warning mechanism exists or has existed over the past five years whereby job relocation to more competitive jurisdictions could be addressed prior to the event; if specific issues have been identified and a resolution suggested or proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21133/12]

It is an unfortunate reality that companies for a wide range of reasons find themselves in difficulty and early intervention is critically important. For this reason, the Enterprise Development agencies operate an early warning system, which has been in place for over ten years. When triggered, this mechanism brings the full capacity of the agency concerned to bear on whatever situation has arisen within the client company.

For example, when Enterprise Ireland is made aware of jobs at risk, it engages closely with those client companies reporting difficulties or potential job loses to determine what appropriate proactive measures can be put in place by the agency to prevent or minimise the job losses. When IDA Ireland becomes aware of a company's intention to either downsize or cease operating in Ireland, it works with the client company to safeguard and minimise the number of job losses through offering to help the companies to improve competitiveness; enhance their use of technology; grow the skills of their employees; engage in research, development and innovation or develop their business processes. Similarly, as soon as Shannon Development becomes aware of jobs at risk, it proactively engages with companies to offer whatever supports are available to minimise the impact as regards job losses.

There are many differing and complex factors that can influence a firm's decision to relocate in today's modern globalised economic environment. Companies change location to address matters such as accessing new markets, moving production nearer to customers, meeting firm or market specific customer relationship issues, in addition to business takeovers and consolidations. Recent jobs losses which have occurred in the FDI sector in Ireland are largely the result of the continuing restructuring process that is ongoing in Ireland and other developed economies, driven by competitive pressures and technological change. This can result in jobs at the lower end of the value added scale being either phased out completely or relocated to lower cost locations.

The early warning system is kept under review so as to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

Foreign Direct Investment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the main factors likely to encourage foreign direct investment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21134/12]

The combined influence of Ireland's increased competitiveness in business costs, commitment to our 12.5% corporate tax rate, strong Government's commitment to research and technology, strong links between industry and third level institutions, a talented workforce, and a strong track record of foreign direct investment all contribute to make Ireland an attractive location for foreign direct investment (FDI).

On a global scale, Ireland scores extremely well in many of the key areas of importance to investors, helping drive FDI. "The IMD World Competiveness Yearbook, 2011” ranks Ireland 1st in the world for corporate taxes, 1st for business legislation for foreign investors and 1st for the availability of skilled labour. The same report also ranks Ireland 2nd in the world for consumer price inflation, 3rd for direct investment flows inward, 3rd for availability of finance skills, 4th in the world for labour productivity, and 4th for exports of commercial services.

“The World Bank Doing Business Report, 2011” ranks Ireland 1st in the Eurozone for ease of doing business, while Ireland is ranked 2nd most attractive country globally for Foreign Direct Investment by the “NIB/FDI Intelligence Inward Investment Performance Monitor 2011.”

Despite global turbulence, FDI in Ireland continues to grow. 2011 was the most successful year for many years in foreign direct investment in Ireland, with a record 148 investments secured (an increase of 17% on the previous year) and 13,000 new jobs created a 20% increase over the previous year.

The importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the Irish economy remains highly significant. In addition to exports, FDI accounts for a total of 250,000 jobs (1 in every 7 jobs) in the Irish economy and €19 billion spend on Irish sourced goods and services including €6.9 billion in payroll. Companies who have chosen Ireland as the location for their FDI operations include 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies, 8 of the top 10 US ICT companies, 17 of the top 25 medical device companies, more than 50% of the world's leading financial services firms, the top 10 ‘born on the internet' companies and 3 of the world's top 5 games companies.

The parties in Government are working together to ensure that a stable political environment underpins its work to being about economic stability. Our objective is to address the economic challenges that we face and to work towards making Ireland the best small country in which to do business. On taking office this Government moved swiftly to complete the restructuring and re-capitalisation of the Banks and is taking action to enhance the flow of lending to small and medium enterprises. We are meeting the fiscal targets set by our funding partners and have succeeded in securing improvements in the interest rates and maturities charged on lending from the European Financial Stability Fund. The recent progress report on the Action Plan for Jobs underlies our determination to fully implement this initiative in order to get people back to work.

The immediate outlook for Ireland's foreign investment portfolio is positive with a short term pipeline in place. I am satisfied that the actions of this government and the work being done by IDA on the ground will continue to lead to new investment wins for Ireland.

Enterprise Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which adequate funds are available to county enterprise boards or other agencies likely to have an impact on job creation and retention in the small and medium-sized employment creating sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21135/12]

The enterprise development agencies have a crucial role to play in supporting economic recovery and driving sustainable employment growth.

These agencies will be to the forefront of implementing the Action Plan for Jobs, creating the right operating environment for business growth and ensuring that small and medium enterprises are facilitated in maximising their contribution to economic and jobs growth.

In terms of monies allocated to the enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department, the situation is as follows: €307.806m has been allocated to Enterprise Ireland for 2012; €5m has been allocated to Shannon Development for 2012; €15m has been allocated to the City and County Enterprise Boards for 2012,

The allocations outlined above represent a strong investment across the board in the enterprise development agencies and I am satisfied that they have adequate resources available to them to meet funding demands for grants and other supports to the SME sector and other eligible indigenous enterprises.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 96.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

103 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21153/12]

In the past 6 months, my Department has transferred 167 Parliamentary Questions to other Government Departments. Questions are accepted for answer by other Departments where the question concerns an issue that is under their remit.

Enterprise Support Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

104 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21168/12]

As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, supporting balanced regional development and creating jobs in rural locations is a priority. It is only through the creation of jobs in these locations that the issues highlighted can be addressed. To this end, the Action Plan for Jobs sets out an ambitious plan for developing employment initiatives within communities. The range of actions set out in the plan recognises that while it is Government who will create the right operating environment for business growth and job creation, it is the local entrepreneurs who will create the jobs. To support these local entrepreneurs, it is crucial that enterprise supports are available locally. The establishment of a one-stop-shop to provide microenterprise support through the dissolution of the existing CEB offices and the creation of a new network of Local Enterprise offices will ensure an enhanced delivery of support to microenterprises nationally, with a seamless progression, where appropriate, to further Enterprise Ireland supports. Additionally, Enterprise Ireland's network of offices allows the agency to drive take-up of its services and supports such as entrepreneurship programmes focused on identifying new business opportunities, at a local level, thereby maximising take up and impact. Enterprise Ireland has also provided €61.4m in support towards the establishment of 134 locally owned Community Enterprise Centres (CECs) across the country, the majority in rural areas, which have enabled entrepreneurs to establish, provide employment and to grow their businesses in their own locality. Under the Action Plan for Jobs, a further programme of support is being rolled out for the maintenance or establishment of a strong business development function in the existing CECs. This will see 30 centres benefit from a full-time business development function, providing a 50% grant towards eligible costs or €50,000 over two years. Applications from eligible centres under this scheme are currently being assessed.

Pension Provisions

Willie O'Dea

Question:

105 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Question No. 124 of 19 April 2011, the result of the National Employment Rights Authority investigation and if any irregularities were uncovered; if any actions for unfair dismissals resulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21173/12]

As the Deputy is aware, I referred the complaint made in April 2011 directly to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) for investigation. NERA does not comment on the outcome of specific investigations. However in such cases, all parties affected by such investigations are notified of the outcomes of the inspection. I can confirm that the investigation in question is now completed and that the parties involved have been notified. NERA would have no legislative powers to pursue any claim that may arise for an unfair dismissal. Such a claim would be brought before a Rights Commissioner or the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

106 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding a statutory sick pay scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20956/12]

The question of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay, whereby employers would directly meet the costs of sick absence for an initial period of illness, is being considered in the context of the need to reform the social welfare system to bring it into line with practices in other countries in this area; the need to address the deficit in the social insurance fund; the need to limit progression from short-term illness to long-term illness or disability; and in the wider context of enhancing the health of the workforce and addressing levels of absenteeism. No decisions have yet been taken by Government on the introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme. Before any decisions can be taken, there are a range of complex issues which need to be examined in detail. In this regard, I hosted a consultative seminar on the feasibility and implications of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay on 20 February 2012. This seminar was attended by a broad range of key stakeholders and afforded an initial opportunity to discuss the complex issues involved. The issues raised in the correspondence referred to the Deputy were amongst the matters addressed. Further consultations will be held with key stakeholders in order to further develop the debate on these issues.

Social Welfare Appeals

Colm Keaveney

Question:

107 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection the date on which a person (details supplied) in County Galway may expect to receive a jobseeker’s benefit payment. [20972/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 30 January 2012. 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 13 February 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 15 March 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.

Patrick Deering

Question:

108 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on their appeal review for carer’s benefit. [20980/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Employment Support Services

Gerald Nash

Question:

109 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection when the training employment support grant or an equivalent will be restored to local employment services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20981/12]

The Local Employment Service (LES) receives funding from the Department for two grants (the Mediator Fund and the Technical Employment Support Grant) which can be used to support training and other interventions when agreed as being appropriate by both a LES Mediator and Jobseeker, subject to a number of criteria. As with any such grant the criteria and outcomes are subject to periodic review and following same the Technical Employment Support Grant will be available again in the week commencing 30 April.

Social Welfare Benefits

Gerald Nash

Question:

110 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will release a detailed analysis of the report commissioned by her Department in 2011 on the rental sector as it pertains to County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20982/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

111 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reviewing the rent limit for Drogheda, County Louth, in view of its proximity to Dublin as was done recently with Bray, County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20983/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 111 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

As the Department currently funds approximately 40% of the private rented sector it is essential that State support for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions and do not distort the market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students.

New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. These new limits are in line with the most up to date market data available. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

The report referred to by the Deputy is available on the Department's website at the linkhttp://www.welfare.ie/EN/Policy/ResearchSurveysAndStatistics/Pages/rentreview2011.aspx

For all counties, all major urban population centres were tested as part of the review to ensure that rent supplement applicants can access temporary housing arrangements whilst seeking employment opportunities. In County Louth, availability of rental property in Drogheda and Dundalk was tested during this analysis.

The Department will continue to monitor rent levels throughout the country but at this point I have no plans to revise any of the existing rent limits.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paul Connaughton

Question:

112 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made in relation to an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20985/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 March 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to hold an oral hearing.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

113 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an illness benefit appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21004/12]

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

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal has been opened and person concerned is being afforded an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of her appeal. For this purpose, a form SWAO1 was issued to her on 28 March 2012. On return the case will be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether to decide the case by summary decision or to hold an 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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

114 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21028/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 28th February 2012 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent support in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21029/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are approximately 95,000 rent supplement recipients with a forecast outturn of €437 million provided for 2012. Approximately 54,000 of these are now in receipt of rent supplement for more than eighteen months.

