National Car Test.

Questions (34)

Dan Neville

Question:

116 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the NCT contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6593/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The car testing contract with National Car Testing Service was signed in December 1998. In accordance with it, NCTS is obliged to provide a car testing service for the State until 31 December 2009. Under the terms of the contract the performance of NCTS is subject to an annual review which can cover the results of NCT inspections, planned or random sample test inspections, customer satisfaction surveys, the audited financial statements, the company's financial position, customer complaints, the extent of compliance with performance standards and quality accreditation matters.

The main inputs to the annual review are generated by the Department's rolling supervision of the NCTS with the assistance of a consortium consisting of the Automobile Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The consortium provides the Department with the necessary engineering, financial, legal, operations research and market research inputs in order to gauge the company's performance against the specified performance standards.

In addition the contract provides for a mid-term review to take place five years into the contract. While the mid-term review will cover matters dealt with in annual reviews, its overall focus will be more strategic in nature.

It is my intention, prior to the mid-term review, to seek comments from all interested parties for consideration as part of the review.

Rail Services.

Questions (35)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

117 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to introduce public service contracts into the rail service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6731/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I set out my proposals for public transport reform in a statement to the Public Transport Partnership Forum in November 2002. As outlined in that statement it is my intention to establish an independent authority to procure public transport services and regulate the public transport market. I also proposed that all DART and suburban rail services in the greater Dublin area would be provided subject to a multi-annual public service contract negotiated by the independent authority with Iarnród Éireann.

In reply to recent questions, I have stated that it is now my intention that the independent authority will have a national remit and consequently all rail services in the State will be covered by multi-annual public service contracts between the independent authority and Iarnród Éireann. It is my intention to proceed with legislation to give effect to these and other public transport reforms during 2004.

Public Transport.

Questions (36, 37, 38, 39, 40)

John Perry

Question:

118 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the procedure for the location of bus termini; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6737/04]

View answer

Paul McGrath

Question:

152 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the procedure for the location of bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6732/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

190 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the procedure for the location of bus termini; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6735/04]

View answer

Gay Mitchell

Question:

198 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the procedure for the location of bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6734/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

370 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that all bus stops are located in such a way as to meet adequate health and safety standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7053/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 152, 190, 198 and 370 together.

The power to determine the locations for the provision of bus stops and termini is vested in the Garda Commissioner under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under that section the commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops and termini in respect of any bus route and in that context may determine that certain stops may only be used for passengers boarding or leaving buses. I understand that the Garda engages in a consultation process with both the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85. In addition, section 86 of the 1961 Act empowers the commissioner to make by-laws relating to the use of bus stops and termini and such by-laws have been in place since 1962.

The Road Traffic Act 2002 introduces a number of significant changes to the provisions established in the 1961 Act. In the first instance, section 16 of the 2002 Act provides that responsibility for the determination of the location of bus stops and termini will be transferred from the Garda Commissioner to road authorities. This new approach reflects the evolution of policy and the development of the role of local authorities generally in regard to traffic regulation and management since the passage of the 1961 Act.

Second, section 20 of the 2002 Act provides that the Minister for Transport will in future provide for the regulation of the use of bus stops and termini. This is to ensure that the controls to be applied to the use of facilities will be contained in the same statutory framework that applies to traffic regulation generally.

Arising out of the recent tragic accident on Wellington Quay, Dublin, on 21 February last, and in addition to the Garda investigation, Dublin Bus has launched its own company inquiry to determine the cause and the circumstances surrounding the accident. The inquiry will investigate the circumstances of the accident to establish its causes and any contributory factors and will make recommendations to prevent a recurrence. Any such recommendations, which refer to the location of bus stops and termini or to the use of such facilities, will inform the development of the new statutory arrangements envisaged under the Road Traffic Act 2002.

Rail Services.

Questions (41)

John Gormley

Question:

119 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the status of the strategic rail review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6818/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The strategic rail review provides the Government with a policy framework for the future development of passenger and freight services in Ireland over a 20 year period in a manner consistent with the national spatial strategy.

The board of Iarnród Éireann has considered the findings of the strategic rail review and the company's prioritised investment programme up to 2008, based on the review, has been submitted to my Department for consideration in the context of the multi-annual envelope for capital expenditure in transport. Elements of the programme include: DART upgrade project; upgrade of the Kildare line; rolling stock acquisition programme for inter-city and suburban rail services; and safety investment.

Recent projects completed include increased capacity on Dublin outer suburban services and new commuter services on the Limerick to Ennis and the Mallow to Cobh routes.

Air Services.

Questions (42)

Pat Breen

Question:

120 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are discussions at EU level regarding the possibility of introducing intra-PSOs between European countries and third countries; if, in the event of full open skies, he will consider PSO status for essential routes between Shannon Airport and the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6563/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The PSO regime enables EU member states to subvent certain types of air services within their countries, which would otherwise not be provided commercially. I am very doubtful that the European Commission would encourage the extension of this concept to international air services, much less to services between Europe and the USA.

Road Safety.

Questions (43)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

121 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the National Roads Authority road accident facts 2002 which stated that the elimination of single carriageway stretches of national roads could save up to 50 lives per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6775/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I am aware that the National Roads Authority has highlighted the significant safety dividend expected to be gained from the upgrade of the national roads network as provided for in the National Development Plan 2000-2006. In particular, the upgrading of key inter-urban routes to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard will remove the risk of head-on collisions and conflicts associated with junctions and right-turning manoeuvres. The NRA has estimated that the better safety record of these types of roads will result in a saving of over 50 lives annually once the routes have been completed. To maximise the increased safety benefit, road safety audits are carried out on all new schemes on national roads. Work on improving the safety of the existing national road network is carried out through accident black-spot remedial schemes, traffic calming, road safety research, and the provision of safety barriers in central reservations.

Public Transport.

Questions (44)

Tom Hayes

Question:

122 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce new rural transport initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6727/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Under the rural transport initiative, RTI, 34 rural community groups are currently being financed to operate pilot rural transport services in their areas. Area Development Management Limited, ADM, administers the initiative on behalf of my Department.

Some 2,500 transport services are currently being provided on approximately 380 new rural routes established under the initiative and 20,000 people are using the RTI transport services every month. The RTI is now in operation in almost all counties and the free travel scheme of the Department of Social and Family Affairs was extended to the RTI in 2003.

ADM recently commissioned an external body to undertake a full appraisal of the RTI to measure its effectiveness in addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland. The appraisal is due to be completed by the summer and I will consider the outcome of the study when it is completed. While the national development plan earmarked €4.4 million for the scheme, €3 million has been provided annually for the scheme since 2002.

Traffic Management.

Questions (45)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

123 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date in establishing a dedicated traffic corps as promised in the programme for Government; the outstanding issues to be resolved; when he expects proposals to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6799/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The programme for Government contains a commitment relating to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps. As I have indicated in the House, I support the implementation of this proposal through the formation of a corps that will be separately identifiable and visible.

A consultation process involving my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána in regard to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps is being progressed. The question of the relationship that the corps will have with the Garda, and in particular whether it will be under the overall control of the commissioner, is central to the development of this proposal.

The establishment of a dedicated traffic corps which is independent of the Garda would require the introduction of legislation, in particular to establish powers and functions of the corps and its accountability.

A working group has been established to urgently consider the options available in terms of progressing this proposal. This group comprises representatives from the Department of Transport, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Office of the Director of Traffic.

Public Transport.

Questions (46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51)

Simon Coveney

Question:

124 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6723/04]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

130 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the business case proposal for the first stage of the Dublin metro to go to Cabinet for a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6810/04]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

147 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the extent and detail of discussions had with the Department of Finance over the costs of the proposed metro link between Dublin city centre and Dublin Airport; if the construction of the metro link will only be undertaken as part of a wider scheme to build an underground system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6768/04]

View answer

David Stanton

Question:

173 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the airport metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6615/04]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

180 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that he can deliver the Dublin metro by 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6739/04]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

185 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to bring to the Cabinet his final proposals for the construction of a metro link between Dublin city centre and Dublin airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6767/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 130, 147, 173, 180 and 185 together.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro, with a link to Dublin Airport. The proposal for a metro in Dublin is part of the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy, A Platform for Change. The current proposal is the first phase of the metro in the DTO's strategy. However, it is important to note that the Railway Procurement Agency's, RPA's, business case shows a positive economic case for a link between the city centre and the airport as a stand-alone project. It is, therefore, not dependent economically on a wider underground system being built.

I understand that the metro will take approximately four years to build from the date all the necessary authorisations and approvals are granted. As the project will be a public private partnership, there is a strong incentive for the bidders to minimise the construction period as payment will not commence until the service is in operation.

As discussions with the Department of Finance are ongoing as part of the deliberative process, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the extent and details of the discussions in advance of Government consideration on the matter. I expect to bring my proposals on the metro to the Government in the coming weeks.

State Airports.

Questions (52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

125 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of Aer Rianta International in the context of his plans to restructure Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6791/04]

View answer

Michael Noonan

Question:

143 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6616/04]

View answer

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

165 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6756/04]

View answer

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

166 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of a hotel group (details supplied) in the context of his proposals to restructure Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6790/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

172 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6617/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

195 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6618/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

362 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the outcome of discussions he has had with Aer Rianta management and staff in regard to the future of the airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7044/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Question Nos. 125, 143, 165, 166, 172, 195 and 362 together.

I refer the Deputies to the answer I gave to priority Questions Nos. 109 and 344 today.

Driving Tests.

Questions (59, 60, 61, 62)

John Bruton

Question:

126 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to address the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6620/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

148 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the driving test backlog; when he plans to introduce legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6601/04]

View answer

John Deasy

Question:

150 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reduce the waiting time for a driving test in both the Waterford city and Dungarvan, County Waterford test centres to bring them in line with other test centres in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6520/04]

View answer

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

168 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the number of applicants awaiting driving tests at the latest date for which figures are available; the current waiting time in each test centre; the efforts his Department is making to clear the backlog of driving test applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6787/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 148, 150 and 168 together.

The number of applicants awaiting a driving test at 25 February 2004 is 120,058. This is a reduction of some 5,000 on the figure relating to May 2003. Of these, 21,103 have been given test appointments and a further 13,715 have indicated that they are currently not available to be tested. The current average waiting time and numbers awaiting a test at each driving test centre as at 25 February 2004 is set out in the following table.

The current waiting times are due to the unprecedented level of some 234,000 test applications received in 2003. This represents a 21% increase on 2002 applications. However, indications are that applications have now fallen to normally expected levels. I anticipate that the current waiting times will improve over the coming year.

Sanction for a bonus scheme for driver testers was obtained from the Department of Finance in May 2003. Under the terms of the scheme set out by the Department of Finance, the bonus scheme terminated in November 2003. I have requested my officials to examine the potential for initiating a further bonus scheme in order to address the backlog.

In addition to the bonus scheme, eight retired driver testers were re-employed with effect from 13 October 2003. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and at lunch time.

Preparation of legislation to establish the Driver Testing and Standards Authority, which will take on responsibility for conducting driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand, is at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to submit the text of the Bill to Government shortly.

Centre

Numbers awaiting a test

Average weeks waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

8,288

33

Dundalk

2,948

38

Mullingar

1,632

38

Navan

4,463

44

Raheny

7,337

43

South Leinster

Churchtown /Rathgar

11,212

40

Gorey

1,985

39

Naas

6,604

48

Tullamore

1,632

35

Wicklow

2,355

47

Tallaght

8,811

49

West

Athlone

676

8

Birr

938

28

Castlebar

2,230

33

Clifden

350

14

Ennis

818

11

Galway

2,643

30

Loughrea

834

11

Roscommon

902

26

Tuam

1,105

29

North West

Ballina

1,153

29

Buncrana

562

22

Carrick-on-Shannon

1,212

38

Cavan

1,948

44

Donegal

1,021

29

Letterkenny

1,843

30

Longford

1,010

36

Monaghan

1,248

41

Sligo

1,347

27

South East

Carlow

2,522

43

Clonmel

2,031

42

Dungarvan

1,820

49

Kilkenny

2,494

41

Nenagh

728

43

Portlaoise

1,512

39

Thurles

1,286

46

Tipperary

1,153

49

Waterford

3,486

47

Wexford

2,435

37

South West

Cork

6,615

31

Killarney

1,988

36

Kilrush

479

29

Limerick

3,920

37

Mallow

2,034

32

Newcastle West

1,610

32

Shannon

1,027

32

Skibbereen

1,799

38

Tralee

2,012

40

Note: The average waiting time is derived having regard to waiting times experienced by individual applicants who have undergone a driving test over the previous four week period in the test centre.

Rail Network.

Questions (63, 64, 65)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

127 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if he will approve funding for the western rail corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6605/04]

View answer

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

154 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport his response to a submission from the campaigning group West on Tract that the cost of reopening the Sligo-Limerick rail link would be less than €250 million; the role and remit of the new feasibility group to examine the feasibility of the rail link; the funding he intends giving the group; the timescale in which he will ask it to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6785/04]

View answer

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to progress the western rail corridor in view of the strategic rail review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6624/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 154 and 163 together.

At the invitation of a number of the groups advocating the western rail corridor, I recently carried out an extensive tour of the corridor and visited many of the former railway stations on the line. My purpose in visiting the west was to meet and listen to those who are putting forward this rail proposal and to see for myself what is involved in the restoration of the line.

Deputies will recall that the western rail corridor was not included in the recommended investment strategy in the strategic rail review published last year. However, the review did conclude that the proposal was in line with the aims of the national spatial strategy.

The review further concluded that the viability of such rail proposals is critically dependent on the local and regional planning authorities incorporating the proposals into regional, county and local development plans. Specifically, what is needed here is the integration of transport proposals, such as the western rail corridor, with land use strategies that could provide the basis for sufficient rail demand that, in turn, would make the economic case for proceeding with the proposal. The viability of all rail proposals, including the western rail corridor, is crucially dependent on the creation of sufficient critical mass that would justify the development of rail as the appropriate transport option.

In my recent visit to the former railway station in Kiltimagh I said that I could see the potential of the western rail corridor and that I would wish to provide every possible opportunity for the viability of the case to be brought forward. Accordingly, at the request of the various groups promoting the western rail corridor, I propose to establish shortly an expert working group to examine the potential for the western rail corridor. I will be announcing the composition and remit of the group in the coming weeks. Any decisions in regard to the western rail corridor will have to be made on the basis of the ongoing work of the working group.

In this regard I note that all the regional authorities are currently drafting regional planning guidelines as part of the implementation of the national spatial strategy at the regional level. One of the core issues that the western rail corridor working group will have to carefully consider is the extent to which the rail proposal is facilitated by the land use strategies emerging from these guidelines.

Road Safety.

Questions (66)

Simon Coveney

Question:

128 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to roll out fixed speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6724/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I have jointly determined to consider the engagement of the private sector in the operation of speed cameras. A working group representing our Departments and other interested parties is currently examining a range of issues, including the parameters for operation and deployment of speed cameras and the interaction of any private sector operation with other agencies. In addition to the practical arrangements, the engagement of the private sector in the operation of speed cameras must be supported by new primary legislation and I intend to bring the necessary legislative proposals needed to facilitate this before the Oireachtas later shortly.

Air Services.

Questions (67, 68)

Willie Penrose

Question:

129 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to bring proposals for the future of Aer Lingus to the Cabinet; the extent and nature of consultations between his Department and the Aer Lingus board on this issue; the contents of the report given to him by the CEO and chairman in September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6782/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

361 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7043/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 361 together.

In light of the continuing turnaround in Aer Lingus's performance, last July I asked the chairman of the national airline to examine and report back to me on future options for the company. The chairman furnished his report to me at a meeting on 16 September 2003. In summary, having taken account of the Government decision in 2001 to facilitate private sector as well as staff investment in the airline, the report concluded that, given the performance of the airline, improving investment market conditions and increasing airline valuations in a traditionally volatile sector, the company's view is that the private sector investment process should be initiated without delay and the process would coincide with the completion of the ESOP and the issuance of 30.5 million shares to the ESOT to increase the employee shareholding from 4.76% to 14.9%.

Of the five strategic options evaluated, the company's view is that the best option is a two-phased approach with phase one involving a private placement to institutional investors, that is, pension funds etc., followed by an IPO within 18 months to two years.

Following receipt of that report, I engaged an independent corporate finance consultant to examine the sale options contained in the report, the views expressed by analysts and the transparency and accountability requirements when disposing of a State asset. The consultant broadly supported the case made in the Aer Lingus report for a two-phased approach involving a private placement followed by an IPO.

I consider the Aer Lingus report and the independent consultant's report to be an important input into my deliberations on the future options for the airline. When all the matters have been fully considered, I will be bringing specific proposals to Government.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 124.

Rail Services.

Questions (69, 70)

John Gormley

Question:

131 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if the provision of a rail service from Dublin to Navan is being considered by his Department; and the steps required to introduce such a service. [6817/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The strategic rail review examined the feasibility of restoring rail services to Navan via two routes, a Clonsilla to Navan link and a Drogheda to Navan connection. The review concluded that there was no economic case for reopening either link. I understand however, that once the regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area are adopted in the coming months, Irish Rail is planning to examine the possibility of reopening part of the Clonsilla to Navan line, as far as Dunboyne.

Joe Costello

Question:

132 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to take advantage of the relaxation of EU rules on state borrowing to press for funding for major infrastructural projects in his Department, such as the Dublin metro and various road projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6769/04]

View answer

The new guidance from EUROSTAT on the treatment of public private partnership-funded infrastructure is welcome. It clarifies the ground rules for the accounting treatment of PPP transactionsvis-à-vis the GGB and, in particular, the requirements relating to the real and substantial transfer of risk to the private partner. The implications of the new guidelines will be considered on a case by case basis in respect of PPP projects under the national roads programme and other major infrastructural developments such as the Dublin metro. In the first instance, of course, projects proposed for funding by way of PPP must be examined to ensure they represent good value for money.

Dublin Port Tunnel.

Questions (71)

Richard Bruton

Question:

133 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6611/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

My Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions with a view to reaching a final conclusion on this issue as soon as possible.

Driving Tests.

Questions (72, 73, 74)

John Bruton

Question:

134 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to abolish provisional driving licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6619/04]

View answer

Seán Ryan

Question:

161 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the measures he has taken in regard to his announcement of December 2002 of his intention to deal with the problem of the large number of provisional drivers on roads here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6796/04]

View answer

Seymour Crawford

Question:

182 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for a review of the provisional driver licence system; when he expects the review to be completed; when he expects to have specific proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6722/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134, 161 and 182 together.

Over the years various changes have been made to the regulatory conditions under which provisional licences have effect. As part of an integrated approach to improving the quality of driving standards in the interests of road safety, I am considering whether further changes to driver licensing regulations are desirable. In particular, I wish to bring in measures that will reduce long-term reliance on provisional licences, address the disproportionately high number of road accidents involving motorcyclists and ensure that learner drivers make adequate preparation for their driving tests.

I am also reviewing the provision whereby holders of second provisional licences for cars are not required to be accompanied by a person who holds a driving licence for that category of vehicle with a view to ending this arrangement. All other provisional licence holders other than drivers of motorcycles and work vehicles must be accompanied by a qualified driver at all times when driving in a public place.

I intend to submit detailed proposals for a package of driver licensing reforms to Government shortly.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 126 on today's Order Paper.

National Car Test.

Questions (75, 76)

Dan Neville

Question:

135 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the pass-fail criteria of the NCT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6594/04]

View answer

Seymour Crawford

Question:

137 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the NCT system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6725/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 137 together.

