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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Bank IT Systems

Dara Calleary

Question:

11 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance his views on the disruption to the economy and consumers from the IT problems in Ulster Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32686/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

38 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the action he and his Department officials took during the Ulster Bank IT system crash; if he is satisfied that the problems have been fully addressed and that such a crash is unlikely to occur again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32750/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

41 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken since the crash of the IT system at Ulster Bank with respect to ensuring that all other banks operating in the State have adequately protected IT systems and appropriate disaster recovery systems in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32751/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

42 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the response of the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Regulator to the collapse of the Ulster Bank IT system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32752/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 38, 41 and 42 together.

I am fully aware of the negative impact that Ulster Bank's technical problems are having on the bank's personal and business banking customers throughout the country. This issue has been ongoing for far too long at this stage and as I have made clear already, it is essential that it be resolved as a matter of absolute priority. From my perspective, it is totally unacceptable that it has taken Ulster Bank so long to solve the technical problems and that customers of that bank have been given mixed messages on when the problems would be resolved.

My officials and the Central Bank are getting regular status updates from the Ulster Bank and are closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the situation is resolved as quickly as possible. In that respect the Central Bank has officials on the ground in Ulster Bank to ensure that immediate priority is given to the backlog issue and ensuring that all customers accounts are brought up to date as soon as possible.

The current focus is to get all transactions processed and following that Ulster Bank has said that they will commence the process of refunding customers for any interest or fees and charges that have occurred as a result of this incident. The Central Bank has also indicted that they will be putting in place a full restitution regime for all persons that have been impacted and that it will work with the Irish Credit Bureau to ensure that customer ratings are not impacted.

The Central Bank met with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and Public Expenditure Reform yesterday. The Central Bank informed the Committee that they have already begun to scope out the parameters of an investigation into the matter with their UK counterparts. In that respect the investigation is complicated by the fact that the payment processing system at Ulster Bank is in fact outsourced to their parent RBS where the technical problems first arose.

All credit institutions are required to have in place contingency and business continuity plans to ensure that they have the capacity to operate on an ongoing basis and limit losses in the event of severe business disruption. They are required to adopt policies and processes to evaluate and manage exposures to operational risk, including low-frequency high-severity events.

It is important that the Central Bank satisfies itself independently, as regulator, that these requirements are being met by other credit institutions to avoid similar problems occurring elsewhere.

Consumer Spending

Sean Fleming

Question:

12 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance his views on the trend in retail sales which have declined by both value and volume in each of the past three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32693/12]

Consumer spending has fallen significantly in the last number of years, as household disposable income has declined and the household savings rate has increased. The latest retail sales figures confirm that spending remains weak. Having said that, excluding the motor trade, there is tentative evidence that spending is stabilizing, albeit at low levels. For instance, core retail sales have been effectively flat in the first five months of the year. Finally, I would stress that weak personal spending is assumed in the budgetary estimates, as my Department is projecting a fall of 1.7 per cent in consumer spending this year.

National Asset Management Agency

Timmy Dooley

Question:

13 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the National Asset Management Agency will engage in demolition of part-built housing schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32695/12]

NAMA have advised me that there are no plans to demolish further developments but it may be considered as a means to reaching resolution on properties where; a) the economic viability of the site is otherwise in question, or b) due to structural or other considerations, the development is not viable. As the Deputy may know, there was recent media commentary on a development in Longford which is to be demolished. I am advised by NAMA that the salient facts in this case were: NAMA acquired loans secured on this property in December 2010; the property, comprising two-bedroom duplex units and three-bedroom apartments, was poorly constructed, had been subject to continuous vandalism and anti-social behaviour, including the removal of all fixtures and fittings and had become a significant source of concern for neighbouring residents. I am further advised by NAMA that the property is located on a flood plain and in the middle of an industrial estate. As a result of its condition and location, NAMA advises that the investment required to bring the property to a habitable state and to the point that it could be sold, in the unlikely event that a willing buyer exists, would be such as to make the investment uneconomical and that it is questionable whether structurally such works could in fact be undertaken. In any event, NAMA advises that Longford County Council, in detailing the Category 4 remediation works to be taken as part of the agreed site resolution plan in respect of this development, set out a requirement that the apartment block be demolished.

NAMA advises that to undertake the necessary remediation on this development, including the proposed demolition of this block, it had first to take enforcement proceedings over the property, which was a protracted process.

Following publication of the Report of the Advisory Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments in June 2011, the Minister for State with responsibility for housing established a National Co-ordination Committee to oversee planning and implementation of remediation programmes in respect of unfinished estates. NAMA is represented on this Committee and is proactively engaged in policy processes aimed at the resolution of the problem of unfinished housing estates.

I am advised by NAMA that of the 243 estates categorised by local authorities as the most problematic from a public safety perspective (Category 4 estates), only 29 (or 12%) of these estates are controlled by NAMA debtors or receivers. 150 (or 10%) of Category 3 estates are linked to NAMA debtors. NAMA is funding out of its own resources, through its debtors and receivers, the cost of urgent remediation work (estimated at €3 million) and significant progress is being made in this regard.

I am also advised by NAMA that it plans to invest substantial funding over its lifetime in preserving and enhancing the assets that secure its loans, including significant investment in assets located in Ireland, and that a substantial portion of its cash reserves will be used for this purpose. The Chairman of NAMA recently announced plans to invest €2 billion in this area by 2016. To end-March 2012, the Agency had invested over €1 billion in the preservation, enhancement and completion of property assets underlying its loan portfolio. Over €500 million of this had been committed to assets in Ireland and this is helping to secure the direct employment of thousands of employees in small and medium trading businesses located throughout the country, in addition to substantial additional direct and indirect construction and property related employment in general building works including re-fit, refurbishment and up-grade of NAMA-controlled properties.

NAMA has indicated its intention to roll out other innovations to support the resumption of more normalised activity in our property markets. It has committed, for instance, to sponsor the launch at least one Qualifying Investor Fund (QIF) by the end of 2012, a proven mechanism for leveraging institutional investment. NAMA advises that it has identified over 3,000 residential units as being available and potentially suitable for social housing and it is working with housing authorities to determine the suitability of these units for the provision of social housing within their functional areas.

National Pensions Reserve Fund

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

14 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on funds held by the National Pensions Reserve Fund; the full amount remaining in the discretionary portfolio of the fund; the way he is currently using this money and his plans for this fund into the future. [32749/12]

I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency, as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), that the total value of the Fund at 31 March 2012 was €15.1 billion and that the value of the Discretionary Portfolio was €5.8 billion. In announcing the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) initiative in September 2011, the Government indicated a refocusing of the Fund's investments from global towards Ireland. Commercial investment will be channelled from the NPRF towards productive investment in sectors of strategic importance to the Irish economy.

A key principle of the Strategic Investment Fund is that the NPRF investment, which is to be solely on a commercial basis, will seek matching investment from third-party investors. In this way the Fund's assets can be used as a catalyst to attract additional capital for investment in the Irish economy. In addition, the Fund has been working closely with NewERA in respect of investment opportunities relating to the commercial semi-state sector.

The NPRF Commission 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.

The NPRF has also committed, subject to certain pre-conditions, €450 million to finance the national roll-out of domestic water meters.

Tax Yield

Gerry Adams

Question:

15 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has ever produced an estimate of the potential revenue yield to the State from the introduction of a wealth tax; if so, if he will quantify the estimate and the methodology used to calculate it. [32748/12]

To estimate the potential revenue from a wealth tax, in the sense of an annual recurring tax on wealth, one would need to identify the wealth held by individuals. I am informed by the Central Statistics Office that the CSO institutional sector accounts do not give an indication of the number of households or persons classified by the categories of wealth they hold. These statistics are based on aggregate information collected from financial institutions and do not contain the demographic details which would enable such a breakdown of the statistics. So while the CSO's Institutional Sector Accounts show that households held c. €126 billion on deposit in 2010, this is not broken down by income or wealth categories. However, I understand that, following discussions between the Department of Public Enterprise and Reform, the CSO and the Central Bank, the CSO has commenced a "Household Finance and Consumption Survey", which will collect information on household wealth. The first results of this survey will be available in 2014.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no statistical basis for compiling estimates in relation to a potential wealth tax. Although an individual's assets and liabilities are declared in a limited number of specific circumstances — for example, after a death — Revenue states it is not in a position to link an individual's income to her/his financial assets.

Asset values increase and decrease over time and in the context of recent economic circumstances, they may have declined considerably in many cases. Thus, if the value of an asset or of an individual's wealth is measured at a particular time there is no guarantee that the asset value or the individual's wealth will remain at that level or increase from that point. This would make it difficult to predict the potential yield from a wealth tax and would have to be borne in mind in terms of its consistency as a source of revenue.

European Banking Sector

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

16 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance his views on a single deposit insurance scheme to cover all eurozone countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32699/12]

The proposal for a banking union was first mooted by Commission President Barroso on 23 May. It has developed considerably over the last number of weeks in the context of the ongoing eurozone crisis, culminating in the paper on Economic and Monetary Union considered at last week's European Council. One of the main proposals in the paper on Economic and Monetary Union relates to an integrated financial framework. It proposes that, building on the single rule book, an integrated financial framework should have two central elements: [a] single European banking supervision and [b] a common deposit insurance and resolution framework.

The European Commission will present proposals shortly for a European deposit insurance scheme which would introduce a European dimension to national deposit guarantee schemes for banks. This could strengthen the credibility of the existing arrangements and serve as an important assurance that eligible deposits of all credit institutions are sufficiently insured. However much depends on the actual detail of the proposals. Once proposals are brought forward they will be examined carefully and we will engage constructively in their consideration at European Council.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Euro area Summit Statement of 29 June affirmed the importance of breaking the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns and committed to further examining the situation of the Irish financial sector with a view to improving sustainability.

General Government Debt

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

17 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance in view of the announcements emanating from the recent EU meetings on the European banking crisis, the relief Irish citizens may expect in terms of an end to and reversal of cuts and austerity measures over the coming period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32814/12]

Thomas Pringle

Question:

22 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance in view of the announcements emanating from the recent EU meetings on the European banking crisis, the relief Irish citizens may expect in terms of an end to and reversal of cuts and austerity measures over the coming period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32815/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

59 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he expects recent discussions at EU level to impact in a positive way on this country’s economic future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32870/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 22 and 59 together.

At the euro area summit on 29 June, Heads of State or Government affirmed that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereign. After the Commission has presented proposals for a single supervisory mechanism, the European Council will consider their proposals as a matter of urgency.

In addition, the Heads also tasked the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers to examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of our well-performing programme.

Taken together these statements open up the very real possibility of significantly improving the sustainability of Irish public debt. This is a very important development, and one which we should all welcome. The possibility of improving the sustainability of public debt has been reflected in lower borrowing costs for Ireland in the secondary market for sovereign bonds. Furthermore, I believe the re-entry into the private debt market by the NTMA in the form of short term t-bills is another positive step in regaining our financial independence.

In addition, the possibility of breaking the link between the banking sector and sovereigns across the euro area has been increased by this measure. This will help restore confidence in the single currency, which is in all of our interests.

As I have said before, however, there remains a very large gap between what the government is spending and what it receives by way of income. Closing this gap will require further consolidation, as has been previously outlined. Our Programme is working and we are starting to see the results, departing from it now would be unwise and not in our interest. The Government remains committed to reducing the deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, in line with the ECOFIN Council decision in late 2010.

European Banking Sector

Michael Moynihan

Question:

18 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the potential benefits to Ireland of common bank supervision across the eurozone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32701/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

39 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the detail of the single supervisory mechanism for banks as agreed by the European Council on 29 June 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32754/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 39 together.

The European Union, through various Directives and Regulations, currently provides for common rules to be applied by national supervisors. There is no single European supervisor although supervision is co-ordinated at a European level by the European Banking Authority. Supervision, deposit insurance and resolution are all national competencies.

The proposal for a banking union was first mooted by Commission President Barroso on 23 May. It has developed considerably over the last number of weeks in the context of the ongoing eurozone crisis, culminating in the paper on Economic and Monetary Union considered at last week's European Council.

One of the main proposals in the paper on Economic and Monetary Union relates to an integrated financial framework. It proposes that, building on the single rule book, an integrated financial framework should have two central elements: [a] single European banking supervision and [b] a common deposit insurance and resolution framework.

The statement also stated that the European Commission will present proposals on the basis of Article 127(6) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union for a single supervisory mechanism shortly and asked the European Council to consider these proposals as a matter of urgency by the end of 2012. These proposals, when published will be examined fully by my Department. It is premature at this stage to speculate on what may be contained in these proposals. Of importance to Ireland is that these proposals are coherent and make a substantive contribution to strengthening the Eurozone's financial system.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Euro area Summit Statement of 29 June affirmed the importance of breaking the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns and committed to further examining the situation of the Irish financial sector with a view to improving sustainability.

Banks Recapitalisation

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

19 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if he has secured a commitment from the European Council that any agreement on ESM funds being used to directly recapitalise banks would be applied retrospectively to Irish bank recapitalisations and if so to which recapitalisations and on what terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32755/12]

The recent very welcome Euro Area summit statement represents a major shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign. The Irish government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt. It is particularly pleasing to note that last Friday's summit agreement reflects the proposals set out in the Taoiseach's letter to other Heads of Government that was sent following the approval of the Fiscal Stability Treaty. Our objective remains the same; break the link between the banks and the sovereign making the debt more sustainable and to maximize the benefit to the Irish taxpayer.

The summit agreement provides, in principle, an opportunity for the issue of the bank debt to be addressed at an EU level. It has been agreed that when an effective single supervisory mechanism is established, involving the ECB, for banks in the euro area, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could have the possibility to recapitalise banks directly. While the policy position is very positive indeed, it would not be possible at this stage of the process to attempt to quantify the benefits which will accrue to the Irish economy. The details of how to separate banking from sovereign debt must now be discussed in detail.

The European Council has asked the Eurogroup to discuss the details of the agreement at its 9th July meeting. This meeting will begin the detailed discussions and negotiations. While the details, structures and arrangements have yet to be finalised the policy statement provides a basis for a Euro-Area solution to what is essentially a Euro-Area problem. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Eurogroup meeting on 9th July.

Credit Availability

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

20 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has achieved an understanding with the lending institutions here with particular reference to the need to ensure the availability of adequate working capital for existing small and medium-sized enterprises with the emphasis on the retention of employment and the generation of economic activity resulting in growth; the extent to which these objectives can be realised in the aftermath of his discussions with the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32811/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

68 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the lending sector whether it is expected to achieve an improvement in the extent to which small and medium-sized businesses can access sufficient credit to meet their working capital needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32940/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

69 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had any discussion with banking interests that have primarily previously provided overdraft and working capital facilities to the hotel and tourism sectors; if any particular strategy has been identified whereby banks such as Bank of Scotland or others now withdrawing from the Irish market can be replaced by banking institutions capable of and willing to lend to the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32941/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

70 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent he has received communication from the farming and business sectors indicating a reluctance by banks to facilitate by way of overdraft the ongoing and normal requirements and thereby contributing to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32942/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 68 to 70, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the period 2011-2013. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20bn over this period. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period.

The Government has imposed SME lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending, including lending for working capital purposes, of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. Both banks achieved their 2011 targets.

The overall target for lending to SMEs includes lending to the tourism and farming sectors. The Government is conscious that these sectors need access to credit. The remit of the Credit Review Office (CRO) which was established to review decisions of the banks to refuse credit includes these sectors. In his seventh quarterly report, the Credit Reviewer notes that whilst each banks' balance sheets have contracted recently, the monitoring of these figures show that no sector or geographic region has been adversely disadvantaged by each of the banks. The Deputy should note that the CRO is overturning 60% of the decisions referred to them, supplying €6.9m of credit and supporting 683 jobs in the SME sector. I would appeal to SMEs who have been refused credit by banks to avail of the services of the CRO.

As the Deputy is aware, one of the key priorities of the Programme for Government is to ensure that an adequate pool of credit is available to fund SMEs in the real economy during the restructuring and downsizing programme. The Economic Management Council meets the banks on a regular basis and discusses the key issues pertaining to this priority.