The Department currently funds approximately 40% of the private rented sector so it is essential that State support for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions and do not distort the market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students.

The new maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012. These new limits are in line with the most up to date market data available. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

All new Rent Supplement applications are subject to these limits. As existing claims come up for review, most claims are reviewed every six months, or when an existing lease expires, individuals will be reassessed using the new limits.

As the rent of the person in question is above the new maximum rent limit she has been given an appropriate period of time to contact her landlord to renegotiate the rent. If the landlord does not agree to reduce the rent to the new rates, Departmental officials will discuss the options open to the person in question up to and including seeking alternative accommodation having regard to any existing lease arrangements.

Social Welfare Appeals

Tom Fleming

Question:

116 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a supplementary welfare allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [21030/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1st March 2012. 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 29th March 2012 and the appeal will be assigned to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to hold an 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.

Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

117 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí cén fáth nár ghlac sí le moltaí an Choimisinéara Teanga maidir le marcanna breise don Ghaeilge i gcomórtais d’ardú céime sa Roinn Coimirce Sóisialaí; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [21037/12]

Oibríonn mo Roinn an scéim de réir na dtreoirlínte reatha arna gcinneadh ag an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe.

Athrú bunúsach ar oibriú na scéime a bheadh i moladh an Choimisinéara Teanga dá dtagraíonn an Teachta, agus dá bhrí sin tá na moltaí curtha ar aghaidh ag mo Roinn chuig an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe dá mbreithniú.

Social Welfare Benefits

Paul Connaughton

Question:

118 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection in a case in which a county council proposes to enter into a long-term leasing agreement with a couple in major mortgage arrears, who are in receipt of farm assist, if the income, which is paid to the bank directly in respect of the mortgage, while the couple have to find alternative accommodation, will be treated as income for social welfare purposes; in view of the fact that if it is, this prevents the couple from accessing social welfare payments, leaving them destitute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21043/12]

In assessing means for farm assist and other social assistance payments, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of property and capital, apart from the family home.

Where a person in receipt of farm assist vacates a family home and goes to live in another property, the yearly value of the former family home is assessable for means test purposes.

In assessing the yearly value of that property, no account is taken of any rental income from the property including any rental income derived from a local authority. For assessment purposes, the market value of the property less the amount of any outstanding mortgages is assessed. The balance, if any, is assessed by reference to a formula.

Psychological Service

Arthur Spring

Question:

119 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Social Protection the funding that can currently be provided by the State to assist parents with the costs of applied behavioural analysis treatment for children with autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21050/12]

Treatments such as those referred to by the Deputy are not provided by the Department. Enquiries in this regard should be made with the HSE.

Job Creation

Willie Penrose

Question:

120 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the range or suite of incentives available to employers, to employ persons under the age of 25 years who are on the unemployment register; if she will outline the criteria involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21071/12]

Job protection and creation has been identified as a key priority of this Government and is central to Government policy. The Government has introduced a range of reforms and incentives to support, protect and create jobs, including through the Jobs Initiative in May 2011 which among other measures reduced VAT rates for labour intensive sectors such as tourism. It also halved the lower rate of PRSI until end-2013 on jobs that pay up to €356 per week.

In February 2012 the Government published a comprehensive "Action Plan for Jobs". It has identified a range of specific actions to drive job creation under a range of headings. These actions are spread across numerous Departments and Agencies encompassing a whole of Government approach to protecting and creating jobs.

While Responsibility for employer incentives and job creation, in the main lies, with my colleague Richard Bruton TD, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, my Department also offers a number of supports to employers.

The Employer (Job) PRSI Incentive scheme was launched in 2010 and has now been simplified and extended as part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. Under the scheme, if an employer takes on an additional member of staff in 2012, who has been unemployed and in receipt of an eligible payment for 6 months or more, they will be exempt from paying employers' PRSI for 18 months. The job must be new and additional, be for at least 30 hours a week and last for at least six months. The exemption is available for new and additional employees up to 5% of employers existing workforce or, for smaller companies, a maximum of 5 new jobs.

The Government launched a National Internship Scheme, JobBridge in 2011. JobBridge provides work experience placements for interns for a 6 or 9 month period. This will operate for 2 years and provides 5,000 internship placements in the private, public and voluntary sectors. The aim of the national internship scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills. The Host organisations complete an online application form to advertise placements which are then advertised on the Jobs Ireland website. Interns receive an allowance of €50 per week on top of their existing social welfare entitlement.

These incentives are available to all employers who take on additional staff or interns from the many well qualified people on the live register of various ages.

Social Welfare Appeals

Catherine Murphy

Question:

121 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is at present any weekly supplementary welfare allowance available for persons who are in process of appealing a decision taken to not award them a particular social welfare payment on the grounds of failing the habitual residence requirement beyond a once-off emergency payment; if not, if she could indicate what recourse such persons have in the event of having no alternative source of income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21082/12]

Apart from a number of excluded categories, anyone in the State who satisfies a habitual residency condition (HRC) and a means test, has registered for employment, unless they have a physical or mental disability, and can prove unemployment may qualify for a weekly payment of supplementary welfare allowance (SWA),

The determination of a person's habitual residence is made in accordance with Section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended. The most recent amendment was introduced by Section 15 of the Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Act 2009 which provided that only persons who have a right to reside in Ireland can be regarded as being habitually resident in the State. Subject to the provisions of European law which apply to EEA workers, SWA cannot at any time be viewed as a temporary or interim means of income support available independently of HRC, while an applicant awaits the outcome of either a decision, or an appeal against a decision, on a claim for a social welfare payment from the Department.

Recourse available to applicants who may not satisfy HRC may be provided for under the exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment and each application is determined by the Department having regard to the individual circumstances of the case.

Michael McCarthy

Question:

122 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in processing an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if she will expedite the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21083/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21st December 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 13th March 2012 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether to decide the case by summary decision or to hold an oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Code

Catherine Murphy

Question:

123 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the same conditions apply regarding the requirement for applicants for social welfare benefits to satisfy a habitual residence requirement for both citizens of Ireland and citizens of the United Kingdom, in cases where citizens of one country apply for said benefits in the other country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21085/12]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere would not normally be entitled to social welfare assistance or child benefit payments on arrival in Ireland. Each case received for a determination on the Habitual Residence Condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the legislation and guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case.

Decisions concerning habitual residence are subject to five factors which have been laid down by the European Court of Justice, and which are now incorporated into our domestic social welfare legislation. The five factors are:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person's employment;

(d) the person's main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

There is no discrimination on grounds of nationality in social welfare legislation and to introduce such a provision would be contrary to the equality principles that Ireland has adopted in its equality legislation, the Treaties of the European Community and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other international conventions. Therefore the same conditions exist for UK nationals as nationals from any other country.

Any applicant who disagrees with the decision on a case has the right to request a review of that decision and/or appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

124 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans regarding cuts in child welfare (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21098/12]

In the past, income support for people of working age, including lone parents, has been passive in nature, with little systematic engagement by the State with the customer. This is now changing. Long-term welfare dependency and passive income support to people of working age are not in the best interests of the recipient, of their children or of society. The long-term income support that the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme provided to lone parents up to 2011, until their children were aged 18, or 22 if in full-time education, without any requirement for them to engage in employment, education or training, has proved to be ineffective in addressing the poverty and social exclusion experienced by some of these families.

The best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through paid employment. Work, and especially full-time work, may not be an option for parents of young children. However, supporting parents to participate in the labour market, once their children have reached an appropriate age, will improve both their own economic situation and the social well-being of themselves and of their families.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2012, introduces changes to the structure of the OFP payment and to the age of the youngest child at which the payment ceases. These changes are being brought in over time.

The reduction in the maximum age limit of the youngest child for receipt of the OFP is being applied to new and existing customers on a phased basis and will not affect existing customers until 2013. For new recipients, from 3 May, 2012, the OFP payment will be made until the youngest child reaches the age of 12. This will reduce further to age 10 in 2013 and to age 7 in 2014. These additional reductions will be considered in the context of the further development of relevant activation and support services. For existing recipients, there will be a tapered phasing-out period to enable them to access education and training and to prepare them for their return to the labour market.

I have acknowledged that reforming the OFP will require a whole of Government response. I will be engaging with both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Education and Skills to have a co-ordinated, cross-Departmental approach to ensuring that the required level of services are in place to support lone parents as their youngest child reaches the relevant age thresholds.

At the same time, the development of the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES) and the profiling of jobseekers, which is already underway in my Department, will lead to a better identification and understanding of the supports that individual customers need and the extent to which these are available and affordable.

As part of this cross-Departmental approach, discussions have already been taking place between officials from my Department and from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with regard to the development of a policy framework around after-school care, and, in the short-term, the assessment of the extent of the current provision of such care, the costs of such care to parents, and the demand for such services from lone parents.

Departmental Staff

Robert Troy

Question:

125 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are any vacancies in the fraud section of the local social welfare offices in Longford or Westmeath or if there are any other vacancies which remain unfilled at these offices since the recent retirements in the public service. [21100/12]

There are a number of vacancies in the Department's offices in Longford and Westmeath, due to recent staff retirements in these locations.

The staffing needs of all offices in my Department are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. The Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Social Welfare Benefits

John Lyons

Question:

126 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [21110/12]

The application in respect of the person concerned is being examined to ascertain whether all eligibility conditions for the scheme are satisfied, including the requirement to be habitually resident in the State. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claim, a decision will be made, and the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome. A decision in this case is expected shortly.

Martin Heydon

Question:

127 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance application which was refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if this decision will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21112/12]

In order to qualify for a rent supplement a person must have been residing in private rented accommodation or accommodation for homeless persons or an institution (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for rent supplement. A person may also qualify for rent supplement where an assessment of housing need has been carried out within the 12 months preceding the date of claim and the person is deemed by the relevant local authority to be eligible for and in need of social housing support.

In all other cases, a person who wishes to apply for rent supplement is referred, in the first instance, for an assessment of eligibility for social housing support by the local housing authority in the area where claim to rent supplement is made (and the person intends to reside). Only when the person has been assessed as being eligible for and in need of social housing support, does the person become eligible for consideration for rent supplement.

The person in question was refused rent supplement as these conditions were not satisfied.

However, where a claimant's safety and well-being are at risk, staff have been provided with special discretionary powers to deal with such situations. In light of the position now set out by the Deputy the person in question should contact the Department official dealing with her claim who will discuss the circumstances of her particular case and reconsider her entitlement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when carer’s allowance will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21125/12]

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

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if payment of domiciliary care allowance may be backdated to 15 October 2011, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21126/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23rd November 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 26th January 2012 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether to decide the case by summary decision or to hold an 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.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

130 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of parliamentary questions transferred from her Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21156/12]

For the period, 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012, 168 Parliamentary Questions tabled to this Department were transferred to other Departments as they did not come under the remit of this Department.