I have no plans to review the criteria for refusal of a national car test certificate. The NCT was introduced in order to implement the requirements of EU Directive 96/96/EC relating to the roadworthiness testing of passenger cars. The directive specifies the items to be tested as part of a vehicle test. The NCT reflects both the requirements of the directive and those laid down in national regulations relating to the standards which a vehicle must meet for use on a public road.

Public Transport.

Questions (77, 78, 79, 80, 81)

Joan Burton

Question:

136 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the position concerning his Department’s discussions with the CIE group of unions in regard to the restructuring of the CIE groups of companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6765/04]

View answer

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

139 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6613/04]

View answer

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

141 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he proposes to achieve his target of 25% of bus services in Dublin being open to competitive tender by the allocation of exclusively new bus routes to this open competition; and if he will also need to open up some existing bus services to ensure that the target is reached. [6816/04]

View answer

Joe Costello

Question:

179 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the privatisation of one quarter of existing bus routes throughout the country; the basis for his view that this will improve services; his proposals for regulation of the bus markets; if he will report on the state of discussions with the unions in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6770/04]

View answer

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

192 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6614/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 139, 141, 179 and 192 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 111.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Penalty Points System.

Questions (82, 83, 84)

Phil Hogan

Question:

138 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to review the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6728/04]

View answer

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

174 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he has decided on a definite date for the computerisation of the penalty points system; the number of drivers who have received penalty points to date; if there have been any disqualifications to date based on the number of points received; the timetable for the extension of the system to other road offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6786/04]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

193 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to roll out the other offences under the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6730/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 174 and 193 together.

Penalty points are being applied to the driving licence records of those convicted of speeding, seat belt wearing and insurance offences, and to those who pay a fixed charge to the Garda — in the case of speeding and seat belt wearing offences — to prevent the instigation of court proceedings.

The full application of the penalty points system will be achieved when the relevant IT systems being developed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda are completed. The question of reviewing the system will be considered against the background of its full operation.

It is now one year and four months since penalty points for were first introduced. At the end of January, 2004 over 107,000 drivers have received penalty points since the introduction of the system in October 2002. At the end of January, no driver had accumulated the 12 point threshold which leads to automatic disqualification.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Railway Stations.

Questions (85)

John Perry

Question:

140 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of Spencer Dock; if he has had discussions with Irish Rail on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6718/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Irish Rail has submitted a short-term investment priorities plan to my Department for consideration. The plan includes proposals for the development of a railway station at Spencer Dock. The specific elements of the plan are being discussed by Irish Rail and my Department at present.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

National Car Test.

Questions (86)

Liz McManus

Question:

142 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent reports that local authorities and car testing centres are misleading motorists throughout the country with regard to current NCT certificate requirement to tax a car; the action he has taken to address this confusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6788/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Responsibility for motor tax policy and administration of motor tax is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Motor tax renewal notices are issued by the vehicle registration unit of the Department. A valid NCT certificate has not been needed to tax a car since December 2001. This change in the regulation was made clear to all motor tax offices at that time and has been reiterated on a number of occasions since then.

At my request, NCTS is amending its information leaflet for customers so as to clarify the position. The reference in motor tax renewal notices to the necessity to have a NCT certificate in order to tax a liable vehicle will also be omitted as soon as the present stocks have been exhausted.

Notwithstanding this, the requirement remains under the Road Traffic Act 1961 for a vehicle liable to testing to be covered by a valid NCT certificate when it is used in a public place. A person not having a test certificate for a liable car is open to a fine of up to €1,500 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or both.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 125.

Driving Licences.

Questions (87, 88, 89)

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the mechanisms in place to re-issue lost driving licences, when the local authority has failed to maintain a record; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6551/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

178 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to put mechanisms in place where the issuing authority has no record of a driving licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6606/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

194 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to put a system in place to re-issue lost driving licences when the local authority has failed to maintain a record; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6550/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144, 178 and 194 together.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 to 2001, it is a matter for the appropriate licensing authority to determine the eligibility of a person for a duplicate driving licence and to issue licences. I have no plans to change this arrangement.

Air Services.

Questions (90)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

145 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport his view on the collapse of a Cork based airline (details supplied); if he has established the reasons for the collapse; the effect this may have for the Irish airline industry in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6778/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Cork based regional airline, Jetmagic, announced the suspension of its operations on Wednesday, 28 January 2004. The company has not yet had a meeting of shareholders and until that meeting happens a final decision on the company cannot be taken. A spokesperson for the airline has informed my Department that all of the airline's passengers have returned home, and that where advanced credit card bookings were made, that those moneys are being refunded.

Two of the airline's three aircraft have been repossessed by the Swiss leasing company which provided them, with the third aircraft due to be returned to the leasing company following maintenance to its engine. One aircraft had been impounded by Aer Rianta, but Aer Rianta and the Swiss leasing company reached a mutually satisfactory settlement.

The airline's own view of why it collapsed is that expected passenger demand did not materialise, especially in terms of business travel and the company's projections regarding traffic to London in particular were not realised. The company also cited competition on some of its routes as impacting on their business forecast for 2004.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation became aware towards the end of last year that Jetmagic was facing financial difficulties. The CAR contacted the company regarding concerns it had about the financial situation and asked the company to improve its balance sheet position. Jetmagic subsequently confirmed to the CAR that it had received additional investment from some of its shareholders. It is now clear that those additional funds were not sufficient for the ongoing viability of the company.

It is regrettable that this new Irish airline did not succeed. Its efforts illustrate the competitive nature of the airline business today. That competition, of course, has been very positive for the growth and cost of Irish aviation in recent years. Jetmagic's experiences do not necessarily mean that other start-up airlines, Irish or otherwise, will not succeed. An airline's choice of market, services and business strategy,inter alia, will determine its success.

Driving Tests.

Questions (91)

David Stanton

Question:

146 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reform the driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6621/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The requirements of the practical driving test are set out in the relevant EU directive. A number of improvements to the practical driving test are in the course of implementation on foot of amendments agreed at EU level. These changes relate to random checks on mechanical aspects of vehicles which have a bearing on road safety such as tyres, steering, brakes, engine oil, coolant, washer fluid, lights, reflectors, indicators and horn. A study to assess the impact of these additional requirements is almost completed by my Department.

In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, is arranging for the implementation of improvements to truck tests, such as parking safely for loading-unloading at a loading ramp and coupling and uncoupling the vehicle.

Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 124.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 126.
Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

EU Presidency.

Questions (92)

Seán Ryan

Question:

151 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his priorities for the remainder of the Irish Presidency of the European Union; the events that have been arranged by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6795/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I presented Ireland's Presidency programme for the transport sector to the Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels on 21 January 2004. The full text of that address is available on my Department's website atwww.transport.ie.

In addition to the formal Presidency programme, I have made road safety a key transport theme of the Presidency. With that in mind I am holding an event in Dublin Castle on 6 April to sign the European Road Safety Charter.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 118.
Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Traffic Management.

Questions (93)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has resolved transport difficulties, existing or anticipated, in respect of the competition between road and rail traffic at the Red Cow roundabout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6821/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

In parallel with the opening to traffic of the Dublin Port tunnel in 2005, Dublin City Council will be introducing a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure that maximum traffic benefits are secured from the DPT. The development and implementation of that strategy are primarily matters for Dublin City Council.

I understand that the position relating to the Red Cow roundabout is that the upgrade works proposed at the roundabout as part of the overall M50 upgrade project are intended to remove as much traffic as possible from the signal-controlled environment through the provision of additional structures and free-flow slips that are separated from other traffic movements. That will significantly increase the overall capacity of the interchange and reduce the Luas-car interface so that both the road and Luas network will have increased capacity to maintain a satisfactory level of service. The proposed works will reduce significantly the volume of traffic interfacing with Luas, that is, traffic crossed by Luas. Subject to satisfactory progress in planning and design and securing An Bord Pleanála approval, it is expected that work on upgrading the Red Cow interchange will commence in spring 2005 and be completed by spring 2007.

In the meantime, both the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, are satisfied that Luas, despite the current unsatisfactory traffic conditions at the Red Cow junction, will be able to operate satisfactorily using existing traffic signal sequences, pending the upgrade of the junction as part of the M50 upgrade project. The trams are driven in much the same way as a car or a bus in that drivers yield to other traffic if they are confronted with a red light.

Traffic Regulations.

Questions (94)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

156 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to introduce height restrictions for trucks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6798/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

To facilitate and inform the public consultation process on the question of the possible reintroduction of a maximum height for vehicles, I have decided to publish draft regulations together with a background paper which will outline the considerations of the various interests involved in the matter. I expect to be able to issue the draft regulations and information paper in the near future.

Public Transport.

Questions (95)

Richard Bruton

Question:

157 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the financial mechanisms in place to review infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6612/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 132 of 28 January 2004, in which I outlined the financial mechanisms in place in my Department to review infrastructural projects.

Road Network.

Questions (96)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

158 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to reported comments at a symposium in Dublin Castle earlier in 2004 from a European expert on transport stating that the national roads programme here failed every single one of 27 indicators of good transport policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6794/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I understand that, in the context of a presentation to the conference on investment in sustainable development held in Dublin on 2 February 2004, the vice-president of Transport and Environment Europe, a European non-governmental organisation focusing on transport and environmental issues, reviewed information on 27 indicators relating to transport and the environment published by the European Environment Agency as part of its reported mechanism, TERM, on the impact of transport on the environment.

The indicators are European-level indicators which relate to the transport sector overall. I understand that the presentation referred to by the Deputy related to trends at European level regarding the integration of transport and environmental policies generally and not to the national roads programme in Ireland.

Public Transport.

Questions (97, 98)

Paul McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward integrated ticketing and smart card technologies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6733/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

196 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward integrated ticketing and smart card technologies; if money has been allocated for this purpose in his Department’s Estimates for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6736/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 196 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has statutory responsibility for the implementation of an integrated ticketing system based on smart card technologies for initial deployment in the Dublin area. The RPA has set a target date of 2005 for the launch of the full smart card based integrated ticketing system in Dublin. It continues to examine all options to expedite the delivery of integrated ticketing with a view to bringing forward the proposed launch date. An important step will be the launch later this year by the Railway Procurement Agency of smart cards on Luas services.

The allocation for integrated ticketing in the 2004 Estimates for my Department is €9.5 million.

Road Safety.

Questions (99, 100)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

160 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether confusion exists as to the entitlement of motorists to use the hard shoulder between motorway and non-motorway roads; and his further views on whether it is in the interests of road safety to clarify this confusion and to apply similar regulations to both. [6824/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

There are clear distinctions between the rules governing the use of motorways and other roads and I am not aware of difficulties being experienced by motorists in the use of hard shoulders on motorways as distinct from all other roads. The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 to 1998 establish that vehicles are prohibited from using the hard shoulders on motorways. The only exception to that rule occurs where a vehicle is broken down, on which occurrence the driver is required to obtain assistance to facilitate the early removal of the vehicle from the motorway.

No similar prohibitions apply to roads other than motorways. Hard shoulders on such roads serve a number of functions, including the facilitation of pedestrians, cyclists and slow moving vehicles, all of which are not allowed to enter a motorway. I will arrange for a review of the traffic and parking regulations to be undertaken later this year and, in that context, I will examine any submission the Deputy wishes to make about the issue raised in this question.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 134.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

162 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the expected publication date of the blueprint for improved truck safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6774/04]

View answer

I have no plans for the publication of a document concerned specifically with truck safety. The Programme for Government states that a three year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink driving, seatbelt wearing and pedestrian safety in order to reduce deaths and injuries. The strategy will outline a range of issues that it is intended will be pursued over the three year period 2004-06. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seatbelt wearing. The strategy will set targeted reductions in the numbers of deaths on the roads and implementation of the measures set out in the strategy will lead to increased safety on the roads for all road users, including truck drivers. I expect the strategy to be published shortly.

I am committed to ensuring that vehicles used on Irish roads conform to high safety standards both in terms of the vehicles themselves and the driving of them. Vehicle safety is being addressed primarily through the implementation of EU measures and the updating of national regulations. Safety standards for new motor vehicles are constantly being improved through the operation of the EU motor vehicle type approval system, which specifies harmonised standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle components in the EU, and is reflected in the setting of revised standards for new vehicle entry into service. Vehicle testing also makes a valuable contribution to road safety by identifying defective vehicles and by developing an appreciation of the importance of regular service and proper maintenance of vehicles.

Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Light Rail Project.

Questions (101)

John Deasy

Question:

164 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the supervision role of his Department in the Luas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6609/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Railway Procurement Agency is responsible for the delivery of the Luas project. The agency has confirmed that it complies with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, including conformity with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in the public sector.

A light rail monitoring committee is in place and comprises representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Railway Procurement Agency. Independent technical experts, who report to the Department on a monthly basis, assist the light rail monitoring committee. The RPA also reports on programme and budgetary issues to my Department on a monthly basis.

Luas passenger services will commence on the Tallaght line at the end of August 2004 and on the Sandyford line at the end of June 2004. The RPA has informed me that the project is within the €691 million budget and €84 million risk provision as notified to the Government in 2002.

Questions Nos. 165 and 166 answered with Question No. 125.

Road Network.

Questions (102, 103)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

167 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the progress on the delivery of the inter-urban motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6623/04]

View answer

Brian O'Shea

Question:

171 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if the new target date of 2007 set for the completion of full motorways compares with the projected timetable provided in the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6793/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 171 together.

The current position with the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway or high quality dual carriageway standard is that the M1 is expected to be completed by end 2006. Work is under way on major projects on the N7 — Monasterevin bypass and Limerick southern ring road, phase 1; on the N8 — Cashel bypass; and on the N4-N6 — Kilcock-Kinnegad. Work is expected to start this year on the Dundalk western bypass and Dundalk to Newry sections of the M1, the Fermoy bypass on the N8, Waterford city bypass on the N9-N25 and the Naas Road widening on the N7. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by, or be before, An Bord Pleanála by end 2004. With regard to the national roads programme overall, it should be noted that since 2000 a total of 37 projects, over 250kms, have been completed. Work is in progress on 17 projects, 150kms, and another 16 projects, 150kms, are at tender stage.

On the basis of current planning and funding the NRA estimates that the completion of these routes, other than the M1, will extend to 2010 compared to 2006 as mandated in the NDP. In response to a request from me, the NRA is considering, in the context of the multi-annual programme being prepared in response to the announcement by the Minister for Finance of a multi-annual funding framework for capital investment, the scope to bring forward the completion of the Cork-Dublin and Galway-Dublin routes to 2007.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Traffic Regulations.

Questions (104)

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

169 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if it will be possible under new speed regulations to introduce 30 kph speed limits on sections of the city centre road network such as along the city quays or on streets such as Pearse Street, Westmoreland Street and College Green. [6813/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

A broadly based working group established last year to review speed limit policies, against the backdrop of the adoption of metric values for speed limits, has presented a comprehensive report that incorporates a wide range of recommendations. The report is available on my Department's website and copies have been forwarded to the Oireachtas.

The working group recommended that a default speed limit of 50 kmh should apply in built-up areas. This value is very similar to the current default speed limit of 30 mph in built-up areas. In addition a particular recommendation has been made with regard to the introduction of a special low speed limit of 30 kmh for some residential areas that meet certain criteria, in particular where appropriate traffic calming measures are provided. The working group envisaged that the application by local authorities of this special low speed limit would be subject to guidelines to be issued by my Department.

I have given careful consideration to the working group's recommendations. I intend to bring the necessary legislative proposals needed to support new speed limit structures based on the working group's report before the Oireachtas shortly.

Roads Funding.

Questions (105)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

170 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the details of the agreement reached between his Department and the Department of Finance on a multi-annual funding arrangement for the National Roads Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6792/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The multi-annual funding framework for capital investment announced by the Minister for Finance in budget 2004 provides for a total investment of €8.2 billion, £6.857 billion. Exchequer and €1.35 billion provide sector funding in the national roads development programme over the period 2004-2008. My Department and the Department of Finance are currently preparing an agreement to underpin the funding envelope for capital investment in the transport sector including national roads. It is envisaged that the agreement will incorporate provisions relating,inter alia, to the annual funding levels, contractual commitments and reporting and monitoring arrangements. As part of the process the NRA are preparing a multi-annual funding plan for the 2004-08 period.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 167.
Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 125.
Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 124.
Question No. 174 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Road Traffic Offences.

Questions (106)

Joan Burton

Question:

175 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport his views on figures released by the Garda showing that over the Christmas 2003 period, while the number of motorists breath tested fell, the number of arrests did not fall in proportion; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that officers stated that there is no apparent reason for this discrepancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6766/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Enforcement of traffic laws generally is a matter for the Garda Síochána. In addition the question of making a determination as to whether or not a person may be charged with an offence under the road traffic Acts is also a matter for the Garda acting in consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I understand that the Garda made some data available to the press relating to the provisional results of the operation of their traffic enforcement campaigns over the Christmas period. I understand that the data issued by the Garda Síochána included statistics showing that the number of persons who were required to undergo roadside breath tests exceeded the number of arrests made for drink driving offences in the same period. In general terms, trends in the figures relating to the number of roadside tests administered and the number of those arrested over a specific time period may differ for a number of reasons including timing factor concerning the administration of tests, subsequent arrests and prosecutions.

Regional Airports.

Questions (107)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

176 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of regional airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6604/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of our six regional airports. My Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective.

With regard to capital funding, grant-aid of approximately €9.2 million has already been approved under first round allocations under the regional airports measure of the NDP. The primary objective of this measure is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports. A further round of projects will be considered for funding under the measure later this year.

My Department also administers a grant scheme to assist the regional airports with marketing, safety and security related current expenditure. The total amount provisionally allocated in the Estimates for 2004 is €2.24 million and the individual amounts for each airport will be determined shortly.

The Government's commitment to regional airports will continue. However, the scale of Exchequer assistance to the regional airports will have to be carefully assessed in line with general airport and aviation policy and the availability of Exchequer funds.

Taxi Regulations.

Questions (22)

Pat Breen

Question:

108 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport when he expects his officials to have completed the negotiations on the Ireland-US bilateral air agreement; the case he and his officials have made to the US on behalf of Shannon; if he has made a case to the European Commissioner, Loyola De Palacio, for an exemption for Shannon; his bottom line in these negotiations; if he and his officials will cease negotiations if an acceptable package is not forthcoming for Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6834/04]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, I have authorised my officials to seek negotiations with the United States on possible phased amendments to the Ireland-US bilateral agreement. No dates have yet been finalised for such negotiations. My Department has also been in contact with the European Commission to inform it of the intended negotiations with the US. While, on several occasions I have stressed to the Commission the importance of the Shannon issue for the Irish authorities, I believe the best prospects for achieving the most advantageous outcome for Irish aviation and tourism, including Shannon Airport, lie in direct Ireland-US talks.

On 5 February I met the Aer Rianta unions for further discussions on the dual gateway status of Shannon. There will be further discussions with the unions and the Shannon board designate before my negotiating position is finalised. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to publicise my negotiating position in advance.

I thank the Minister for his short reply, which is not really a reply. Given the reports over the weekend from US officials that Department of Transport officials have made a case for new gateways for Aer Lingus, will the Minister confirm that no special case has been made for Shannon? Within the EU open skies negotiations, the Commissioner, Loyola De Palacio, has stated that Shannon represents a special case. Is it true that no special case has been made for Shannon since the former Minister for Public Enterprise, Senator O'Rourke, did so? Is it correct to assume that the proposal by Aer Lingus to ask 50% of its staff to leave is a precursor to Aer Lingus leaving Shannon Airport to consolidate its business in Dublin? Does the Minister support such consolidation?