In addition to the lending targets imposed on the banks,the pillar banks are required to submit their lending plans to the Department and the CRO at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. My Department, in conjunction with the CRO, subsequently analyses the plan and meets the banks to discuss any issues of note. The banks also meet with my Department and the CRO on a quarterly basis to discuss progress. The monthly management meetings with the pillar banks also provide a forum for the issue of SME lending to be raised by my Department.

I should stress however that the Relationship Frameworks with the banks provide that the State will not intervene in the day-to-day operations of the banks or their management decisions including with respect to pricing and lending decisions. These frameworks are published on my Department's website at http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/.

It is vital that the banks continue to make credit available to support economic recovery. However, it is not in the interest of the banks, businesses or the economy for finance to be provided unless the business is viable and has the capacity to meet the interest payments and repay the sum borrowed.

Tax Yield

John Halligan

Question:

21 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Finance based on the most up-to-date revenue figures, the total earnings of the top 10% of income earners and the amount of tax this group is paying in absolute and percentage terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32757/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested in respect of the top 10% of income earners, estimated by reference to the income tax year 2012, is as follows:

Top 10% of income earners

Gross Income

€29,600 million

Amount of income tax

€7,080 million

Percentage of income tax due by all income earners

60%

It should be noted that the figures for tax and effective tax rate only relates to income tax and do not take account of additional liability to PRSI and Universal Social Charge.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends in the interim. These are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised.

It should be noted that Gross Income is as defined in Revenue Statistical Report 2010.

A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 17.

National Asset Management Agency

Derek Keating

Question:

23 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider establishing an independent person similar to the Taxing Master to value land assets under the controlof the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32572/12]

The formation of a single servicer capable of providing well informed and timely opinions on the many different asset classes, including office, retail, residential, industrial and residential, and across the range of locations in which NAMA debtors and receivers control properties is unlikely to be feasible, cost effective or productive. Furthermore, in light of the extensive and independent valuation process undertaken to inform NAMA's acquisition of loans from the five financial institutions and the on-going actions by NAMA to ensure the up-to-date valuation of the assets underlying the acquired loans, I do not believe that the formation of a single servicer to value land assets under the control of NAMA is necessary. All properties held as security for loans acquired by NAMA were independently valued, using a valuation methodology approved by the European Commission, as at 30th November 2009 for the purposes of establishing the consideration paid by NAMA to the Participating Institutions for the loans. An appeal/second valuation process was available and utilised where either party rejected the initial valuation. From start to finish the independent valuation of all property assets took two years.

NAMA has, in the course of it on-going business, access to a panel of suitably qualified valuation professionals whose services it procures on a competitive basis as and when required and with reference to the location and asset class of the property or properties subject to valuation. In addition, the Deputy may be aware that disposals by NAMA debtors and receivers are conducted in accordance with NAMA Board guidelines, a key principle of which is that the conduct of disposals should be on a competitive basis and subject to current market valuation. The guidelines specifically require that an independent valuation is prepared for each disposal before the commencement of the sales process and that the sales agents prepare a final valuation report and recommendation addressed to the debtor and copied to NAMA.

In addition, NAMA is required to carry out an impairment exercise on an annual basis. In 2011, this has been carried out at an individual debtor connection level for 95% of the NAMA managed cases, involving detailed analysis of the underlying assets to project their future cash flows with reference to rental incomes, property management costs and expected disposal receipts. Where expectations as to future cash flows are revised downwards, an impairment charge is applied.

Finally NAMA is a secured lender and its objective is to obtain the best achievable financial return. I do not believe that it is in the interest of Irish taxpayers that NAMA should be fettered in such a way and the amounts due from debtors are not generally matters which are in dispute, unlike matters which are referred to the Taxing Master.

Banking Sector Staff

John McGuinness

Question:

24 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance his views on the conclusion by the Central Bank of Ireland of the fitness and probity test of senior bank directors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32710/12]

I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that in June 2011 it commenced a review of the fitness and probity of all sitting directors of the six banks and building societies covered by the State guarantee. As part of that review the Central Bank wrote to all directors of the relevant institutions in June 2011 to see if they planned to remain in their post beyond January 2012. There were 73 directors in situ at the time of the signing of the State guarantee in September 2008, 71 of which have subsequently stepped down or retired.

I note that the Central Bank has concluded its review of the remaining directors in June this year. The Central Bank has concluded that based on the evidence available, it had no reason to suspect the fitness and probity of those individuals pursuant to section 25 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

25 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the projected timetable of 2018 for senior bondholders in financial institutions to be eligible for burden sharing is too long; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32702/12]

The Government supports the principle that the cost of rescuing financial institutions should be shared by the shareholders and creditors of that institution as opposed to being borne by the taxpayer. The Commission's proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for the recovery and resolution of credit institutions and investment firms envisages, among other mechanisms, the use of a "bail in" tool which would see the Bank being recapitalized with shareholders wiped out or diluted, and creditors' claims reduced or converted to shares. There are a number of issues to consider in this context.

In terms of the timescale of January 2018 the Commission makes the point that the projected timetable is necessary to allow time for the maturity of existing debt, along with a need to avoid unnecessary deleveraging and allow institutions to implement capital requirements.

The Commission also advises that the implementation date of 2018 should minimize the effect of the use of the bail in tool on markets and provide re assurance to investors.

We, along with other member states will further examine this time table in more detail over the coming months as part of the EU Council consideration of the Commission proposals.

Bank Debt Restructuring

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

26 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the latest developments in the negotiations regarding a deal on Ireland’s banking debt. [28061/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has been fully committed to reviewing the arrangements that were put in place to capitalise IBRC. The purpose of this review was to determine if there is a way to reduce the overall cost to the State. In tandem with this review the Troika have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to enhance the position of banks in which the State has a major investment. The first step in this process was the settlement of the March 2012 promissory note repayment with a long term Government bond. While the development in relation to the end March payment was a positive development we have always been keeping our eye on the greater benefits which would derive from the re-engineering of the promissory note and also the potential improvements for the continuing banking sector which could also stem from the on-going technical discussions. It is for these reasons that the end March payment was seen as an initial step in a medium term process.

I have always stated that our problems are part of a wider European dilemma and any solution to address the Irish situation must be as part of an overall Eurozone/global solution. The recent shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign is to be welcomed and represents a major step forward. While the details, structures and arrangements have yet to be finalised the policy statement provides a basis for a Eurozone solution to what is essentially a Eurozone problem. Issues around the structuring and treatment of capital provided to the banks will be addressed in this context.

The Irish Government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt and further detailed work will be stepped up to ensure that the positive moves in Europe are harnessed to maximize the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Euro group meeting on 9th July.

Mortgage Interest Rates

John Browne

Question:

27 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Finance if he will request the covered banks to pass on any further ECB interest rate reduction to customers without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32685/12]

Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in the covered institutions, I must ensure that the banks are run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure the value of the bank as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. Relationship Frameworks have now been agreed that clearly define the nature of the relationship between me and each of the covered institutions. Those Frameworks were published on 30 March 2012 and can be found at:http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/. As has been stated previously, I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of the covered banks, which includes the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates. Ultimately, the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of the respective banks, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to the banks, including deposit pricing, is under pressure. Credit institutions are not primarily or always funded from the ECB, but rather from a wide variety of sources.

Neither the Central Bank nor the Department of Finance has a statutory function in relation to interest rate decisions made by individual lending institutions at any particular time. However, the Central Bank have informed me that, using their existing powers, they will engage with lenders which appear to have standard variable mortgage rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

Credit Unions Regulation

Gerry Adams

Question:

28 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the application of lending restrictions on credit unions by the Financial Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32747/12]

The imposition of lending restrictions is the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions, who is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the Registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability and to protect the savings of credit union members. As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. The Registrar of Credit Unions advises me that in order to protect the savings of members in credit unions and ensure that credit unions focus on such risks when making lending decisions, lending restrictions have been placed on a number of credit unions. The number of lending restrictions has increased as the number of credit unions experiencing a deterioration in their financial position has increased. The individual credit union lending restrictions currently in place are reviewed on a regular basis to determine whether they are still set at appropriate levels.

The Registrar has advised that currently about 57% of all credit unions are subject to lending restrictions. Almost all credit unions with a lending restriction in place have a maximum individual loan size restriction. Of the credit unions with lending restrictions, over 67% can lend €20,000 or more to an individual member.

Less than 4% of credit unions are restricted to issuing loans of less than €10,000 to an individual member, and less than 1% of credit unions are restricted to issuing loans of less than €5,000 per member. Commercial lending restrictions apply to approximately 40% of credit unions.

Proposed Legislation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

29 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the forthcoming legislation on the regulation of credit unions; when he expects the legislation to be brought before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32746/12]

The General Scheme of the Credit Union Bill 2012 was approved by Government on June 26 and published on June 28 following consultation with the Commission on Credit Unions and engagement with key stakeholders. The General Scheme has been forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General for formal drafting. It is also being referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and to the ECB for an opinion, in accordance with EU Treaty requirements. The General Scheme which is based on recommendations set out in the Report of the Commission on Credit Unions, covers five main areas as follows:

Prudential regulation: including reserves, liquidity, lending and risk management;

Governance: dealing with the roles and responsibilities of the Chair, Board, Manager and Board Oversight Committee;

Stabilisation: provision of support to credit unions that are viable but undercapitalised;

Restructuring: restructuring via transfers, mergers and amalgamations on a voluntary, incentivised and time-bound basis;

Amendments to the Credit Union Act 1997: These are important miscellaneous amendments to deal with appeals for directions, administrative sanctions, additional services and other matters.

The Credit Union Bill 2012 is due to be published during Q3 in accordance with the structural benchmark under the EU-IMF Programme.

Departmental Staff

Micheál Martin

Question:

30 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his Department and Revenue have re-hired staff who retired prior to 29 February 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32713/12]

In my Department, no staff member who retired in the last six months has been rehired. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there have been no such cases since 1 March 2012. However, they have advised that two officials who retired within the last six months have recently worked for them in an advisory capacity on apro bono basis.

Fuel Prices

Derek Keating

Question:

31 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Finance if he will prioritise the problem of fuel costs and if he will give consideration for road hauliers to be rebated on their fuel costs as practiced in other states; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the haulage industry is now purchasing its fuel products in other European countries and this results in a loss to our Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32571/12]

I acknowledge the importance of the haulage industry to our export-led economy. As the Deputy is aware a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas. This working group had a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern to the haulage industry. I have recently received a submission from the group and I am considering the matters raised. I note the recent trend in falling oil prices and I hope that this continuing fall is reflected in the price of auto-diesel for hauliers at the pumps.

Banking Sector Staff

Willie O'Dea

Question:

32 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the banking sector regarding planned redundancies; the way the employment prospects for the affected staff can be improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32705/12]

It is deeply regrettable, for all concerned, that the proposed action of shedding of jobs, even on a voluntary basis in these challenging economic times, at Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland as announced, has had to be taken. This is an inevitable consequence of the necessary restructuring of the banking system to render it fit to better serve personal and business customers throughout the economy. The respective employers will be making available as part of the voluntary redundancy package to individual applicants supports such as the provision of outplacement services and vouched training grants.

In addition, as for any group of workers whose positions are being made redundant, the services of the State — through employment supports, sourcing job opportunities (for example the promotion of jobs at the IFSC), education and training interventions, social welfare services (for example income maintenance and money advice), etc — will be made available to complement any assistance being provided by the employer.

I am informed by my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that the services of the Enterprise Development Agencies — Enterprise Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards — will be readily available to those who may be interested in starting new businesses and to help them to make informed decisions as they consider their options for the future. Additionally, IDA Ireland will keep a particular focus on marketing the skills which are coming on stream as a result of redundancies in the financial sector, to potential investors in Ireland. The exact nature of the support will be dictated by the particular circumstances of the departures, geographic considerations and timing.

Mortgage Arrears

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

33 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on the implementation of the Keane report on the mortgage crisis; the recommendations from the report that have been implemented and the numbers of households that have been assisted as a result of the implementation of these measures. [32753/12]

Last October the Government published the Report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears ("Keane Report") and the implementation of its recommendations is now a significant part of the Government's overall efforts to tackle mortgage difficulty. As announced last week, a number of significant milestones have now been achieved in the implementation of the report's recommendations. These are:—

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has published the Personal Insolvency Bill which is now before the Oireachtas;

The Minister for Housing and Planning has formally launched the "mortgage to rent" scheme on a nationwide basis;

Finally, a specific website —keepingyourhome.ie— has been put in place by the Citizens Information Board, which will very shortly be enhanced by a telephone helpline, to provide information to mortgage holders.

The further development and roll out of these measures as necessary will considerably enhance the supports available to distressed mortgage holders. Mortgage holders are free to seek and avail where appropriate of these services, to assist them deal with their mortgage difficulty. It is the Government's intention to continue to work intensively on all these areas to further advance the various measures during the second half of this year.

Promissory Notes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

34 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance when the idea of a technical paper on the promissory note was first mooted with the troika; the person who proposed same; the present status of the technical paper; if it has been completed; the reason the February 2012 deadline was not met; the steps that are envisaged for the technical paper once completed; the format of the technical paper; if it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32743/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has been fully committed to reviewing the arrangements that were put in place to capitalise IBRC. The purpose of this review was to determine if there is a way to reduce the overall cost to the State. In tandem with this review the troika have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to enhance the position of banks in which the State has a major investment. The troika agreed to engage in this process to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate, etc. The idea of the common paper was initially mooted in January / February of this year and there have been no firm deadlines to date as to the delivery of the paper.

The first step in this process was the settlement of the March 2012 promissory note repayment with a long term Government bond. While the development in relation to the end March payment was a positive development we have always been keeping our eye on the greater benefits which would derive from the re-engineering of the promissory note and also the potential improvements for the continuing banking sector which could also stem from the on-going technical discussions. It is for these reasons that the end March payment was seen as an initial step in a medium term process.

I have always stated that our problems are part of a wider European dilemma and any solution to address the Irish situation must be as part of an overall Eurozone/global solution. The recent shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign is to be welcomed and represents a major step forward. While the details, structures and arrangements have yet to be finalised the policy statement provides a basis for a Eurozone solution to what is essentially a Eurozone problem. Issues around the structuring and treatment of capital provided to the banks, including IBRC will be addressed in this context.

The Irish Government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt and further detailed work will be stepped up to ensure that the positive moves in Europe are harnessed to maximise the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Euro group meeting on 9th July.

Bank Debt Restructuring

Robert Troy

Question:

35 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in seeking to warehouse tracker mortgages in a manner that reduces the funding pressure on banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32709/12]

As the Deputy can appreciate, officials from the Irish Authorities are in constant on-going dialogue, with all of the covered institutions with a view to considering and implementing structures and solutions which would seek to advance the overall financial system. As and when further measures are agreed/solutions emerge I will inform the Houses as appropriate. The recent very welcome Euro Area summit statement represents a major shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign. This is an agreement in principal and the detailed work will now begin to maximise the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. The Irish government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt. This agreement provides an opportunity for the issue of the bank debt to be addressed at an EU level.

The Irish Government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt and further detailed work will be stepped up to ensure that the positive moves in Europe are harnessed to maximise the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Euro group meeting on 9th July. As part of this process the Government has specifically committed to a number of issues including:

A review of the arrangements that were put in place to capitalise IBRC — formerly Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.

The Restructuring plan for Permanent TSB plc was submitted to the European Commission on the 29 June 2012.

Promissory Notes

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

36 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the current status of the negotiations to restructure the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30512/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has been fully committed to reviewing the arrangements that were put in place to capitalise IBRC. The purpose of this review was to determine if there is a way to reduce the overall cost to the State. In tandem with this review the troika have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to enhance the position of banks in which the State has a major investment. The first step in this process was the settlement of the March 2012 promissory note repayment with a long term Government bond. While the development in relation to the end March payment was a positive development we have always been keeping our eye on the greater benefits which would derive from the re-engineering of the promissory note and also the potential improvements for the continuing banking sector which could also stem from the on-going technical discussions. It is for these reasons that the end March payment was seen as an initial step in a medium term process.