Departmental Funding

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

131 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the support she will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21171/12]

Responsibility for Rural Development Policy rests with my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. My Department supports the rural economy and rural development through a range of benefit payments and work placement and activation initiatives, including the rural social scheme, Tús, community employment and similar programmes. There is no provision for grant support of the type mentioned from this Department.

Architectural Heritage

Willie Penrose

Question:

132 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the grants available from a heritage perspective, to refurbish and repair an old house of historical relevance, which has suffered significantly from dampness, and needs significant roof repairs, windows and other such repairs, in order to restore it to habitable condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21069/12]

As the Deputy may be aware, the scope to provide grants for the protection of our built heritage is constrained by the significant reduction in the public finances. However, my Department will continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built heritage, insofar as resources allow.

In 2012, my Department is providing €500,000 through a "Structures at Risk Fund" to assist with works to safeguard structures, both in private and civic ownership, protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2011. This funding is focused primarily on those protected structures most at risk. The fund will be administered by local authorities and my Department has recently notified each City and County authority of the details of the scheme for 2012.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications by my Department from local authorities passed last Friday.

The Heritage Council, which is funded by my Department, also administers a number of conservation grants schemes which provide assistance for conservation of the built heritage. However, as I understand matters, the closing dates for applications under these schemes for 2012 have now passed also.

Ferry Services

Noel Harrington

Question:

133 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will state, regarding the successful tender for the provision of a subsidised passenger service to Long Island County Cork, the main terms of the contract; the duration of the contact; the vessel or vessels that will be used to service this contract; the capacity of these vessels; the schedule that will operate including seasonal variations; the fares that will operate; if he will confirm that the travel pass will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21039/12]

My Department has awarded a contract to provide the service referred to by the Deputy for the three year period from 1 December 2011 to 30 November 2014. The service provides for two scheduled sailings per day, five days per week from 1 April to 31 October and three days per week from 1 November to 31 March.

The vessel nominated for the service is the MV Amy K. It has a passenger Carriage Capacity Licence for 12 passengers. The service provider has nominated the MV Neachtain as a back-up vessel which is only used in the event that the main boat is unavailable. That vessel also has a passenger Carriage Capacity Licence for 12 passengers.

The following table indicates the fares which apply to the subsidised sailings. No fares are listed for children living on the island, since the permanent population on the island consists entirely of adults.

Ferry

Passenger Category

Single

Return

Islander

Adult

€4.00

€5.00

Pensioner (with free travel pass)

Free

Free

Non-Islander

Adult

€5.00

€7.00

Student

€1.50

€3.00

Children 5 years of age or older

€2.00

€3.00

Children less than 5 years of age

Free

Free

Pensioner (with free travel pass)

Free

Free

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

134 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21144/12]

I am advised that the records from the Parliamentary Question computer interface used in my Department indicate that 61 Questions were transferred from my Department to other Departments between 1 October 2011 and 31 March 2012. I understand that these Questions were transferred because the recipient Departments, rather than my own Department, had statutory responsibility for the various subject matters in each case.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

135 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21159/12]

I am advised that matters relating to rural affairs were transferred to the then Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government by way of the Community Affairs (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2011 (S.I. No. 196 of 2011). Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that my Department has no statutory function in relation to the matter raised by him.

Offshore Exploration

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

136 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if drilling in Dublin Bay will be done through the use of seismic detection for viable concentrations of liquid and gas pockets in the bedrock; if his attention has been drawn to the effects that seismic detection will have on the health and well-being of dolphin pods that frequent the Dublin Bay area and other sea animal populations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20959/12]

Seismic surveys are a normal part of petroleum exploration activities and are subject to approval from my Department. Applications to conduct seismic surveys must include a risk assessment of the proposed activity in relation to the sensitivities of marine mammals in the area and outline specific impact mitigation and monitoring practices that will be applied. Companies undertaking seismic surveys in Irish waters must comply with the National Parks and Wildlife Service's Code of Practice for the Protection of Marine Mammals during Acoustic Seafloor Surveys in Irish Waters (http://www.npws.ie/media/npws/publications/marine/media,5176,en.pdf), together with my Department’s Rules and Procedures for Offshore Petroleum Exploration and Appraisal Operations.

Sandra McLellan

Question:

137 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will commission an inquiry into the licences awarded for offshore oil and gas exploration under the tender of then Minister Ray Burke; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20997/12]

As I informed the House on the 18 April last in response to Question No. 736, I do not intend to commission an inquiry into licences awarded for offshore oil and gas exploration by the former Minister mentioned. None of the petroleum exploration authorisations awarded during the period in question led to a discovery of oil or gas and all of these exploration authorisations have long since expired.

Energy Conservation

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

138 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will ensure that works that were approved under the warmer homes scheme will be completed as soon as possible in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21001/12]

Better Energy: Warmer Homes delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to households that are vulnerable to energy poverty. The scheme is managed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and delivered through a range of Community Based Organisations, augmented by a panel of private contractors in order to ensure national coverage.

The SEAI is currently in the process of appointing a contractor panel for the delivery of the Better Energy Programme. This is subject to EU tendering procedures and it is expected that the panel will be in place and operational during the second quarter of 2012. My Department is advised that the person in question is on the waiting list and once the panel is appointed, the application will be dealt with in rotation.

Queries in relation to individual applications are an operational matter for the SEAI and a dedicated hot line can be reached at 1800 250 204. In addition, the SEAI has established a specific email address for queries from Oireachtas members, which can be sent tooireachtas@seai.ie and will be dealt with promptly.

Broadcasting Services

Michael McCarthy

Question:

139 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to concerns among many people in west Cork who will not be able to receive the new SAORVIEW service once analogue television is discontinued on 24 October 2012; if he will consider that the option being made available to them in purchasing an individual receiver is not viable in view of the cost involved and the limited channels offered; his plans to make provisions for persons adversely affected by the switchover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21064/12]

RTÉ has built, owns and controls the SAORVIEW TV network and is also responsible for the coverage and operation of that SAORVIEW network. In accordance with Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ and not one in which I, as Minister, have a function.

I have, however, had enquiries made in regard to the situation in West Cork as raised by the Deputy and can now provide the following information.

The Broadcasting Act 2009 Act provides that RTÉ must roll out SAORVIEW to the same extent as its existing analogue network. In this regard, I understand from RTÉ that the analogue network covers 98% of the population and the SAORVIEW network will also provide 98% population coverage.

In addition to SAORVIEW, RTÉ has developed SAORSAT, a new "free-to-air" satellite service unique to Ireland to ensure the RTÉ TV services are available to the remaining 2% of the population. Currently, SAORSAT provides access to the RTÉ channels. TG4 will be available shortly. TV3 has not yet made a decision as to their carriage on the service. RTÉ is not obliged to provide a satellite service and is doing so on its own initiative. I am informed that, with this satellite service Ireland will have a national TV network covering 100% of the population, for the first time.

In relation to areas of West Cork, I have been informed by RTÉNL that community deflector systems are not being replaced or upgraded by RTÉNL. Community deflector systems are managed by communities and not RTÉ. Also, it is my understanding that ComReg has indicated that the analogue licenses for these systems will cease at the end of 2012. Homes that currently receive television signals from these systems will have to adjust their aerials to point to a SAORVIEW transmission site and some homes may need to use SAORSAT. Should the Deputy have further questions about specific areas, I am happy to pass them to RTÉ on his behalf for direct reply.

I am very much aware of the challenges digital switchover brings, in particular for households that are reliant on the existing "free to air" analogue TV network. We have chosen to use outreach and marketing schemes to provide the assistance and support necessary for people to make the switch. As I have stated in previous questions, we have not and do not propose to introduce grant schemes for this purpose.

Experience from other European countries indicates that the cost of set top boxes and other digital receivers reduces as the date for digital switchover approaches, and there is increased competition in the market. There is clear evidence that this is now happening in Ireland with affordable set top boxes that meet the SAORVIEW standard on the market, as well as a range of suitable digital televisions. In addition, experience from other European countries also shows that the availability of accurate and reliable information and the provision of practical assistance is the most effective approach towards assisting people in making the switch to digital television.

In this regard, therefore, to overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, I have undertaken to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover and on their options for going digital. This information campaign commenced in quarter four 2011. There are a number of strands to the campaign including a national telephone helpline and a national advertising and public relations campaign. An information booklet will also be delivered to every house in the country. The campaign will run up to the end of 2012.

In conjunction with this, my Department has been working to address the particular information and assistance needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. On January 10th 2012 I signed an agreement with a national voluntary organisation, the Wheel, to develop and operate a nationwide community outreach digital switchover programme (Outreach Programme).

Community umbrella group — The Wheel, in conjunction with voluntary and community organisations throughout the country, has begun to roll out a countrywide Outreach Programme in April/May 2012, which will provide additional assistance and advice at community level to those who may find the move to digital TV difficult. The aim of the Outreach Programme is to ensure that everybody is made aware of the switchover and that no TV viewers are left without a TV service once the national analogue TV service switches off on October 24th 2012. A press release issued on the Outreach Programme and is available on the dedicated digital switchover websitewww.goingdidital.ie as is the list of local champions referred to above.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

140 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to ensure an independent, but also diverse media that ensures small newspaper outlets and non commercial broadcast media have a place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21108/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Section 25 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 requires that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) endeavour to ensure that the broadcasting services made available serve the diverse needs of the people of the island of Ireland, and that both programming and control of both commercial and community broadcasters is diverse. To that end, the BAI has a range of powers around the ownership of media as part of its licensing function and, indeed, will today publish a new ownership and control policy for broadcast media.

I currently have no statutory responsibility for the print media sector. Legislation is in train to transfer responsibilities for the public value aspects of media mergers from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to my Department.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

141 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21146/12]

The total number of Parliamentary Questions transferred from my Department to other Departments in the past six months is 42.

The Parliamentary Questions were transferred to other Departments for reply, as the questions were under the remit of the other Department.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

142 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21161/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that responsibility for rural development comes under the joint remit of both the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and I have no direct responsibility in the matter. If I can be of assistance on matters that fall within the remit of this Department, I will be glad to do so.

Niall Collins

Question:

143 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will allow Leader companies to pay for food projects which have been held up since early 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20963/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

144 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the recent changes to the Leader programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20964/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

146 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money the Leader programme has to spend between now and the end of the current programme in December 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20966/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143, 144 and 146 together.

Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), for which my Department has responsibility, continues to facilitate access to significant financial resources for rural communities. The main objectives of the RDP are to improve the quality of life in rural areas and facilitate the diversification of the rural economy.

Yesterday I announced a number of changes to the RDP which will address some of the issues experienced to date in the context of the delivery of the Programme. Previously, the rates of grant aid available to private promoters in the context of supporting enterprise activity in rural areas, was 50% with some higher rates available for specific activities such as Training (100%) and Analysis and Development (90%). In the current economic climate, it has been difficult for private individuals to obtain the matched funding required in order to avail of this support level, particularly for larger projects. This suite of programme changes will allow for the provision of a 75% rate of aid for private promoters; this will decrease the matched funding and credit required for enterprise start ups in rural areas. I anticipate a significant increase in project commitments as a result of this change.

One of the more significant programme changes announced yesterday emerged from the need to have a more flexible approach to the achievement of the aims and objectives of the individual Local Development Strategies (LDS) of the Local Development Companies delivering the RDP. The change will allow for an extra allocation of €10 million to the Basic Services measure of the RDP. This measure has seen a very high level of demand to date and all indications are that there are still a large number of potential projects eligible under this measure that will be facilitated with this programme change.

Other changes to the programme include the implementation of a measure under Axis 1 of the Programme, using the LEADER approach. This follows my announcement in March 2012 of a €5 million fund to support the Agri-food sector; the measure will provide support for the development of projects, primarily processing of artisan foods, formerly supported under Axis 3 of the RDP.

Also as a result of the changes I am making, from now on, local authorities will be permitted to act as project promoters accessing funds directly from the RDP. Working in cooperation with community groups local authorities will be eligible to apply for the community rate of aid under the Village Renewal and Conservation measures of the RDP. I anticipate that this change will result in communities moving forward with projects they would otherwise not have considered due to the workload involved and the detailed plans required for some projects of a very complex nature.

My Department's budget allocation for the RDP includes €96 million for 2012 and €96 million for 2013.

Niall Collins

Question:

145 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will clarify the situation in relation to the CLÁR programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20965/12]

The CLÁR programme, which was targeted at tackling infrastructure and services deficits in depopulated rural areas, is being wound down. From an out-turn of the order of €24m in 2008, the allocation for the programme for 2012 is €0.3m and is being used to meet existing commitments arising during this year.

Applications have not been accepted since August 2008 under the CLÁR programme measures. The Capital Expenditure Review, prepared by the Department of Finance in July 2010, stated that investment needs, such as those targeted by the CLÁR programme, should be funded in the future by the Government Departments with primary sectoral responsibility in the areas concerned. It is not currently proposed to open the programme to new applications.

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 143.

Local Authority Charges

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

147 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that an elderly person admitted to a nursing home in mid-2011 is liable for the household charge in 2012 and if this is the case, if a fairer arrangement can be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20976/12]

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. There are a number of exemptions and waivers from payment of the household charge under the legislation. In particular, section 4(2) of the Act provides an exemption from liability to pay the household charge for the year in which that liability date falls if, on that date, the owner of a residential property, which was that person's main or sole residence, is not residing in that property by reason of his or her having had to vacate the property due to long term mental or physical infirmity and that person is residing in another property that he/she does not own.

Section 4(6) of the Act defines the meaning of "long term mental or physical infirmity" as that which required the person to vacate the property in which he/she had been dwelling for a continuous period of more than 12 months and provides that such an infirmity must be certified by a registered medical practitioner. As such, a person would have had to vacate the property in question by 31 December, 2010 to be entitled to claim a waiver from payment of the household charge in 2012.

Water Charges

Peter Mathews

Question:

148 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the proposed water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20979/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

152 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will guarantee that the present 50,000 gallon of domestic water allowance for homeowners who pay for water will not be reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21020/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

153 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will direct Irish Water to review the existing standing charges imposed by local authorities, that they do not exceed the €40 proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21021/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

167 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government it is intended to replace the existing water meters at residences, already in place with new meters when Irish Water is in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21076/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

168 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if residents who live on farms or on their business premises and already pay a standing charge for their water meter will have this varied once Irish Water is formed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21077/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

169 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if residents who live on farms or on their business premises will have their water free allowance changed once Irish Water is formed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21078/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148, 152, 153 and 167 to 169, inclusive, together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 489, 498, 508, 511, 513, 539 and 542 of 24 April 2012. The framework for water charges, including the charges for unmetered customers and the level of standing charges, will be developed by Irish Water and will be determined as part of the regulatory process. No decision has been taken on the level of the free allowance and this will be determined as part of the budgetary and the regulatory processes.

Local Authority Charges

Catherine Byrne

Question:

149 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the agency responsible for compiling the list of unfinished estates, residents of which are exempt from the household charge; if other unfinished estates which are not currently on this list will be included on the list in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20987/12]

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, launched 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.

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. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012. 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 significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Under the relevant legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge.

Finian McGrath

Question:

150 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if families in shared ownership schemes (details supplied) have to pay the household charge. [20990/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge. The household charge is on a self assessment basis and interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts. Section 2(2) of the Act provides that certain buildings are not residential property for the purposes of the legislation. Section 2(2)(b), in particular, provides that a building vested in a Minister of the Government, a housing authority (within the meaning of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992) or the Health Service Executive is not a residential property for the purposes of the Act. As such, a person who is purchasing his/her home under the Shared Ownership Scheme where the local authority retains an ownership stake is not liable for the household charge.

Planning Issues

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

151 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 to ensure that local authorities will be forced to act on all reports of unauthorised developments and non-compliant developments whether they be reported by members of the public orally or in writing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21016/12]

As it stands, the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) already places clear statutory obligations on planning authorities in relation to unauthorised development. A planning authority must issue a warning letter in relation to written complaints regarding unauthorised development, or other unauthorised development it becomes aware of (except in the case of trivial or minor development). The planning authority must then carry out an investigation and where it establishes, following such an investigation, that unauthorised development has been or is being carried out and the person who has carried out or is carrying out the development has not proceeded to remedy the position, the planning authority must issue an enforcement notice or make an application for a court order unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so. Nonetheless, I am maintaining ongoing oversight of planning enforcement and monitoring its effectiveness as necessary to ensure a robust statutory and policy framework for proper planning and sustainable development.

Questions Nos. 152 and 153 answered with Question No. 148.

Water Quality

Niall Collins

Question:

154 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review the current multi-agency approach to water quality inspection here; if he will ensure that Irish Water does not duplicate the inspection role of other State agencies and ensure that each sector is only burdened with a single inspectorate body; his views on whether discussions should take place with the various sectors to identify the most appropriate state agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21022/12]

The implementation of the Water Framework Directive requires an integrated approach to the management of our water resources. The Directive requires the achievement of good ecological status in all our surface and ground waters and inspection and monitoring activities are a critical element in the efforts to protect and improve water quality. Primary responsibility for water quality inspections lies with the EPA and with the local authorities. The EPA, for example, is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations, the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations and the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations. Local authorities are charged with implementing a diverse range of environmental legislation for the protection of water including the issue of discharge permits in accordance with the Water Pollution Acts, the supervision of drinking water group schemes and maintaining the quality of bathing waters.

However, pressures on water quality are diverse and stem from many different sectors and activities and, where appropriate, other agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine also play a key role. The EPA co-ordinates a national Environmental Enforcement Network (EEN) which oversees enforcement priorities. The aim of the network is to promote a consistent, coordinated approach to enforcement in order to improve overall compliance. It brings together my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the local authorities, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Health Services Executive and its activities include,inter alia, the promotion of best practice through guidance and training as well as the coordination of inspection and enforcement activities. The EPA also promotes a risk-based approach to the enforcement of environmental legislation including in the area of wastewater discharge authorisations and drinking water quality. Such an approach optimises the use of resources on the ground, facilitates the prioritisation of enforcement effort and improves outcome delivery.

The role of Irish Water will be to undertake a range of water services functions that are currently the responsibility of local authorities. An implementation strategy for Irish Water is being developed and this will address matters such as the boundary between Irish Water functions and those remaining with local authorities, as well as activities which will be carried out through service level agreements.

Water Services

Niall Collins

Question:

155 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the provision by his Department of adequate funding and supports to ensure group water schemes continue to carry out their important rural water delivery service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21023/12]

My Department provides funding towards group water schemes by way of annual block grant allocations to local authorities under the Department's Rural Water Programme. Responsibility for the administration of this programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual group scheme proposals for funding and advancement under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocation provided, is therefore a matter for the water services authorities. The 2012 allocation for the Rural Water Programme is €40 million, of which over €20 million was notified to local authorities last month by way of block grant allocations towards group water schemes. In addition, group water schemes can qualify for subsidy funding towards their operational costs. This subsidy scheme, for which some €21 million is being provided this year, is also administered by the local authorities.

Local Authority Charges

Niall Collins

Question:

156 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects the septic tank registration process to commence; his views on any discussions his Department has had or intends to have with the Data Protection Commission regarding the information requested as part of the registration process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21024/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

157 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which the reduced septic tank registration fee will commence; the length of time it will last; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21025/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

158 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans regarding the provision of financial assistance for homeowners that are required to upgrade their septic tank systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21026/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 to 158, inclusive, together.

The registration facilities, both on-line and paper-based, are currently being developed by the Local Government Management Agency and I expect that they will be available shortly. When registration commences, a reduced fee of €5 will be payable for the initial three months and a fee of €50 will apply thereafter. Ample time will be provided for householders to comply with the requirement to register their on-site waste water treatment systems. My Department will ensure that a comprehensive public information campaign, including details of how and when to register, will be carried out in advance. My Department is in consultation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure that all data protection requirements are complied with. I have previously given a commitment to keep under consideration all options to provide financial support to house-holders whose systems are deemed, following inspection, to require substantial remediation or upgrading. Any such support will have regard to the overall budgetary situation and to the financial position of individual households.

Departmental Schemes

Niall Collins

Question:

159 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way trails are covered by the walks scheme; his plans to extend this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21027/12]

The Walks Scheme was launched in March 2008 on the recommendation of Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council). It represented an innovative response to the need to develop additional quality walking trails and to addressing the long-standing impasse regarding access to private lands for recreational purposes. Many trails have now been developed with the permission of private land-holders and farmers. The key point of the Scheme is that it brings in land-holders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on the trails in line with agreed work plans. The average Walk Scheme payment is €1,057 per participant per annum. In 2011 payments to these land-holders amounted to €1,909,468. The Walks Scheme is currently operating on 40 trails being managed by 16 Local Development Companies around the country. There are now 1,805 landowners participating in the scheme. The full year cost of implementing the Walk Scheme in 2012 is €2.6m. Due to funding constraints, it will not be possible to add any new participants to the scheme in 2012. Any future expansion of the Walks Scheme will depend on the availability of additional funding.