Both publicly at the Council of Ministers and privately to the Commission I have consistently made the case for Shannon Airport and will continue to do so. The US and the EU are engaged in talks about open skies, the first round of which is complete. A further round will take place in Brussels in the week commencing 29 March. I understand the Commissioner is adopting a two-phased approach with some progress to be made by June and the rest will await the outcome of the United States presidential elections. In the context of the US-EU talks it is important that we protect Shannon Airport.

The reason I have authorised discussions, which have not yet commenced, is to seek to ensure that, in the context of the USA-EU deal, we get a deal for Shannon with which the airport can live and that will allow Aer Lingus to continue to operate out of it and provide more gateways. Aer Lingus requires additional gateways to the United States. We cannot obtain those under the present bilateral agreement. For that reason it is necessary to renegotiate it, but that must be done in the context of the USA-EU talks.

Were I not to approach it in this way, we would be at the mercy of the USA-EU making an arrangement which could be some years away and which may not suit Shannon. It is critically important that we achieve an understanding with the United States so that, when that deal between the USA and the EU is completed, it will incorporate a clear deal for Shannon Airport that allows it to move forward strongly with Aer Lingus.

I do not support the idea of Aer Lingus exiting Shannon, nor do I believe the company has any intention of doing so. The present job situation there partly relates to baggage handling, which is being undertaken by another company for other airlines and not specifically Aer Lingus, although there are other disputes. However, Aer Lingus informs me that it intends to operate as soon as new gateways to the United States from Shannon can be obtained. It does not envisage exiting Shannon Airport. The contrary is the case.

How does the Minister intend to guarantee transatlantic services in Shannon, given the situation that has arisen in the context of Aer Lingus in recent times, especially in the context of its proposed summer schedule in which some of the transatlantic services out of Shannon are being scaled down? If fewer people work for Aer Lingus in Shannon, there will be fewer services.

I am also informed that Aer Lingus was not tendering for extra business in Shannon, especially regarding third party handling of baggage. What deals are in place for Shannon? There is no trust now. Workers in Shannon have no faith in either Aer Lingus or the Minister. Will the Minister give the workers a guarantee, especially where transatlantic flights are concerned, because they are the core — 44% — of business for Shannon Airport?

I cannot give guarantees. A commercial world approach is involved and I cannot give guarantees about that. Aer Lingus has a commercial mandate. It must make aliving. It informs me it is fully committed to Shannon.

We have been hearing that for a long time.

Aer Lingus still flies out of Shannon.

Just about.

Its passenger numbers out of Shannon are growing substantially.

There are fewer services.

I am told that Aer Lingus is fully committed to providing those services and to expanding them, if possible.

State Airports.

Questions (23, 24)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

109 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the status of the Government decision announced by him on 10 July 2003 to proceed with arrangements with a view to establishing Dublin, Shannon and Cork as independent airport authorities under which new arrangements the three airports would compete with each other and vigorously pursue new business, free from central control, including arrangements (details supplied), in the wake of the press reports of 21 February 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7091/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

344 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has resolved the legal difficulties surrounding the break up of Aer Rianta; if he has satisfied himself that the three airports are commercially viable as stand-alone entities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6836/04]

View answer

Oral answers (25 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 109 and 344 together.

I am satisfied that the Government decision of July last to restructure Aer Rianta will be implemented within the timeframe originally envisaged for this project. As I said in response to questions a few weeks ago in this House, there are significant technical and legal issues which my Department and its advisers are working through in conjunction with Aer Rianta management and its advisers. We want to ensure, in accordance with the Government decision, that the new independent Shannon and Cork airport authorities commence business with a fresh start while at the same time ensuring that Dublin Airport, which is the country's main metropolitan gateway, is also positioned to develop and grow to meet the increasing travel demands of our business and tourism sectors.

The articles in the media on 21 February last referred to a confidential document drawn up by my Department for the purpose of advancing the implementation of this important, strategic and of course complex project. The project steering group which comprises officials of my Department and the Department of Finance, Aer Rianta management and advisers, is evaluating the technical, operational and commercial aspects of the approach proposed in that document. This exercise includes the prompt finalisation of revised financial projections for each of the three State airports as stand-alone entities. Obviously, it is essential that each of the new airport authorities would have sound opening balance sheets and that each would be able to trade successfully on a commercial basis in the future. As I have emphasised on numerous previous occasions, however, the preparation of these revised and updated financial projections will not in any way inhibit the commercial freedom and responsibility of the new authorities, when formally established, to develop strategic business plans for each of the three airports.

While no decisions have yet been taken on the precise methodology to give effect to the Government decision, the approach being explored by the steering group would involve the transfer of Shannon and Cork airports out of Aer Rianta by way of a distribution in specie. Under this approach, the transfers would take place on a phased basis as the reserves of the parent company permit. It would be an objective of this approach to keep the timescale associated with the phased transfers to the minimum and, in this regard, other financial options for allocating airport assets among the three airports are also being examined. In this regard also, the issue of Aer Rianta's main subsidiaries such as Aer Rianta International and the Great Southern hotels group is being carefully examined. Deputies will appreciate that while this important work is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on or pre-empt the outcome.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

In tandem with this work, my Department is also well advanced with the drafting of the necessary amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring. At this stage, it is not envisaged that the amending legislation will dictate the specific methodology which is ultimately decided upon to effect the restructuring. Instead, it will contain enabling provisions which will preserve a degree of flexibility and ensure that optimum mechanisms, which are in the best interests of each of the new independent airport authorities, are employed. The enactment of the amending legislation, which I believe will be achieved before the summer, will also enable the establishment of the three new boards for the State airports on a formal, statutory basis.

Both I and my Department are also maintaining the ongoing process of full engagement with the Aer Rianta unions to deal with issues of concern to workers arising from the implementation of the Government decision. When the revised financial projections for the three airports which I referred to earlier are completed, I have already confirmed my willingness to share key financial information with the unions in the context of the current engagement process being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission before legislation is finalised. As Deputies are aware, I have also conveyed assurances and clarifications about the protection of the current terms and conditions of employment of Aer Rianta workers in the context of the three new independent airport authorities when established.

Does the Minister accept that he has made a hames of the restructuring of Aer Rianta? Does he accept that, when he announced last July on the basis of a hunch that he intended to break up the Aer Rianta company, he did not have a clue what he was getting into? Does he accept that, because of that, he has had to employ an army of consultants, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Matheson Ormsby Prentice and God knows who else? Will he inform us how much taxpayers' money he is spending on consultants to get him out of the legal and economic mess he has created for himself and Aer Rianta?

The Minister said that he was on target and within his timescale. I remind him that, in his announcement last July, he said he would immediately establish the three boards designate for the three airports. That has not been done. He spoke about having builders on site in Dublin Airport by last Christmas to commence construction of the second terminal. There has been no movement on that, nor has there been any movement on pier D. The Minister spoke about having the legislation in the House by last December. There was a delay and he promised it for January. It is now the end of February and there is no sign of that legislation because it is almost impossible to legislate for the hunch the Minister had in mind last year not knowing and not giving any consideration to what was involved.

The Minister has informed us in recent days that the reason he is not publishing the legislation is that he is meeting the unions as part of his negotiations. What negotiations are taking place? When did the Minister last meet the unions? Has he met the unions since the industrial action was called off some weeks ago?

The Minister is talking about legislating for something for which it is not possible to legislate. Will he put on the record the legal obstacles that have been identified by the consultants? How does he propose to overcome them?

There are about 18 questions there.

The Minister has about one minute to answer the questions.

I do not accept that I made a hames of it. That is the answer to the first question. I do not accept that it is impossible to legislate.

Where is the legislation?

Deputy Shortall should allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

I do not accept that it is impossible to legislate. This House should have no difficulty in taking a State company and establishing three independent airports by legislation.

The Minister cannot just take a PLC——

We will move on to the next question if the Deputy frustrates the Minister in answering the question. It is not appropriate to do that in a parliamentary democracy.

The Chair is giving the Minister excuses for dodging the question.

The Deputy took three and a half minutes to ask her question. The Minister had one minute remaining to answer it.

I depend on the Chair to notify me of time.

It is not impossible to legislate. The legislation is almost completed and will be brought before the House. There are issues that have yet to be resolved. I explained to the Deputy that they were complex, and that is why we need good advice from consultants and specialists to ensure we do this properly. We are doing it for the future. The reason we are doing it is to allow Shannon and Cork airports to have a fresh start with new leadership and regional input and to place the future of these airports in the hands of the regions. The Deputy and I will never agree on that and I do not envisage there ever being a meeting of minds on it. I firmly believe the Shannon and Cork regions have the capacity, talent, ability and determination to grow those two airports in a way that will never happen in the Aer Rianta structure.

It does not matter what the Minister believes, the evidence——

The time for this question has concluded. We must move on to question No. 110.

It is not a matter of what the Minister believes. He is doing a huge damage to Shannon Airport and Cork Airport.

That is the trade union view. We know from where the Deputy is coming on that matter.

No, it is the view of the——

There are other Deputies who have submitted questions and who are entitled to hear the replies to them.

Deputy Shortall should ask the people of Shannon and Cork.

They are extremely concerned about the jobs haemorrhaging out of Shannon Airport.

I believe in Shannon and Cork.

What about——

I will have to ask Deputy Shortall to leave the House if she does not allow the Minister to answer question No. 110 in the name of Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Legislative Programme.

Questions (25, 26)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will review national transport policy in view of the publication of the 2002 census travel statistics which showed a dramatic increase in car use for adults going to work and children going to school; if such a review is to be carried out, the form it will take and the timetable for the resulting review of investment priorities within his Department. [7073/04]

View answer

Oral answers (24 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

Transport policy is kept under constant review and data such as that in the census figures contributes to that process. National transport policy has to meet a wide range of needs and demands and the census figures reflect how the demand for mobility has increased dramatically in recent years as the country has developed and economic growth has increased. The challenge is to respond appropriately to this demand while taking into account potential conflicts with other policy objectives, including those relating to sustainable development, balanced regional development, social inclusion and land use development, which is coherent with transport policy.

Against this background, and on the basis of the mandate in An Agreed Programme for Government, my Department's statement of strategy 2003-05 establishes strategies that will underpin Ireland's economic growth and competitiveness and contribute to social development through the efficient and effective delivery of a sustainable, appropriately regulated, safe and integrated transport system.

A key component of that policy is the significant investment taking place in key transport infrastructure and services, in a manner consistent with the national spatial strategy and in a way which promotes modal shift in favour of sustainable transport. Much of the benefit of that investment is now becoming evident in Dublin and in other urban areas, as the DTO's most recent annual report revealed. For example, it emerged that the percentage of commuters using their car instead of the bus or train to travel in the morning peak in Dublin had fallen slightly in the five years to 2002. Some 85,000 or more than 18% now use buses to travel to work in the greater Dublin area, primarily due to the success of the quality bus corridors. These are positive trends.

I do not know if the Minister believes what he has just read into the record. If one considers the census statistics, it is clear we are presiding over a disaster in the area of transport. The Minister stated that we have a policy aimed at achieving modal shift. It is obvious from the census figures that this is not happening. Any analysis shows that people are switching to their cars. Our children are learning habits or starting lifestyles which will encourage them to drive to school rather than walk or cycle there as in the past.

The Minister referred to a slight marginal increase in some parts of inner city Dublin in respect of bus use. However, the reality is that most Dubliners drive to work from counties Laois, Kildare and Meath. These journeys are extremely long and lead to huge economic, social and environmental costs. The Minister is facilitating such transport patterns by spending four times more on motorways than on public transport. While he states that we want to achieve a modal shift towards public transport, the reality is that he is providing for a modal shift in the opposite direction. He is getting what he and other Ministers want to achieve, namely, a massive switch to car use.

What will the Minister do about this? How will he change policy or will it be a case of continuing as we go on the basis of the census figures? Are we to change anything or is the Minister satisfied the current policy is leading to the desired result? Does he believe the constant shift from 1986, when 45% of work journeys were done by car, to 1996, when 55% were done by car, and on to 2002, when 62% were done by car, is a step in the right direction? If not, what will he do about it?

I acknowledge the Deputy's statement that there has been a substantial increase in car use. A total of 50% of primary school students and 28% of secondary school students are driven to school. These are double the corresponding figures for 1981. It is clear there has been a major growth in the use of cars.

It has been the policy of successive Governments to try to effect a real modal shift. There is no great magic about how we intend to achieve this. First, we are building the Luas. In addition, we have put in place substantial quality bus corridors on which more than €90 million was spent during the past eight or nine years. This year our target is to double the number of quality bus corridors. There has been a substantial increase in the patronage of buses on these corridors. In addition, the average bus journey on the Stillorgan corridor is 35 minutes whereas in a car it is almost 65 minutes.

The answer to the Deputy's question is that it is a constant battle. Dublin is not unique in facing such a scenario. The people of Dublin are not selfish and if we provide public transport for them they will leave their cars at home. There has been phenomenal investment in Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann in recent years.

It has been the policy of successive Governments to develop Luas, bring forward the metro, invest heavily in quality bus corridors and buses and invest heavily in cycling and walking facilities throughout the city and county. That is what is happening at present and it is one of the reasons the city is almost a building site.

During the past seven years there has been an increase of 9,000 in the number of people using buses. At the same time, there has been an increase of 280,000 in the numbers driving cars. The Minister is spending four times more on roads than on public transport.

The Deputy should put a question.

How is it proposed to reverse this position or encourage a modal shift?

The main answer is that we are catching up in terms of roads.

Four times more is being spent on roads.

Approximately €400 million or €500 million will be spent on public transport this year. As the Deputy is aware, the economy has been exploding and we have had to catch up in terms of our motorways. Most countries of Ireland's size would have full motorways running between their main cities. We are still trying to get there. We have invested heavily in rail and will continue to do so.

Denis Naughten

Question:

111 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding discussions taking place with the bus unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6835/04]

View answer

I stated in my reply to a priority question on 28 of January my belief that the objective of regulated market opening could be achieved in the context of market expansion and negotiations without undermining terms and conditions of employment of existing employees. I also indicated my expectation that Dublin Bus would continue to play a significant role in meeting the future transport needs of Dublin. As stated on a number of occasions in the House, I am firmly of the view, supported by a number of professional studies and experience in other countries, that franchising is the most effective means of achieving genuine market opening to new entrants. However, I remain open to additional suggestions provided they are directed at achieving the same objective. Likewise, I am open to reasonable proposals relating to the pace of the introduction of competition so long as this objective is achieved in an acceptable time frame.

The Secretary General of my Department wrote to the CIE unions on 29 January outlining what I had said in the House and proposing that intensive discussions take place under an independent chair, within a tight time frame on the basis I have already set out. The CIE unions agreed to resume discussions on this basis. Intensive discussions, chaired by Mr. Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission, commenced on 17 February. These discussions are ongoing and I understand have been characterised to date by a forthright and meaningful engagement on the issues.

Does the Minister accept that what we do not need is a change in the colour of the buses in Dublin? With regard to franchising, is it intended to have 25% more buses in Dublin or will 25% of the Dublin Bus fleet be handed over to private operators?

There is not a "yes" or "no" answer to that question. My target for Dublin is to open 25% of the market initially, before further progress is made. If I were to open it today, I would be talking about 25% of the existing market. If it is opened in six months' time when legislation is passed by the House, it will be 25% of the market as it exists at that time. The market is growing rapidly each day. There are increasing demands regarding the number of routes, buses and new services. My target is to achieve a figure of opening 25% of the entire market in 2004. I have not given up on this objective as yet.

The Minister continues to speak in parables. Does he agree that we need 250 additional buses in Dublin now, rather than in six or 12 months? Many communities around Dublin and elsewhere need bus services which are not being provided because the bureaucracy involved in the current system prevents it. Will the Minister ensure that a mechanism is introduced to provide services for the communities in question? Is it his intention to hand over some of the garages in Dublin to private operators to provide services in the city? Is he aware that the privatisation of bus garages in London was detrimental to competition?

In recent years, the public has provided hundreds of new buses for Dublin Bus and the company has done a fine job in using these assets. As regards the need to have more buses immediately, I am anxious to proceed with my proposals as quickly as possible in order that we can provide the additional services the city needs.

I do not want to discuss the matter in too much detail because discussions are ongoing, but I have received a number of studies on bus services, including the NERA and ISOTOPE reports to which I referred, both of which are strongly in favour of the direction I have proposed. I have a list of statistics in regard to the position in Helsinki, Stockholm and London before and after franchising. They are startling figures in that they all show that franchising resulted in significant increases in the number of buses and people travelling, reductions in subsidies per passenger and more modern bus fleets.

If the Minister is so eager to open up the market in Dublin, why did he not start discussions with the trade unions at an earlier date, rather than postponing them until now? If one examines the London market, which I ask the Minister to do, does one not find that while the quality of the service has improved and the number of people travelling on it has increased, the level of subvention to private operators has also increased significantly? That is the factual position.

I also thought that was the case, but when I checked I found that the subvention per passenger has decreased. While the number of passengers has increased dramatically and the subsidy has also increased, the subsidy per passenger has decreased and ultimately this is the key measure.

In that case, does the Minister have available to him the additional resources necessary to provide the additional subventions which will arise?

The Government has not yet worked through all that. I do not have a set number of buses in mind——

Is the Minister relying on another hunch?

I do not have in mind an optimal number of buses for Dublin. Many new applications have been made and new services are being demanded.

They are gathering dust in the Department.

In addition, much greater efficiency is being achieved with buses in that routes can sometimes be amalgamated and the new route serviced by the same buses. I acknowledge that much remains to be worked out in this area but I am clear of where we want to get to and I want to get there in 2004.

That is as clear as mud.

The Minister should visit Sandyford to find out what it is like to have no bus service.

Light Rail Project.

Questions (25, 26)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will review national transport policy in view of the publication of the 2002 census travel statistics which showed a dramatic increase in car use for adults going to work and children going to school; if such a review is to be carried out, the form it will take and the timetable for the resulting review of investment priorities within his Department. [7073/04]

View answer

Oral answers (24 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

Transport policy is kept under constant review and data such as that in the census figures contributes to that process. National transport policy has to meet a wide range of needs and demands and the census figures reflect how the demand for mobility has increased dramatically in recent years as the country has developed and economic growth has increased. The challenge is to respond appropriately to this demand while taking into account potential conflicts with other policy objectives, including those relating to sustainable development, balanced regional development, social inclusion and land use development, which is coherent with transport policy.

Against this background, and on the basis of the mandate in An Agreed Programme for Government, my Department's statement of strategy 2003-05 establishes strategies that will underpin Ireland's economic growth and competitiveness and contribute to social development through the efficient and effective delivery of a sustainable, appropriately regulated, safe and integrated transport system.

A key component of that policy is the significant investment taking place in key transport infrastructure and services, in a manner consistent with the national spatial strategy and in a way which promotes modal shift in favour of sustainable transport. Much of the benefit of that investment is now becoming evident in Dublin and in other urban areas, as the DTO's most recent annual report revealed. For example, it emerged that the percentage of commuters using their car instead of the bus or train to travel in the morning peak in Dublin had fallen slightly in the five years to 2002. Some 85,000 or more than 18% now use buses to travel to work in the greater Dublin area, primarily due to the success of the quality bus corridors. These are positive trends.