I have always stated that our problems are part of a wider European dilemma and any solution to address the Irish situation must be as part of an overall Eurozone/global solution. The recent shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign is to be welcomed and represents a major step forward. While the details, structures and arrangements have yet to be finalised the policy statement provides a basis for a Eurozone solution to what is essentially a Eurozone problem. Issues around the structuring and treatment of capital provided to the banks, including IBRC will be addressed in this context.

The Irish Government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt and further detailed work will be stepped up to ensure that the positive moves in Europe are harnessed to maximise the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Euro group meeting on 9th July.

Credit Unions Regulation

Billy Kelleher

Question:

37 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the Irish League of Credit Unions regarding the restructuring of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32715/12]

The Government established the Commission on Credit Unions in May 2011 to review the future of the credit union movement and to make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions. The Commission, which included two members of the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), met on 29 occasions before publishing its Final Report on 18 April 2012. Restructuring of the credit union sector formed a core element of the recommendations in the Report which was fully agreed by all members. The Commission reconvened on 14 June 2012 to discuss the General Scheme of the Credit Union Bill 2012, which was published on 28 June 2012 and contains legislative proposals on a number of issues, including the restructuring of the credit union sector which reflects the approach agreed by the Commission in its Report.

The Credit Union Restructuring Board (the ReBo) will be established in the coming weeks, as per the recommendation of the Commission. The role of the ReBo Board is to oversee and facilitate the restructuring of the credit union sector and will include credit union representative bodies, as recommended in the Commission Report.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 18.

Fiscal Policy

John Halligan

Question:

40 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Finance with regard to the recent EU meeting on the European banking crisis, the relief Irish citizens may expect in terms of an end to and reversal of cuts and austerity measures over the coming period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32758/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if following negotiations between EU governments he expects to be in a position to review the economic outlook in terms of the possible restructuring of this country’s borrowings or debt. [32868/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

58 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when he expects to be in a position to capitalise on the outcome of recent discussions at EU level with particular reference to sovereign debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32869/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has evaluated the extent that recent events at EU level are likely to impact on the cost and duration of this country’s debt and bailout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32943/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 57, 58 and 71 together.

Last week's announcement following the euro area summit in Brussels represents a major shift in European policy in terms of breaking the link between recapitalising the banks and the sovereign, a policy change that I have repeatedly pressed for at EU meetings. This message has been echoed by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other Ministers in meetings with their EU colleagues.

The specific mention of Ireland in the statement issued following the summit is a welcome development and is the result of intensive discussions over the past year. It shows that there is widespread recognition for the measures this country has implemented and the significant sacrifices that Irish people have taken to bring our public finances under control.

This is an agreement in principle which provides an opportunity for the issue of bank debt to be addressed at an EU level. As the details have yet to be worked out, it is too early to say at this time what the precise implications of the announcement will be. There will be further discussions at the Eurogroup meeting on 9th July.

Preliminary discussions on how to separate banking from sovereign debt are underway but I do not want to prejudice them by commenting on the likely contents of any agreement at this time. Because of their complexity the discussions are likely to take some time. Our shared objective, agreed with our European colleagues is to break the link between banks and sovereigns and we are open to discussing any method of doing this.

In relation to the Memorandum of Understanding, the current position is that a budgetary consolidation package of some €3.5 billion in 2013 is set out as that required to reduce the General Government deficit to 7.5 per cent of GDP next year.

Ideally, I would like to see a resolution of the banking debt issue by the end of October but I think it is unlikely that the agreement reached last week will affect our plans for Budget 2013 which will be announced in early December.

This announcement is undoubtedly a positive development for Ireland. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that notwithstanding the very considerable negative effect State support for the banking system has had on the public finances, including the debt level, there remains a large gap between day to day spending and revenues. This needs to be closed so as to enhance further the long-term sustainability of our public finances.

Questions Nos. 41 and 42 answered with Question No. 11.

Tax Code

Martin Heydon

Question:

43 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance his plans for reform of the betting tax model; the tax structures that are being considered; the progress that it is being made regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32756/12]

It was announced in Budget 2011 that the necessary arrangements are being made to ensure that bets placed on the internet by domestic punters are subject to the same level of betting duty as applies to high street betting shops. This will serve to broaden the tax base and increase betting duty receipts. The Finance Act 2011 provides for the taxation of bets that remote bookmakers enter into with persons in the State. This means, for example, that a business which engages in online bookmaking and which accepts bets from people in this country will be liable for betting duty on those bets, irrespective of where that business is based. The existing betting duty (1%) will be applied to such bets. The Finance Act also provides for the taxation of Betting Exchanges under the new arrangements; however the calculation of the tax will take account of their particular business model, in other words a tax on the commission charged. In addition, excise duties are being applied to the granting and renewal of remote bookmakers' and remote betting intermediaries' licences.

The proposed Betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will establish the regulatory framework for these licences. The tax changes provided for in the Finance Act can only be implemented once the Betting (Amendment) Bill is enacted. This Bill is well advanced and it is hoped that it will be published this session.

I am hopeful that by including the high-growth area of the betting sector the tax base from betting will be boosted significantly.

Economic Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

44 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent of his discussions with his EU counterparts with particular reference to addressing the ongoing fiscal and economic issues affecting the eurozone; if he has managed to achieve an understanding to the effect that this country and its people are courageously committed to economic recovery and stability; if it is expected that recognition of this position might manifest itself in any particular way which might be beneficial to the economy and the general public here and as a consequence to economic revival in Europe in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32810/12]

I regularly meet with my EU and euro area counterparts to discuss fiscal, banking and economic issues affecting both the EU and the euro area. These typically take the format of scheduled monthly meetings of the ECOFIN Council and the Eurogroup. In addition, I participate in teleconferences of Finance Ministers when important issues arise that require immediate discussion. In relation to the efforts of the Irish people, I can assure the Deputy that there is a broad recognition that Ireland has taken strong ownership of its economic adjustment programme, with programme implementation being very good.

The Deputy will be aware that Heads of State or Government of the euro area have decided that once an effective supervisory mechanism is established, the ESM could have the possibility to recapitalise euro area banks directly. This is a very positive development from an Irish perspective, offering the possibility of reducing the amount of bank debt that is currently counted as part of sovereign debt. I think it is fair to say that strong and consistent programme implementation was probably a factor in the decision of HoSG to explicitly refer to Ireland in the statement following the meeting.

Fuel Prices

Áine Collins

Question:

45 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Finance if his Department will provide some relief on the cost of fuel for commercial use to combat the fuel laundering that is prevalent throughout the country. [32108/12]

As the Deputy is aware a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas. This working group had a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern to the haulage industry. I have recently received a submission from the group and I am considering the matters raised. I note the recent trend in falling oil prices and I hope that this continuing fall is reflected in the price of auto-diesel for hauliers at the pumps.

Pat Breen

Question:

46 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on his engagement with the Irish Road Haulage Association; the position regarding the working group’s submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31653/12]

As the Deputy is aware a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas. This working group had a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern to the haulage industry. I have recently received a submission from the group and I am considering the matters raised. I note the recent trend in falling oil prices and I hope that this continuing fall is reflected in the price of auto-diesel for hauliers at the pumps.

Áine Collins

Question:

47 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Finance the impact the current cost of fuel is having on the road haulage industry. [32107/12]

As the Deputy is aware a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas. This working group had a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern to the haulage industry. I have recently received a submission from the group and I am considering the matters raised. I note the recent trend in falling oil prices and I hope that this continuing fall is reflected in the price of auto-diesel for hauliers at the pumps.

Job Creation

Sean Fleming

Question:

48 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the way Ireland can benefit from the compact for growth as discussed at the recent EU summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32463/12]

Heads of State or Government in the EU decided on a compact for growth and jobs at the European Council on 28th June. This involves action by Member States and at EU level in order to boost growth, investment and employment. Measures to be implemented at national level include the full implementation of the country-specific recommendations from the European Semester as well as pursuing differentiated growth-friendly fiscal consolidation. From an Irish perspective, I want to assure the Deputy that the required consolidation over the next few years will be pursued in as growth-friendly a manner as possible.

A number of measures are to be implemented at EU level in order to boost growth, and I believe the cumulative impact of all of these measures will have a positive impact in terms of supporting economic activity in the EU at this difficult juncture. This, in turn, can be expected to benefit Ireland, given the importance of the EU as a trading partner.

At EU level, the measures announced include a deepening of the Single Market and reducing the regulatory burden. Another important measure is the mobilisation of €120 billion — about 1 per cent of EU gross national income — to boost European growth. Part of this stems from a €10 billion paid-in capital increase for the European Investment Bank, which almost doubles the lending capacity of the Bank. This is of particular interest to Ireland because the Bank has been an important source of funding. Funds have amounted to an average of €500 million per annum covering commercial semi-states, local authorities, road projects (PPPs) and loans to banks for on-lending to SMEs. The Exchequer can also borrow directly from the EIB in respect of capital projects such as school-building.

In this context, I would point out that EIB President Werner Hoyer will be visiting Dublin tomorrow to meet with myself and Minister Howlin in order to discuss how the EIB can work with Ireland to explore the possibility of developing flexible and innovative funding solutions to invest in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

49 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the Human Rights Watch detailed investigation of the forced movement of rural populations from pastoral communities by the Ethiopian Government to make way for state-run sugar plantations and other infrastructure developments without a process of consultation or compensation for indigenous and local populations; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this process includes arbitrary arrests, detentions and beatings as part of forced removal of persons from traditional lands including the Omo valley which was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980; if he will highlight the need for more accountability and transparency in large scale infrastructure projects undergoing in Africa to prevent such an occurrence arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32859/12]

Ethiopia is one of the nine priority countries for the Government's development cooperation programme, where we have a commitment to long term strategic assistance.

Last month, Human Rights Watch published a new report on Ethiopia, titled "What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?" The report alleges that local communities, including pastoralists in the Lower Omo region, are being forced to move away from traditional land in order to make way for development infrastructure projects, including a hydroelectric dam and large-scale commercial agriculture. It is also alleged that the process involves harassment, violence and arbitrary arrests by local authorities.

We take very seriously any allegations of abuses of human rights. I have asked our Ambassador in Addis Ababa to examine these claims carefully and to follow up with the Ethiopian Government. I believe any credible allegations of this nature need to be fully investigated.

When I visited Ethiopia in January, I had a very good, wide-ranging discussion with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Berhane Gebre-Christos. I raised with him allegations of difficulties and abuses associated with the planning and implementation of resettlement programmes in another part of Ethiopia. I urged him to ensure that all allegations of concern, in particular those relating to human rights abuses, be investigated fully. The Minister stated that such abuses are not taking place, that the Ethiopian people had suffered as a result of resettlement schemes under the previous regime in Ethiopia and that his Government would never implement such policies.

I share the view that large scale infrastructure projects in Africa and elsewhere should be subject to the highest level of accountability and transparency. Ireland, together with other development partners, will continue to work with the Ethiopian Government, and other Governments in our partner countries, to ensure that they respect the rights of their citizens when planning and implementing such projects, and carry out and make available the necessary environmental and social assessments. We will also continue to raise the need to ensure that any resettlement of communities must only be carried out on a voluntary basis through full, open consultation, and with the provision of quality basic services to relocated populations.

Ireland has made a significant contribution to development and the fight against poverty and hunger in Ethiopia. In the past decade Ethiopia has recorded remarkable improvements in human development, as measured by the UN Human Development Index. This progress, which has been made with Irish support and support from other donors, is a strong example of the success of international development assistance when delivered in partnership with a developing country Government. However, positive development results and respect for human rights must go hand in hand. Ireland remains strongly committed to helping build good governance and the rights of the most vulnerable in Ethiopia and elsewhere, and this will remain a clear priority of our development assistance programme.

Departmental Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

50 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff by grade in the Irish Embassies in Sofia, Nicosia, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Mexico for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of these staff that are employed by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32893/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the following table:

Mission

Current staffing complement (Departmental employees, except where stated)

Changes in 2010 and 2011

Copenhagen

Officers posted from HQ: 1 Second Secretary (Ambassador); 1 Third Secretary.Local Staff: 1 PA to Ambassador; 2 Clerk Secretaries; 1 Driver; 1 Office Cleaner (0.4)

First Secretary post suppressed in 2010

Helsinki

Officers posted from HQ: 1 Counsellor (Ambassador); 1 Third Secretary.Local Staff: 2 Clerk Secretaries; 1 Driver / Messenger

None

Mexico

Officers posted from HQ: 1 Counsellor (Ambassador); 1 First Secretary; 1 Third Secretary.Local Staff: 1 PA to Ambassador; 2 Clerk Secretaries; 1 Driver / Messenger; 1 Driver (Agency staff)

None

Nicosia

Officers posted from HQ: 1 First Secretary (Ambassador); 1 Clerical Officer.Local Staff: 1 PA to Ambassador; 1 Clerk Secretary; 1 Driver / Messenger

Ambassador post re-graded from Counsellor to First Secretary level in 2010

Sofia

Officers posted from HQ: 1 Counsellor (Ambassador); 1 Third Secretary.Local Staff (all Agency staff)3 Clerk Secretaries1 Driver / Messenger

None

Family Law Cases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

51 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will clarify the position whereby the Irish father of a child born here, whose mother holds a passport from another jurisdiction, will restrict the right of the child’s mother to remove the child from this jurisdiction without the father’s consent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32948/12]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible under the terms of the Passports Act, 2008 (the Act) for the issue of Irish passports to Irish citizens. If the father has concerns about the issue of an Irish passport to his child, he may express his objections in writing in this matter to the Minister. Such an objection would be considered in the context of the terms of the Act. The Minister for Justice and Equality may be able to provide further details re the other aspects of this query.

Mortgage Arrears

Finian McGrath

Question:

52 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take regarding families experiencing difficulties in repaying mortgages to certain banks (details supplied) should proceed. [32825/12]

The Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments. The Deputy will be aware that the Interdepartmental Report on Mortgage Arrears indicated that the reform of personal insolvency legislation is a central catalyst to the resolution of the mortgage arrears problem. In particular, it indicated that new non-judicial debt settlement arrangements are vital to address the problem. The Government published the Personal Insolvency Bill last week and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has commenced second stage today in the Dáil, with a view to facilitating early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session. The legislation provides for a range of options, both non-judicial and judicial through reform of bankruptcy, for insolvent debtors to resolve their personal indebted positions. The Interdepartmental Report also recommended that a Mortgage Advice Service should be provided to advise people in their dealings with mortgage lenders. The Minister for Social Protection is now finalising the appropriate framework for the provision of this service.

Both of these measures will require the utilization of independent and professional expertise to best assist people in difficulty with their mortgages or other debts. In finalising these matters and putting in place the necessary structures, the key objective will be to provide the best possible service in the most efficient manner and this general approach does not preclude the non-profit sector or other sectors from appropriate involvement in those proposed important services.

Finally, it is important to point out that the Financial Services Ombudsman was established on a statutory basis as an independent body to deal with complaints from customers of financial service providers and will continue to fulfil this function. The Minister for Finance is not involved in the day to day workings of the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau.

Sovereign Debt

Catherine Murphy

Question:

53 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he has carried out an assessment of the debt redemption pact which was proposed by the German Council of Economic Experts on 10 of November 2011; if he or any other Department have had any discussion with the authors of the report or with the German Government regarding the possible inclusion of Ireland within such a pact should it be introduced; his views on whether the establishment of such a fund would be beneficial to the Irish State; if the establishment of such a fund will affect Ireland’s case for other debt management measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32846/12]

The study referred to by the Deputy concerns one possible approach to the debt crisis that Europe is trying to deal with at the moment. The particular approach envisaged would involve the effective mutualisation of eurozone sovereign debt above the level of 60% of GDP. As the Deputy will be aware, the statement issued following the Euro Area Summit on 29 June envisages the European Stabilisation Mechanism having the possibility of recapitalising banks directly, once an effective single supervisory mechanism for financial institutions is established. The statement issued also states that the Eurogroup will "examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme."

This is a very welcome development from the Euro Area summit and it represents a major shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign. It is an agreement in principle and the detailed work will now begin to maximize the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. The Irish government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt. This agreement provides an opportunity for the issue of the bank debt to be addressed at an EU level. There will be further discussions at the Eurogroup meeting on 9 July 2012.