Cuideachtaí Fóntais Phoiblí

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

160 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén fáth ar roghnaigh sé gur Irish Water seachas Uisce Éireann a bheadh ar an áisíneacht nua a bheidh ag plé le seirbhísí uisce sa tír, go mórmhór i gcomhthéacs na Straitéise Fiche Bliain don Ghaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [21038/12]

Níl aon chinneadh deiridh déanta ar an ainm a bheidh ar an fóntais nua uisce. Is é"Irish Water" an teideal oibre faoi láthair. Deanfar cinneadh ar leagan Gaeilge den ainm go luath.

Social Welfare Benefits

Tom Fleming

Question:

161 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a group subsidy was not paid in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry who submitted an application in November 1982 and subsequently submitted all relevant documentation; if he will now issue this grant-subsidy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21045/12]

My Department has reviewed the documentation in this case and a decision has been made to approve the payment of a mortgage subsidy. A letter, outlining the arrangements to be put in place for drawing down the subsidy, will issue to the applicant very shortly.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

162 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a water scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21053/12]

My Department has approved grants totalling just over €354,000 under the Small Schemes Measure of the Rural Water Programme towards works on the Castlegregory Water Supply. This funding is being made available as part of the special funding provided by my Department to allow for remedial works to public water supplies identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as having potential issues regarding the safety and security of the supplies. As responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme is devolved to local authorities, information on the scheme may be sought, in this case, from Kerry County Council.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Creed

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 854 of 18 April 2012, if he will publish the estimated number of households liable for the household charge in each local authority area and the level of compliance to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21054/12]

The following table provides a breakdown of household charge registrations that have been processed for payment in respect of each county and city council as at 9 a.m. on Tuesday 24 April and an estimate of the number of residential properties liable to the household charge. There are an estimated 220,500 household charge declarations which have been made through the post and over the counter in local authority offices that are being processed. These declarations are not included in this table as a county/city breakdown is not yet available in respect of them. In addition, 15,159 declarations have been received where a waiver from payment of the household charge is claimed and these declarations are not included in the figures. This gives a total number of 921,101 household charge declarations made. Against an estimate of some 1.62 million residential properties liable to the household charge, this represents a registration rate of some 57%.

County/City Council

Estimated No. of Residential Properties Liable to Household Charge

Registered for Payment of Household Charge at 9 a.m. on 24/4/2012

Carlow

18,257

6,485

Cavan

25,611

8,808

Clare

45,786

17,819

Cork City

41,649

17,565

Cork County

143,887

56,621

Donegal

65,331

17,408

Dublin City

190,685

99,179

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

74,390

49,572

Fingal

90,286

45,046

Galway City

27,086

13,313

Galway County

62,851

23,739

Kerry

58,792

22,780

Kildare

68,215

30,786

Kilkenny

32,067

12,686

Laois

26,185

9,124

Leitrim

13,069

4,913

Limerick City

20,380

8,487

Limerick County

46,473

18,426

Longford

12,928

4,637

Louth

41,176

14,222

Mayo

51,363

19,997

Meath

60,652

24,090

Monaghan

20,176

5,660

North Tipperary

24,839

9,572

Offaly

25,224

8,124

Roscommon

23,888

8,280

Sligo

25,281

10,423

South Dublin

81,822

38,370

South Tipperary

30,368

11,318

Waterford City

15,753

6,166

Waterford County

24,777

9,181

Westmeath

29,872

10,341

Wexford

56,030

20,873

Wicklow

45,665

21,431

Totals

1,620,814

685,442

Local Authority Staff

Joan Collins

Question:

164 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide in tabular form the annual allowance and expenses each city and county manager received in 2010 and 2011. [21055/12]

There are a number of allowances available to County and City Managers.

County and City Managers may submit claims in respect of travel and subsistence expenses incurred as part of their official duties in accordance with the relevant travel and subsistence circulars. All local authorities are obliged to ensure that only essential travel is undertaken and that the number of employees going on any official journey is kept to an absolute minimum. Local authorities are also obliged to ensure that related expenditure is critically appraised and monitored.

A Manager may claim up to 7.5% of his/her salary in substitution of motor mileage rates contained in the travel and subsistence circulars, where a local authority considers that those allowances do not adequately recompense the Manager for the extent to which their car is used for official business.

A Manager or Assistant Manager may claim an allowance in respect of individual or casual entertainment expenses incurred by them in relation to development functions and public relations associated therewith. The level of allowance corresponds to the number of Assistant Managers and is contained in the following table:

County or City Manager

County or City Manager

Up to €2,095

Manager and one Assistant Manager

Up to €3,683

Manager and two or more Assistant Managers

Up to €5,270

Manager and three or more Assistant Managers

Up to €6,858

County and City Managers with designated responsibility for a Regional Authority may claim an allowance of €5,662 per annum in respect of these responsibilities.

Specific details of allowances and expenses paid out by individual local authorities to employees is a matter for the employing local authority.

County and City Managers’ Association

Joan Collins

Question:

165 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the dates on which written submissions were received from the County and City Managers Association in the period from the 1 January 2011 to date in 2012; the main matter covered in each submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21056/12]

Joan Collins

Question:

177 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 379 of the 13 March 2012, in which he stated that he personally did not receive any written submissions from the City and County Managers Association, if officials in his Department received written submissions from the County and City Managers Association in the period from the 1 of January 2011 to date; the main matter covered in each submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21137/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 177 together.

The information sought is set out in the table below:

Date

Main matter(s) covered in submission

02/03/2011

National Waste Policy

15/04/2011

Shared Services in Local Government Sector

20/05/2011

Collection of Non-Domestic Water Charges

07/06/2011

Commercial Rates

09/06/2011

Transfer of Rent Supplement

14/07/2011

Green Procurement

04/08/2011

Packaging Levy

01/09/2011

Altering of Household Waste Collection Markets

10/10/2011

Irish Water

02/11/2011

Unauthorised Roadside Encampments

11/11/2011

Alignment of Local Government and Community Development

17/11/2011

Co-operation between Local Authorities and Local Action Groups under the Rural Development Programme

05/12/2011

Local and regional drug taskforce structures

20/12/2011

Service Indicators in Local Authorities for 2010

20/02/2012

Pyrite

20/02/2012

Transfer of Rent Supplement

24/02/2012

Irish Water

29/02/2012

A Framework for Sustainable Development

09/03/2012

Local Government Efficiency Review

04/04/2012

Property Tax

Foreshore Licences

Willie Penrose

Question:

166 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a foreshore lease for an area (details supplied) will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21070/12]

My Department instructed the applicant on 2 November 2011 to make arrangements for public consultation on this application and provided detailed guidance on the procedures to be followed. To date the applicant has not complied fully with these obligations. A reminder has issued advising the applicant that the application process cannot progress until the public consultation obligations have been fulfilled.

Questions Nos. 167 to 169, inclusive, answered with Question No. 148.

Construction Products

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

170 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason that a ban is being introduced on the sale of shuttering ply-wood; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21079/12]

My Department is not aware of any ban being introduced on the sale of shuttering plywood in the State. Under the Construction Products Directive (89/106/EEC) construction products that fall within scope of the Directive may only be placed on the internal market if they are fit for their intended use.

In broad terms, construction products must be such that works in which they are incorporated satisfy, for an economically reasonable working life, the essential requirements set out in Annex 1 to the Directive having regard to mechanical strength and stability, safety in the event of fire, hygiene, health and the environment, safety in use, protection against noise and energy economy and heat retention.

The primary purpose of the Directive is to break down technical barriers to trade in order to ensure the free movement of construction products across Member States within the European Union. It does this by harmonising those elements which previously led to barriers by providing for:

a system of harmonised technical specifications,

an agreed system of attestation of conformity for each product family (as set out in the technical specifications),

a framework of notified bodies, and

CE marking of products as a passport to the market of any Member State.

In Ireland, the Construction Products Directive is given effect by the European Communities (Construction Products) Regulations 1992 (as amended) which set out specific powers and responsibilities for building control authorities in relation to market surveillance/enforcement of construction products.

Social and Affordable Housing

Willie O'Dea

Question:

171 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to make available social housing that caters for the needs of larger families currently living in private rented accommodation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21084/12]

Local Authorities are directly responsible for addressing housing need within their administrative areas and do so using a range of supply options including permanent social housing, long-term leased units, units leased under the Rental Accommodation Scheme and voluntary and co-operative housing units. It is a matter for each authority to take decisions on individual cases in accordance with their scheme of letting priorities. As Minister, I am precluded from becoming directly involved in individual cases.

Local Authority Funding

Brendan Smith

Question:

172 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding allocated to Cavan County Council under the rural water programme and also under the small public water schemes for each year since 1998 to 2012 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21092/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

173 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the funding allocated to Monaghan County Council under the rural water programme and under the small public water schemes for each year since 1998 to 2012 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21093/12]

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

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Waste Disposal

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost for the clean up of the by-products from fuel laundering in 2010 and 2011 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21109/12]

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners has responsibility for the detection and investigation of illegal diesel laundries. It is clear from recent seizures that this illegal activity has grown significantly in recent years. A by product from these illegal laundries is a hazardous waste sludge which tends to be abandoned or dumped by the side of the road. Local authorities have responsibility for the management and safe disposal of this abandoned residue and, until recently, this has been happening primarily in the border counties of Louth and Monaghan but is now occurring also in other areas.

Dealing effectively with the underlying diesel laundering activity involves a multi-agency effort, involving other agencies including the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána and initiatives are underway, led by the Revenue Commissioners, aimed at better targeting enforcement efforts. While my Department does not collate information on the costs incurred by local authorities in dealing with waste arising from illegal oil laundering activities, in recognition of the costs involved in cases brought to my Department's attention, 100% grant assistance to date has been given for all costs claimed by the relevant local authorities. In 2010, €303,894.82 in grant assistance was paid and in 2011, €1,028,902.84 was recouped to the affected local authorities.

Local Authority Housing

Michael McCarthy

Question:

175 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the rules of the shared ownership mortgage as administered by the local authorities are generated at Departmental or local government level; if he is considering the perceived restrictions on the scheme now that it has been discontinued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21122/12]

The general terms and conditions governing the Shared Ownership scheme are generated at Departmental level, and have been notified to local authorities by means of circulars. The last update on these conditions was contained in circular HMS 6A of 2003. The specific provisions and covenants contained in mortgage agreements entered into by local authorities and their borrowers are not matters in which my Department has a role.