I do not know if the Minister believes what he has just read into the record. If one considers the census statistics, it is clear we are presiding over a disaster in the area of transport. The Minister stated that we have a policy aimed at achieving modal shift. It is obvious from the census figures that this is not happening. Any analysis shows that people are switching to their cars. Our children are learning habits or starting lifestyles which will encourage them to drive to school rather than walk or cycle there as in the past.

The Minister referred to a slight marginal increase in some parts of inner city Dublin in respect of bus use. However, the reality is that most Dubliners drive to work from counties Laois, Kildare and Meath. These journeys are extremely long and lead to huge economic, social and environmental costs. The Minister is facilitating such transport patterns by spending four times more on motorways than on public transport. While he states that we want to achieve a modal shift towards public transport, the reality is that he is providing for a modal shift in the opposite direction. He is getting what he and other Ministers want to achieve, namely, a massive switch to car use.

What will the Minister do about this? How will he change policy or will it be a case of continuing as we go on the basis of the census figures? Are we to change anything or is the Minister satisfied the current policy is leading to the desired result? Does he believe the constant shift from 1986, when 45% of work journeys were done by car, to 1996, when 55% were done by car, and on to 2002, when 62% were done by car, is a step in the right direction? If not, what will he do about it?

I acknowledge the Deputy's statement that there has been a substantial increase in car use. A total of 50% of primary school students and 28% of secondary school students are driven to school. These are double the corresponding figures for 1981. It is clear there has been a major growth in the use of cars.

It has been the policy of successive Governments to try to effect a real modal shift. There is no great magic about how we intend to achieve this. First, we are building the Luas. In addition, we have put in place substantial quality bus corridors on which more than €90 million was spent during the past eight or nine years. This year our target is to double the number of quality bus corridors. There has been a substantial increase in the patronage of buses on these corridors. In addition, the average bus journey on the Stillorgan corridor is 35 minutes whereas in a car it is almost 65 minutes.

The answer to the Deputy's question is that it is a constant battle. Dublin is not unique in facing such a scenario. The people of Dublin are not selfish and if we provide public transport for them they will leave their cars at home. There has been phenomenal investment in Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann in recent years.

It has been the policy of successive Governments to develop Luas, bring forward the metro, invest heavily in quality bus corridors and buses and invest heavily in cycling and walking facilities throughout the city and county. That is what is happening at present and it is one of the reasons the city is almost a building site.

During the past seven years there has been an increase of 9,000 in the number of people using buses. At the same time, there has been an increase of 280,000 in the numbers driving cars. The Minister is spending four times more on roads than on public transport.

The Deputy should put a question.

How is it proposed to reverse this position or encourage a modal shift?

The main answer is that we are catching up in terms of roads.

Four times more is being spent on roads.

Approximately €400 million or €500 million will be spent on public transport this year. As the Deputy is aware, the economy has been exploding and we have had to catch up in terms of our motorways. Most countries of Ireland's size would have full motorways running between their main cities. We are still trying to get there. We have invested heavily in rail and will continue to do so.

Denis Naughten

Question:

111 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding discussions taking place with the bus unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6835/04]

View answer

I stated in my reply to a priority question on 28 of January my belief that the objective of regulated market opening could be achieved in the context of market expansion and negotiations without undermining terms and conditions of employment of existing employees. I also indicated my expectation that Dublin Bus would continue to play a significant role in meeting the future transport needs of Dublin. As stated on a number of occasions in the House, I am firmly of the view, supported by a number of professional studies and experience in other countries, that franchising is the most effective means of achieving genuine market opening to new entrants. However, I remain open to additional suggestions provided they are directed at achieving the same objective. Likewise, I am open to reasonable proposals relating to the pace of the introduction of competition so long as this objective is achieved in an acceptable time frame.

The Secretary General of my Department wrote to the CIE unions on 29 January outlining what I had said in the House and proposing that intensive discussions take place under an independent chair, within a tight time frame on the basis I have already set out. The CIE unions agreed to resume discussions on this basis. Intensive discussions, chaired by Mr. Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission, commenced on 17 February. These discussions are ongoing and I understand have been characterised to date by a forthright and meaningful engagement on the issues.

Does the Minister accept that what we do not need is a change in the colour of the buses in Dublin? With regard to franchising, is it intended to have 25% more buses in Dublin or will 25% of the Dublin Bus fleet be handed over to private operators?

There is not a "yes" or "no" answer to that question. My target for Dublin is to open 25% of the market initially, before further progress is made. If I were to open it today, I would be talking about 25% of the existing market. If it is opened in six months' time when legislation is passed by the House, it will be 25% of the market as it exists at that time. The market is growing rapidly each day. There are increasing demands regarding the number of routes, buses and new services. My target is to achieve a figure of opening 25% of the entire market in 2004. I have not given up on this objective as yet.

The Minister continues to speak in parables. Does he agree that we need 250 additional buses in Dublin now, rather than in six or 12 months? Many communities around Dublin and elsewhere need bus services which are not being provided because the bureaucracy involved in the current system prevents it. Will the Minister ensure that a mechanism is introduced to provide services for the communities in question? Is it his intention to hand over some of the garages in Dublin to private operators to provide services in the city? Is he aware that the privatisation of bus garages in London was detrimental to competition?

In recent years, the public has provided hundreds of new buses for Dublin Bus and the company has done a fine job in using these assets. As regards the need to have more buses immediately, I am anxious to proceed with my proposals as quickly as possible in order that we can provide the additional services the city needs.

I do not want to discuss the matter in too much detail because discussions are ongoing, but I have received a number of studies on bus services, including the NERA and ISOTOPE reports to which I referred, both of which are strongly in favour of the direction I have proposed. I have a list of statistics in regard to the position in Helsinki, Stockholm and London before and after franchising. They are startling figures in that they all show that franchising resulted in significant increases in the number of buses and people travelling, reductions in subsidies per passenger and more modern bus fleets.

If the Minister is so eager to open up the market in Dublin, why did he not start discussions with the trade unions at an earlier date, rather than postponing them until now? If one examines the London market, which I ask the Minister to do, does one not find that while the quality of the service has improved and the number of people travelling on it has increased, the level of subvention to private operators has also increased significantly? That is the factual position.

I also thought that was the case, but when I checked I found that the subvention per passenger has decreased. While the number of passengers has increased dramatically and the subsidy has also increased, the subsidy per passenger has decreased and ultimately this is the key measure.

In that case, does the Minister have available to him the additional resources necessary to provide the additional subventions which will arise?

The Government has not yet worked through all that. I do not have a set number of buses in mind——

Is the Minister relying on another hunch?

I do not have in mind an optimal number of buses for Dublin. Many new applications have been made and new services are being demanded.

They are gathering dust in the Department.

In addition, much greater efficiency is being achieved with buses in that routes can sometimes be amalgamated and the new route serviced by the same buses. I acknowledge that much remains to be worked out in this area but I am clear of where we want to get to and I want to get there in 2004.

That is as clear as mud.

The Minister should visit Sandyford to find out what it is like to have no bus service.

Cycle Facilities.

Questions (27)

Seán Crowe

Question:

112 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the progress made in implementing the taxi hardship payments scheme. [7077/04]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

Area Development Management Limited has been engaged to administer the taxi hardship payments scheme which is implementing the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report in accordance with the relevant Government decision. The scheme was formally launched in November 2003 and application forms were issued to all persons who made submissions to the taxi hardship panel.

Newspaper advertisements were placed in the national newspapers on 6 November 2003 inviting applications under the scheme from those who held taxi licences at 21 November 2000; are able to demonstrate that they have suffered extreme personal financial hardship following loss of income arising from the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime; fall into one of the six categories identified by the taxi hardship panel report; and are tax compliant. ADM is proceeding with the processing and assessment of applications as the application forms and associated required documentation are returned to them. Payments under the scheme commenced in December 2003.

I understand from ADM that it had received a total of 1,025 applications as of 25 February 2004. Hardship payments totalling €2,458,000 have been made to 204 qualifying persons to date and a further 163 applications are expected to come before the ADM board on 3 March for decision. Of the outstanding applications, 657 are awaiting processing. Additional information or clarification has been requested from applicants in approximately 80% of these cases.

The time taken to process applications and to make payments depends on the completeness of the information and supporting documentation in each case. Newspaper advertisements were again placed in the national newspapers on 27 February 2004 inviting applications under the scheme and advising of a closing date of 30 April 2004 for receipt of applications.

In light of our Presidency of the European Union and the possibility that this issue will be raised again soon in the European Parliament, will the Minister outline his reasons for his outright rejection of the report of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, which described the payments made under the taxi hardship payments scheme as "derisory and inadequate" and called for a complete review of the matter? Will he outline what, if any, correspondence he has had with the committee's chairman, Mr. Vitaliano Gemelli, and the nature of any such correspondence?

Is the Minister aware of reports that hundreds of taxi drivers and their families are considering taking legal action against the State over the hardship caused by deregulation of the taxi industry and the manner in which it was handled by the State? Has he taken legal advice or consulted the Attorney General in this regard? Does he accept that the total value of taxi licences before deregulation was €400 million and that the suggestion that the Government's pay-out will amount to €15 million, or less than 4% of the value, proves the argument of groups such as FAIR that taxi drivers will continue to suffer extreme personal financial hardship?

On a personal note, has the Minister been approached by people who have suffered hardship, particular individuals who have had to remortgage their homes and, if so, what is his message to them? Does he not believe that he has a political and moral responsibility to them?

As the Deputy will be aware, when the taxi hardship panel was established its eminent members were asked to investigate how the State could help alleviate the genuine suffering experienced by many families and individuals arising from the liberalisation of the taxi industry. For legal reasons, the issue was never described as a compensation issue but one of hardship. On foot of its investigation, the panel recommended that any future payment scheme should not exceed an amount of €15 million. To date, almost €2.5 million has been paid out and I have provided details on the outstanding amount.

I met the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, which made a strong case for additional funding. Notwithstanding the conflicting views of the committee and the taxi hardship panel, the Government accepted the recommendations of the latter.

As regards the legal actions pending against the State, the manner in which these proceed is a matter for the taxi drivers concerned. I have been approached many times in my clinic and officially by many people who have suffered in this area. While the measures the Government has taken are not sufficient — we would like to do more — we established a sensible process in which three esteemed persons examined the matter and recommended the current approach as the best support the taxpayer could give to people in the taxi industry. I am proceeding on that basis.

Does the Minister accept that the Committee on Petitions, whose findings were the opposite of those of the panel established by the Minister, is also an eminent group of individuals, which is impartial? The reality is that people continue to suffer and the matter has not been adequately addressed. People have been forced to remortgage their houses, while others, who may be in poor health or widowed and had set aside licences as a nest egg, have been left with a "derisory and inadequate response", to use the words of the Committee on Petitions. It is not surprising that the Minister opted for the panel over the committee, given that the latter argued in favour of making more money available to the taxi industry. It is up to the Minister to devise other ways to raise money to try to address the issue.

I met the Committee on Petitions at the request of Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, who led the delegation. Although the committee made a strong case, as I pointed out, we followed a definite procedure in establishing a taxi hardship panel which examined the matter in detail and from an Irish perspective. I am not suggesting the EU petitions committee did not take an Irish view of this, it did but it also took a broader view of it. The Government opted for the taxi hardship panel conclusions and proceeded on that basis. That is no reflection on the evidence of the petitions committee.

That concludes Priority Questions. We now come to deal with Other Questions. I remind Members that supplementary questions and answers are confined to one minute.

State Aid to Ryanair.

Questions (28)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

113 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport his views on recent reports that there is a lack of consistency in the testing equipment used in national car test centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6797/04]

View answer

Oral answers (17 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

As required by EU law, testing of certain passenger cars has been mandatory in Ireland since January 2000. The National Car Testing Service Limited holds a ten year contract to carry out testing on behalf of the State. The company was awarded the contract following an international public tendering competition conducted in accordance with EU procurement law.

I understand the equipment used to carry out NCT tests was selected by NCTS on the basis of its capability to accurately and consistently test vehicles in accordance with detailed technical specifications prescribed by the then Department of the Environment and Local Government which had responsibility for vehicle testing when introduced. I am also advised that all NCTS vehicle testing staff are qualified vehicle mechanics. This requirement accords with the contract specifications which additionally requires all testers to undergo rigorous and comprehensive initial training before they commence testing customers cars and undergo regular review and developmental training. A primary purpose of the initial and ongoing training is to ensure that each tester follows standardised test procedures.

The test process is subject to regular internal scrutiny by NCTS management. Where operational deficiencies, such as a need for retraining, equipment recalibration or for procedural improvements, are identified these are addressed immediately. Furthermore, all elements of NCTS test operations are subject to continuous external supervision by the Department of Transport. The detailed supervision is carried out on behalf of the Department by a consortium consisting of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Automobile Association.

During the ongoing supervision process, particular attention is paid to ensuring that the various performance standards set out in the contract between the company and the Minister are complied with on an ongoing basis. These standards apply to premises, test equipment, staff, test arrangements, facilities management, information technology infrastructure and operations, customer service and provision of public information.

More than 630,000 first tests and 300,000 retests were completed in 2003. I am satisfied that the measures I have outlined ensure that as far as is possible in such a high volume repetitive process, the test results reflect the condition of the vehicles at the time of testing.

My question does not relate to staff or staff training, it relates to recent newspaper reports which indicated a lack of consistency in the equipment being used in test centres. Several examples were cited in the reports of cars having failed the NCT in one particular lane and passing it in another. Will the Minister of State explain the inconsistency in that regard? What is the Department doing about it? What is the Minister's view in this regard?

The report states that a person whose car fails the test in a particular lane has the right to have his or her car tested in another lane. Is that the case? Do people have the right to have their cars tested in an alternative lane? How can the Minister explain the inconsistency in the results between lanes in the same test centre?

I remind the Deputy that there are currently more than 300 testers undertaking one million tests every year. Of course, there will be some variability involved. The Deputy's question relates specifically to the lanes. I am frequently updated on such issues. The calibration is regularly tested and there should be no difference between lanes. A car which fails a test in one lane should fail in the others. In regard to the case referred to by the Deputy, I have grave suspicions about whether there was anything wrong with the lanes and will follow up the matter with the possibility of taking disciplinary action.

I congratulate the Minister of State on his visit to Roscommon at the weekend and on his success in getting my namesake nominated.

Will the Minister agree that the perception exists that national car testing is a money making racket and that the objective is to ensure a high failure rate within the system? Will he also agree that media reports such as the ones referred to by Deputy Shortall give rise to serious concerns regarding the integrity of the system? The Minister previously indicated he was considering the introduction of an appeals system. Has he given further consideration to that idea and, if so, what plans does he have to put such a system in place?

On the Deputy's point about national car testing being a money making system, I remind him his party introduced the system in 1996 when in coalition government. I believe we are using the best method of testing and that a singular entity should undertake the tests. Again, on the Deputy's point about national car testing being a money making system, that is always the case when one puts such a service in the hands of one company. I agree with the system introduced by the Deputy's party when in government.

The Deputy asked about media reports and the integrity of same. I have been castigated on a number of programmes for supporting the NCTS. It is a case of the big bad wolf company taking on the little people. There are 57 elements to each test and a person who fails to comply with them is breaking the law. The Government and others have been consistently castigated for not enforcing the law. The NCTS is enforcing legislation in this regard and the Government is being castigated for catching people who are breaking the law.

On the Deputy's third point, the system is examined every year. The contract is a ten year one of which there will be a mid-term review next year. I and the NCTS favour the introduction of an independent appeals system. The company has no hesitation in standing over what it is doing and would welcome an independent appeals system.

Is the Minister aware of the concern, arising from such inconsistency, to the effect that even a new car off the assembly line would pass no more than two or three tests in one week? In other words, vehicles are often damaged in the course of a test while others pass readily.

Will the Minister comment on why cars displaying the word "taxi" as gaelige are being refused an NCT?

I would like clarification from the Minister on an earlier point. Newspaper reports, which seem factual, indicated there are inconsistencies between lanes within test centres. Is the Minister saying that is not the case? Does he stand over the system in respect of consistency between lanes?

I will take Deputy Shortall's question first. Calibrations are regularly checked but there can be inconsistencies between lanes. I believe the case referred to involved human as opposed to mechanical error.

By the tester?

Yes. I mentioned earlier, before the Deputy came into the House, that disciplinary action may be taken in that case. The NCTS does not refuse to test cars displaying the word "taxi" as gaelige.

I am told it does.

I will look into the matter though I understand that is not the case.

Deputy Durkan mentioned new cars. New cars do not undergo the——

That was only for the purpose of comparison. A brand new car in mint condition put through the test three times would fail a subsequent test.

They do not have to do the test.

Thanks be to God.

Before 2000, all cars had to be tested and there was a very high failure rate. However, the pass rate for cars registered in 2000 coming on-stream now is up to 69% or 70%. We are getting to the stage now where the pass rate will be much higher because we do not have the older models to test. That is the line being followed at present.

Rail Network.

Questions (29)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

114 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the options being considered for changing the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; the cost involved of each of these options; the timescale involved in making the necessary alternations to the tunnel; when he intends to decide on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6780/04]

View answer

Oral answers (37 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

My Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. Atkins was requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract, and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the National Roads Authority pertaining to its conclusions with a view to reaching a final conclusion on this issue as quickly as possible.

Was there any point in asking those questions? I asked the Minister when he intends to make a decision and the cost implications of the various options put forward by Atkins but he has not provided any information on that.

This is yet another area where it appears the Minister does not know what he is doing. He raised this as an issue because some lobby group was in touch with him and he is holding up the whole Dublin Port tunnel project because of it. It is appropriate that the Minister of State is sitting beside the Minister today because it was exactly this time last year that I raised the question of the need to reintroduce height restrictions for trucks. Does the Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, remember that? That was March last year and the Minister of State said he would have the new regulations in by May. That is in the Official Report; the Minister can check it. Twelve months later there is no sign of those regulations. In a recent newspaper report a spokesman for the Minister, Deputy Brennan, said the Government was considering a ban but that this had no implications for the height of the tunnel. What does that mean?

That means nothing.

If the Minister were to reintroduce the height restriction that had existed previously, trucks which met those height restrictions would fit in the tunnel. They would not be a problem.

A later question on the Order Paper deals with this issue.

There would not be an issue about the height of the tunnel if the regulations were reintroduced. When does the Minister intend reintroducing those regulations? There will not be an issue about the tunnel if he reintroduces the regulations. Do we want to have super trucks on our roads anyway?

Otherwise, we will have to let the air out of the tyres.

That is a Kildare solution. I want to make it clear that I am not holding up the tunnel in any way. The project is going ahead at the planned pace. It has not lost a single day because of this issue.

They do not know where they are going because the Minister has not made up his mind. There is significant uncertainty about the project.

I will answer the questions if the Deputy wants me to, but how can I deal with them if she continues to interrupt me?

The Atkins report was put on the Minister's desk on 8 December last. That is three months ago and we still do not have a decision on it. Is it not the case, and this aspect has been lost in the debate, that the bore hole is significantly wider than the core where the vehicles will travel? The boring machine, therefore, has no implications in terms of the finished size of the core. Is it not the case that the issue is the cost of facilitating these vehicles which are slightly higher than many of the existing vehicles on the road? Is it not the case also that these vehicles, which are slightly higher than the ordinary heavy goods vehicles, ensure that export and import costs are reduced by the additional capacity they provide and that a small 30 cm increase could address the problem before the inner core is put in?

The Deputy is right. It is 11 m in diameter and the height is coming in at 4.9 m. That comprises 4.6 m and the extra space for headroom which brings the height to 4.9 m. If we wanted to do it there is plenty of scope inside the bored tunnels.