Tax Credits

Dan Neville

Question:

54 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will issue a letter regarding amended tax credits in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [32850/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the original Tax Credit Certificate was not correct. The person in question drew the matter to attention and a revised Tax Credit Certificate for 2012 issued on the 21st June. This revised certificate deleted the reference to pension made on the previous certificate. A balancing statement for the year 2011 will also issue shortly correcting any error caused by the inclusion of a pension amount for that year. Revenue has apologised to the taxpayer.

Financial Services Ombudsman

Finian McGrath

Question:

55 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support the case of a person (details supplied); and if there is a scheme to help this person. [32863/12]

As the Deputy is aware, I do not comment on specific cases. However, I would advise that if an individual has made a formal complaint to the bank in question about the matter referred to and if they are not satisfied with the reply then I suggest that they contact the Financial Services Ombudsman in relation to this matter. The Financial Services Ombudsman is an independent office established to deal with consumer complaints about their dealings with financial institutions. The Financial Services Ombudsman can be contacted at:

3rd Floor, Lincoln House,

Lincoln Place,

Dublin 2

Lo Call: 1890 88 20 90

Email:enquiries@financialombudsman.ie

Website:www.financialombudsman.ie.

On a more general level, the Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments. The Deputy will be aware that the Interdepartmental Report on Mortgage Arrears indicated that the reform of personal insolvency legislation is a central catalyst to the resolution of the mortgage arrears problem. In particular, it indicated that new non-judicial debt settlement arrangements are vital to address the problem. The Government published the Personal Insolvency Bill last week and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has commenced second stage today in the Dáil, with a view to facilitating early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session. The legislation provides for a range of options, both non-judicial and through reform of bankruptcy, for insolvent debtors to resolve their personal indebted positions.

Bank Debt Restructuring

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

56 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he can quantify the benefits for this country of recent discussions at EU level in respect of banking and economic strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32867/12]

The Deputy will be aware that I have always stated that our problems are part of a wider European dilemma and any solution to address the Irish situation must be as part of an overall Eurozone/global solution. The recent shift in European policy in terms of breaking the vicious circle between the banks and the sovereign is to be welcomed and represents a major step forward. While the details structures and arrangements have yet to be finalised the policy statement provides a basis for a Eurozone solution to what is essentially a Eurozone problem. Issues around the structuring and treatment of capital provided to the banks will be addressed in this context. The Irish Government has been working extremely hard to secure a deal on the Irish bank debt and further detailed work will be stepped up to ensure that the positive moves in Europe are harnessed to maximize the benefit to the Irish taxpayer. This will be one of our key priorities between now and the end of year with the initial formal steps, at a European level, taking place at the Euro group meeting on 9th July.

However, the Deputy will appreciate that while the policy position is very positive indeed, it would not be possible at this stage of the process to attempt to quantify the benefits which will accrue to the economy and the Ireland generally.

Questions Nos. 57 and 58 answered with Question No. 40.
Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 17.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

60 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the new steps (details supplied) that contractors must now comply with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32905/12]

From 1 January 2012, the Revenue Commissioners have substantially modernised the operation of Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT). Key features of the new scheme are a streamlining of the processes for the submission of information and payments to Revenue and the introduction of a new RCT rate at the standard rate of 20%. The latter was designed to improve the cash-flow position of tax compliant subcontractors with a view to boosting employment prospects in the sector. Revenue has introduced a dedicated online facility which now offers principal contractors a fast, efficient and paper free system. This has had the effect of significantly reducing the administrative burden associated with RCT for both compliant principals and subcontractors. There has been a very broad welcome among the tax compliant trade for the significant benefits associated with the radical reform of the RCT scheme. There has been no change in terms of the obligations on principal contractors to notify Revenue of details of subcontractors whom they engage to carry out contracts. For this purpose, the details to be supplied by subcontractors to principal contractors on engagement remain unchanged.

Tax Collection

Michael McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the level of revenue generated for the Exchequer from residential stamp duty in each of the past ten years in tabular form; the number of individual residential stamp duty cases for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32917/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

62 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the level of revenue generated for the Exchequer from commercial stamp duty by year in each of the past ten years in tabular form; the number of individual residential stamp duty cases for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32918/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 62 together.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the yield from Stamp Duty on residential and non-residential property, together with the numbers of duty paid transactions, is as set out in the following tables. As indicated below, a breakdown between residential and non-residential transactions is not available for 2010 and 2011.

Residential Property

Year

€m

Number of Duty Paid Transactions

2002

349

Not available

2003

528

35,000

2004

752

43,942

2005

945

44,799

2006

1,311

52,901

2007

1,018

41,079

2008

445

25,371

2009

150

11,766

2010*

107

41,703*

2011*

50

47,030*

*The figures for numbers of Duty Paid Transactions shown for 2010 and 2011 include both residential and non-residential property transactions because a breakdown between the two is not available.

Non-residential Property

Year

€m

Number of Duty Paid Transactions

2002

317

Not available

2003

547

Not available

2004

709

40,572

2005

1,057

43,674

2006

1,678

45,834

2007

1,363

37,900

2008

600

32,847

2009

179

21,895

2010*

92

41,703*

2011*

101

47,030*

*The figures for numbers of Duty Paid Transactions shown for 2010 and 2011 include both residential and non-residential property transactions because a breakdown between the two is not available.

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the approximate level of VAT generated for the Exchequer from the sale of new residential housing in each of the past ten years in tabular form; the number of cases for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32919/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to furnish precise figures of the VAT take from residential property transactions, as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified. However, based on data published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the estimated yield from residential property transactions, which includes sales of new and social housing, is set out in the following table alongside the numbers of house completions for each year.

Year

VAT Yield €m

Number of House Completions

2002

1,101

57,295

2003

1,541

68,419

2004

1,940

76,554

2005

2,405

80,557

2006

2,727

93,019

2007

2,487

77,627

2008

1,289

51,324

2009

652

26,420

2010*

333

14,602

2011*

159

10,480

*Figures are provisional.

Budget Targets

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

64 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that all targets set in the current year's budget are achievable; the possible exemptions if any; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32920/12]

Under the terms of the ECOFIN Council decision of December 2010, the State's General Government deficit must not exceed 8.6 per cent of GDP this year. This is the main quantitative budgetary target set for 2012. While there will inevitably be some pluses and minuses in the various revenue and expenditure areas, I am satisfied, primarily on the basis of the Exchequer Returns for the first half of the year, that the 8.6 per cent of GDP target will be achieved.

Financial Services Regulation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

65 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the procedure followed to record the level of default or refusal by insurers to honour mortgage protection contracts in both the domestic and commercial sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32921/12]

I have been advised by the Central Bank that, following their latest inspection into the sale of Payment Protection Insurance, the Bank has identified a number of concerns arising from the inspection. The inspection was carried out in order to determine compliance with the provisions of the 2006 Consumer Protection Code, now revised since 1 January 2012. As a result of the inspection, the Central Bank is requiring the seven firms inspected to conduct a comprehensive review of all of their PPI sales from August 2007 to date. The firms are requested to respond to the Central Bank by 17 August 2012. Copy of the Press Release dated 2 July 2012 and a copy of the letter issued to the firms concerned are available on the Central Bank's website:www.centralbank.ie. As I have indicated in a reply to a Parliamentary Questions on this subject on 28 June 2012, the Financial Services Ombudsman has advised me that, since 1 January 2007, his Office has received the following number of complaints from consumers in relation to mortgage protection insurance policies:

Year

Total number of complaints received

2007

91

2008

80

2009

129

2010

182

2011

200

2012 (to date)

88

As the Deputy is aware, the Ombudsman is independent in the carrying out of investigations of complaints from consumers and in his determinations thereon. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on any findings which he has or will issue in regard to this matter.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which this country’s competitiveness has improved in each of the past five years and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32922/12]

Substantial progress has been made in terms of improving our competitiveness. Relatively lower price inflation over the last number of years means that Irish price levels have fallen relative to our major trading partners. At the same time there has been a significant improvement in our cost competitiveness. Indeed, the European Commission recently forecast that our nominal unit labour costs will have fallen by a cumulative 16.5 percentage points in the period 2009-2013 compared to an increase of 6.6 percentage points for the euro area as a whole. Furthermore, from a macro-economic perspective an important measure of competitiveness across the euro area is the real Harmonised Competitiveness Indicator (HCI). This reflects relative consumer prices trends together with exchange rate developments and is produced by the Central Bank of Ireland. Since mid-2008, the real HCI has fallen by almost 20 per cent, indicating an improvement in our international competitiveness.

On foot of these positive developments, we have seen a recovery in our exports as well as an improvement in inward foreign direct investment, and I am encouraged by this. Having said that, further improvements in competitiveness are clearly needed in order to make significant inroads into the unacceptably high rate of unemployment that we are currently faced with.

Tax Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

67 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the level to which he expects tax revenue returns under various headings to meet targets in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32923/12]

The performance of Exchequer tax revenues against target in the period to end-June is set out in the following table:

Exchequer Tax Revenues

End-June 2012 Target €m

End-June 2012 Outturn €m

Excess/Shortfall €m

Excess/Shortfall %

Income Tax

6,846

7,061

215

3.1%

VAT

5,160

5,189

29

0.6%

Corporation Tax

1,706

1,980

274

16.1%

Excise

2,244

2,209

-35

-1.6%

Stamps

225

222

-3

-1.2%

Capital Gains Tax

161

172

11

6.5%

Capital Acquisitions Tax

53

47

-6

-11.3%

Customs

112

109

-3

-2.6%

Levies

0

Unallocated Tax Deposits

26

Total

16,507

17,014

507

3.1%

Rounding may affect totals

The performance of tax revenues in the year to date is encouraging but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are only half-way through the year and there are significant targets to meet in the months ahead, particularly in the fourth quarter. November is expected to be the biggest month of the year for tax revenue collection given the concentration of corporation tax and income tax, particularly from the self-employed, in that month.

Close to 47 per cent of total Exchequer tax revenues expected this year have so far been collected. While I do not wish to speculate about the likelihood of how individual tax revenues might perform in the second half of the year, I am reasonably confident, on the basis of data for the first six months, that total aggregate tax revenue will meet target this year.

Questions Nos. 68 to 70, inclusive, answered with Question No. 20.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 40.

Economic Growth

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the economic fundamentals have changed in the course of the past eight years with particular reference to the need to achieving established and or accepted targets for borrowing, lending, growth and debt ratios; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32944/12]

Following three successive years in which output fell, positive growth returned to the Irish economy last year. The recovery is expected to continue this year, and to both broaden and gain ground in 2013. Over the medium term, a return to robust and more sustainable growth is foreseen. While exports are expected to continue supporting economic activity, a gradual pick-up in domestic demand is also projected as the recovery broadens further and spills over to the labour market. We have also seen that 2011 marked a record year for inward Foreign Direct Investment and the pipeline remains strong. All of this points to the fact that many of the underlying strengths of our economy remain, including a well-educated workforce, favourable demographics, an open and flexible economy and a pro-enterprise environment. Of course there are many challenges which we still face and it will take time to work through the legacies of the crisis. Not least of these is the high level of Government debt which we have accumulated. Substantial corrective action has been taken to return stability to the public finances and we are on track to bring the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, in line with the targets set.

As the Deputy is aware, the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the period 2011-2013. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20 billion over this period. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period.

The Government has imposed lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. Both banks achieved their 2011 targets. The pillar banks are required to submit their lending plans to the Department and the Credit Review Office (CRO) at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. The banks also meet with the Department and the CRO on a quarterly basis to discuss progress. The banks provide my Department and the CRO with monthly returns outlining their SME lending figures, broken down at a sectoral and regional level. The monthly management meetings with the pillar banks also provide a forum for the issue of SME lending to be raised by my Department.

National Asset Management Agency

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

73 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which the National Asset Management Agency owned properties are expected to realise by way of sale or other methodology a price above or below that paid by NAMA originally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32945/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

74 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if there are any recent indicator to the effect that properties held by the National Asset Management Agency in the short, medium and long term are likely to achieve a profit for the organisation in accordance with expectations as set out during the passage of relevant legislation to the effect that property price inflation over a ten-year period would result in a profit for the organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32946/12]

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

I have advised the House previously that the NAMA Board has recently completed a review of its strategy in light of developments in the Irish economy and in the property markets since it published its first business plan in July 2010. Key factors considered by the Board as part of its strategic review include the performance of the various economies in which its debtors' assets are located, the timing and sustainability of any recovery in the property market in Ireland, the sustainability of the UK property market, the availability of finance and the extent to which it can maximise the level of income produced by the property assets securing its loans. On the basis of this review, NAMA has re-affirmed to me its expectation that it will at least break even over its projected ten-year lifetime. This means that it is on course to recoup for the taxpayer, at minimum, the Senior Bonds issued as consideration for acquired loans, the working and development capital expenditure advanced to debtors and the recovery of its operating costs.

Whilst it is difficult, in the middle of 2012, to take a definitive perspective on what will happen in the property markets over a ten year period, I concur with the view taken by the NAMA Board and would ask the Deputy to consider the following factors, which provide a sound basis for concurring with the Board's assessment.

Having completed due diligence and having had the opportunity to fully assess its property portfolio in more detail, NAMA advises over 70% of its portfolio comprises completed investment and residential properties; and that the vast bulk of assets are in or close to the main urban centres in Ireland and in Britain. In Ireland, over 90% of properties are located in the key growth centres of Dublin and surrounding counties, Cork, Limerick and Galway. The same pattern is evident in Northern Ireland, where NAMA assets are primarily located in Belfast and in contiguous centres, and in Britain where NAMA's portfolio is characterised by a pronounced London bias.

NAMA's strategy, which is predicated on a taking a longer-term view of its property portfolio, is tailored to the specific circumstances of the markets in which it operate. NAMA advises that over the short-term it is selling in those markets where there is demand and liquidity, which accounts for the fact that over 80% of completed sales since inception relate to assets located in Britain, and is otherwise developing and enhancing assets under the control of its debtors and receivers, particularly in Ireland, to optimise the value of these assets over the medium and long term.

The Deputy will note for instance the Agency's recent announcement of its intention to invest up to €2 billion in development capital over the period to 2016 to preserve, enhance and complete residential and commercial projects in Ireland and to develop greenfield sites to meet foreseeable demand. The Agency is also working to otherwise increase the attractiveness of its assets and also working to address outstanding legal, title, planning and construction deficiencies where these exist. Its objective is to add and create value across its portfolio to ensure the maximum obtainable realised proceeds from the ultimate disposal of each asset. Furthermore NAMA is addressing the lack of credit available by making up to €2 billion in of vendor finance available for sales of commercial property. NAMA is not immune to what is occurring in the wider national and international economies.

On the basis of these factors I reiterate my confidence in the NAMA Board's assessment that it will, at minimum, achieve a break even outcome over its lifetime by ensuring the maximum achievable value from its property portfolio.

School Transport

Michael McCarthy

Question:

75 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider an application to access the school transport service (details supplied); if he will consider the difficulties the decision will cause for the family involved in terms of cost and inconvenience; if he will take into consideration the fact that it is not possible for the family to reside where Bus Éireann have advised they should in order to access this service; the alternative options that are available in this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32875/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of my Department, determine eligibility by measuring the shortest traversable route from a child's home to the relevant education centre.

The family referred to by the Deputy are not attending their nearest post primary school and are therefore not eligible for school transport under the terms of the scheme.

School Staffing

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

76 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 93 of 28 June 2012, if this school (details supplied) in County Donegal will be able to retain its two teachers until the outcome of the appeals board has been decided in October 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32844/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools are 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 staffing schedule for the 2012-2013 school year, Circular 0007/2012, is available on my Department's website. The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy is being reduced by two posts, one mainstream classroom post and one learning support resource post for the coming school year 2012/13. The Board of Management of the school has appealed the loss of the mainstream classroom post. The Deputy will be aware that the Primary Staffing Appeals Board deferred a decision on the appeal at its meeting on 14 June, 2012 to the October meeting when confirmation of the enrolment projected by the school for 30 September, 2012 will be available.