The review of Part V of the Planning and Development Acts, announced in the context of the standing down of affordable housing schemes as part of the Government's housing policy statement, will include an examination of the operational aspects of the shared ownership scheme. Any future changes to legislation governing affordable housing schemes will be informed by that review which will shortly commence.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

176 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the housing units recently announced (details supplied) are to be allocated solely for the use of regeneration or whether they will be allocated to the general housing stock of Limerick City Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21124/12]

Under the Limerick Regeneration Programme there has been a requirement to move households within and from the regeneration areas to improve their living conditions and/or to facilitate development projects. This need will remain as the implementation plans are delivered, albeit at a much reduced level and mainly where the relocations will support construction projects elsewhere. It is in this context that the Office for Regeneration has been considering options for strategic purchases and development opportunities that support the regeneration communities and contribute to the delivery of the regeneration plans. It is intended that the acquisition of houses and sites at Waller's Well will support this objective.

Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 165.

Building Regulations

Patrick Nulty

Question:

178 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will introduce statutory regulations to ensure that each potential site for a quarry undergoes independent geological testing as part of the planning process to ensure that the quarry’s rocks are of a high standard that will not cause problems such as those caused by pyrite in construction; if he will introduce statutory regulations to ensure ongoing independent geological testing of quarries for the purposes of ensuring quality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21138/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

179 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will introduce statutory regulations along the lines of those introduced in Quebec, Canada, to ensure that both quarries and developers certify that all quarry extracts meet international quality standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21139/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

180 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will improve the S.R.21 regulations in view of the fact that the less than 1% total sulphur regulation is insufficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21140/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

181 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the widespread availability of high quality limestone, if he will introduce statutory regulations to prohibit the use of rock containing significant quantities of mudstone as building aggregate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21142/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 to 181, inclusive, together.

The Pyrite Panel which I set up in September, 2011 is due to report to me shortly. On receipt of the report I will give careful consideration to any recommendations it may contain in relation to the adequacy of existing standards in relation to the end use of aggregates, including the sufficiency of SR21 and the need for any new standard.

A strong statutory framework for the regulation of construction activity already exists under the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007 and relevant European standards. The Building Regulations set out the legal requirements for the design and construction of buildings, including houses and extensions. Related Technical Guidance Documents (TGD) provide technical guidance on how compliance with the regulations can be achieved in practice. Work carried out in accordance with the guidance provided in the TGDs is considered prima facie evidence of compliance with the Building Regulations. The key requirements relevant to the use of hardcore material for buildings are set out in Part C (Site Preparation and Resistance to Moisture) and Part D (Materials and Workmanship) of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. The Building Regulations and related TGDs are subject to on-going review.

The Construction Products Directive provides for a system of harmonised technical specifications for construction products. There is a suite of European Standards and Guidance Documents for the use of aggregates including their use in concrete, bituminous mixtures, mortar etc. The standards and guidance documents set out testing requirements for the aggregates depending on their end use. Quarries are required to have in place a testing regime to ensure compliance with the requisite standard.

IS EN 13242:2002 is a harmonised European Product Standard for "Aggregates for unbound and hydraulically bound materials" for use in civil engineering work and road construction. IS EN 13242:2002 was published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NASI) in 2002 and came into effect in January, 2003. Standard Recommendation (SR) 21, published by NSAI in 2004, provides guidance on the use of IS EN 13242:2002. It was revised in 2007 to give additional specific guidance on reducing the risk of reactive forms of pyrite being present in material fill for use under concrete floors in dwellings and buildings.

While IS EN 13242:2002 limits the total sulphur content for aggregates to 1%, there is a requirement for on-going testing where the initial results are between 0.1% and 1%. If the value of total sulphur content during initial testing is less than 0.1% no further testing is required unless there is a significant change in the quarry deposit. If the result is between 0.1 and 1% there is a risk of swelling from pyrite and it is advised that a suitably experienced petrographer carry out a detailed mineralogical examination to ascertain the material's suitability for end use, and establish an appropriate testing frequency for total sulphur from an assessment of the variability of the quarry deposit.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

182 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21149/12]

From 1 November 2011 to 26 April 2012, 182 Parliamentary Questions were transferred from my Department to other Departments as the issues raised in these questions were not relevant to my Department.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

183 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21164/12]

My Department's policies and programmes support the sustainable development of Irish communities both rural and urban. In the context of rural, local and community development, my Department delivers the quality of life aspects of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP), both of which play a significant role in the development of communities all over Ireland.

From the perspective of rural Ireland specifically, the RDP measures implemented by my Department are complementary to these implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine addressing issues of agricultural competitiveness and environmental management. In the context of the quality of life, community and social inclusion aspects of my Department's remit I am always willing to engage, as appropriate, with representative stakeholder groups.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will support an organisation (details supplied) in their efforts to save 5,600 jobs in this sector by supporting implementation of section 9(1A) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act. [20969/12]

I have outlined the current position regarding implementation of section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 in the reply which I gave yesterday to Parliamentary Question Number 182 which was submitted by the Deputy.

Registration of Title

Michael McCarthy

Question:

185 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in issuing a land registry instrument to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the up to date position regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21117/12]

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20970/12]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in October 2007.

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 28 November, 2008.

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. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application.

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.

Martin Ferris

Question:

187 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will be made on a citizenship application in respect of a person (details supplied). [20978/12]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in September 2011.

On examination of the application submitted, it was determined that the application was ineligible because the statutory residency conditions as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, were not satisfied. A letter issued to the applicant on 23 April 2012 informing her of the position.

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. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application.

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.

Visa Applications

Jack Wall

Question:

188 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a person (details supplied) is being asked to undertake a procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21003/12]

I do not propose to comment on the detail of this case involving as it does sensitive private matters of the individuals in question. However, as a matter of general practice, the provision of DNA evidence while not mandatory is often suggested to visa applicants as definitive supporting evidence for the claim of parentage. In a number of cases, visa applications involving parentage of children have not been pursued when supplementary evidence of parentage, such as DNA evidence, is sought from the applicant. If DNA evidence is not supplied, a decision will be based on other evidence of parentage supplied by the applicant. While DNA evidence can offer conclusive proof of the family relationship claimed and support a positive decision on the visa application, no direct, negative inference will be drawn from the fact that the applicant does not wish to undergo DNA testing.

In the case referred to by the Deputy, this information has been sent directly to the legal representatives of the person concerned.

I should add for the sake of clarity that as a general rule the practice of seeking DNA evidence (which is also commonplace in other jurisdictions) in connection with immigration related applications is in place as a measure to prevent fraud. This of course is not to suggest that there are such concerns in this case.

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.

Proposed Legislation

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when will the Mediation Bill include restorative justice mediation; and if he will provide an update on same. [21005/12]

The position is that the Mediation Bill, which is currently being drafted, will give effect to the undertaking in the Government's Programme for National Recovery (2011-2016) to encourage and facilitate the use of mediation to resolve civil, commercial and family disputes. I have also forwarded the draft Bill to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for any observations or suggestions they may have prior to finalising its contents.

Restorative justice is a process in the criminal justice field which seeks to address the needs of victims of crime and the offenders. It fosters active involvement on the part of victims while encouraging the offenders to make amends and to take responsibility for their actions. However, it is not intended that the Mediation Bill will deal with criminal justice matters.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for Stamp 4 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21014/12]

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 7 March 2011, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with 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.

Martin Ferris

Question:

191 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will be made on a naturalisation application in respect of a person (details supplied). [21017/12]

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 3 July 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 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.

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.

Given that the person concerned has no current right to residency in the State, the issue of an application for citizenship does not arise at this time.

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.

Garda Operations

Martin Ferris

Question:

192 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date Garda Headquarters have on its record for the destruction of a firearm and ammunition which was discovered in the car of a person (details supplied). [21018/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the firearm and ammunition discovered in the car of the individual to whom the Deputy refers was destroyed on 19 July 2000.

Proposed Legislation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

193 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider amending the draft provisions of Part 5 residence permissions of the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2010, or any future draft legislation; if he will introduce secondary regulations dealing with family reunification, including matters related to entry, residence and access to independent/permanent residence for family members of Irish citizens and third country nationals living in Ireland, including where domestic violence is experienced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21040/12]

It is my intention to republish the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2010 later this year. As part of that process some provisions of the existing Bill are likely to be amended before publication, including if necessary elements of Part 5. In relation to family reunification and the other matters referred to by the Deputy, and without prejudice to the future engagement with the legislation by the Oireachtas, I am open to considering secondary legislation, using the regulation making powers conferred by the Bill.

I should say however that in respect of cases of domestic violence, where the victim is seeking immigration status independent of that of the perpetrator, the current system places no legal impediment in the way of dealing with such issues in a sympathetic manner and in fact this is what happens in practice. In that respect I refer the Deputy to my earlier reply to PQs numbers 71 and 82 of 13th March 2012 on this specific issue.

Reply to PQs numbers 71 and 82 of 13th March 2012:

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department operates a flexible, pragmatic and humane approach to the status of non-EEA nationals (both men and women) who are in situations of domestic violence. Any person in such a situation can approach INIS either directly or through an Garda Síochána or a non-governmental organisation and their case will be examined with sensitivity. All cases are addressed on a individual basis and independent status is granted where the known circumstances of the case warrant it. In considering the circumstances of each such application every effort is made to ensure that the most appropriate permission stamp is granted consistent with overall public policy and the requirement to ensure that the integrity of the immigration system is upheld.

I am advised that very few non-EEA nationals who have experienced domestic violence have applied to my Department for independent status. There have been no more than a dozen such permissions granted. I would point out that not every victim of domestic violence will require a new residence permission. It is possible that a victim might be resident with their own independent status. However, where applications were made and the persons concerned were able to substantiate their claim with appropriate reports, an immigration status was granted which allowed them to access the labour force and to apply for State aid where required.

An Garda Síochána and non-governmental organisations working in the immigration area and those who offer services to victims of domestic violence are fully aware of the process and have acknowledged that INIS will deal sensitively with domestic violence issues, I am satisfied that this system addresses the immigration requirements of non-EEA nationals who find themselves in such a terrible situation. I would add that the primary concern for victims of domestic violence, whether they are Irish citizens or foreign nationals is their physical safety. This concern is a primary focus of Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Robert Dowds

Question:

194 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, or not any financial proceeds from seizures by CAB in relation to corrupt payments relating to planning matters could be ring-fenced for the communities in which the corrupt planning decisions were made, particularly the Clondalkin, Lucan and Palmerstown areas of Dublin. [21042/12]

All monies collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau are returned to the Exchequer in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005.

Such funds are paid into the Government's Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment.

From time to time, it is has been suggested that such monies should be used to fund community programmes in those areas considered worst affected by certain criminal activity.