There is plenty of room. The issue is the cost.

The Deputy is talking about a slight shift in the ceiling or something like that to deal with that issue, if we choose to do so.

No. I am talking about changing the verges.

I acknowledge that I have this report for a few months. I will publish the report in due course but I was not satisfied with the range of prices given to me in the report to effect a slight increase in the height of the tunnel. The range of prices given to me differed by as much as €60 million or €70 million between the lowest and the highest estimate. I could not make a decision on the basis of that kind of money; it is just too much. The minimum time estimate given to me was two or three months and the longest time estimate in the report was up to 11 or 12 months or over a year. Again, that type of professional advice did not meet the requirement I had hoped would give me some certainty before I enter into any type of decision on this area.

What was the lowest cost estimate?

I have instructed the National Roads Authority to formally ask the contractor, who is on site, to give a specific definite quotation and timeframe so that at least I will know for definite before we take any decision on the tunnel. The tunnel is not being held up by this in any way. I check that on a weekly basis. If that was the case, we would move on this much faster. The implications for getting this wrong could run into hundreds of millions of euro, given that there is a contractor on site with a definite contract and I am not going to enter into that lightly.

There is a question on the height of the trucks on the Order Paper which the Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, will deal with in detail.

The Minister has the first and second Atkins reports. Why has he still not made up his mind?

I have one Atkins report.

The first one was in October and the Minister got the final one in December. Why is the Minister now asking the contractor for a price? The Minister is the person who is supposed to decide.

I told the Deputy the reason.

The Minister got an expert report. The options were presented to him——

I decided to get the quotation.

——and he still will not make up his mind.

The Deputy is not listening to me. I explained that the range of prices in the Atkins report was as much as €60 million or €70 million. Atkins told me it could be this figure or that figure, and the gap is €60 million. I cannot take a stab at that out of the blue. The report told me it could take two months or a year. That is what Atkins told me, and I will release that in due course when we get some more progress on this issue. To make progress on that I asked for definite quotations from the contractor through the NRA,. That will give me a definite price and timeframe. We can make a definite decision based on that information.

It is a bit like the Atkins diet rather than the Atkins report.

Can the Minister say definitely that he wants super queues on——

That is a separate issue.

It is not. It is a central issue to the tunnel.

I wish to refer to the serious questions we asked in March last year. Deputy Shortall is right. My recollection is that the Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, promised regulations on the height of trucks but he also said in response to questions, and I am particularly concerned about this, that the Government would ensure that no trucks coming out of the port tunnel would be able to access the city quays. In other words, we would get what we paid for in the port tunnel, namely, safe city quays and a far safer traffic management system. Does the Minister have to regulate to ensure that port traffic does not exit onto the quays? Is that the Government position or does responsibility for that lie with the city council? Does the Minister have any influence in the city council to make sure that trucks do not exit from the tunnel onto the city quays? I would be interested to hear if the Minister has any views on that matter.

That is the commitment he gave to the House.

It is a matter for the city council to deal with the banning of trucks in the city. It is my strong view, and I have conveyed it to the council on a few occasions, that trucks should be banned from the city centre once the tunnel opens.

If Dublin City Council is against that, does the Minister have any role in enforcing such a view to ensure the city quays are cleared of port traffic trucks?

Dublin City Council is already engaged on this issue. It is undertaking a number of studies and reviews. I believe it will arrive at the same conclusion.

What about the traffic signs?

Obviously this has been a great success to date.

Public Transport.

Questions (30, 31, 32, 33)

Phil Hogan

Question:

115 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on road safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/04]

View answer

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6602/04]

View answer

Dinny McGinley

Question:

153 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6603/04]

View answer

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

187 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the new measures he intends to introduce to increase safety on the roads in light of the rise in road death numbers for the first six weeks of 2004 in contrast to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6784/04]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Question Nos. 115, 149, 153 and 187 together.

An Agreed Programme for Government states that a three-year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and I have recently received approval from Government to publish the strategy. Arrangements are being put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document as soon as possible.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the Road to Safety Strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that initiative and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU Third Road Safety Action Plan. The strategy, which includes a report on progress achieved during the term of the previous strategy, will outline a range of issues it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

New legislation is being prepared in my Department which will provide support for the deployment of key initiatives in the area of speed limits and drink driving and will further enhance the enforcement capacity of the Garda Síochána.

The number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of particular concern. The total for the first two months is 29 higher than for the same period last year. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that nine lives were lost in two tragic incidents, of which the House will be aware.

The difficult start to 2004 will be given particular consideration by the high level group to ensure that the measures recommended in the new strategy will be implemented as quickly as possible. In addition, the group will monitor the ongoing effects of those measures and recommend adjustment to the focus of the strategy.

I am determined to pursue a strategic approach to the improvement of road safety to achieve long-term sustainable reductions in road casualties. The forthcoming strategy will set out a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that we can build on the success of recent years — a reduction from 472 road fatalities in 1997 to 341 in 2003, a fall of 27.8% over a period when the number of vehicles, drivers and kilometres travelled on our roads have increased significantly.

I thank the Minister for his long-winded reply. I had hoped he might answer the question I asked on when the report will be published. It has been significantly leaked to the media. It has gone before Government and it has gone for printing. It was a simple question, when will it be published? We do not have a road safety strategy currently. Some 29 people more than last year have been killed on the roads. In light of that what measures will the Minister put in place to ensure that the penalty points system is effective and is enforced? Will he agree that the current system whereby penalty points can take months to be issued as they continue to accumulate, with gardaí posted on long, wide, safe sections of road, is not encouraging drivers to abide by the rules of the road?

How does the Minister explain the fact that there was no road safety strategy last year? The 1998 strategy finished at the end of 2002. Why has there been such a delay? The 1998 strategy provided for the introduction of penalty points for a range of 69 offences. To date the penalty points cover only three areas, speeding, seat belts and insurance. The Minister has been promising for a long time to extend the penalty points system. When does he intend to do that?

I propose to extend the penalty points to dangerous overtaking and careless driving within the next month or so.

What about the others?

As regards the strategy for 2003, that was the best year ever for the roads of Ireland.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Road Traffic Offences.

Questions (118)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

197 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to prevent the practice of truck drivers removing devices from their vehicles which restrict their speed; his views on whether there is a correlation between this practice and recent statistics from the National Roads Authority showing that 89% of all articulated lorry drivers break speed limits in 30 mph zones, 81% on motorways, 74% on dual carriageways and 74% on ordinary national primary main roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6773/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The fitting and use of speed limitation devices on vehicles is governed by the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1993. The regulations provide that goods vehicles over 12,000 kg. shall, at all times when used in a public place, be equipped with a speed limitation device the set speed of which does not exceed 85 kph. The use of a vehicle subject to these regulations in a public place where a speed limitation is not fitted or, where fitted, is not functioning correctly are offences under the Road Traffic Acts. For a breach of the regulations, one will be liable to a fine not exceeding €800 in the case of a first offence, a fine not exceeding €1,500 in the case of a second or subsequent offence, and to a fine of €1,500 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or to a fine of €1,500 and a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months in the case of a third or subsequent offence in a period of 12 consecutive months. In addition, the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides that certain offences relating to speed limitation devices will attract between one and three penalty points.

The annual roadworthiness test for vehicles requiring speed limiters includes a check to establish that such a device is fitted and operating correctly.

Under current speed limit regulations 50 mph is the maximum speed limit for goods vehicles over 3,500 kilograms. It cannot be said that the findings from the NRA survey of speeds in rural and urban areas in 2002 confirm significant non-compliance with the speed limiter regulations. While the report does show that high proportions of articulated vehicles exceeded the speed limits with average speeds of 38, 53, 52 and 53 mph recorded for these vehicles on urban national roads, motorways, dual carriageways and national primary roads, respectively, none of these averages exceeds the 85 kmph or 53.15 mph limits at which speed limiter devices in these vehicles are required to be set.

Question No. 198 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Community Employment Schemes.

Questions (119, 120)

Phil Hogan

Question:

199 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will review the criteria for eligibility of community employment schemes, to remove the three year cap and make allowance for workers over 50 years old to have unlimited time to work on community employment projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6531/04]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Question No. 146 of 11 February 2004, when the current review of the structure of the CE programme will be complete and changes to be made confirmed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6841/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 206 together.

The future structure of the community employment programme is under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS who are expected to report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly. The outcome of this review will inform any future adjustments in the structure and the terms and conditions of participation on community employment.

EU Directives.

Questions (121)

Phil Hogan

Question:

200 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures her Department has transposed following direction from the European Union since June 2002; and the measures which remain to be transposed into law. [6532/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The following tables detail the directives, under the aegis of my Department, that have been transposed in the period 1 June 2002 to date and are awaiting transposition.

A total of 41 directives were transposed in the period 1 June 2002 to date. The position of directives remaining to be transposed indicates a total of 23 directives to be implemented. Details of the directives still to be transposed, including, in so far as it has been decided, the proposed transposition instruments, are available on my Department's website atwww.entemp.ie/ecd/eudirectives.htm.

I am satisfied that my Department is giving all due priority to the task of implementing the provisions of EU directives in light of the available resources.

Directives transposed since June 2002 to date

Directive Number

Title

1998/6/EC

Directive 1998/6/EC on requirements to indicate product prices Directive S.I. No. 639 of 2002

1998/50/EC

Council Directive 98/50/EC of 29 June 1998 amending Directive 77/187/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of businesses S.I. No. 131 of 2003

1998/71/EC

Directive 1998/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 on the legal protection of designs S.I. No. 39 of 2001

1999/44/EC

Directive 1999/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees S.I. No. 11 of 2003

1999/45/EC

Directive 1999/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31st May 1999 concerning the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations S.I. No. 62 of 2004

1999/70/EC

Council Directive 1999/70/EC concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act, 2003

1999/92/EC

Directive 1999/92/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1999 on minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres (15th individual directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) S.I. No. 258 of 2003

1999/103/EC

Directive 1999/103/EC on units of measurement S.I. No. 619 of 2002

2000/13/EC

Directive 2000/13/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs S.I. No. 483 of 2002

2000/31/EC

Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 2002 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market S.I. No. 68 of 2003

2000/35/EC

Directive 2000/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating late payment in commercial transactions S.I. No. 388 of 2002

2001/7/EC

Commission Directive 2001/7/EC of 29 January 2001 adapting for the third time to technical progress Council Directive 94/55/EC on the approximation of the laws of Member States with regard to the transport of dangerous goods by road S.I. No. 29 of 2004

2001/17/EC

Directive 2001/17/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2001 on the reorganisation and winding-up of insurance undertakings S.I. No. 168 of 2003

2001/29/EC

Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society S.I. No. 16 of 2004

2001/41/EC

Directive 2001/41/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 June 2001 amending for the twenty-first time, Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, as regards substances classified as carcinogens, mutagens or substances toxic to reproduction S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2001/58/EC

Commission Directive 2001/58/EC of 27 July 2001 amending for the second time Directive 91/155/EEC defining and laying down the detailed arrangements for the system of specific information relating to dangerous preparations in implementation of Article 14 of European Parliament and Council Directive 1999/45/EC and relating to dangerous substances in implementation of Article 27 of Council Directive 67/548/EEC (safety data sheets) S.I. No. 116 of 2003

2001/59/EC

Commission Directive 2001/59/EC of 6 August 2001 adapting to technical progress for the 28th time Council Directive 67/548/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. S.I. No. 116 of 2003

2001/60/EC

Commission Directive 2001/60/EC of 7 August 2001 adapting to technical progress Directive 1999/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations S.I. No. 62 of 2004

2001/62/EC

Commission Directive 2001/62/EC of 9 August 2001 amending Directive 90/128/EEC relating to materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs S.I. No. 542 of 2002

2001/90/EC

Council Directive 2001/90/EC of 26 October 2001 adapting to technical progress for the seventh time Annex 1 to Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (creosote) S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2001/91/EC

Commission Directive 2001/91/EC of 29 October 2001 adapting to technical progress for the eighth time Annex 1 to Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (hexachloroethane) S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2001/101/EC

Commission Directive 2001/101/EC amending Directive 2000/13/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs S.I. No. 257 of 2003

2001/107/EC

Directive 2001/107/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 January 2002 amending Council Directive 85/611/EEC on the co-ordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) with a view to regulating management companies and simplified prospectuses S.I. No. 497 of 2003

2001/108/EC

Directive 2001/108/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 January 2002 amending Council Directive 85/611/EEC on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS), with regard to investments of UCITS S.I. No. 212 of 2003

2002/16/EC

Directive 2002/16/EC of 20 February 2002 on the use of certain epoxy derivatives in materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs S.I. No. 76 of 2003

2002/17/EC

Directive 2002/17/EC of 21 February 2002 amending Directive 90/128/EEC relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs S.I. No. 542 of 2002

2002/45/EC

Directive 2002/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002, amending for the twentieth time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (short-chain chlorinated paraffins) S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2002/51/EC

Directive 2002/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 July, 2002 relating to the reduction of the level of pollutant emissions from two or three-wheel motor vehicles and amending Directive 97/24/EC S.I. No. 570 of 2002

2002/61/EC

Directive 2002/61/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 July, 2002, amending for the nineteenth time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (azocolourants) S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2002/62/EC

Commission Directive 2002/62/EC of 9 July, 2002 adapting to technical progress for the ninth time Annex I to Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (organostannic compounds) S.I. No. 220 of 2003

2002/78/EC

Commission Directive 2002/78/EC of 1 October, 2002 adapting to technical progress Council Directive 71/320/EEC relating to the braking devices of certain categories of motor vehicles and their trailers S.I. No. 570 of 2002

2002/80/EC

Commission Directive 2002/80/EC adapting to technical progress Council Directive 70/220/EEC relating to measures to be taken against air pollution by emissions from motor vehicles S.I. No. 570 of 2002

2003/2/EC

Commission Directive 2003/2/EC of 6 January 2003, relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of arsenic (tenth adaptation to technical progress to Council Directive 76/769/EEC) S.I. No. 503 of 2003

2003/3/EC

Commission Directive 2003/3/EC of 6 January 2003, relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of “blue colourant” (twelfth adaptation to technical progress to Council Directive 76/769/EEC) S.I. No. 503 of 2003

2003/11/EC

Commission Directive 2003/11/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 February 2003, amending for the 24th time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances S.I. No. 503 of 2003

2003/19/EC

Commission Directive 2003/19/EC adapting to technical progress European Parliament and Council Directive 97/27/EC relating to the masses and dimensions of certain categories of motor vehicles and their trailers S.I. No. 421 of 2003

2003/28/EC

Commission Directive 2003/28/EC of 7 April 2003 Adapting to Technical Progress for 4th time to technical progress Council Directive 94/55/EC on the approximation of the laws of Member States with regard to the transport of dangerous goods by road S.I. No. 29 of 2004

2003/34/EC

Directive 2003/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003; amending for the 23rd time Council Directive 76/796/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (substances classified as carcinogens, mutagens or substances toxic to reproduction) S.I. No. 503 of 2003

2003/36/EC

Directive 2003/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003; amending for the 25th time Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (substances classified as carcinogens, mutagens or substances toxic to reproduction -c/m/r) S.I. No. 503 of 2003

2003/76/EC

Commission Directive 2003/76/EC of 11 August, 2003 amending Council Directive 70/220/EEC relating to measures to be taken against air pollution by emissions from motor vehicles S.I. No. 421 of 2003

2003/77/EC

Commission Directive 2003/77/EC of 11 August, 2003 amending Directives 97/24/EC and 2002/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to the type-approval of two or three-wheel motor vehicles S.I. No. 421 of 2003

Directives awaiting Transposition

Directive Number

Title

1994/48/EC

Directive 94/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 December 1994 amending for the 13th time Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations

1999/36/EC

Council Directive 1999/36/EC of 29 April 1999 on transportable pressure equipment

2000/34/EC

Directive 2000/34/EC amending Council Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time to cover sectors and activities excluded from that Directive

2001/2/EC

Commission Directive 2001/2/EC of 4 January 2001 adapting to technical progress Council Directive 1999/36/EC on transportable pressure equipment

2001/45/EC

Directive 2001/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 amending Council Directive 89/655/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work (second individual directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC).

2001/65/EC

Directive 2001/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 amending Directives 78/660/EEC, 83/349/EEC and 86/635/EEC as regards the valuation rules for the annual and consolidated accounts of certain types of companies as well as of banks and other financial institutions

2001/84/EC

Directive 2001/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art

2001/86/EC

Council Directive 2001/86/EC supplementing the Statute for a European company with regard to the involvement of employees

2001/95/EC

Directive 2001/95/EC to amend Directive 92/59/EEC adopted in June 1992 to harmonise the measures of the Member States aimed at imposing a general obligation to market only safe products, to ensure both a consistent and high level of protection of consumer health and safety throughout the EU and the proper functioning of the internal market.

2002/14/EC

Directive 2002/14/EC establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community

2002/44/EC

Directive 2002/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (vibrations) (sixteenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)

2002/50/EC

Commission Directive 2002/50/EC of 6 June 2002 adapting to technical progress Council Directive 1999/36/EC on transportable pressure equipment

2002/74/EC

Amending Council Directive 80/987/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer

2003/6/EC

Directive 2003/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on insider dealing and market manipulation (market abuse)

2003/10/EC

Directive 2003/10/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise) (seventeenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)

2003/18/EC

Directive 2003/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 March 2003, amending the Council Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.

2003/53/EC

Directive 2003/53/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2003: amending for the 26th time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate and cement)

2003/58/EC

Directive 2003/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2003 amending Council Directive 68/151/EEC as regards the disclosure requirements in respect of certain types of companies

2003/72/EC

Council Directive 2003/72/EC supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees

2003/105/EC

Commission Decision of 17 February 2003 recognising in principle the completeness of the dossiers submitted for detailed examination in view of the possible inclusion of spiromesifen and metrafenone in Annex I to Council Directive 91/414/EEC

2004/1/EC

Commission Directive 2004/1/EC amending Directive 2002/72/EC as regards the suspension of the use of azodicarbonamide as blowing agent

2004/13/EC

Commission Directive 2004/13/EC amending Directive 2002/16/EC on the use of certain epoxy derivatives in materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs.

2004/14/EC

Commission Directive 2004/14/EC amending Directive 93/10/EEC relating to materials and articles made of regenerated cellulose film intended to come into contact with foodstuffs

Work Permits.

Questions (122, 123, 124)

Pat Breen

Question:

201 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6582/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

A work permit application in respect of this person was received on 22 December 2003 and is being processed. More information concerning the application was requested from the employer on 4 February 2004 and is awaited.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

202 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedures whereby the spouses of non-EU work permit holders are now entitled to apply for employment here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6587/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

203 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the criteria for spouses of persons with work permits entering the country and obtaining a work permit in their own right; the restrictions on the issuing of such permits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6628/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.

On 18 February 2004 I announced the introduction of an initiative to facilitate easier access to the Irish labour market by spouses of certain skilled non-EEA nationals working in Ireland. This change will apply to the following: spouses of persons on working visas or work authorisations, that is, health professionals; construction professionals; IT professionals; spouses of persons on intra-company transfer for longer than one year; and spouses of certain research specialists. A spouse of any of these categories of workers will still require a job offer from an employer in any sector. The employer then applies for a work permit from my Department. This process will be made as simple and as straightforward as possible. The operational details of the scheme are being finalised with relevant Departments and the Garda national immigration bureau and will be announced shortly.

Labour Market Developments.