The two teachers concerned have been successfully redeployed for the coming school year, 2012/13.

School Management

Brendan Smith

Question:

77 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that every school has a board of management set up as required under legislation; the details of each school that does not have a board of management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32871/12]

In accordance with the provisions of Section 14(1) of the Education Act 1998, it is "the duty of the school patron, for the purposes of ensuring that a recognised school is managed in a spirit of partnership, to appoint where practicable a board of management the composition of which is agreed between patrons of schools, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations, recognised trade unions and staff associations representing teachers and the Minister". The agreed composition and procedures for the appointment of Boards of primary schools are set out in my Department's publication "Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2011". The term of office of outgoing Boards of all of the circa 3300 primary schools expired on 30 November 2011 with new Boards being appointed from 1 December 2011.

Under the agreed procedures at primary level, when the Board is appointed, the Patron is required to submit a declaration to my Department confirming same. The process of updating the Department's records from the declarations received from patrons of primary schools is ongoing within my Department at present.

In the case of voluntary secondary schools, the patrons of the majority of these schools have traditionally been religious communities or Boards of Governors and the composition and appointment procedures for their Boards are generally set out in the Articles of Management of such schools. Boards of Management of VEC second level schools are sub-committees of the VEC while Community and Comprehensive schools are managed by Boards of Management of differing compositions appointed in accordance with the relevant Deed of Trust.

The various procedures for the appointment of Boards across the three sectors at post-primary level do not require patrons of post-primary schools to formally confirm each Board's appointment to my Department. Accordingly, information in relation to the number of such schools which do not currently have a Board is not readily available. It should be noted that, under the provisions of the Act, where a patron determines that the appointment of a board is not practicable, or where the patron, with the consent of the Minister, has dissolved a board of management, the patron may appoint a manager or managers to perform the functions of the board.

Higher Education Courses

Brian Walsh

Question:

78 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reviewing the assessment process for a third level course application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway to allow this person to complete an assessment test in view of the fact that course assessments have already taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32904/12]

Under the Universities Act 1997 universities are autonomous institutions and the management of their academic affairs, including admissions criteria and processes, are matters for the individual institutions concerned. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to the processing of applications for entry to higher education courses.

FÁS Training Programmes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

79 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who holds a spousal work permit qualifies for back to work, FÁS training or a community employment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32932/12]

I understand that the person in question is entitled to participate on a FÁS training course because she is in receipt of a Jobseekers Allowance since September 2010. Matters relating to Back to Work and Community Employment Schemes are more appropriate for the Minister of Social Protection.

Tree Remediation

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

80 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to save the plane tree in Leinster House on the extreme right of the Kildare Street entrance as it appears to be in a distressed state; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32833/12]

OPW has commissioned an urgent report on the condition of the tree from a consultant arborist. Any remedial action required on foot of the report will be undertaken as soon as possible.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

81 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the plans he has to reduce the levels of pension paid to former politician and Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32835/12]

A number of reforms have been introduced in relation to Public Service pension entitlements which affect Ministerial pensions. Under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, Ministerial pensions are not payable to new Oireachtas Members (as defined in the Act) before 65 years of age and, under the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act 2009, Ministerial pensions are no longer payable to sitting Members of the Oireachtas following the last general election, or to Members of the European Parliament following the next elections to the Parliament.

Public Service pensions for former Ministers who retire after February 2012 will be reduced in line with the substantial pay reductions applied under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Acts, and for those who retired before the end of February the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR) applies. I recently provided for an increase in the rate of PSPR that applies to pensions over €100,000 to 20%. Furthermore, the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) Bill, which is currently before the Dáil, will introduce a new Single Public Service Pension Scheme with a new minimum pension age of 66, rising in due course with the age at which the State Pension (Contributory) will become payable. This will apply to all new Members of the Oireachtas, including new entrant Ministers, as defined in the Bill. This Bill also provides pensions for all Public Servants who are subject to this Bill to be based on career average earnings, as opposed to the current final salary basis.

It is important to point out that legal advice from the Attorney General says that it is possible to apply proportionate reductions to existing pensions, as has been done to date in the FEMPI legislation. However, account must be taken of the fact that pension benefits are considered to be property rights, which limits the action that can be taken. Finally, I would remind you that Members of the Oireachtas, including Ministers, have not been insulated from the financial crisis which has affected and continues to affect all sectors of the economy; and, as the above demonstrates, they have been required to make a significant contribution to the national effort to restore the public finances to a sustainable path.

Departmental Agencies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

82 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the current orientation of Science Foundation of Ireland which is focusing more on research that will lead to a quick economic return as opposed to blue skies research that is more focused on pure research with longer term outcomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32899/12]

The Government's strategy in relation to funding research and development in Ireland through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is to foster the long term development and competitiveness of enterprise and industry in the State. SFI was established to build a world class research capability in support of this strategy, and the Foundation has been successful in building human and physical research infrastructure over the past decade such that Ireland has ascended the international rankings for research in a number of disciplines.

Consistent with Government policy, as detailed in the Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, the new Intellectual Property Protocol and the Advisory Science Council's Report on the Sustainability of Research Centres, SFI is seeking to build upon the groundwork already put in place by continuing to invest in excellent research and by engendering greater impact from its funded research for the benefit of Ireland. In this context, legislation is in preparation to enable SFI to fund applied research in addition to its existing remit to fund oriented basic research. This will not result in the abandonment of its funding of oriented basic research but is aimed at supporting the further development of ideas and new knowledge towards commercialisation.

Given Ireland's current circumstances there is a need to accelerate the delivery of economic and societal benefits from our investment in research by prioritising resources in areas of opportunity, building closer collaboration between the research base and enterprise and making it easier to commercialise and use new knowledge. However, we recognise that we cannot sustain this without maintaining the world class research base that we have built over the past decade. Therefore we must succeed in both maintaining our research base and accelerating the delivery of the benefits of this investment at the same time and within the resources available.

State Agencies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

83 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any concern has been raised with him regarding the commercial interests or former interests of a person (details supplied); and if this creates a potential conflict of interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32900/12]

The Board of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) appointed Professor Mark Ferguson earlier this year following an extensive international recruitment process. Professor Ferguson has an extensive track record over the past three decades in both the academic and commercial spheres. Upon joining SFI, Professor Ferguson, as required of all employees, signed the Code of Business Conduct for Employees which sets out in written form the agreed standards of principle and practice which inform the conduct of staff members of SFI. Incorporated within this Code is an obligation upon the individual to disclose to the Board Secretary any matters that could give rise to a conflict of interest as soon as that conflict becomes apparent. I have no concerns about Professor Ferguson's commercial interests. Professor Ferguson resigned as Non-executive Chairman of Renovo Group plc. and Consultant to Renovo on 15th January 2012 before taking up the Director General position at SFI.

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 14 June 2012, the mechanism a person (details supplied) in County Kildare needs to obtain to have their entitlements granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32858/12]

Under the Redundancy Payment Scheme eligible employees (with at least two years continuous service in fully insurable employment) are entitled to a minimum statutory lump sum payment on being made redundant. A redundancy situation arises in general where an employee's job no longer exists and he/she is not replaced. An employee is entitled to two weeks pay for every year of service, with a bonus week added on, subject to the prevailing maximum ceiling on gross weekly pay which is currently €600. In addition, employees are entitled to notice as per the Minimum Notice Act prior to termination of employment.

A claim for a Redundancy payment should be made in the first instance to the employer. Where an employer fails to comply with their redundancy payment/minimum notice obligations or where there is a dispute regarding entitlements, claims may be referred by the employee to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). The form and further details on taking a case are available on the Workplace Relations Customer Services websitewww.workplacerelations.ie or through their Information Service at 1890 80 80 90.

Time limits apply to making claims accordingly the following should be noted—

Claims to the EAT must be made within 52 weeks from—

(i) the date of dismissal or

(ii) the date of ending of contract of employment.

In certain cases and for good cause, the EAT may allow claims made within 104 weeks.

Where it appears that an employer is unable or unwilling to pay any redundancy sum due, the employee should make a claim on a form RP50 to—

The Department of Social Protection

Redundancy Payments Section

Floor 2,

Department of Social Protection,

Block C,

The Earlsfort Centre,

Lower Hatch Street,

Dublin 2.

Telephone: 1890 800 699.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

85 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in regard to a jobseeker’s allowance appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32816/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office a decision will issue to the person concerned within the next 7-10 days.

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.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

86 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a jobseeker’s benefit appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made on the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32826/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 February 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 6 March 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Dan Neville

Question:

87 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are instances when a Department official will grant rent allowance even if the applicant is not a qualified applicant on the council’s housing list. [32829/12]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible tenants 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 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

At the time of application for a rent supplement, the claimant must:

have been residing in private rented accommodation (where at the commencement of the tenancy the person could have reasonably afforded the rent and has experienced a substantial change in his or her circumstances where they are now unable to pay the rent) or accommodation for homeless persons or in 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, or

have had an assessment of housing need carried out within the 12 months preceding the date of claim and have been deemed to be eligible for and in need of social housing support.

In all other cases, a person who wishes to apply for rent supplement will be referred, in the first instance, for an assessment of eligibility for social housing support by a housing authority. 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.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

88 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will include a member of a group (details supplied) as one of the three NGO representatives reserved for the review of the domiciliary care allowance system as they are representatives of multiple disabilities and whose members are also members of a range of other groups; her views on whether a member of this group as part of the review of the DCA system will ensure that input from parents on the front line of children with disabilities will be represented and that this will contribute to the establishment of a fair and workable system to overcome the review process. [32860/12]

The review of the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) scheme, as recently announced will commence shortly. The group undertaking the review will be comprised of representatives from a number of government Departments, the National Disability Authority and other persons with relevant experience. Three representatives from a working group established by Downs Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, the Carers Association and Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities have been invited to be part of the review group. It is considered that this broad representation will reflect the issues and views of the vast majority of parents on the matter.

The terms of reference for the review allows for a consultation process with parents and representative groups to be held. This will allow for all parents and groups not directly represented on the working group to input their concerns and suggestions to the review process.

Proposed Legislation

Jack Wall

Question:

89 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection her views regarding a submission (details supplied); her plans to address the issues and concerns raised; if she has had any meetings with other Departments regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32872/12]

The Government agreed to the drafting of legislation to provide for a change in the way the assets of a pension scheme are disbursed following wind-up of an under-funded scheme. This is a complex and sensitive issue that requires any proposed solution to achieve the desired level of equity for all scheme members.

Officials from my Department are currently undertaking a detailed examination of possible alternative options. Further technical expertise is also being sought and, following consultations with stakeholders, I will consider bringing forward proposals for inclusion in a forthcoming Social Welfare and Pensions Bill.

Invalidity Pension

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

90 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision on an appeal for disablement pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly is available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32877/12]

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

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

Rent Supplement Scheme

Martin Heydon

Question:

91 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 20 June 2012, if a case for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32928/12]

The person concerned was awarded a discretionary once off payment of €800 in March 2011 by his local Community Welfare Officer in relation to his housing. His application for payment of a rent supplement was made in April 2011 and was assessed by the Central Rents Unit which has been responsible for rent allowance claims in this area since December 2009. The person concerned did not furnish a housing needs assessment from his local authority as required under the rules of the scheme until the 10th May 2012. The application can only be awarded from the date of the housing needs assessment.

The claim of the person concerned was not affected by the transfer of the community welfare service from the HSE to this Department.

FÁS Training Programmes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who holds a spousal work permit qualifies for back to work, FÁS training or a community employment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32933/12]

The person concerned will be contacted by the facilitator at her local social welfare office regarding her eligibility for the schemes in question.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

93 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when arrears of rent supplement are likely to issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose rent support was terminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32935/12]

The rent supplement payment for the person concerned was temporarily suspended while the Department established his earnings in relation to the recently obtained part time employment. As this information has now been provided, the entitlement has been reinstated and all outstanding arrears have been paid.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent of any entitlement to jobseeker’s allowance or family income supplement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32936/12]

According to the records of this Department, the person concerned has not applied for a jobseeker's allowance payment. Her partner is currently in receipt of a family income supplement payment.

Carer’s Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review, approve or refer to appeal the application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32937/12]

The order to qualify for carer's allowance the applicant must meet the qualifying conditions, one of which is that the carer must not be employed or self-employed outside the home for more than 15 hours per week. The application from the person in question was refused on the grounds that they are working/self-employed outside the home in excess of 15 hours per week. The person in question will be contacted directly to explain the situation and her options should she decide to reduce her hours to take up full-time caring duties.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

96 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if a full investigation will be undertaken; if the current case will be examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32938/12]

The person concerned has applied for rent supplement at the rate applicable to himself and one child and not two as stated in the question. In cases where parents have joint custody of a child, the needs of both parents to have adequate accommodation to look after the child are taken into account when an application for a rent supplement is being determined. In this case, rent supplement at the higher rate has been refused to the applicant as his child is being adequately accommodated with the mother. The refusal has been upheld by the HSE appeals office. Rent Supplement can only be awarded when the person concerned reduces his rent to the limit for a single person. As things stand at present, this rent is in excess of that amount.

Public Service Obligation Levy

Catherine Murphy

Question:

97 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will recommend an ending of the price support regime provided to assist the production of electricity from peat-fired power stations, in view of the strong recommendation agreed at the Rio+20 summit asking governments to phase out such fossil fuel subsidies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32847/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

99 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to end the subsidy regime provided to support the production of electricity from peat-fired power stations, in view of the strong recommendation agreed at the Rio+20 summit asking governments to phase out such fossil fuel subsidy regimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32848/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 99 together.

The Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy has been in place since 2001 and is a support mechanism for peat generation, some conventional generation and the development of renewable electricity. The levy is designed to compensate electricity suppliers for the additional costs they incur by purchasing electricity generated by the three peat stations and renewable energy sources. The PSO Scheme for peat was approved by the European Commission in 2001 and was designed to enable the accelerated closing down by ESB, of existing six old peat fired plants and building two new more environmentally friendly and efficient plants with a 15-year operation lifetime. The PSO also applied to the peat fired plan in Edenderry which is now owned by Bord na Móna.

The use of peat for power generation and the related PSO support is already being phased out. The PSO for Edenderry expires in 2015. Bord na Móna is incrementally increasing the co-firing of biomass with peat in anticipation of the cessation of peat in three years time. The PSO for the two ESB peat stations expires in 2019 and the use of peat by power generation at the stations will therefore cease in seven years time. ESB is conducting initial research and trial ling on the potential to convert the stations to biomass.

Inland Fisheries

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

98 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide this Deputy with the outline graph of the electro fishing audit of the tributary rivers of the River Barrow downstream of Carlow Town. [32958/12]

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has carried out four catchment-wide electric fishing (CWEF) surveys of the River Barrow. With the exception of 2008 the Barrow survey has been carried out annually since 2007. The following results for 2011 are the data requested by the Deputy:

A catchment wide survey of the Barrow catchment was carried out in August and September 2011. The survey comprised 84 sites of which 79 were included in the analysis. Salmon fry were present at 60 sites. For the Deputies information I attach a copy map showing the sites sampled in 2011. The maximum fry catch was 86 salmon at site 102. A catch of zero fry was recorded at 24 sites. The mean catch of sites included in the analysis was 24.75 salmon fry/5min. Other fish species recorded included Eel, Stickleback, Minnow and Stoneloach.

Conservation limits and catchment wide electric fishing averages for the River Barrow catchment 2007-2011

Year

Salmon Conservation Limit

Estimated Adult Salmon Surplus

Annual Average salmon fry/5min

Cumulative Average salmon fry/5min

2007

12,117

-8,859

17.80

2008

12,117

-7,003

17.80

2009

12,117

-7,292

10.20

14.00

2010

12,117

-7,343

8.28

12.09

2011

12,117

-7,324

24.75

15.35

2012

12,117

-7,135

The Barrow had a mean catch of 24.75 salmon fry/5min in 2011 resulting in a cumulative average of 15.35 salmon fry/5min to date which is below the threshold level of 17 salmon fry/5min. In catchments where the threshold of 17 salmon fry is equalled or exceeded, fishery managers have opened catchments for catch and release salmon angling. The Barrow electro-fishing results suggest that the salmon population was below its conservation limit in 2011.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 97.