However, while this is a matter on which my Department has previously consulted with the Department of Finance and it has been accepted that there may be some symbolic value in the suggestion, it is considered problematic and raises a number of practical difficulties.

A policy of ringfencing monies obtained by the Exchequer and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose runs contrary to the normal Estimates process. While allowing for a very small number of very specific targeted exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.

In addition, given the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Bureau in any given year, in addition to the potential delays through the possibility of legal challenge to court disposal orders, the provision of ongoing funds to community projects would be problematic. Such a revenue source would not facilitate the proper planning of such projects.

I can inform the Deputy that there is currently no plan to change the existing arrangements concerning monies accumulated by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Garda Stations

Tom Fleming

Question:

195 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will retain Ballydesmond Garda station, County Cork, due to its strategic location on the Cork and Kerry border and also in the proximity of the Limerick border. [21046/12]

Under the Garda Síochána Acts 2005-2007, the Commissioner is required to submit, before November of each year, a policing plan for the forthcoming year. The Policing Plan for 2013 has not yet been prepared and therefore it is not possible to say at this stage what it may contain although I expect that it will contain measures to address the ongoing issue of rationalisation of the Garda station network.

Garda Transport

Joan Collins

Question:

196 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the two patrol cars that were assigned to community gardaí in Sundrive and Crumlin village Garda stations, Dublin are currently in the depot for repair with no replacement cars being made available; the reason this situation has arisen and the actions he will take to remedy it immediately. [21086/12]

The provision of Garda resources, including transport, are matters for the Garda Commissioner.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda stations referred to by the Deputy are both in the Crumlin District in the DMR South Division. In addition I have been informed that currently 22 Garda cars, both marked and unmarked, are allocated to the Crumlin District.

I have been advised that while the car allocated to Crumlin station for community policing had to be taken out of service recently it was repaired and returned to the station on the same day.

I have also been advised that the car allocated to Sundrive Road station for community policing is undergoing repairs and that it will be returned to service as quickly as possible.

Departmental Funding

Regina Doherty

Question:

197 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount of funding received by the Africa Centre for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. [21121/12]

There are no records to indicate that any funding was provided to the Africa Centre by my Department during 2009, 2010 or 2011.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

198 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21154/12]

In addition, some 163 Parliamentary Questions were transferred (or part transferred) to other Government Departments for reply as the matters referred to in these questions did not fall within my remit as Minister for Justice and Equality.

Grant Payments

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21169/12]

I can inform the Deputy that should the organisation referred to wish to bring matters of concern, which come under my remit, to the attention of my Department they will be examined and considered. I am therefore not in a position to speculate on the type of support which might be given to the organisation.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

200 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Defence the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21147/12]

According to the records held in my Department, a total of 15 Parliamentary Questions not relevant to my Department were transferred to the appropriate Departments for reply in the past six months.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Defence the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21162/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government is committed to implementing a strategy for rural development on the basis of an inclusive approach to sustainable development, the integration of policies, a regional dimension and partnership with the rural community. I note that the group referred to by the Deputy was set up to lobby the Government on rural issues and will launch a report shortly. This report will be considered within the Department as appropriate.

Grant Payments

Paul Connaughton

Question:

202 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the full single farm payment and agri environment option scheme was not paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; when it is likely to be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20986/12]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Schemes was received from the person named on 12 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised. An advance of the Single Payment issued to the person named on 10 November 2011 with the final balancing payment issuing on 20 April 2012. Payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued on 16 November 2011.

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1 November 2010.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks a query arose in respect of land parcels declared which required digitisation of the areas concerned. This digitisation query has been satisfactorily resolved and the file is currently being processed with a view to making payment in respect of 2010 at the earliest opportunity.

Payments in respect of the 2011 Scheme year are subject to a similar administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investments related to approved AEOS actions. These checks have now been completed and following the payment of year 1, the payment in respect of year 2 will be finalised.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Dara Calleary

Question:

203 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if REP scheme is being claimed for lands (details supplied) in County Donegal. [21009/12]

It is not possible to determine from the information provided whether a claim has been submitted under REPS in respect of the lands referred to. The Department's Land Parcel Identification system, rather than folio numbers, is used to identify land parcels for the purposes of the area based schemes, including REPS which are operated by my Department. I should also point out that it is not the policy of the Department to release information in relation to details of individual scheme applicants.

On-farm Investment Schemes

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if all applicants under the dairy equipment scheme will be approved for grant aid; if not, the way he proposes to select successful applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21052/12]

The criteria used to assess applications for grant-aid received under the Dairy Equipment Scheme are set out in paragraph 4 of its terms and conditions which are available on my Department's website. Priority is given to those applications which receive the highest marks in the selection exercise. Eligible applications which do not receive approval in the particular tranche concerned are carried forward for consideration under the next tranche of funding.

Grant Payments

Willie Penrose

Question:

205 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if in the context of a report by the office of the Ombudsman, dated 13 February 2007, whereby it was indicated, that the Ombudsman concluded that his Department’s record keeping practice in this particular instance had been less than commendable, and whereby the lack of records in this case was mainly contributed to the difficulty that arose in relation to the personal complaint, if he will now indicate if this matter was raised in the Ombudsman’s report has now been addressed and if this person (details supplied) in County Westmeath may now be considered for appropriate payments, in view of the fact that they have been denied same for the past ten years or more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21067/12]

The processing of the applications of the person named was fully investigated by an official of my Department, who concluded that proper procedures had been followed in all respects. The person named was notified of the outcome of this review and advised of his right of appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office, should he wish to pursue matters further. The person named subsequently chose to avail of this option; that Office, having fully considered the grounds of his appeal and all the circumstances of the case, decided to disallow the appeal. A subsequent appeal by the person named to the Office of the Ombudsman proved similarly unsuccessful. I can confirm that Department officials fully co-operated with the investigations of both the Agriculture Appeals Office and the Office of the Ombudsman in their review of the case of the person named, in line with standard procedure. I can also confirm that the person named has received full payments in recent years in respect of the applications lodged under the Single Payment Scheme and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Aquaculture Development

Pearse Doherty

Question:

206 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to protect migrating smolts being killed at hydros and from sealice emanating from Department licensed fish farms. [21074/12]

My Department's policy on sea lice controls in relation to farmed salmon is strictly evidence based. The control protocols are operated by the Marine Institute on behalf of the State and are more advanced that those operated in other jurisdictions for the following reasons:

the inspection regime is totally independent of the industry;

data obtained as a result of inspections is published;

treatment trigger levels are set at a low level.

These controls are generally regarded as representing best practice internationally.

An important longitudinal study by the Marine Institute into the impact of infestation of outwardly migrating salmon smolts from a number of rivers on Ireland's south and west coasts has recently been published. This study took place over a period of ten years and concluded that infestation by sea lice was a minor component of the overall marine mortality of the stocks studied (Jackson et al published in the journal "Aquaculture" September 2011).

I assume the reference by the Deputy to hydros relates to hydroelectric schemes on rivers and their potential impact on wild salmon. Matters relating to the protection of wild salmon are the responsibility of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Departmental Investigations

Denis Naughten

Question:

207 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will update Dáil Éireann on the current investigation within his Department into possible breaches of data protection of up to 130,000 farmers records; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21123/12]

I am not in a position to elaborate on the current investigation while it is ongoing.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

208 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21143/12]

For the period 26 October 2011 to 26 April 2012 my Department transferred 85 Parliamentary Questions with 2 Part transfers.

These questions dealt with policy issues which fell within the remit of other Departments.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21158/12]

The remit of my Department in the area of rural development relates to the implementation of EU common rural development policy through our Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) which is co funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Rural development policy acknowledges that many rural areas face significant challenges and the aim of the RDP is to improve the economic well being and quality of life in rural areas by addressing three main priorities related to the competitiveness of agriculture, the environment and the countryside and the overall quality of life and economic activity in rural areas.

The overall value of the RDP is approx. €5bn over a seven year period and it includes such schemes as the farm investment schemes, the Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) Scheme, the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS).

The wider rural economy measures under the RDP support improvements to the quality of life in rural areas and the diversification and development of the rural economy. This aspect of the programme is delivered through the Leader approach and recognises the importance for rural areas of support for new business creation, tourism and recreation facilities. My colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government delivers this part of the Programme through a network of 36 LEADER/Local Action Groups. I would be happy to engage with the new coalition when it has been launched.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

210 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of parliamentary questions transferred from her Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21145/12]

A total of 50 Parliamentary Questions have been fully or partially transferred from my Department to other Departments in the past six months. The Deputy will be aware that Parliamentary Questions are transferred in full or partially to other Departments in cases where the subject matter is not the responsibility of the Minister to whom the question is originally tabled.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

211 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the support she will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21160/12]

I regret to inform the Deputy there are no funds at the disposal of my Department under which financial support can be made available to the organisation in question.

However, I am very conscious of the needs of children and young people in rural areas and I recently met with Macra na Feirme, who are funded by my Department where we discussed this matter.

In the coming weeks I will be launching a public consultation campaign on the new Children's and Young Peoples Policy Framework and I look forward to considering and addressing issues facing children and young people in rural areas through this process.

Health Service Reform

Terence Flanagan

Question:

212 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the amount spent by the Health Service Executive on reforming services and operations for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012, in a number of hospitals (details supplied), including consultancy fees, staff resources and other related costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20957/12]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

213 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the repair of an electric mobility scooter by the Health Service Executive in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20961/12]

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.

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will support the organisations (details supplied) in their efforts to ring-fence money for the 1,400 children with life-limiting conditions. [20968/12]

The Jack and Jill Foundation service is part of a range of services provided to families funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and its other contracted service providers for children with life limiting conditions. Many children availing of services provided by the Jack and Jill Foundation also avail of other specialist hospital based and community based health supports and disability services. The HSE's aim is to ensure that all children with life limiting conditions would receive services on an equitable basis and through a standardised approach. This is reflected, for example, through the national policy "Palliative Care for Children with Life Limiting Conditions in Ireland" and the appointment in recent times of Ireland's first Paediatric Palliative Care Consultant and 8 outreach nurses nationally to support the care of children in the home. Given the multi-disciplinary and other relevant factors, funding for Paediatric Palliative Care is incorporated in the overall Palliative Care provision in the agreed HSE Service Plan. The financial allocation for Palliative Care overall in the HSE Service Plan for this year is €78 million.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Martin Ferris

Question:

215 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry, who is more than 70 years, will receive their hearing aid. [20988/12]

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

Vaccination Programme

Billy Kelleher

Question:

216 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of persons who received the swine flu vaccine; the number who received the pandremix vaccine; the number of children who received the vaccine; the number who may have been affected by sleeping disorders as a result of receiving the vaccine; the remedies he plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21007/12]

There were two vaccines used against Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) Pandemrix® and Celvepan. The report of the National Narcolepsy Study Steering Committee detailed the population uptake for each vaccine as follows:

Table 1: Number of first shot vaccination with Pandemrix and population vaccine uptake by age group, 2009/2010 influenza vaccination campaign, Ireland (Source: PCRS/PDMS)

Age group

Population of Ireland* (Census 2006)

Number of first shot vaccination with Pandemrix

Population vaccine uptake (Pandemrix)

0-4

271,714

129,942

47.8%

5-19

852,454

339,312

39.8%

20+

3,085,412

474,229

14.4%

Unknown

3,413

Total

4,209,310

946,896

22.5%

*Excluding half of those aged <1 year.