Questions (125)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

204 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her Department’s estimate for the impact of EU enlargement from 1 May 2004 on the labour market here, especially for the period up to the end of 2005; and the statistics on the number of non-EU workers employed here by non-EU contractors. [6636/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Over the past three years, the number of new work permits issued in respect of non-EEA workers including accession state nationals has been dropping from 29,500 in 2001 to 23,300 in 2002 and was just under 22,000 last year. Of these, it is estimated that more than 3,000 represent workers changing jobs each year. While the number of new permits has been falling, the annual number of renewals has been rising steadily from 6,500 renewals in 2001 to more than 25,000 last year.

One of the effects of accession will be that the demand for non-EEA labour is expected to reduce when, from 1 May 2004, employers will be able to hire workers directly from the accession states without the need for work permits. My Department is advising employers to source necessary foreign labour requirements from this source and preference is being given to work permits in respect of accession state nationals. It is expected that any increase in the inflow of accession state nationals will be offset by the reduction in permits issued in respect of non-EU nationals after 1 May 2004.

Several non-EU contractors are involved in major infrastructure projects in this country and have received work permits to employ non-EEA workers. Some of the work permits sought by these contractors are in respect of workers already in their employment abroad. While no information is available on the total number of such contractors, I am informed that the number is small.

Regional Aid.

Questions (126)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

205 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the operation of the EU’s multisectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects which has recently come into force; and the reason the Government agreed to this framework in view of the adverse impact this may have on the work of IDA Ireland especially in sourcing external investment for unemployment blackspots in the Dublin region. [6637/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

In March 2002, the European Commission approved new rules to establish a faster, simpler and more accountable control system of government support to large investment projects in the EU. The multisectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects is intended to create greater transparency and reduce the overall level of subsidies granted in the EU. The new framework entered into force generally on 1 January 2004.

In November 2001, during the course of negotiations on the new framework, I made representations to the European Commission on several issues such as the number of notifiable cases, the level of aid allowed, criteria for disallowing all aid in certain cases and the publication of information on all cases of significant size. As a result of my representations, favourable changes came about in all four areas, including the removal of the aid ban on projects of greater than €100 million, which would produce proprietary products. My representations were made following consultation with IDA Ireland.

Under Ireland's regional aid map for 2000 to 2006, regional investment aid in the Dublin region is permitted up to 17.5% of project investment costs for large companies. An additional 10% is permitted for small and medium-sized enterprises. There is no change in the new framework to the level of aid that can be provided to projects with eligible expenditure up to €50 million. For projects above that level, the rate of regional aid permitted is reduced in accordance with a sliding scale related to the size of the project.

The framework acknowledges that large investment projects benefiting from regional investment are more capital intensive than smaller projects. As a consequence, a more favourable treatment of smaller investment projects translates into a more favourable treatment in assisted areas of projects that are more labour intensive, thus contributing to job creation and unemployment reduction. Since the framework has come into force, no IDA projects have had to be notified to the Commission by Ireland and no projects have been prevented from investing in Ireland as a result of the framework. In this context, it is important to emphasise that the framework is not a unilateral requirement on Ireland but applies to all member states. Therefore, there is a level playing field in terms of compliance obligations across the EU.

While the new framework that came into effect on 1 January 2004 has tightened the criteria for the granting of regional aid, IDA Ireland continues to promote foreign direct investment into Ireland, to create a pipeline of projects and to convert these projects into investment on the ground within the terms of the framework. The framework has not impacted on IDA Ireland's ability to source investment for unemployment blackspots in the Dublin region or elsewhere. This is partly a reflection of the fact that the thresholds set out in the framework are still relatively high and relate to large-scale projects. Many of the projects in the internationally-traded services area that wish to locate in Dublin and form a significant proportion of both global flows of foreign direct investment and IDA Ireland's new business, while substantive investments in their own right, are typically not of a scale that would bring the framework thresholds into effect.

Question No. 206 answered with QuestionNo. 199.

Job Protection.

Questions (127, 128)

Conor Lenihan

Question:

207 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts her Department and the agencies that report to her make in relation to the issue of job retention rather than job creation; and if there is a special section within her Department to monitor developments in this area. [6958/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

208 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the studies her Department and agencies reporting to her Department, made in relation to the job retention issue in the context of the general drive to make the economy more competitive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6959/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

Enterprise in Ireland creates the employment, prosperity and tax base that has supported our economic growth in recent years. We must create the best framework conditions and a business environment that will encourage and sustain such enterprise and the vital jobs that are maintained by business in Ireland. The enterprise support agencies under my Department are key agents in delivering the necessary supports to their clients to help both employment retention and growth. My officials are in regular contact with the agencies to monitor progress on these enterprise development objectives. Their performance in helping maintain employment, particularly among Irish firms, has been successful in the face of recent difficult global economic forces.

Sustainable employment is based on competitiveness, higher productivity and the application of technology in both existing and new enterprises. My Department has mandated its development agencies to review and redesign their enterprise support programmes so that corporate competitiveness is at the top of their agenda. The development agencies, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development, FÁS, Science Foundation Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Forfás, are committed to the support and development of existing enterprise as well as the creation of new industries. The agencies are working to increase the embeddedness and competitiveness of existing companies and have instituted programmes to develop this through increasing research and development, assisting firms to expand their export capacity and identifying potential new niches for Irish-based enterprises. In addition, the agencies continue to support the development of competencies, up-skilling of employees and creation of intra-business networks. They also advise on infrastructure development which is a key issue for enterprise competitiveness.

Forfás and the National Competitiveness Council regularly commission external studies on the policies and actions necessary to improve framework conditions for industry to make the economy more competitive. The most notable studies carried out in 2003 in this regard were: NCC Statement on Inflation; Submission to Mid-Term Review of the National Development Plan; Annual Competitiveness Report 2003; Competitiveness Challenge 2003; Key Waste Management Issues in Ireland — Update Report; Broadband Telecommunications Benchmarking Study; and Review of the Role of County and City Enterprise Boards in the Development of Micro-Enterprises.

One ongoing Forfás study aims to address job retention and the minimisation of job losses from the transfer of manufacturing operations to lower cost environments. This study is examining ways to encourage multinational corporations to diversify their activities into research and development to increase their embeddedness in the Irish economy. The preliminary findings show that there are significant opportunities to increase the involvement of existing companies here in undertaking more research and development in Ireland.

Last July, I asked the enterprise strategy group under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the past decade will continue into the future. Some of the areas I have asked the group to examine concern what we need to do to strengthen our existing enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and knowledge-driven economy and help sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group is working to submit a report to me by mid-2004.

Departmental Properties.

Questions (129)

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence if a report was prepared by Aer Rianta in 1992, entitled Review of Planning Policy in the Environs of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, for the Department of Defence; if this report confirmed that a draft protected area order was prepared for Baldonnel Aerodrome pursuant to section 36 of the Defence Act 1954; if a copy of such a draft protected area order was transmitted to Dublin County Council in the mid-1950s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6578/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

A report prepared by Aer Rianta for the Department of Defence in 1992, entitled Review of Planning Policy In the Environs of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, for Department of Defence, referred to a draft protected area order pursuant to section 36 of the Defence Act 1954. The report goes on to say that:

Following consultation with the Department of Transport and Power and the Planning Department of Dublin County Council, and on receipt of an undertaking from the Dublin Planning Office in June 1957, it was agreed by the Department of Defence that the promulgation of the Protected Area Order was not necessary at that time. The undertaking received was that Dublin County Council Planning Department would consult with the Department of Defence before a decision was made in relation to any proposed development which conflicted with the terms of the Draft Order.

This arrangement, which was designed to ensure the safety of air trafficen route to and from Casement Aerodrome, has operated satisfactorily down the years and, accordingly, it has not been necessary to introduce a protection area order as provided for at section 36 of the Defence Act 1954.

Defence Forces Property.

Questions (130)

Phil Hogan

Question:

210 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Defence if a piece of furniture (details supplied) is stored at Army headquarters in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6679/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

A desk reputed to have been used by Michael Collins is located in Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks.

Animal Mobility.

Questions (131)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

211 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the investigations that are progressing to improve domestic animal mobility to enable owners to take their pets abroad on holiday; and if he will make a statement on the traceability and health protection measures in place or due for introduction. [6862/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Under current legislation, all pet dogs or cats brought into Ireland, other than pets coming from the UK, must undergo six months' quarantine. A new harmonised system for the EU has now been agreed. Under this new system, it will be possible to bring pet dogs and cats directly into Ireland from a range of countries deemed low-risk for rabies, provided that certain conditions are met.

The new system comes into effect on 3 July 2004. From that date pet dogs and cats can travel directly into Ireland provided that the animal is travelling from an eligible country — the list of eligible countries is yet to be drawn up but will certainly include all west European countries, Australia, New Zealand and, probably, North America; the animal is identified by means of a microchip; the animal has been vaccinated against rabies; the animal has, at least six months before entry, been successfully blood-tested for rabies antibodies; and the animal has been correctly treated for tick and tapeworm. The evidence that an animal complies with the last four of these conditions will be contained in its passport, a document standardised throughout the EU.

Transport companies and specific routes will be approved by the Department on conclusion of an operational agreement with the transport company and provided the port or airport is an approved entry point. In the case of air transport, approved airlines will be responsible for establishing that an animal is compliant with the conditions of the system before release from custody in the airport of destination. To be an approved entry point, the airport of destination would have to have suitable facilities available for inspection of animals. In the case of sea transport, approved ferry companies will establish that an animal is compliant before embarkation.

Grant Payments.

Questions (132, 133)

Billy Timmins

Question:

212 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the applications he will be considering for payment for grant aid under the Regional Programme 2002-2006 for investment aid for the potato sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7171/04]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

219 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when he will be considering applications for payment for grant aid under the Regional Programme 2002-2006 for investment aid for the potato sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6659/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

I propose to take Question Nos. 212 and 219 together.

Since 1992, more than €19 million in grant aid has been provided in supporting infrastructural improvement in the potato sector through capital investment programmes to the value of €65 million in the grading, handling and storage of potatoes. The country now has more than 360,000 tonnes of storage capacity with a third of this in refrigerated storage and a further third in ambient stores. In light of the adequacy of the available storage capacity and the limitation on funding under the National Development Plan 2001-2006, it will not be possible to provide support for capital investment programmes for primary production in 2004. However, this matter will be reviewed for 2005 in the light of an examination of the investment requirements of the potato sector and budgetary circumstances at that time.

Milk Quota.

Questions (134)

Phil Hogan

Question:

213 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the necessary documentation in respect of the milk quota of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6533/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

My Department is examining an application to transfer quota to the named person's co-operative on foot of the purchase by him of quota previously leased with land. The examination of this matter will be completed shortly and the person named and the co-operatives involved will be notified of the outcome.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Questions (135)

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the slaughter of tens of thousands of badgers as part of the so-called tuberculosis eradication scheme will be stopped; and if he will urgently reconsider this cruel practice. [6547/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme is carried out in full compliance with EU Directive 64/432 and the level of tuberculosis in cattle has reduced from 17% in 1955 to 0.3% in 2003. It is now accepted that the presence of an infected maintenance host, the badger, is a major constraint to the final eradication of tuberculosis from the national herd. A multidisciplined research programme involving staff from the Department, Teagasc and the universities is making significant progress in identifying improvements to the eradication programme. This research is driven by science.

Significant progress is also being made on the development of a vaccine strategy for the badger population. In this my Department and others are collaborating with scientific colleagues in the UK and New Zealand.

The present policy is scientifically based and kept under constant review. For instance, changes this year include a more focused contiguous herd testing policy, more use of the ancillary gamma interferon blood tests in target herds and a new enhanced computer system which will improve our analytical capacity. The results of the four-area study into the effect of local area badger removal will be published in the near future. This study is expected to confirm the results of the earlier east Offaly study which indicated a significant reduction in bovine tuberculosis levels following removal of badgers from an area. Under the PPF, a new wildlife unit has been established to focus on the TB blackspot areas of the country. The removal of badgers is carried out by trained staff and badger welfare is a major element in the working of the programme.

Grant Payments.

Questions (136)

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

215 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Cork for payment of a hardship grant. [6583/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Payment under the hardship grant scheme will issue shortly.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (137)

Mary Upton

Question:

216 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of appointments he has made to State boards since 1997; the number of women appointees during that same period; the way in which the percentage of women compares with the recommended 40%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6597/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

I have made a total of 212 appointments, including re-appointments, from 1997 to date, which includes 46 women. The Deputy should be aware that I do not have total discretion in such appointments. Some appointments are required to be made on the basis of nominations from farming and other relevant organisations and others by way of election by the body concerned. A total of 160 appointments were made at my sole discretion, and the 46 female appointments are included in this category.

Live Exports.

Questions (138)

Finian McGrath

Question:

217 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the EU regulations in place to protect live animals who are being transported; and if he will make a statement on the care and safety of live animals that are being exported. [6638/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Council Directive 91/628/EEC, as amended, lays down the rules governing the protection of animals during transport. The provisions of this directive have been transposed into Irish law by the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) Order 1995, SI 98 of 1995; the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) (Amendment) Order 1997, SI 326 of 1997; the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) (Amendment) Order 2001, SI 215 of 2001; and the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) (Amendment) Order 2003, SI 465 of 2003.

In addition, Ireland has introduced a series of statutory instruments going considerably beyond EU requirements concerning the carriage of cattle by sea. These require the approval by my Department of sea-going vessels intended for the carriage of cattle, having regard to the advice of veterinary and marine experts. They also include provisions relating to issues such as the physical conditions aboard the vessel, water and fodder supplies, ventilation and temperature control and vessel stability.

The European Commission has submitted a proposal for a new Council regulation on the protection of animals during transport to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. The proposal is complex and of its nature, will require compromise by member states on a number of aspects if it is to be brought to finality during the Irish Presidency.

Departmental Staff.

Questions (139)

Billy Timmins

Question:

218 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway was not considered for a senior supervisory agricultural officer position in view of the fact that they were on a live panel; the reason the panel was dissolved; the regulation under which it was dissolved; when a decision will be made in view of the fact that this person is pursuing their case through the mediation stage of the grievance procedure for civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6658/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

I am satisfied that the correct procedures were applied in this case. The officer concerned was third on a panel for the position of senior supervisory agricultural officer, which was set up in April 1996 to fill two posts. The officers placed first and second on the panel were promoted.

The officer concerned has raised his case under the grievance procedure which is an agreed procedure under the conciliation and arbitration scheme for the Civil Service. There is provision for mediation under this procedure and the officer was provided with this service. My Department is prepared to continue this process. This procedure, which is agreed with all Civil Service unions, is the appropriate way for dealing with such cases.

Question No. 219 answered with QuestionNo. 212.

Grant Payments.

Questions (140)

John Perry

Question:

220 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the payments that have been issued on a herd number (details supplied); if he will outline the subsidies outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6663/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person named was paid his full entitlement under the 2003 area-based compensatory allowance scheme amounting to €747.48 on 23 September 2003. The person named lodged two applications in respect of a total of two animals under the 2003 special beef premium scheme and has been paid the 80% advance in respect of both animals. Balancing payments are scheduled to commence in late March and early April.

The person named has to date submitted one application on 9 February 2004 in respect of one animal under the 2004 special beef premium scheme. Under the relevant EU regulations, advance payments under the 2004 scheme cannot be made until on or after 16 October 2004.

The person named has submitted an application under the 2003 extensification premium scheme. Payments under this scheme are due to commence in June 2004. This application will be considered in due course.

EU Directives.

Questions (141)

Michael Ring

Question:

221 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the agreement reached with the IFA on the nitrates directive action programme has been broken. [6670/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The implementation of the nitrates directive is in the first instance a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Under Sustaining Progress, it was agreed that the Government would engage with the main farming organisations and other interests on the development of the detailed provisions of the action programme for implementation of the nitrates directive. It was further agreed that in the context of the regime to be adopted to transpose the provisions of the directive, the Government would also use the flexibility in the directive to seek to secure European Commission approval for limits of up to 250 kg. of organic nitrogen per hectare per annum to be allowable in appropriate circumstances.

A draft action programme, prepared by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department and in consultation with Teagasc, was presented in December last to representatives of the main farming organisations and other stakeholders. This draft programme included provision for limits of up to 250 kg. of organic nitrogen per hectare per annum to be allowable in appropriate circumstances, and was therefore fully in accordance with the Sustaining Progress agreement.

Written submissions on the draft action programme have been received from some 70 stakeholders, including the IFA. I will give consideration to the issues raised in the submissions in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government, having regard to the need to finalise the terms of the action programme at an early date and submit definitive proposals to the European Commission. The draft action programme was also discussed at a meeting between officials and the farming pillar under Sustaining Progress at which the IFA was represented.

Grant Payments.

Questions (142)

Willie Penrose

Question:

222 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps taken to ensure that the suckler cow premium which is due to a person (details supplied) is paid out immediately; and the reason for the delay in this matter. [6674/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person named applied for premium on 12 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme on 2 July 2003. According to the terms and conditions of the scheme, the closing date for receipt of applications was 27 June 2003. Where any application was received after 27 June but before 23 July 2003, the premium grants claimed thereon were to be reduced by a cumulative 1% for each working day the application was late. In this case a 3% reduction penalty will be applied as the application was late by three working days.

While processing the application it was found that, according to CMMS records, four animals, tag numbers XGA846978, XJA698074, XJA699417 and ZWNV0013K, were not recorded as being in his ownership or possession at the time of application. Correspondence from the district livestock office of my Department issued to the person named on 14 July 2003 regarding this matter.

The herdowner requested that the movement dates for the animals be amended and he was issued with a form NBAS 17 by the national beef assurance section in Portlaoise. Correspondence issued from NBAS to the person named on 9 February 2004 informing him that the movement dates for the animals could not be amended unless he provided sufficient evidence to show when the animals were purchased. No further information has been received from the herdowner to date. If a response is not received shortly, the application will be processed further on the basis of the details available on CMMS.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Questions (143, 144)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

223 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers who entered into the farm retirement scheme from the beginning; and the numbers in payment under the scheme. [6675/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

A total of 10,275 applications were approved under the 1994 scheme of early retirement from farming of which 5,601 are still in payment. Since its commencement in November 2000, a total of 2,277 applications have been received under the early retirement scheme 2000. Of these 2,086 have been approved for payment, 60 have been refused, 113 are being processed and 18 were withdrawn. A number of the applications that were refused may yet be successful if the deficiencies identified in them are rectified.

Billy Timmins

Question:

224 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to a pension for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if, in view of this, the decision can be re-examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6710/04]

View answer

The person named entered the early retirement scheme in joint management with her husband. In keeping with the governing EU regulations, the early retirement pension is payable only as a supplement to any national retirement pension payable to the participant and, in the case of a joint management arrangement, to his or her spouse or partner also. As the combined value of the national retirement pensions payable to the person named and her husband exceed the value of the early retirement pension, payment of that pension must cease.

Grant Payments.

Questions (145)

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) will receive their REP scheme payment. [6933/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The payment in question has issued to the person named.

Animal Welfare.

Questions (146)

Tony Gregory

Question:

226 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there are plans to prohibit the use of electricity to immobilise farm animals — electro-immobilisation — in light of scientific research indicating that the procedure results in physical and psychological stress and aversive behaviour, which has led to prohibition in other countries such as the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6934/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

I have no immediate plans for prohibition of this practice. I am, however, anxious to obtain an expert view in the matter and in that regard I am requesting the scientific advisory committee on animal health and welfare to evaluate the physical and psychological effects on animals subjected to this procedure and to furnish a view. I will await the committee's expert advice.

Grant Payments.