Renewable Energy

Catherine Murphy

Question:

100 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress he has made in the recent negotiations with the Minister of Energy in the UK with regard to the future integration of the UK and Irish power markets and possible future trade in large scale renewable power supplies between the Irish and UK markets; when he expects negotiations on such new market arrangements to conclude; the new regulatory or other market mechanisms that are likely to arise; the changes he will make to the single electricity market to facilitate increasing trade in renewable power between the two markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32849/12]

The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (Articles 6-11 of Directive 2009/28/EC) provides mechanisms whereby renewable electricity can be traded between countries so that renewable power produced in one country may be counted towards the legally binding renewable target in another. This can be done through a number of mechanisms including statistical transfer and joint projects. The UK Department of Energy has recently concluded a public call for evidence around the issues involved in opening up their market to allow for renewable electricity imports.

My recent meeting with UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry covered a number of issues, one of which was the possibility of renewable energy trading between the jurisdictions in the context of the framework provided by the Renewable Energy Directive. Exploring renewable trade was already agreed at a high level at the 2011 June British Irish Council summit and had been progressed in the interim at the British Irish Council working group level.

Last month at my meeting with Minister Hendry, both sides agreed to work towards concluding a Memorandum of Understanding by the end of the year which will be an important step in relation to the proposition of cross border renewable trade between the two jurisdictions.

Increased interconnection between the two islands offers Irish developers the prospect of being able to access a much larger electricity market. The electricity market in GB is around ten times the scale of the electricity market in Ireland. In the short term there are opportunities for on and offshore wind and biomass projects, but in the medium to longer term as technologies mature and become commercially deployable, there will also be opportunities for wave and tidal developers.

Any project development that takes place for export has to occur under the auspices of a legal inter-governmental agreement with the UK under Directive 2009/28/EC. There are currently a number of project developers that have expressed interest in renewable export. The manner in which projects falling under the Inter-Governmental agreement would be selected has not yet been determined.

Officials from both sides are examining a range of issues around the electricity market, regulatory and technical grid areas to underpin the creation of cross jurisdictional renewable electricity trade. I expect to meet Minister Hendry again in the autumn to review progress on the official level discussions and to ensure momentum towards seeking agreement on renewable trading. We will work to develop the terms of such an agreement in a way which ensures a mutually beneficial arrangement with the UK and to ensure tangible economic benefits for Ireland.

Separate to the question of trade in renewable electricity, under the third liberalisation package — a set of Directives and Regulations aimed at advancing the goal of a common electricity and gas market in Europe — Ireland is required to move towards a target market for electricity within the EU by 2016. Ireland is liaising closely with the UK and EU on the regional market and changes to the structure of the Single Electricity (SEM) are being assessed and consulted on by the 2 regulators North and South in conjunction with the two Departments.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Willie O'Dea

Question:

101 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has been contacted regarding an arrangement brokered by the Impact Trade Union, whereby four persons who were working for Limerick Regeneration on fixed term contracts would be employed by the Health Service Executive when their contracts expired; his role in this arrangement; if not, if this arrangement has to be sanctioned by any other Government authority or public body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32857/12]

The Limerick Regeneration Agencies are being dissolved and a new structure has been put in place to deliver regeneration in Limerick, headed by a Director of Regeneration, who will report to the new Manager for Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council.

Day to day operational matters in relation to,inter alia, staff management are a matter for the Limerick Regeneration Agency and/or the new Regeneration Office as appropriate. The new Regeneration Office has initially been set up with administrative support from Limerick City Council but will report directly to the Manager Designate of the new Limerick Unitary Authority once appointed.

My Department has no function or role in the employment of staff in the Health Service Executive.

Waste Disposal

Sean Fleming

Question:

102 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current rate of the landfill levy; his proposals to change this rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32828/12]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

103 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) has notified customers of an increase in their bin collection charges, due to an increase in landfill levy by 30% from €50 to €65 per tonne from July 2012; if further attention has been drawn to these increases will place an additional strain on financially strapped families and old aged pensioners. [32838/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.

Our current reliance on landfill as the primary waste treatment method is unsustainable. Ireland must comply with challenging targets under the EU Landfill Directive with regard to the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill or face referral to the European Court of Justice for the possible imposition of fines.

The landfill levy is chargeable on waste presented for disposal at landfill facilities. The current rate of the landfill levy is €65 per tonne. This rate came into effect on 1 July 2012 and represents an increase of €15 over the previous rate of €50 per tonne. This increase sends a further strong price signal to the producers, collectors and managers of waste, to deter against unsustainable behaviour and to encourage a shift away from landfill to waste management practices which are more closely aligned with the higher tiers of the waste hierarchy. A further increase in the levy is also planned, to €75 per tonne in July 2013.

I hope to see significantly improved levels of prevention, recovery, recycling and reuse of waste as a consequence of these increases. Assistance to both householders and businesses in reducing their generation of waste, and thus their costs, is available through the National Waste Prevention Programme, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The latest available data from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Waste Report 2010 state that 0.184 tonnes of household waste per person was sent to landfill in 2010. This equates to 0.497 tonnes per household (based on the average Irish household size of 2.7 persons), which would indicate an average increased cost per household of approximately €7.50 per annum due to the change in the landfill levy rate. However, this does not take account of the dissuasive effect of the levy increase referred to above, the intention of which is to encourage prevention and recycling and therefore decrease the amount of waste generated per household which falls subject to the levy, and reduce the impact of the levy increase on waste charges.

As the waste collection market is currently structured, the pricing schemes used by private waste collectors are a matter for determination as between the service providers and consumers of the service, subject to compliance with a service provider's collection permit and other legal responsibilities. Any consumer who is dissatisfied with the service currently provided to them may consider switching to an alternative service provider, although this may not always be a realistic option in certain areas. I would encourage consumers to seek full information from their service provider in relation to any increases to their charges, particularly in relation to the amount of waste collected and how much of their waste is being sent by the collector to landfill.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service, a system otherwise known as ‘franchise-bidding'.

I expect to be in a position to finalise proposals for Government in relation to waste policy, including household waste collection, in the coming weeks. All policy proposals will be carefully considered by Government and will take account of the full range of issues and perspectives, including the matter of waivers for low income households.

An objective of any such policy will be to help ensure that households and service providers are incentivised to behave in a sustainable fashion — pricing structures more closely aligned with the polluter pays principle are one such method of driving improved environmental performance.

Waste Management

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

104 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding proposals to put in place a national household waste collection waiver system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32839/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service, a system otherwise known as ‘franchise-bidding'.

A public consultation designed to inform the policy development process concluded in September 2011. A large number of responses were received from a broad spectrum of interests. A consensus is not apparent and, on almost all of the relevant issues, a considerable breadth of opinion was expressed. All of the responses received, in addition to a summary document, are available on my Department's website,www.environ.ie.

I expect to be in a position to finalise proposals for Government in relation to household waste collection in the coming weeks. All policy proposals will be carefully considered by Government and will take account of the full range of issues and perspectives, including the matter of waivers for low income households.

Recycling Policy

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

105 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has any role in the development of recycling facilities in towns; if he had any contact with Meath County Council regarding the provision of recycling facilities in Stamullen, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32843/12]

In accordance with the provisions of the Waste Management Acts, the preparation and adoption of a waste management plan, including in respect of the provision of recycling facilities, is the statutory responsibility of the local authority or authorities concerned, in this case Meath County Council. Under section 60(3) of the Act I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

However, my Department operates a grant scheme, the Waste Recycling Capital Grants Scheme, under the terms of which a local authority may apply for grant assistance towards the development of such facilities in their functional area. To date, Meath County Council has not contacted my Department seeking grant assistance towards the provision of such a facility at Stamullen, Co. Meath.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge

Brendan Griffin

Question:

106 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the 2 km rule on the non principal private resident charge (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32845/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities.

The Act provides at section 4(6) for an exemption from the charge in a situation where the residential property in question is occupied rent-free as the sole or main residence of a relative of the owner and the sole or main residence of the owner is either on the same property or within two kilometres of it. The condition that the owner of the property must reside within two kilometres follows precedent from section 466A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which deals with the home carer tax credit.

I have no plans at present to amend the legislation relating to the non-principal private residence charge.

Social and Affordable Housing

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

107 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has issued any guidelines to local authorities in respect of local authority tenants who are married, separated and where one of the spouses is in need of separate accommodation; if there is any onus on the council to provide separate accommodation for the spouse concerned; if he has not issued guidance to local authorities on this issue; his plans to do so, to ensure sympathetic treatment of families in this situation by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32853/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Paragraph (1) of Regulation 22 of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations, 2011, provides that a household with alternative accommodation that would meet its housing need is ineligible for social housing support. Paragraph (2) of the Regulation effectively ensures that paragraph (1) does not operate to exclude from eligibility for social housing support an applicant who owns accommodation that is occupied by his or her spouse, from whom he or she is separated or divorced.
The Regulation is worded in such a way that once there is a Deed of Separation in place, this aspect of eligibility for social housing support can be determined. There is no need therefore to await judicial separation or divorce to get a decision on social housing support in these cases. I consider that this provision is reasonable in most cases.
I acknowledge, however, that situations may exceptionally arise that may not easily be dealt with under the current Regulations. My Department is keeping the social housing assessment provisions under review and in this context will consider what wider discretion might be given to housing authorities to address the individually difficult and complex cases which may present to them.

Building Regulations

Nicky McFadden

Question:

108 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if architectural technologies will be deemed suitably qualified to sign certificates of compliance with planning and building regulations under the draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations Bill 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32862/12]

I have recently released for public consultation proposed Building Control (Amendment) Regulations which will provide for:

(a) the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings confirming that the statutory requirements of the Building Regulations have been met;

(b) the lodgement of drawings at both commencement and completion of construction, demonstrating how the building has been designed and built to comply with all parts of the Building Regulations.

The regulations as proposed require, among other things, that the owner of a proposed building or works must assign a competent professional to inspect and certify the proposed building or works. The assigned person must be an Architect or a Building Surveyor named on a register maintained in line with Part 3 or Part 5 respectively of the Building Control Act 2007 or be a Chartered Engineer named on the register maintained under Section 7 of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969.

It is envisaged that the assigned person will inspect and certify the building or works in line with a Code of Practice which is currently being prepared and which will be published, following consultation with industry stakeholders, in advance of the implementation of the proposed regulations.

The proposed Building Control (Amendment) Regulations will now be reviewed by my Department in the light of the submissions received during the public consultation process, which closed on 24 May 2012, with a view to having a final set of Regulations prepared and signed into law in the coming months.

The Building Control Act 2007, among other things, provides at parts 3 and 5 respectively for the registration of persons entitled to use the title of Architect and Building Surveyor. A variety of routes to registration as either Architect or Building Surveyor are provided for, having regard to the academic qualifications, professional attainment and practical experience of prospective candidates for registration. I understand that a number of members of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) have already successfully applied for registration on the register of Architects. Depending on their academic qualifications, professional attainments and practical experience members of CIAT may also be eligible for registration on the register of Building Surveyors. I would encourage members of CIAT interested in signing certificates of compliance to explore and pursue the routes to registration which may be open to them having regard to their own professional background.

National Housing Survey

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

109 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when it is hoped that the national housing survey will be completed; if this involves visiting every housing estate in the State or at least every housing estate that has not been taken in charge by the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32894/12]

The National Housing Survey 2012 commenced in June and will be conducted over the summer months. Following on from previous surveys, conducted in 2010 and 2011, it will assess those housing estates which remain incomplete and which were commenced from 1 January 2007. In exceptional circumstances, it may include estates which pre-date this but whose attributes merit inclusion; otherwise, the normal taking-in-charge conditions which are specified in the planning codes apply to such developments.

The reports of previous housing surveys of unfinished estates have been a useful tool when responding to the difficulties presented and it is anticipated that the 2012 survey will similarly inform policy and practice and assist stakeholders in discharging their responsibilities in respect of these incomplete developments.

The data gathered as part of the survey will be collated and published in the autumn.

Household Charge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

110 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he intends to make further regulations under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations similar to those made in 2012; if the category of estate that will be exempt from the household charge will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32895/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, 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 or she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge. Section 4(4)(b) and section 4(6) of the Act provide that a waiver from the charge applies in 2012 and 2013 to properties in certain unfinished housing estates specified in a list prescribed by the Minister. As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:

Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and

Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include,inter alia:

the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;

the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;

the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;

the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;

the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned and

where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

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

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

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

Unfinished Housing Developments

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

111 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is intended to introduce legislation to force the developers or owners including receivers and liquidators to complete all unfinished houses in such estates or demolish them within a fixed time frame, in view of the anti-social behaviour these house attract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32896/12]

The issues faced by residents of unfinished housing developments are matters which my Department has been proactively addressing. I am chairing the National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments to oversee implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments, together with the Government's response to its recommendations. The Committee includes representatives from the Irish Banking Federation, local authorities, the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, NAMA, residents and the construction sector, and real progress is being made with regard to the public safety works required to improve the living conditions of existing residents on some unfinished estates. The Committee is meeting on a regular basis and intends to publish a report on overall progress in its first year of operation today.

The work of this Committee includes consideration of the long-term fate of empty or part-completed housing units. In this regard, I am satisfied that the powers available to local authorities are sufficient to enable them to ensure that necessary actions are carried through.

There has been limited demolition of unfinished developments. Notwithstanding this, my Department is aware that debtors and financial institutions, including NAMA, are considering the best long term solutions for their sites and in some cases this may include the removal of partially constructed or vacant buildings. This is a matter for those developers, receivers and financial institutions.

Also, work on the National Housing Development Survey 2012 is currently under way and in this context local authorities are re-examining all unfinished developments in their areas. The findings of this survey, which I expect to have published this autumn, will inform future decisions on the nature and scale of works to be carried out on individual developments by those responsible for their completion.

Burial Grounds

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

112 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether all local authorities in the country should be directed to install and provide toilets in graveyards, in the interest of people visiting graveyards, people working there and people attending masses and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32901/12]

The management and maintenance of burial grounds, including installation and provision of toilets in graveyards, is entirely a matter for each local authority concerned and one in which my Department has no direct function.

Departmental Funding

Dara Calleary

Question:

113 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will expect to permit Pobal to enter into a contract with an organisation (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will provide funding of €41,925 as has been made available to the project by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32957/12]

I understand that an application from the organisation in question is currently in the appraisal process and a recommendation will be made shortly. Any decision arising will be notified to the applicant as soon as possible.

Legislative Briefings

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

114 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will list all organisations and individuals who were briefed on the Personal Insolvency Bill between the Cabinet meeting on 26 June 2012 and the briefing for Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas on 29 June at 2.30 pm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32819/12]

Prior to the briefing offered to the members of the Oireachtas on Friday 29 June, the primary information exercise engaged in by my Department in regard to this very significant and complex reform Bill centred on the media briefing, both for print and broadcast, on the morning of Friday 29 June.

Following that media briefing, and in response to requests in that regard, my officials offered a short briefing to a number of relevant organisations who have a significant interest in or who had provided submissions on the Bill. These included the Citizens Information Board, the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), New Beginning, the Phoenix Project, credit union representatives, St Vincent De Paul and a number of legal and accountancy companies. As many of the persons were present in a representative capacity, it would not be appropriate for me to name individuals.

The briefing offered to members of the Oireachtas followed on the afternoon of Friday 29 June.

Garda Reserve

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

115 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans and the Garda management plans to increase the strength of the Garda Reserve in the absence of recruitment to An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32820/12]

The moratorium on Public Service Recruitment does not apply to members of the Garda Reserve, as they are volunteers, and recruitment to the Reserve is ongoing. The target strength of the Garda Reserve is 10% of the full time Force and I would like to assure the House that the Government are fully committed to its continued development. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that as of the31 May, 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Garda Reserve was 918, with a further 225 in training.

Members of the Garda Reserve make a hugely valuable contribution to policing. I would like to place on record my appreciation of the members of the Reserve who give of their time on a voluntary basis and for their ongoing commitment to the Garda Síochána.

