Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (170)

Richard Bruton

Question:

298 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the nature of the commitments which he has given in the past that the offices of the Higher Education Training Awards Council would be located in Dublin; the details of the commitments he has entered into in respect of buildings to house this body in Dublin; the strategic considerations which resulted in the proposal to relocate HETAC to Edenderry, County Offaly; the details of the commitments he has made to acquire buildings in Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2686/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The Higher Education and Training Awards Council was established on 11 June 2001 and was located at 26 Mountjoy Square Dublin 1 on an interim basis pending a decision on the permanent location of the council. On 9 November 2001, HETAC was notified by letter of the decision of the then Minister for Education and Science that HETAC be based in Dublin. On foot of this, HETAC moved to new premises in Denzille Lane, Dublin 2, taking out a 21 year lease with effect from 31 December 2002, with rent reviews every six years. HETAC is responsible for the costs of the lease until it expires. While all the leases of the agencies set up under the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999 do not specifically provide for sub-leases to a third party, it is anticipated that this can be negotiated and will not present an insurmountable problem.

The strategic considerations governing the Government decision on decentralisation are set out in the budget statement of the Minister for Finance of 3 December 2003. The issue of accommodation in Edenderry is being handled by the Office of Public Works. It is the prerogative of Government to decide on the location of Departments and statutory agencies from time to time in the context of its overall decentralisation policy. There are no plans to make an exception to the Government policy as announced on 3 December 2003 nor do I see any reason why this should be done.

I would reiterate that the decentralisation is voluntary and that those members of HETAC staff who do not wish to transfer to the organisation's new location will not be compelled to do so. It has also been made clear that this policy will be implemented in an orderly fashion with full consultation with staff interests. These are being kept apprised of implementation plans as they are developed.