Questions (147)

Jack Wall

Question:

227 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Louth for a REP scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6971/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The issues in this case have been appealed to the Independent Agriculture Appeals Office and an oral hearing has taken place. My Department is awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Questions (148)

Billy Timmins

Question:

228 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the situation with respect to the investigation into a newspaper article (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6999/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

As a result of co-operation between the respective authorities in both jurisdictions, Northern Ireland authorities conducted a search of premises in Northern Ireland. It is understood that the investigation referred to is continuing.

Tax Code.

Questions (30, 31, 32, 33)

Phil Hogan

Question:

115 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on road safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/04]

View answer

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6602/04]

View answer

Dinny McGinley

Question:

153 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6603/04]

View answer

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

187 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the new measures he intends to introduce to increase safety on the roads in light of the rise in road death numbers for the first six weeks of 2004 in contrast to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6784/04]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Question Nos. 115, 149, 153 and 187 together.

An Agreed Programme for Government states that a three-year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and I have recently received approval from Government to publish the strategy. Arrangements are being put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document as soon as possible.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the Road to Safety Strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that initiative and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU Third Road Safety Action Plan. The strategy, which includes a report on progress achieved during the term of the previous strategy, will outline a range of issues it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

New legislation is being prepared in my Department which will provide support for the deployment of key initiatives in the area of speed limits and drink driving and will further enhance the enforcement capacity of the Garda Síochána.

The number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of particular concern. The total for the first two months is 29 higher than for the same period last year. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that nine lives were lost in two tragic incidents, of which the House will be aware.

The difficult start to 2004 will be given particular consideration by the high level group to ensure that the measures recommended in the new strategy will be implemented as quickly as possible. In addition, the group will monitor the ongoing effects of those measures and recommend adjustment to the focus of the strategy.

I am determined to pursue a strategic approach to the improvement of road safety to achieve long-term sustainable reductions in road casualties. The forthcoming strategy will set out a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that we can build on the success of recent years — a reduction from 472 road fatalities in 1997 to 341 in 2003, a fall of 27.8% over a period when the number of vehicles, drivers and kilometres travelled on our roads have increased significantly.

I thank the Minister for his long-winded reply. I had hoped he might answer the question I asked on when the report will be published. It has been significantly leaked to the media. It has gone before Government and it has gone for printing. It was a simple question, when will it be published? We do not have a road safety strategy currently. Some 29 people more than last year have been killed on the roads. In light of that what measures will the Minister put in place to ensure that the penalty points system is effective and is enforced? Will he agree that the current system whereby penalty points can take months to be issued as they continue to accumulate, with gardaí posted on long, wide, safe sections of road, is not encouraging drivers to abide by the rules of the road?

How does the Minister explain the fact that there was no road safety strategy last year? The 1998 strategy finished at the end of 2002. Why has there been such a delay? The 1998 strategy provided for the introduction of penalty points for a range of 69 offences. To date the penalty points cover only three areas, speeding, seat belts and insurance. The Minister has been promising for a long time to extend the penalty points system. When does he intend to do that?

I propose to extend the penalty points to dangerous overtaking and careless driving within the next month or so.

What about the others?

As regards the strategy for 2003, that was the best year ever for the roads of Ireland.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.

OPW Services.

Questions (152)

Mary Upton

Question:

232 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the future of the OPW services operated from a site (details supplied); the length of time the OPW will continue to work from this location; and the consultation that has taken place with staff on the future of the site. [6570/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The services operated from the site in question will be relocated to alternative premises. It is intended that the services will be located in premises which are currently being sourced and which will be as close as possible to the existing location. The location of the service in the longer term will have to be considered in the context of the announcement regarding decentralisation by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech. It is envisaged that the site will be handed over to Dublin City Council in July this year. Discussions have taken place with trade unions representing staff and further consultations will take place, as appropriate, regarding the proposed new location and other details of the transfer.

Financial Services Regulation.

Questions (30, 31, 32, 33)

Phil Hogan

Question:

115 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on road safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/04]

View answer

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6602/04]

View answer

Dinny McGinley

Question:

153 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6603/04]

View answer

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

187 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the new measures he intends to introduce to increase safety on the roads in light of the rise in road death numbers for the first six weeks of 2004 in contrast to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6784/04]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Question Nos. 115, 149, 153 and 187 together.

An Agreed Programme for Government states that a three-year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and I have recently received approval from Government to publish the strategy. Arrangements are being put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document as soon as possible.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the Road to Safety Strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that initiative and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU Third Road Safety Action Plan. The strategy, which includes a report on progress achieved during the term of the previous strategy, will outline a range of issues it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

New legislation is being prepared in my Department which will provide support for the deployment of key initiatives in the area of speed limits and drink driving and will further enhance the enforcement capacity of the Garda Síochána.

The number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of particular concern. The total for the first two months is 29 higher than for the same period last year. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that nine lives were lost in two tragic incidents, of which the House will be aware.

The difficult start to 2004 will be given particular consideration by the high level group to ensure that the measures recommended in the new strategy will be implemented as quickly as possible. In addition, the group will monitor the ongoing effects of those measures and recommend adjustment to the focus of the strategy.

I am determined to pursue a strategic approach to the improvement of road safety to achieve long-term sustainable reductions in road casualties. The forthcoming strategy will set out a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that we can build on the success of recent years — a reduction from 472 road fatalities in 1997 to 341 in 2003, a fall of 27.8% over a period when the number of vehicles, drivers and kilometres travelled on our roads have increased significantly.

I thank the Minister for his long-winded reply. I had hoped he might answer the question I asked on when the report will be published. It has been significantly leaked to the media. It has gone before Government and it has gone for printing. It was a simple question, when will it be published? We do not have a road safety strategy currently. Some 29 people more than last year have been killed on the roads. In light of that what measures will the Minister put in place to ensure that the penalty points system is effective and is enforced? Will he agree that the current system whereby penalty points can take months to be issued as they continue to accumulate, with gardaí posted on long, wide, safe sections of road, is not encouraging drivers to abide by the rules of the road?

How does the Minister explain the fact that there was no road safety strategy last year? The 1998 strategy finished at the end of 2002. Why has there been such a delay? The 1998 strategy provided for the introduction of penalty points for a range of 69 offences. To date the penalty points cover only three areas, speeding, seat belts and insurance. The Minister has been promising for a long time to extend the penalty points system. When does he intend to do that?

I propose to extend the penalty points to dangerous overtaking and careless driving within the next month or so.

What about the others?

As regards the strategy for 2003, that was the best year ever for the roads of Ireland.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (154)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

234 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if staff working in local authorities will be able to transfer to work for Departments, in the context of the recent announcement in relation to the decentralisation process. [6843/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The decentralisation programme does not encompass local authorities and there are no plans at present to allow staff working in local authorities to transfer into the Civil Service to decentralise to provincial locations. I will, however, keep this option under review in light of developments.

Irish Language.

Questions (155)

Finian McGrath

Question:

235 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will urgently reconsider the decision not to have the Irish language recognised as an official language of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6548/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

At present, the Irish language has the status of a treaty language in the EU. This derives from the fact that the treaties are in Irish and that Irish is listed as one of the languages in which the text is authentic. Each successive treaty is published in Irish as well as in the 11 other languages, with the texts in Irish being equally authentic and having equal status with those in all other languages.

As I stated in the House on 25 February,the Government has established an interdepartmental working group which is analysing the options available to further strengthen and enhance the status of the Irish language in the EU. The working group is urgently examining a range of issues with a view to identifying additional opportunities in this regard. It is my firm hope that the interdepartmental working group's discussions will lead at an early date to the identification of additional opportunities to enhance the status of Irish in the EU.

Human Rights Issues.

Questions (156)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

236 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to restrictions on religious freedom announced in recent legislation in Belarus; the Government’s views on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6856/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Together with our EU partners, the Government continues to monitor closely the human rights situation in Belarus. The EU views with increasing concern the deterioration in the situation there. This concern has been communicated to the Belarusian Government on a number of recent occasions.

In this context, I am deeply concerned at the terms of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations which came into force in Belarus in November 2002. Under the law, only religious organisations operating throughout Belarus, or those with ten or more communities in at least four of the country's six regions, may found monasteries or convents and educational institutions. The law also requires all religious organisations to register with the state in order to function. They have until 16 November 2004 to re-register if they wish to continue their activity in accordance with the law.

We understand that while the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church have both re-registered, a significant number of institutions within both churches fail to meet the law's re-registration criteria for monastic communities and educational institutions. Under Article 19 of the legislation, monasteries, convents and monastic communities must have no fewer than ten participants, while educational institutions must have qualified tutors proficient in both state languages — Belarusian and Russian. In addition, members of monastic communities must be either Belarusian citizens or foreign citizens holding residency permits. The legal requirement that teaching personnel at religious educational institutions be proficient in both Belarusian and Russian also poses difficulties for both churches.

The full extent of the new law's regulations will remain unclear until after the deadline for re-registration on 16 November 2004 has been reached. However, I am deeply concerned at the highly restrictive nature of the legislation and at reports that only a small proportion of religious organisations have re-registered since the law was enacted, with progress especially slow at the local level. As the new law criminalises unregistered religious activity, re-registration is essential to the continuing legal operation of individual religious organisations.

Shortly after President Lukashenko signed the legislation into law, the European Union on 14 November 2002 issued a statement on the matter at the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. The EU stated that the legislation would have a clearly discriminatory effect, and that it was likely to disadvantage small religious groups in particular. The EU noted that it had been described by a leading NGO in the field of religious freedom as the most repressive in Europe. The EU urged the Belarusian authorities to reconsider the legislation, which was a throwback to a period of European history which should have been left behind, and to draw on the expertise of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, in amending it.

More recently, at the 59th session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, 17 March to 25 April 2003, Ireland again introduced its resolution on elimination of all forms of religious intolerance, Resolution 2003/54, urging states to ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction. A separate resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Resolution 2003/14, which was co-sponsored by all EU member states, also expressed the deep concern of members of the Commission, including Ireland, at reports of potential increased restrictions on the activities of religious organisations in Belarus.

The Government will continue to monitor the situation in Belarus in respect of this legislation, particularly as the final date for re-registration of religious organisations approaches. The human rights situation in Belarus will be addressed once more at the up coming 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights. As President of the EU, Ireland will bring the issue to the attention of partners within the EU.

Children’s Rights.

Questions (157)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

237 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives he proposes to take either at Government or European Union level to advance the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. [6857/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Government attaches great importance to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is central to the protection and promotion of children's rights on a global level. Ireland signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 30 September 1990 and ratified it on 28 September 1992.

As the Deputy is aware, where Ireland wishes to adhere to an international agreement such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child we must ensure that our domestic law is in conformity with the agreement in question. Responsibility for the implementation at a national level of the Convention on the Rights of the Child rests with the Minister for Health and Children. In accordance with Article 44 of the convention, Ireland is required to submit regular reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on how the rights contained in the convention are being implemented. Ireland submitted its first national report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in April 1996. That report was considered by the committee in Geneva in January 1998. The national children's office is in the process of co-ordinating Ireland's second report under the convention.

Ireland, with its EU partners, is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of children on an international level. The EU is one of the principal sponsors of a resolution on the rights of the child at the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Government places great importance on the implementation of international human rights standards aimed at the protection of the rights of children and is determined to see through all its commitments in respect of the Convention on the Rights of the Child both at a national and international level.

Human Rights Issues.

Questions (158, 159, 160)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

238 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the extent of child labour in Ghana. [6858/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The law in Ghana sets a minimum employment age of 15 years and prohibits night work and certain types of hazardous labour for those under 18 years of age, as well as prohibiting forced and bonded labour performed by children. However, children are reportedly sold, leased, or given away by parents to work in agriculture, fishing villages, quarry mines, shops, or homes. Studies and reports make it clear that it is difficult to determine the extent to which forced and bonded labour by children is practised in Ghana. Observance of minimum age laws was eroded by local custom and economic circumstances that encouraged children to work to help support their families.

An International Labour Organisation-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour-Ghana statistical service survey, released during 2003, estimated that 1.27 million children were engaged in child labour as defined by age and hazardous working conditions. Children as young as seven years worked as domestic labourers, porters, hawkers, miners, quarry workers, fare collectors, and agriculture. Child labourers are poorly paid and subjected to physical abuse, they receive little or no health care and generally do not attend school.

ILO-IPEC, Government representatives, the Ghanaian trades union congress, the media, international organisations and NGOs have agreed a national plan of action for the elimination of child labour in Ghana by increasing institutional capacity to combat child labour. Education and sensitisation workshops are conducted with police, labour inspectors, local governments, and communities.

Criminal gangs exploit the miserable plight of families and abduct children. The Ghanaian national plan is an effort to draw attention to this crime and is to be commended. Many missionaries and NGOs are also helping to combat child trafficking in Ghana and the wider West Africa region and their efforts are equally commendable.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

239 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the position of the Government on bonded labour throughout the world. [6859/04]

View answer

The Government is committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards, and opposes and seeks the elimination of all forms of contemporary slavery, including bonded labour. Through our participation in international fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, we raise our concerns in regard to this issue together with like minded countries. At the Commission of Human Rights session last year, Ireland made a statement on contemporary forms of slavery.

Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to promote core labour standards. In June 1998, Ireland supported the adoption by the International Labour Conference of a declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. This commits the International Labour Organisation's 175 member states worldwide to respect the principles inherent in the core labour standards and to promote their universal application. Ireland has ratified all of the seven core labour standards.

This declaration emphasises that all member states of the International Labour Organisation have an obligation, arising from the fact of membership of the organisation, to respect, promote and realise, in good faith and in accordance with the constitution of the International Labour Organisation, the principles concerning the fundamental rights which are subject to those conventions. These principles include the elimination of all forced or compulsory labour and the effective abolition of child labour.

In June 1999, the International Labour Conference adopted Convention 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. Ireland ratified the convention on 20 December 1999 and was the first European Union country to do so.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

240 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the illegal kidnapping of anti-Government rebels in Colombia; the Government and EU position on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6860/04]

View answer

The Government is acutely aware of the kidnappings and other violence which continues to afflict Colombia. The most recent statement of Irish and EU policy in this regard is set out in the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 26 January 2004 as follows:

Recalling the terms of the London Declaration of July 2003, agreed by the Colombian Government and the representatives of other Governments and international organisations present at the London Meeting on International Support for Colombia, the Council expressed its full support for the Colombian Government in its ongoing efforts to reform Colombia's institutions and to develop a fully functioning democratic state throughout the territory of Colombia, consistent with the rule of law, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and the welfare and safety of the citizens of Colombia. The Council noted that significant progress had been made in expanding the presence of the State in the national territory, and expressed the hope that all the institutions of the democratic State would soon be fully functional in allareas.

The Council noted progress so far on economic and political reforms designed to address existing inequalities within the country and promote sustainable development, and expressed its support for the continuation and acceleration of this process. The Council also expressed its full support for the Colombian Government in its fight against terrorism and illegal drug production and trafficking, underlining the need in so doing to respect the rule of law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights instruments to which Colombia has subscribed.

The Council welcomed the reduction in the overall numbers of murders and kidnappings in Colombia as indicated by the recently released statistics, and hoped that this downward trend would continue.

The Council reiterated its full support for President Uribe's commitment to seek a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict, including through direct engagement with those illegal armed groups who may be prepared to negotiate a peace agreement. The Council insisted that the illegal armed groups cease all hostilities and engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue. In particular, while acknowledging the recent release of some hostages, the Council underlined the importance of a rapid release of all remaining hostages and kidnapped persons. Such an act of humanitarian character by the illegal armed groups could be undertaken in the framework of a humanitarian agreement, and would give a positive signal of their intention to take the path of peace.

The Council reiterated the readiness of the EU to assist in reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict, within the framework of a comprehensive peace strategy. The Council also underlined the importance of the role of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Colombia.

The Council stressed the importance of taking early and effective action against impunity and collusion, especially with paramilitary groups. The Council underlined the need for demobilisation and re-insertion into society of members of illegal armed groups to be undertaken in line with relevant international law and jurisprudence and in a manner that respects the right of the victims of the conflict to truth, justice and reparation. In this context, the Council underlined the particular importance of further amendments to the proposed amnesty law in order to ensure full consistency with Colombia's obligations under international instruments regarding human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Council expressed its deep concern regarding the still grave human rights and international humanitarian law situation in Colombia, and urged the Government urgently to address this situation, in particular by implementing without delay the specific recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), including the recommendation to publish a plan of action on human rights with a timetable for implementation. The Council recalled in particular the UNHCHR's recommendation concerning the question of the granting of judicial powers to the security forces, and hoped that further discussions by the Congress on the law which allows this could be undertaken.

Noting with deep concern the plight of internally displaced persons and inhabitants of closed-off communities, the Council confirmed the EU's willingness to work with the Colombian Government and the UN in order to ensure a focussed and co-ordinated effort to address this crisis.

The Council highlighted the perilous security conditions under which local and international NGOs and civil society organisations, including trade unions and human rights defenders, currently find themselves obliged to carry out their work in Colombia; and called on the Government to co-operate closely with all such groups to ensure their protection. The Council underlined the importance of regular constructive dialogue between the Government and civil society in the search for a peaceful solution to Colombia's problems, and welcomed recent contacts of this kind in the context of follow-up to the July 2003 London Meeting on International Support for Colombia.

Finally, the Council emphasised the importance of achieving full implementation of the London Declaration. It welcomed the work of the Group of 24 countries (London Group), which is maintaining constructive dialogue with the Colombian Government, civil society and other interested parties to this end. In line with commitments made in London, the Council exhorted the Member States and the Commission to further develop their co-operation programmes, with particular emphasis on the democratic strengthening of state institutions, the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis, the protection of human rights, the promotion of environmental activities and the development of viable alternatives to illegal drug production. In this respect, the Council expressed its satisfaction regarding the recent extension of the EU Generalised System of Preferences, including the drugs regime, as well as the launch of the second EU Peace Laboratory, both of which it expects will make a useful contribution to the achievement of that objective.

Titles of Nobility and Honour.

Questions (161, 162, 163)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

241 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if CBEs, MBEs and OBEs given by the British royal family to citizens of this State are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the 1937 Constitution which states that no title of nobility or honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6939/04]

View answer

Arthur Morgan

Question:

242 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make available all legal or other advice which has been received by the Government with regard to what constitutes a title of nobility or of honour under Article 40.2.2° of the 1937 Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6940/04]

View answer

Arthur Morgan

Question:

243 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will list all titles of nobility or honour that are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the 1937 Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6941/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 to 243, inclusive, together.

Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution states that "No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government". While it is not the practice to make public legal advice received by the Government, the term "title of nobility or of honour" in Article 40.2.2° is interpreted as an award that entitles the recipient to use a prefix, such as "Sir" or "Lord", before his or her name. An award which provides for the use of letters or marks of distinction after the name, such as "OBE" or "MBE", is not regarded as a title of nobility or of honour in this context .

It is not possible to provide a definitive listing of all foreign titles of nobility or honour that are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution. It is the normal protocol for a foreign government which wishes to make an award to an Irish citizen to inform the Government and any such notifications are considered on a case by case basis to see if they are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution. The vast majority of these notifications are of a routine nature and in the absence of any constitutional requirement that they be brought to the Government are dealt with at official level.

Departmental Funding.

Questions (164, 165)

Enda Kenny

Question:

244 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of an application for £300,000 sterling for a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6942/04]

View answer

Finian McGrath

Question:

245 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the maximum support and funding will be provided to the Conway Mill Project, Belfast (details supplied) to assist it achieve its funding target of £300,000. [6943/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.