Garda Deployment

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

116 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of an Garda Síochána serving in non-policing duties including clerical, communications and management by division; his plans to civilianise these roles to release personnel for policing duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32821/12]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that some 339 members of the Garda Síochána are in receipt of designated post or ex-gratia allowances which are paid to members exclusively engaged in administrative duties relating to their functions. The incumbents of the majority of these posts are Gardaí and Sergeants employed in District, Divisional and Regional Offices. The remainder are employed in branches throughout Garda Headquarters.

There are currently over 2,000 full-time-equivalent civilian support staff in the Garda Síochána. These staff provide vital support services in a wide range of areas, such as human resources, training and development, IT and telecommunications, finance and procurement, internal audit, research and analysis, accommodation and fleet management, scene-of-crime support and medical services. In doing so, they release highly trained Gardaí from administrative tasks to operational policing.

We will continue to maximise the number of civilian support staff in An Garda Síochána consistent with overall policy on numbers in the public service and taking into account the scope for the appropriate redeployment of staff from elsewhere in the public service as part of the reform process under the Croke Park Agreement.

Garda Reserve

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

117 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a situation in which retired or retiring members of an Garda Síochána become eligible to be members of the Garda Reserve, to assist in administrative and office duties and thereby release Garda personnel for policing duties and reduce the training cost of reservists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32822/12]

Entry to the Garda Reserve is governed by the Garda Síochána (Reserve Members) Regulations 2006. Regulation 4(4) of these Regulations provides that former members who on retirement received an ‘exemplary', ‘very good' or ‘good' discharge from the Garda Síochána are automatically deemed to meet the entry requirements.

Departmental Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No 436 of the 26 June 2012, if personnel records in his Department are computerised; if a date of birth is a field on this system; if his Department conducts equality monitoring of competitions to ensure no unlawful discrimination such as ageism occurs; and if so, if the selection process used to select staff members to Brussels has been the subject to an equality audit; if he will detail both the weight that applied to the various short listing criteria; the way the marks were awarded for items; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32823/12]

My Department, in common with most areas of the Civil Service, maintains personnel records of staff in an electronic format on the civil service wide system called HRMS. The date of birth of staff is, of course, held on the HRMS. My Department also maintains a hard copy personnel file in respect of every staff member.

My Department is committed to policies conducive to promoting equal opportunities for all its staff regardless of their age. My Department conducted this selection process in an open fashion, first seeking preliminary expressions of interest for relevant staff and then subsequently inviting those staff to submit formal applications. The age of applicants had no relevance to the selection process: an applicant's age was neither sought from staff on submitting an application, nor established in the processing of their application, nor included in the information provided to the selection board, nor were the members of the selection board otherwise advised of or instructed to take the age of applicants into account. Indeed, to have done so would have been inappropriate and not in keeping with promoting equal opportunities for all eligible staff. I can confirm that an equality audit was not carried out in regards to the selection process under question, nor is one considered necessary.

In respect of the CO and EO grades where short-listing was conducted, experienced more senior staff reviewed all applications received, awarded marks based on each criterion and a total mark per applicant was therefore available. Given the number of postings to be made, an appropriate number of applicants were called to the next phase in the process. The weights applicable to the relevant criteria are as follows;

Clerical Officer

Executive Officer

Quality of Application

40

Quality of Application

40

Supervisor’s assessment

40

Supervisor’s assessment

40

Relevant experience and overall suitability assessed relative to the job/personal requirements set out for the post

100

Judgement/decision-making skills

40

Ability to work as part of a team

40

Communication skills

40

Ability to work on own initiative

40

Ability to work on own initiative and show commitment

40

Communication skills

40

Relevant experience and overall suitability assessed relative to the job/personal requirements set out for the post

100

The Deputy should be aware that the selection process was not a competitive promotion process, rather it was an assignment of staff, within their own grade, to a particular area of work. Given that this particular assignment was to a post outside the jurisdiction, the opportunity was opened up to all eligible staff in each grade to express an interest. More generally, if the Deputy is aware of any staff member who has a grievance about this process, those concerns might more appropriately be brought to the attention of my Department's HR Division.

Citizenship Ceremonies

Sean Fleming

Question:

119 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the fees payable by each of the 4,000 new Irish citizens in respect of the swearing in ceremony at the National Convention Centre, Dublin; the amount of fees paid as part of the application process prior to same; the total amount payable from this process; the way these funds are utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32830/12]

In June 2011 I introduced formal citizenship ceremonies for the first time since the foundation of the State. The ceremonies allow candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State and receive their certificate of naturalisation in a meaningful and dignified manner which befits the importance and solemnity of the occasion. The ceremonies are being provided at no extra cost to applicants. To date, 51 such ceremonies have been held at which almost 15,000 candidates have become Irish citizens under the new procedures and these ceremonies have been met with universal approval.

The prescribed fees to be paid by applicants on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation were last increased by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Fees) Regulations 2008, which came into effect on 1 August 2008. The standard certification fee is €950 while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain circumstances when the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of refugees and stateless persons no fee is charged.

The increases in certification fees were in line with inflation for the period 1993 to 2008. While the fees are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing the different categories of applicant, the certification fees do not recoup the full cost of processing the applications. Naturalisation fees, as is the case with all such fees, are lodged to the central fund as an appropriation-in-aid.

In November 2011, I signed into law Statutory Instrument 569/11, which introduced an application fee of €175 for new applications for a certificate of naturalisation. It should be noted that the persons who have been granted citizenship at ceremonies to date would not have been required to pay an application fee as their applications were submitted before November 2011. The application fee was introduced to contribute towards the costs of processing those applications that do not attract any certification fee and to help reduce the proportion of invalid and ineligible applications being lodged. The Statutory Instrument also introduced a series of changes to the application forms, in particular to facilitate applicants who are the civil partners of Irish citizens. Prior to the enactment of these regulations no fee was paid on application and only the certification fee was paid when naturalisation was granted.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

120 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he will to take to tackle anti-social behaviour problems, including an increase in physical violence, on our streets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32832/12]

I am very conscious that anti-social behaviour causes great distress and the Programme for Government underscores our commitment to address this problem. Despite understandable public concern over recent incidents, it is important that the good work carried out by An Garda Síochána is recognised. The latest figures published by the CSO show that in the year to 31 March 2012 there was a reduction of over 8% in assault and related cases and over 14% in public order offences. Indeed, most categories of recorded crime fell in the period.

I share the Deputy's concern about the use of physical violence, including some extremely serious and disturbing incidents on the streets of Dublin in recent times. I am, of course, in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner regarding these matters and these contacts will continue.

It is clear that excessive drinking as well as drug use can fuel violence and it is essential that everything possible is done to prevent such incidents happening on our streets.

An Garda Síochána are using the strong legal powers available to them under the Public Order Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts to keep our streets as safe as possible, including prosecutions where appropriate. These provisions deal with street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking and Garda powers include the seizure of alcohol to prevent underage drinking in public places and to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Gardaí may also issue fixed charge notices for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. These are a more efficient use of Garda resources and avoid court proceedings when an offender pays the penalty.

Garda resources are deployed where experience and analysis shows they are most needed. New Garda rostering arrangements have been introduced in recent weeks. As a result of these new arrangements, Gardaí can be on duty at the times of the day when they are most needed. This is particularly important in dealing with public order issues as it is generally on certain nights of the week and between certain hours that there is the greatest need for Garda patrols.

Dealing with anti-social behaviour is not simply about policing and I intend, in the coming months, to put in place new regulations to prohibit the below-cost selling of alcohol and also alcohol promotions which encourage excessive drinking.

Since my appointment as Minister, I have been doing everything possible to support the Gardaí in their work. While it is true that no area can be exempt from our current economic difficulties, huge resources are still made available to policing. The Garda Commissioner has been concentrating, with my full support, on making sure he is in a position to deploy the very dedicated men and women of An Garda Síochána as effectively as possible. The Commissioner is also very aware that I will give full consideration to any proposals for changes in the law which would help the Gardaí do their job better and more effectively.

Subsidiary Protection

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will support the case of a person (details supplied). [32837/12]

The person concerned entered the State on 17 October 2002. She registered with the Immigration authorities on 7 January 2003 and was given further permission to remain on student conditions. In May 2004 due to poor attendance at college she was refused further permission and since then has been in the State without the permission of the Minister. The person concerned gave birth to her son in the State on 15 March 2007.

On the 9 August 2011 an application for change of status pursuant to Section 4(7) of the Immigration Act, 2004 was submitted by the legal representative of the person concerned and her son. This application was refused and the persons concerned notified by letter dated 2 March 2012. Consequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, the person concerned and her son were notified, by letter dated 12 June, 2012, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should not have Deportation Orders made against them.

The position in the State of the persons concerned and her son will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. This case is currently under consideration and a decision will be conveyed in writing to the persons concerned shortly.

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

Citizenship Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

122 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [32852/12]

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

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site atwww.inis.gov.ie 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.

Residency Permits

Jack Wall

Question:

123 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for Stamp 4 status in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32854/12]

The person concerned entered the State on 19 December 2003 and was granted permission to remain until 19 March 2004. The person concerned has been in the State without the permission of the Minister since March 2004. Consequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 14 May, 2009, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should not have a Deportation Order made against her.

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

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.

Garda Deployment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

124 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí by rank that were on duty for the three recent concerts at Croke Park, Dublin 3 in June 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32886/12]

Croke Park is situated in the Mountjoy Garda sub-District, under the remit of Chief Superintendent, DMR North Central. Meetings with the organisers of these events took place to ensure that appropriate measures were in place for the management of the events and to ensure the safety of patrons attending these events.

For security and operational reasons, it is generally not the policy to disclose the number of personnel on duty at any specific event. Local Garda Management liaise closely with the event-organisers when considering and determining the appropriate deployment of Garda resources at such events, on both public and non-public duties (personnel deployed on non-public duty are paid for by the event organisers, while those deployed on public duties are performing such duty as part of their ordinary tour of duty). Personnel deployed on such duties are regularly monitored to ensure optimal deployment.

Garda Equipment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

125 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of spare intoxilyser machines available to gardaí in case one machine is unable to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32887/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), which is under the aegis of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, has statutory responsibility for the testing, approval and supply of evidential breath testing machines and roadside breath screening devices to An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 64 evidential breath testing (intoxilyser) machines allocated by the MBRS to Garda stations nationwide. There are an additional 1,014 roadside breath screening devices allocated across all Garda Divisions, which are used to assist Garda members in forming an opinion on whether a driver has consumed intoxicating liquor in excess of the legal limit.

In the event that any particular breath testing machine is not functioning correctly, An Garda Síochána contact the MRBS who arrange for its repair or temporary/permanent replacement.

The situation is closely monitored by senior Garda management and additional equipment is acquired when necessary. In that regard, the Deputy will be also be aware that An Garda Síochána has requested an additional 22 intoxilyser devices from the MBRS. The MBRS has indicated that the purchase and installation of the devices has been approved. An Garda Síochána and the MBRS are preparing an implementation plan for the installation of the additional evidential breath testing equipment and for the training of sufficient Garda personnel.

Garda Strength

Mattie McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí that are based in Clonmel Garda station, County Tipperary; the number of gardaí that have been based in Clonmel Garda station every year for the past 10 years; the current ratio of gardaí per population of Clonmel; the way this compares with other jurisdictions; the further way the garda per population rate of Clonmel compares to the garda per population rate of Thurles, County Tipperary; if the level of crime has increased in Clonmel over the past ten years; the way this relates to the reduction in garda numbers in Clonmel; if the level of crime has increased in Thurles over the past 10 years; the further way this relates to the Garda numbers in Thurles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32906/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no function in the matter.

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of Clonmel Garda Station on 31 December 2002 to 2011 and on 31 May 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table hereunder:

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

39

40

69

41

48

51

52

55

51

52

47

The personnel strength of Thurles Garda Station on 31 May 2012 was 75. Both Thurles Garda Station and Clonmel Garda Station form part of the Tipperary Garda Division. The personnel strength of Tipperary Garda Division on the same date was 375. There are also 31 Garda Reserves and 35 Civilians attached to the Tipperary Garda Division. These resources are augmented, when appropriate, by Gardaí from national units such as the Garda National Drug Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The population of the Clonmel and Thurles areas are available from the Central Statistics Office website atwww.cso.ie. The following table shows selected crime statistics for the Tipperary Garda Division which are drawn from information which is also available on the CSO web site.

Selected Crime Statistics for Tipperary Garda Division — Source CSO Annual Reports

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

Homicide offences

2

2

3

10

5

5

1

2

1

Sexual offences

40

109

61

37

40

48

93

57

15

Attempts/threats to murder, assaults,harassments and related offences

450

473

486

539

613

571

487

510

124

Robbery, extortion and hijacking offences

13

18

15

16

25

29

21

23

13

Burglary and related offences

598

741

715

584

599

677

603

742

197

Theft and related offences

1,275

1,185

1,338

1,416

1,398

1,389

1,578

1,376

368

Public order and other social code offences

1,782

2,021

2,372

2,529

1,673

1,624

1,551

1,367

287

*For 2012 statistics are only for the first quarter.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

The allocation of resources is constantly monitored by local Garda management in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level. Tipperary Garda Division will be subject to this same level of monitoring to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Family Law Cases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the position whereby the Irish father of a child born here, whose mother holds a passport from another jurisdiction, will restrict the right of the child’s mother to remove the child from this jurisdiction without the father’s consent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32947/12]

A child's mother may not remove the child from the State without the consent of the father, if the father is a guardian of the child or has custody rights in respect of the child.

If a person removes a child from the State in breach of another person's custody rights, that other person can make an application under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to have the child returned to them. The Convention is designed to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from one contracting state to another, or wrongfully retained in another contracting state. It is based on the principle that the custody of the child should be decided by the courts in the state in which the child habitually resides. The Convention is in force in over 80 countries world-wide. Where a child is removed to or wrongfully retained in another EU state, the Brussels II bis regulation applies, and regulates the application of the Convention between EU member states. There is a network of Central Authorities established under the Convention for the purpose of assisting applicants. My Department operates as the Central Authority for Ireland and can be contacted for assistance at 01/4790200 or by e-mail internationalchildabduction@justice.ie.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the basis on which it was determined that a person (details supplied) in County Dublin is not eligible by reason of duration of residency grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32949/12]

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 2011.

On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet that 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 her on 22 June 2012.

It is open to the individual referred to by the Deputy to lodge a further application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site atwww.inis.gov.ie 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 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.

Naturalisation Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 514 of 19 June 2012, if as requested in the question, he will consider the possibility of updating the applicant’s Stamp 4 thereby regularising his position in the interim period with particular reference to the most recent submissions made by the applicant, in view of the fact that such decisions have been made in similar circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32950/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 514 of Thursday, 19 June 2012. The position is unchanged since then. All recent representations submitted by the persons concerned 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 persons 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.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the correct procedure to be followed whereby a minor currently living outside the EU but under the legal joint guardianship of Irish citizens living in this country who may have to exercise the guardianship by way of bringing the child to this jurisdiction due to the state of the parents health; if a procedure should by way of visa or other residency procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32951/12]

I am advised by officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that they require more detailed information to be in a position to respond to the matters raise by the Deputy. Such additional information would include a copy of the guardianship agreement, the nationality of the child and parents, and medical reports in relation to the health of the parents.

I believe in the circumstances, it would be best for the people concerned to contact the General Immigration Division, INIS, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 outlining the full particulars of this case supported by the following documentation:

1. Full copies of any passports held by the child and his or her parents.

2. Name, Age, Nationality of the Child concerned and his or her parents.

3. Evidence of legal guardianship.

4. Medical report in relation to child's parents.

On receipt of the above information, INIS will be in a better position to advise the persons concerned in relation to this case.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will authorise by way of update of Stamp 4 or other visa or travel requirements in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32953/12]

An application has been received for permission for the person to leave the State prior to the completion of his application for asylum. I have granted permission in this case.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if Stamp 4 will be updated while awaiting a decision in respect of their residency case and prevention of refoulement in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32954/12]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted permission to remain for a period of five years on 5 July, 2006 on the basis of being the Spouse of an EU citizen, who was residing in the State and was exercising her EU Treaty Rights.