Table 2: Number of first shot vaccination with Celvapan and population vaccine uptake by age group, 2009/2010 influenza vaccination campaign, Ireland (Source: PCRS/PDMS)

Age group

Population of Ireland* (Census 2006)

Number of first shot vaccination with Celvapan

Population vaccine uptake (Celvapan)

0-4

271,714

22,452

8.3%

5-19

852,454

22,700

2.7%

20+

3,085,412

85,193

2.8%

Unknown

38

Total

4,209,310

130,383

3.1%

To date, the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has received 27 reports with clinical information which confirms a diagnosis of narcolepsy in individuals who were vaccinated with Pandemrix® and one report in an individual who received Celvapan. Twenty four of these reports relate to children/adolescents. The IMB is continuing to follow up with healthcare professionals including specialists involved in the investigation of further patients where a diagnosis of narcolepsy is considered possible.

My Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Education and Skills to address the needs of those affected by narcolepsy.

The HSE has provided a range of services and supports to those affected including access to rapid diagnosis, clear care pathways, temporary medical cards and reimbursement of expenses incurred.

Multi-disciplinary assessments which will allow for the appropriate individualised health and educational supports to be put in place have commenced. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is currently engaging with the HSE and with the individual schools and parents of children concerned to identify and provide educational supports for the children and adolescents affected.

In addition, contact has been made with the State Exam Commission in relation to the reasonable accommodations available for students with narcolepsy who are sitting state exams this year.

My Department is considering all other possible supports which may need to be put in place for those affected. A Memorandum for Government setting out the full response to this issue is being prepared for submission in the coming weeks.

I would like to assure the Deputy that this matter continues to be a priority for my Department.

Health Services

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

217 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health his plans to have more public services in place for women who suffer with Lymphoedema; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21044/12]

The Deputy's question relates to service delivery matters and accordingly I have asked the HSE to respond directly to him.

Nursing Home Repayment Scheme

Willie Penrose

Question:

218 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the amount of money that has been provided to the fair deal scheme at present; if he will outline in comprehensive detail the amount of money that was for the fair deal when same was first introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21066/12]

The total budget for long-term residential care in 2012, and for each year since the Nursing Homes Support Scheme commenced, is set out in the table below. This is effectively the budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme albeit that transitional arrangements must also be facilitated from within the budget, i.e. people in contract beds, people who choose to remain on subvention and saver cases in public nursing homes.

2009 (€m)

2010 (€m)

2011 (€m)

2012 (€m)

909

979.2

963

994.7

Hospital Waiting Lists

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

219 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the delays in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, for those awaiting liver transplant; and if he will confirm the waiting times. [21073/12]

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.

In relation to the specific query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Procedures

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

220 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the ability to effect life changing orthopaedic surgery has been reduced by recent decisions at Merlin Park Hospital, Galway and particularly due to recent staff changes; the steps he has taken to facilitate the appointment of extra theatre staff to replace those who have left; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21075/12]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

221 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the way the guidelines of the National Disability Unit of the Health Services Executive apply to the health and educational needs of children with autism and if it is the case that a report prepared by a HSE psychologist could be ignored by the Department of Education and Skills in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21080/12]

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.

Water Quality

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his plans to review the legal implications of water fluoridation and if he is 100% sure that no human health issues arise from the fluoridation of water; if any health studies, risk studies or assessments have been undertaken regarding same here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21089/12]

The Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960 provides for the fluoridation of public water supplies. e Forum on Fluoridation, which reported in 2002, advised that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, which was established in 2004, monitors new and emerging issues on fluoride and its effects on health and related matters. It advises that the balance of scientific evidence worldwide confirms that water fluoridation, at the optimal level, does not cause any ill effects and continues to be safe and effective in protecting the oral health of all age groups.

There have been studies in Ireland concerning water fluoridation. In addition, a bio-monitoring study of total fluoride intake in Ireland is planned and the HSE is currently in the process of establishing a high level advisory group to provide technical and academic oversight of the study. I have no plans to discontinue the policy of fluoridation of public water supplies, which continues to make an effective contribution to oral health in Ireland.

Primary Care Strategy

Brendan Smith

Question:

223 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health if there are proposals to develop primary care facilities at a centre (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21091/12]

The Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects within its overall capital funding allocation taking into account the existing capital commitments and costs to completion over the period. A draft capital plan for the period 2012-2016 has been submitted to my Department. My Department is reviewing the proposals and following up with the HSE where further details may be required.

The proposed plan requires my approval with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Details of the plan will be published by the Executive following its approval.

Remuneration of Hospital Consultants

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

224 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to tackle high salaries for consultants in the public health system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21104/12]

While the Programme for Government provides for a reduction in consultants' remuneration, my immediate priority is to achieve more effective implementation of the existing contract and to reform how services are delivered to patients. I am satisfied that considerable efficiencies can be achieved under the terms of the 2008 contract and the Public Service Agreement, if consultants embrace this reform agenda.

I believe that the efficiencies, productivity increases and reform, if achieved, will be worth more to the health system than simply reducing the pay of consultants and the Government has endorsed this approach.

The HSE is at present preparing for the commencement of discussions with the consultant representative bodies. These discussions are to begin shortly. This process will need to be focussed on the achievement of worthwhile and measurable change and should also, in my view, be concluded within a reasonable period, in line with the provisions of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014.

Primary Care Strategy

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

225 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health his plans to move those on the long-term illness book into the free primary health care system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21107/12]

The Programme for Government committed to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this reform programme, the Government is committed to introducing Universal GP Care within the first term of office of this Government.

Initially it is intended to extend GP cover without fees to persons with a defined illness. Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. Once primary legislation has been approved by the Oireachtas, the details of the new arrangements will be announced. The Department is currently working on preparing legislation, which is intended to be published as soon as possible.

The Government has given its approval to the preparation by the Department of Health of Heads of a Bill to progress the phased introduction of a free GP care in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

226 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21152/12]

Parliamentary Questions are transferred to other Departments in cases where the subject matter of the question is not the responsibility of my Department. This occurs most frequently in cases where the question concerns schemes and benefits which are the responsibility of the Department of Social Protection or the Department of Justice and Equality. Questions concerning issues relating to children, which previously would have been the responsibility of my Department, can also be transferred to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

My Department does not keep statistics in relation to the number of questions transferred.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

227 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21167/12]

I would like to advise the Deputy that I have no function in relation to this matter. I understand that identical questions were put down to my Ministerial colleagues who may be in a position to address your request.

Question No. 228 withdrawn.

Road Network

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

229 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding that has been made available for a road scheme (details supplied) in 2011 and 2012; the funds he proposes to make available for same in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21049/12]

Firstly, I would like to explain that the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Meath County Council were allocated a total of €200,000 in 2012 towards the R156 Dunboyne — Summerhill Road Improvement Scheme and I understand that the works to be undertaken from Jenkinstown to Mullagh Cross are part of this project. The council were provided with a total of €49,560 for the R156 Dunboyne — Summerhill project in 2011 under the Specific Improvement Grants Scheme.

It is open to Meath County Council to continue to prioritise this project and to submit it to the National Roads Authority (NRA) for consideration for funding under the 2013 Specific Improvement Grants Scheme when applications are sought by them later in the year. The NRA will then make recommendations to my Department in relation to the 2013 grant allocations based on the applications received from all local authorities.

Taxi Regulations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

230 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress has been made to date with the proposals to introduce a new taxi-hackney licence which would benefit rural areas and might be of particular assistance to rural publicans operating a collection and delivery service for their customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21097/12]

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for the regulation of the taxi industry under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and is also the lead agency with responsibility for implementation of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report.

The objective of the Local Area Hackney Licence is to facilitate a low cost entry to the hackney market for transport provision in rural areas that, otherwise, would be unlikely to have such services. The Licence is proposed as a medium-term action, one which requires development this year with a view to its implementation subsequent to 2012.

The NTA has commenced the scoping work required for developing the proposal.

Robert Troy

Question:

231 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the law enforcement of PSV taxi licences, in view of the fact that only enforcement officers are permitted to check for PSV licences and there are only nine such officers here; if he intends to make provisions in order that members of An Garda Síochána can check PSV licences of if he intends to increase the number of enforcement officers. [21118/12]

Robert Troy

Question:

232 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to deal with the situation regarding taxi drivers coming into towns and cities in which they are not registered and taking the already scarce work from taxi drivers who are registered for that area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21119/12]

Robert Troy

Question:

233 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider making it a legal requirement that taxi drivers have to produce a PSV licence before they can obtain a taxi plate from a rental company. [21120/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 to 233, inclusive, together.

The regulation of the taxi industry, including issues related to taxi rental and the areas of operation of taxis, is a matter in the first instance for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003. I have arranged for your question to be forwarded to the NTA for a direct response. If he does not receive a response within ten working days, he should notify my private office.

Concerning the enforcement of SPSV regulations generally, Action 24 of the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011 deals with strengthened collaboration between An Garda Síochána and the NTA and, among other things, envisages the introduction of Fixed Charge Penalties to improve enforcement. Action 21 states that a range of SPSV fixed charge penalties, which are currently administered by the NTA enforcement officers, will be extended to the Garda Síochána.

Parliamentary Questions

Micheál Martin

Question:

234 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of parliamentary questions transferred from his Department to other Departments in the past six months; the reasons they were transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21157/12]

There have been 78 Parliamentary Questions transferred from my Department to other Departments in the past six months. These Questions were transferred as the subject matter of the Questions related to the statutory functions of other Government Departments and not to my Department.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

235 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the support he will give to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21172/12]

I do not see any appropriate avenue for support under the aegis of my Department for such an organisation. Neither have I received a request to meet with the group.

The Programme for Government recognises the importance of the rural transport network for rural communities as a reliable and sustainable transport service. The Programme includes a commitment to maintain and extend the Rural Transport Programme with other local transport services as much as is practicable and my Department is currently working towards achieving this aim.