The grounds under which he was granted permission to remain in the State no longer apply, as his EU spouse is no longer residing in this State, exercising her EU Treaty Rights. Therefore, the permission to remain which was granted under the provisions of Directive 2004/38/EC and European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008 has now been revoked.

On 13 April, 2012 the person was informed that the Minister was proposing to make a Removal Order in respect of him under Directive 38/2004/EC and European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008. He was given the option, to be exercised within 15 working days, to make representations as to why a Removal Order should not be made against him. The person concerned has made representations which will be fully 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.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will update Stamp 4 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has identified suitable employment which requires updated Stamp 4 to access same; if the procedure will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32955/12]

I am advised by officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person concerned does not meet the qualifying criteria which would exempt him from work permit requirements. Applications for Long Term Residency are considered in respect of persons who have resided legally (endorsements in passport) for a period of 60 months or longer on the basis of work permit conditions.

It is noted that the person referred to by the Deputy has permission to remain on work permit conditions until 6 January, 2013. If the person concerned wishes to take up new employment they must ensure that they obtain the appropriate work permit.

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, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32956/12]

I am advised by officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted permission to reside in the State on Stamp 4 conditions under the Long Term Residency scheme. This permission is valid until 08/06/2015 and therefore does not need to be reviewed at this time. When this current permission expires the person concerned should contact their local Immigration Officer to have it renewed.

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.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Paul Connaughton

Question:

135 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an appeal hearing in relation to a rural environment protection scheme penalty imposed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32831/12]

The above named joined REPS 4 in January 2010 and has received payment for the first two years of his plan. The applicant was selected for inspection in 2011. On inspection it was found that bovines were not excluded from a watercourse on the farm and a 35% penalty was applied. The person named was notified in writing on 6 February 2012 of the application of the penalty and of his right of appeal. On 27 February 2012 the person named was informed in writing that as no appeal of the penalty was received by the Department the amount due would be deducted from his next REPS payment. The person named was also informed of his right to appeal to the Agricultural Appeals Office. An appeal has yet been received in the Agricultural Appeals Office.

Grant Aid

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

136 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the financial grant assistance that is available in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32836/12]

There is no grant aid available from my Department to assist the person concerned to re-open an abattoir or to update the existing facilities.

Single Payment Scheme

Tom Fleming

Question:

137 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the single farm payment scheme 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will expedite the payment. [32856/12]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 13 May 2011. During processing queries arose regarding the timing of the issuing of the herd number to the person named, who was a new applicant. These queries have now been resolved, with the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas payment due to be issued shortly.

In addition, the person named submitted a Single Payment Scheme application under Category B of the 2011 National Reserve, which caters for farmers who commenced farming after 15 May 2009. The application was successful and the person named was notified in writing on 29 May 2012 and payment issued on 28 June 2012.

EU Funding

Gerald Nash

Question:

138 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the budget which may be left over from the rural broadband scheme totalling some €17million could be reallocated to help fund a new agri environment options scheme for farmers, especially in view of the risk of losing matching funding under the terms of European Agricultural Guarantee Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32884/12]

The EU funding which is allocated to the Rural Broadband Scheme, which is the responsibility of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, is provided under the European Economic Recovery Package (EERP). The EERP funding must be used for measures aimed at addressing new challenges which include climate change, biodiversity and water quality. All funding options for an Agri-environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) are being considered at present.

The reallocation of EERP funding to AEOS is also dependent on the provision of national matching funding for that scheme. I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale, including the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year. The full year cost of any new scheme will have to be met in 2013 and any decision to re-open AEOS will be taken in the context of consideration of the resources available and the need to remain within the agreed expenditure ceiling for my Department in 2013. I will make an announcement as soon as I have reached a decision on the situation.

Beef Imports

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

139 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the quantity of beef imported to Ireland over each of the past five years; the country or countries of origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32890/12]

The following table, based on official CSO trade data, shows the volumes of beef imported into Ireland over the last five years and the main source countries during that time:

Beef imports into Ireland for the last five years

2007Tonnes

2008Tonnes

2009Tonnes

2010Tonnes

2011Tonnes

Total

28,718

32,600

34,261

40,300

45,530

of which, from

GB and NI

17,151

20,844

21,029

28,985

35,895

Brazil

5,301

1,178

1,658

858

755

Netherlands

3,378

3,499

2,808

1,491

1,708

France

879

877

777

877

633

Germany

576

2,389

1,641

1,026

941

Denmark

274

946

394

175

120

Spain

176

515

490

768

953

Belgium

67

340

323

1,610

1,120

Poland

35

619

789

779

1028

Uruguay

0

598

2,806

1,782

478

Health Service Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

140 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social work team leaders post filled with acting team leaders; the number of principal worker posts filled with acting principal social workers; the number of acting positions that have been backfilled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32888/12]

My Department has sought the information requested by the Deputy from the HSE. I will provide the information to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Health Promotion

Terence Flanagan

Question:

141 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will include an organisation (details supplied) for the consultation process for the new public health Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32840/12]

I am assuming the Deputy is referring to the consultation process conducted as part of the development of the Your Health is Your Wealth — Health and Wellbeing Framework 2012-2020. The first consultation invited general submissions whereas the second public consultation asked specific questions on a number of background documents that had been prepared by the working group responsible for developing the framework. A total of 66 submissions have been received in response to the second consultation and are currently being reviewed. The submissions will be published on the Department of Health's website. I will be submitting a memorandum on the framework to the Government later this month and hope to publish the report in the autumn. If the Deputy requires further clarification on this response he should contact my Department in this regard.

Health Service Executive Properties

Terence Flanagan

Question:

142 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delays in opening the Blanchardstown Hospice, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32855/12]

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

Professional Qualifications

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

143 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health the procedures that are in place to give the appropriate recognition to persons who have qualified as physiotherapists in other EU countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32864/12]

Directive 2005/36/EC, on the recognition of professional qualifications, applies to all EEA nationals wishing to practise a regulated profession in an EEA Member State other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications. Its intention is to make it easier for certain professionals to practise their professions in EEA countries other than their own but due safeguards are provided in the assessment of the qualification for public health and safety and consumer protection.

For the purposes of the Directive, a regulated profession is defined as a professional activity access to which is subject, directly or indirectly, by virtue of legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions to the possession of specific professional qualifications. Where statutory registration does not exist for a profession in Ireland, non-Irish qualifications are assessed for their equivalence to the Irish entry-level qualifications required to work in the Health Service Executive.

Under Statutory Instruments Nos. 139 and 166 of 2008, which transpose the Directive into Irish law, the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) is the Competent Authority for physiotherapists in Ireland.

The Directive does not provide for automatic recognition of professional qualifications in physiotherapy obtained in another Member State; it provides for an assessment, on a case-by-case basis, of the qualifications of an applicant against those required to practise in the host member state. Persons who wish to have their qualifications recognised must make an application to the ISCP and provide relevant supporting documentation. If the activities covered by the profession in the home and the host member state are not comparable, then the qualifications cannot be recognised. If the activities are comparable but deficits in the qualifications are identified, subsequent post-qualification professional experience of the applicant must be considered. If deficits still remain, the host Member State must offer an applicant a compensation measure, a choice of completing an adaptation period or taking an aptitude test.

Applications must be acknowledged within one month and the applicant informed of any missing document. A final decision must be communicated to the applicant within four months of submission of a complete application. Persons should not seek employment in their professional capacity in the publicly-funded health service in Ireland unless and until their qualifications have been recognised.

Further information on the Directive is available on my Department's website

(http://www.dohc.ie/public/foreignqualification/foreign_validation.html). Further information relating to the recognition of physiotherapy qualifications in particular can be found on the ISCP website

(http://www.iscp.ie/international-qualifications/qualification-recognition.html).

Medical Cards

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

144 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when a decision will be made on a medical card appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32865/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

145 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he will set out the manner in which the public service recruitment embargo is applied in the Health Service Executive; if he recognises, for example, that public advertisement for recruitment to posts within the HSE which are only open to existing HSE staff is unfair to otherwise qualified potential applicants; if suitable applicants from within the HSE are not found, the stage in the process applications from non-HSE staff are sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32876/12]

The health sector is subject to overall Government policy on recruitment and must make an appropriate contribution to the Government commitment to the reduce public service numbers. Therefore, the health sector must ensure that all its existing resources are used appropriately and every attempt is made to fill vacancies that arise through redeployment and transfer from existing resources. Only where the HSE is satisfied that no suitable internal candidates are available will it consider recruiting externally.

Alcohol Pricing

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

146 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health when legislation will be introduced to facilitate the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32878/12]

In its report on alcohol, the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group recommended — among other things — the introduction of a legislative basis for minimum pricing per gram of alcohol. As minimum pricing is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels for alcohol products that must be legally observed by retailers, its primary function would be thus to discourage at risk levels of alcohol consumption. This recommendation is being actively considered as part of the development of an Action Plan in advance of proposals being drafted for Government.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

147 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if his preferred policy instrument in terms of combatting the misuse of alcohol especially by teenagers and young persons is for minimum alcohol pricing, increased tax on alcohol or the banning of below cost selling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32881/12]

In its report on alcohol, the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group recommended — among other things — the introduction of a legislative basis for minimum pricing per gram of alcohol. As minimum pricing is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels for alcohol products that must be legally observed by retailers, its primary function would be thus to discourage at risk levels of alcohol consumption. This recommendation is being actively considered as part of the development of an Action Plan in advance of proposals being drafted for Government.

National Substance Misuse Strategy

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

148 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group’s report on alcohol; if and when he will implement the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32882/12]

The recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group on alcohol have encouraged public debate and officials are working on an Action Plan in advance of proposals being drafted for Government in the coming weeks.

General Practitioner Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

149 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of calls received from the D-Doc Services for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of these calls resulted in a house visit; the number of drivers and vehicles allocated to same; the average response time to house visit calls; the average number of calls received per night; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32891/12]

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

Hospital Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

150 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the impact of the special delivery unit in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32892/12]

Improving access for patients to both un-scheduled and scheduled care in hospitals across the country is central to the role of the Special Delivery Unit which I established in my Department. Since the SDU become operational in September 2011, it has worked closely with a range of hospitals across the country including Beaumont. The hospital works closely with the SDU Liaison Officer and there are weekly meetings held with the management team of the hospital along with representation from management of the local community services. In addition to discussing current performance issues and trends, the Liaison Officer works with the hospital to improve patient pathways and develop and improve operational issues.

While the provision of funding is not a core function of the SDU, there are limited resources available to assist hospitals to meet its targets in relation to unscheduled and scheduled care. With regard to unscheduled care (Emergency Departments) funding was made available to Beaumont Hospital as part of the successful SDU initiative in 2011 to ensure that the number of patients waiting in ED was kept to a minimum over the Christmas and New Year periods.

A limited amount of funding has also been made available in 2012 to assist the hospitals to meet their targets in relation to trolley waits. In relation to Beaumont Hospital, funding related to opening additional bed capacity for short-periods and also to fund an initiative for hospital avoidance for older persons run by the Geriatricians, funding has also been made available for an initiative involving Community/Hospital Liaison, Weekend Liaison Nurse and Home Support to enable earlier discharge home and avoid hospital admissions.

To date the SDU interventions in relation to unscheduled care have resulted in a reduction in the number of patients waiting on trolleys in ED. In relation to Beaumont Hospital, up to 22 June 2012, there has been a reduction of 9% in the numbers waiting on trolleys when compared with the same period in 2011.

With regard to Scheduled Care (In-patient and Day Case Surgery) last year, I instructed all hospitals that no person should be waiting more than 12 months for surgery by the end of the year. The scheduled care access targets set for public hospitals for 2012 are that no adult should wait longer than 9 months for surgery, no child should wait more than 20 weeks for surgery and no person requiring a routine GI endoscopy should wait more than 13 weeks.

Beaumont reached the 2011 12 month target with some targeted assistance for a small number of cases from the NTPF. In this year the hospital is progressing towards the 2012 access targets assisted by a targeted programme of support agreed between Beaumont and the NTPF. This support is directed towards adult ENT, Urology and GI endoscopy procedures and also towards paediatric ENT and General surgery. These are the areas where the greatest challenges, in terms of faster access times for procedures, exist.

Medicinal Products

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

151 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on setting up an independent scientific enquiry to review the side effects caused by the drug Roaccutane; if he will interview users and their families who have experienced side effects from the use of the drug; if he will review the medical data; if he will report if present warnings should be significantly strengthened; his further views on the introduction of some form of psychiatric monitoring of patients throughout their treatment on Roaccutane; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32897/12]

Roaccutane (active substance, isotretinoin) is authorised for treating severe forms of acne which have been resistant to other standard therapies. It should only be prescribed by or under the supervision of doctors with expertise in using the product and with a full understanding of the risks of therapy and the monitoring requirements.

Under European and Irish legislation, all medicinal products must be authorised before being marketed. Medicinal products marketed in Ireland must be authorised by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB). A determination on an application for authorisation of a medicine is based on a rigorous scientific assessment of the application against legal and regulatory requirements.

Roaccutane has been closely monitored at national and EU level since it was first authorised. It was most recently reviewed at EU level in April 2011 when further warnings regarding skin reactions were added to the product information for patients and their doctors. The risk of depression associated with use of isotretinoin was also reviewed at that time. However, the existing comprehensive information on the risk of depression associated with isotretinoin and the monitoring requirements provided on the product information were considered sufficient.

The inclusion of these, and other side effects and warnings, in the product information are on the basis of information on use of the product including reports of side effects from patients.

The information for patients and for their doctors includes detailed advice on the risks associated with use of Roaccutane and recommendations to minimise their occurrence. The package leaflet advises patients to tell their doctor if they have ever had any mental illness (including depression, suicidal behaviour or psychosis), or if they take medicines for any of these conditions. It also advises them to contact their doctor straight away if they have signs of any of these problems.

The information for doctors lists potential psychiatric disorders. It emphasises that particular care needs to be taken in relation to patients with a history of depression and that all patients should be monitored for signs of depression during their treatment with the product and referred for appropriate treatment if necessary.

The benefits of treatment are considered to outweigh the risks, when the product is used in accordance with the product information.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health his plans to extend the automatic entitlement to a general practitioner visit card to persons on the long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32930/12]

The Programme for Government commits to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this, the Government is committed to introducing, on a phased basis, GP care without fees within its first term of office. Primary legislation is required to give effect to Government commitment to introduce a universal GP service without fees.

Legislation to allow the Minister for Health to make regulations to extend access to GP services without fees to persons with prescribed illnesses is currently being drafted by the Attorney General's office and will be published shortly. Implementation dates and application details will be announced in due course.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if notwithstanding recent response a further review of entitlement to a medical card will be remained in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32939/12]

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

Air Services

Michael McCarthy

Question:

154 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus; when a decision on the offer will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32866/12]

In an announcement to the Irish Stock Exchange on 19th June, the board of Ryanair announced its intention to make an all cash offer for 100% of the share capital of Aer Lingus. Under the Takeover Rules, Ryanair must issue its formal offer document to Aer Lingus shareholders by 17th July setting out in detail the terms of its offer. As the Government is a minority shareholder in Aer Lingus, under Irish Takeover Panel Rules, there are restrictions on what any member of the Government can say in relation to the proposed offer at this time. For the moment, like all shareholders, the Government will await the formal offer from Ryanair and also the response of the Board of Aer Lingus.

In considering the formal offer, when it is made, the Government will take account of four factors:

1. what is best for passengers in terms of connectivity and air fare;

2. what is best for taxpayers in terms of the price we can get for the stake;

3. what is best for the economy overall in terms of competitive access to services in and out of Ireland; and

4. the views of the regulatory authorities in relation to any bid.

Tourism Promotion

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

155 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expenditure in 2011 and to date in 2012 in tourism marketing and promotional campaigns in Australia, China, India, Brazil, Japan and Canada; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32889/12]

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Road Improvement Schemes

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

156 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will support the call from Kerry County Council that a section of the R569, from Careys Cottage to Rosacroo Bridge, will be considered for funding under the 2013 specific improvement grants for regional and local roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32898/12]

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.

It is open to Kerry County Council 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 (for regional and local roads) 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.