My Department's reconciliation fund was established in 1982 to assist organisations involved in reconciliation work and in developing a better understanding between people in both parts of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. Since its establishment, it has funded a wide variety of organisations working in the field of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, between North and South and between these islands.

The Department welcomes applications from organisations whose activities may qualify for consideration under the criteria governing the fund. All applications are considered by an interdepartmental advisory committee on the basis of published eligibility criteria and the committee then makes its recommendations to me. The reconciliation fund is relatively modest in scale, with some €2.5 million available for disbursement in 2003. Accordingly, the Department unfortunately cannot provide funding for the large number of worthy applications received.

In 2003, the organisation mentioned by the Deputies made an application for grant aid of £300,000 sterling to the reconciliation fund. I regret that, on account of the constraints arising from the numerous applications received and the limited resources available, it was not possible on that occasion to provide financial support to this application. A letter informing the organisation of this decision was issued in August 2003.

Higher Education Grants.

Questions (166)

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason unemployment benefit is not a recognised social welfare payment when persons are being assessed for a top-up grant. [6564/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The report of the action group on access to third level education makes detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students, usually referred to as "top-up" grants. The target group of "those most in need" has been defined in terms of the dependants of people receiving long-term welfare payments, where the necessary conditions are fulfilled. The special rates of grant are also available to mature students who meet prescribed conditions.

To qualify for the special rate of maintenance grant a candidate must meet a number of conditions, including the following: he or she must already qualify for one of my Department's ordinary maintenance grants; total reckonable income must not exceed the specified limit for the academic year in question; and, on the operative date, the income into the household must include one of the specified long-term social welfare payments.

Unemployment benefit is one of the eligible payments listed for the special rates of maintenance grant. However, in order to satisfy the requirement of long-term welfare payment the grant schemes specify that unemployment benefit must be payable for a specified period of 12 months on the operative date.

Third Level Fees.

Questions (167)

Michael Ring

Question:

247 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if the criteria for determining the fee status of a college applicant has changed for the students from one of the ten countries intending to enter the EU in May 2004; if so, if this has occurred due to the fact that ten new member states are entering the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6572/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Applicants from the ten EU accession states who enter higher education in Ireland in the 2004-05 academic year will be eligible for consideration for free fees in line with the eligibility criteria associated with the free fees scheme.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (168)

Denis Naughten

Question:

248 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in replying to correspondence (details supplied) forwarded to his office; when a decision will be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6584/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The correspondence referred to by the Deputy relates to the final account for a building project at the school in question. I advise the Deputy that my Department has recently issued a reply to this correspondence.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (169)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

249 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if a full-time learning support teacher will be provided for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [6589/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The school in question currently has the services of a shared learning support teacher. My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. I can confirm, however that the basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Questions (170)

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to issue compensation to persons (details supplied) who were abused in an institution while under the care of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6625/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

On 11 May 1999 the Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, apologised to the victims of childhood abuse and announced a range of measures the Government intended to introduce to assist victims.

In 2002 the Oireachtas enacted the Residential Institutions Redress Act to provide a means for making financial awards to assist people who as children were abused while resident in certain institutions in which the State had a regulatory function.

Currently, 128 institutions are listed on the schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the schedule.

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the schedule. The institution named in the Deputy's question is one of these institutions. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory or inspection function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion.

It is my intention that a list of qualifying institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (171)

Denis Naughten

Question:

251 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the building project at Ballyleague national school, County Roscommon; if he will approve funding for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6626/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, as part of the devolved initiative contained in section 1 of the 2004 school building programme, Ballyleague national school has accepted a maximum grant of €150,000 to fund the provision of additional school accommodation.

I have arranged for a copy of the terms and conditions of the initiative to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Departmental Funding.

Questions (172, 173)

Joe Higgins

Question:

252 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will seek emergency funds for the third level education sector to maintain education facilities following direct and indirect cuts to the budgets of third level institutions. [6640/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

An amount of €630.5 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for universities and HEA designated institutions. I have no plans to provide additional funding to the sector this year.

From 1997 to 2004 there has been an increase of almost €300 million in the recurrent provision to the university sector. This represents an increase of approximately 90% over this period. Overall funding, capital and current, for the wider higher education sector will stand at €1.48 billion in 2004, up €631 million or 74% on 1997 levels.

I am aware that the universities will be challenged in the short term by the constraints on recurrent exchequer funding placed on them in 2004, having regard to overall cost pressures. I appreciate that individual institutions are required to find economies and to become more streamlined in some of their operations to reconcile available budgets with pre-existing demands and commitments. This must be viewed, however, in the context of overall increases in investment in higher education over recent years and the Government's longer term strategic objective for excellence in the sector.

On capital development in the third level sector, the Deputy is probably aware that the Higher Education Authority, at my request, is carrying out a review to assess the entire set of demands in all publicly funded third level institutions, to establish prioritisation and agree rephasing.

It is the intention of the review group to have a report submitted to the HEA by the end of March. The authority will then advise me of its views. I will then make decisions in respect of the capital investment programme for the third level sector in the context of the capital envelope of funds available to me.

While all major projects at third level remain paused pending the outcome of the work of the review group, the Deputy will know that I have made provision of an additional €25 million in the 2004 Estimates for the capital element of cycle 3 of the programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, this year. This allocation is a clear recognition of the Government's commitment to the programme, which will play a key role in developing world-class capabilities in research and innovation.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

253 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 who suffers from severe dyslexia, and provide them with the funding and supports they need under the fund for students with disabilities grant, to enable them complete their studies. [6641/04]

View answer

The fund for students with disabilities provides funding to students with disabilities attending courses in third level institutions and in post leaving certificate centres.

The purpose of the fund is to provide students with serious physical and-or sensory disabilities with grant assistance towards the cost of special equipment, special materials and technological aids, targeted transport services, personal assistants and sign language interpreters. The fund operates on a discretionary basis.

Applications were submitted to my Department in October 2003, together with relevant supporting documentation, for consideration for funding for the current academic year. Decisions on those applications were taken by an ad hoc advisory group which, in 2003, consisted of representatives of my Department, a representative from the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, AHEAD, and a representative from the recently established National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, within the Higher Education Authority.

The Deputy will, no doubt, be aware that one of the key recommendations of the report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education has now been implemented, namely, the establishment of the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, national office, within the Higher Education Authority. The national office is now operational, taking over the administration of a number of access measures from the Department, including the fund for students with disabilities.

The student currently referred to was an applicant to the 2003 fund for students with disabilities. In this case it was considered that, while some assistance could be approved, insufficient documentation was supplied with the application in October last to approve all the supports requested. The student support unit of my Department advised the student in question that his application would be considered further in the event of more recent, relevant documentation being provided, through the disability officer in the third level institution attended by the student.

The disability officer in question has since provided further documentation and this has been forwarded to the national office for further consideration of the application.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (174, 175, 176)

Eoin Ryan

Question:

254 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the stages a post-primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 6 is at under the schools building programme, 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6642/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department has requested the school in question to furnish cost estimates in respect of the school's application for capital funding. The proposed project has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

255 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 6 under the schools building programme, 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6643/04]

View answer

The proposed large scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

The proposed project will be authorised to progress to advanced architectural planning during 2004. Indicative timescales have been included for large scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which, in turn, will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

256 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application by a post-primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 6 for major refurbishment under the schools building programme, 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6644/04]

View answer

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a refurbishment project at the school referred to is listed for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. The indicative timescale in the programme for this project proceeding to tender is the second quarter of 2004. The school authorities will be kept advised of developments for the delivery of this project.

School Accommodation.

Questions (177, 178)

John Bruton

Question:

257 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the additional resources he intends to provide for primary schools in Navan to alleviate the serious over-crowding and lack of spaces for students living in the Navan area; if he is allocating further teachers or prefab classrooms to the schools in the area due to the increased number of families moving to Navan over the past number of years which has now resulted in students on waiting lists for schools in the area not being granted places for September 2004 in junior infants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6661/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Two new primary schools commenced operation in the Navan area in September 2003, St. Stephen's national school Johnstown, Navan, and St. John's national school, Clonmagadden. It is expected that these new schools will alleviate pressure for places in the area into the future.

The school planning section of my Department is currently examining the level of additional accommodation which will be required at the schools to facilitate enrolment for 2004-05 school year. When a decision has been taken in the matter, the school authorities will be contacted directly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to be in a position to provide the extra facilities required at Maynooth post primary school, Maynooth, County Kildare, which was built to cater for 650 students, but now caters for 811 students; his views on whether the toilet facilities are totally inadequate for staff and students alike; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6680/04]

View answer

A large scale building project for Maynooth post primary school, Maynooth, County Kildare, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Staffing.

Questions (179, 180)

Phil Hogan

Question:

259 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if and when a resource teacher will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6681/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department allocates resource teaching support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and vocational education committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil(s) involved and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

Ballyhale vocational school comes within the jurisdiction of County Kilkenny VEC which has been allocated a total of 2.57 wholetime teacher equivalent posts and 1.48 wholetime equivalent special needs assistant posts to cater for students with special needs attending the school. A further application for additional resources for special needs students attending Ballyhale vocational school has been received by my Department from County Kilkenny VEC. This application has been referred to the psychological service for consideration. My Department will notify County Kilkenny VEC of the decision as quickly as possible.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

260 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has plans to encourage more males to enter into the primary teaching profession, in view of the fact that only 10% of primary teachers are male at the moment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6682/04]

View answer

There have been many improvements in the pay and conditions of service of primary teachers in recent years. As a result, primary teaching is an attractive career option for school leavers and graduates alike. This is borne out by the number of applicants applying each year for entry to the BEd courses in the colleges of education and to the recognised courses for graduates for the purposes of qualification as a primary teacher.

I am concerned about the position of imbalance between male and female applicants for the primary teaching profession. My Department commissioned a research study on the issue of take-up of primary teacher training by males and females. The report on the study, which was completed in 2002, showed that the pool of males with the necessary qualifications is smaller than the equivalent pool of females. In addition, many third level course choices seemed to be gender stereotyped and significantly more girls were attracted to teaching of all kinds. The authors concluded that it may be difficult for any society to bring about an early reversal of the feminisation trends in teaching.

Arrangements are being made for the establishment of the Teaching Council. The council will provide an important and influential forum for presenting the views of the profession on all aspects of the teaching career from initial recruitment to in-career professional development. The responsibilities of teachers in promoting teaching as a profession and in recruiting the next generation of teachers form an important role for the Teaching Council. Any proposal to attract more males to the primary teaching profession must take account of the requirements of current equality legislation.

College Closures.

Questions (181)

Billy Timmins

Question:

261 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to St. Catherine’s College of Education for Home Economics; if there are plans to close this college; if so, the situation in relation to the present and future students of home economics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6709/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The issue of the future of St. Catherine's arose in the context of a decision by the Dominican Trustees of St. Catherine's that, due to personnel and financial considerations, they were no longer in a position to fulfil the role of trustees of the college. Following discussions between the trustees and my Department, it was agreed that a consultant would be appointed who would meet with relevant parties and prepare a report on the options available for consideration by the Minister.

The consultant's report was thoroughly examined in my Department and the options for the future of the college were set out for my consideration. Having carefully considered all of them and having taken into account other factors such as the national spatial strategy, relevant costs in a time of financial constraint, a Government decision to restrict public service numbers, the need to secure value for money and a better allocation of resources, I decided that these considerations are best served by the closure of St. Catherine's and the designation of St. Angela's College, Sligo, as the sole centre for the training of home economics teachers.

The closure of St. Catherine's will be phased over the next four years to facilitate students enrolled in the college in completing their course of training in the college. The supply of home economics teachers will not be affected by the closure as student intake to St. Angela's College will increase. On the issue of location, figures obtained from the CAO for the past number of years indicate that there will not be a problem in filling all of the available places in Sligo.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (182)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

262 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science when an application for resource teaching hours on behalf of a student at Caltra national school, Ballinasloe, County Galway, will be approved; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6746/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for special educational resource, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the one referred to by the Deputy, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

School Accommodation.

Questions (183)

Mary Wallace

Question:

263 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans his Department has to deal with the increase in the primary school pupil numbers in the east Meath coastline area for 2004; if his Department inspector has provided a report to the planning unit of his Department outlining that there will be 240 junior infants between Julianstown, Laytown and Donacarney for September 2004; the plans his Department has to provide accommodation on time for these junior infants; the location of the various proposals for accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6747/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

As I recently announced, over the remainder of this school year a new school planning model involving published area development plans will be piloted in five areas. Included in the pilot scheme is the south Louth and mid-Meath region which covers the area referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for schools' development in an area covering a period of up to ten years.

Garda Vetting.

Questions (184)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

264 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a Garda clearance check will be completed by the central vetting unit into a person (details supplied) so as to allow them to take up a teaching post offered to them in England; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6852/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I cannot comment on the functioning of the Garda vetting unit or on a particular case before it, however, I am aware that there have been some difficulties in respect of vetting for schools and other bodies who work with children and young people both within the State and in relation to applications concerning other jurisdictions.

A cross-governmental working group has been established to consider proposals for reform of vetting by the central vetting unit run by the Garda Síochána. Its terms of reference include defining the type of organisation which should come within the ambit of the vetting process. The group is chaired by a chief superintendent and includes officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science, and the Office of the Attorney General. I understand that it hopes to finalise its report shortly.

School Curriculum.

Questions (185)

Joan Burton

Question:

265 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, in the scrúdú le haghaidh cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge for foreign trained teachers, applicants for the course claim that his Department will not provide them with an SCG examination syllabus, free or low-cost classes for teachers providing training at all levels, beginners, intermediate, remedial and examination level, an SCG examination that is comparable to those required in all Irish teacher-training courses and a textbook or handbook which contains all texts, prose, poetry and so on, that is on the exam; and the proposals he has for providing such facilities. [6870/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I established a working group to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the scrúdú le haghaidh cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge in 2001. The report of the working group was recently submitted to me. Issues dealt with in the report include the content and format of the examination modules, the standard of the examinations and courses of study for applicants for the examinations. The report is currently under consideration and decisions in regard to the recommendations contained in it will be taken in due course. A copy of the report has been published on my Department's website.

The review group earlier drafted an interim syllabus which was circulated to all schools in December 2002. The SCG examinations held in October 2003 were the first series of SCG examinations to be based on this syllabus. Copies of the interim syllabus which included a reading list of prose and poetry to be studied for the examinations are available on request from Primary Administration Section 1, Department of Education and Science, Cornamaddy, Athlone, County Westmeath. An updated language syllabus for the SCG has now also been published on the Department's website.

The review group has also drafted a handbook for the examination which is available on my Department's website. The handbook contains detailed information on the SCG and provides answers to a wide range of questions raised by candidates. It is planned to produce a textbook of relevant prose and poetry for future examinations.

Courses of study aimed specifically at candidates for the SCG examination are run by a number of education centres throughout the country. The level at which courses are provided is dependent on the demand. Copies of past examination papers, including tapes of the aural examinations, are available on request from Primary Administration Section 1 of my Department in Athlone. Some students in the colleges of education opt to take Irish as a subject to degree level while others opt for the professional Irish course which is equivalent to the SCG in terms of the overall standard required.

Educational Projects.

Questions (186, 187, 188, 189, 190)

Conor Lenihan

Question:

266 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will meet as a matter of urgency the model school for the deaf project to discuss how their plans for a primary school for the deaf can be progressed further. [6872/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

267 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the model school for the deaf project and the sense among some parents that his Department is actively opposing the establishment of such a primary school; and if he will make a statement allaying such fears. [6873/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

268 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason officials from his Department are advising parents not to attend the pre-school run by the model school for the deaf project even though it was established by his predecessor and is fully funded by his Department. [6874/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

269 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider lifting the cap of six people per class which has been set for the model school for the deaf project in light of the view by the sponsors of the school that the cap actually acts to inhibit the development of pupils in a classroom context. [6875/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

270 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason officials from his Department are discouraging parents from introducing sign language to their deaf children; and the plans he has to remedy this situation. [6876/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 to 270, inclusive, together.

Officials from my Department recently met representatives of the model school for the deaf project. In the course of that meeting, it was explained to the representatives that their application for a new school in Cabra, Dublin 7, is one of a number of applications for recognition being assessed under a revised application procedure. Under this new arrangement, applications for new schools intending to commence operation in September 2004 are bring assessed by an independent body, the new schools advisory committee. As part of its remit, the committee will consult with interested parties and report to me by the end of this month.

I am not aware of any basis for a sense among parents that my Department is actively opposing the establishment of this school. It would be quite inappropriate for officials to express any view on the matter before the advisory committee has reported and I am not aware that any such view has been expressed.

There is no basis for the contention that my officials are advising parents against sending their children to the pre-school run by the model school for the deaf project. Parents are advised of the service through the medium of the visiting teacher service. My Department has sanctioned this pre-school on a pilot basis for five years to June 2007 to cater for up to six pupils. Pending a thorough evaluation of the pilot phase, I have no plans to expand this service.

My Department does not discourage parents from introducing sign language to their deaf children. On the contrary, funds are provided to the model school for the deaf project to teach sign language to parents and siblings of deaf children in the pilot pre-school. In general, deaf and hearing impaired pupils are educated in varied settings and the teaching approaches used in those settings reflect the needs and abilities of the pupils. There is, accordingly, some use of sign language, particularly in special schools and special classes.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (191, 192)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

271 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make special one-to-one tuition available to a person (details supplied) who suffers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. [6877/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

272 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science , further to Question No. 315 of 3 February 2004, if his attention has been drawn to the extra resource hours that have only meant an extra one class in maths for a student (details supplied); and if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this student, who is exempt from Irish, is spending five class periods per week in a study hall without any extra one-to-one tuition being supplied; if he will intervene with the school to discuss this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6935/04]

View answer

My Department allocates resource teaching support and special needs assistants support to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil(s) involved and the nature and level of support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school in question has been allocated additional resource teacher support to address the needs of the student in question and a number of other students with special educational needs attending the school. The school authorities have been notified accordingly.

The level of resource teaching allocated to the school in question by the Department was determined after detailed consideration of the school's application, the supporting documentation provided, including the recommendations made by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, and having regard to the overall level of resources already available to the school to address special needs issues. Regard was also had to the desirability of delivering support services for children with special needs on a group basis wherever possible.

The Department allocates resource teaching hours to the school to cater for the special needs pupils attending and it is a matter for the school to deploy this allocation having regard to the assessed needs of the individual students involved. Schools should also review this deployment in line with the evolving needs of the students.

If the school authority is of the view that its existing approved allocation is incapable of addressing the current level of assessed special needs, including those of the pupil in question, within the school, the Department will be prepared to consider the school's case.

School Placement.

Questions (193)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

273 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the over subscription for the Convent Secondary School in Longford; the way in which he intends to ensure that the students, approximately 20 in number, who cannot get a place in the Convent Secondary School are provided with a second level place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6936/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Enrolment policy is the responsibility of the boards of management of individual post-primary schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can between them cater for all pupils seeking places in that area. This may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. There are three post-primary schools serving the Longford town catchment area and my Department is satisfied that there are sufficient places available in these schools to cater for all pupils in the area.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (194)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

274 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will continue to have a full time special needs assistant with them during all school hours for the remainder of the year in senior infants and when they progress to first class in June 2004. [6972/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I am most anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders, receive education appropriate to their needs. I am aware that five hours per week resource teaching support and a full-time special needs assistant was sanctioned for the pupil concerned on 13 June 2002.

My Department is reviewing the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In this context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. I can confirm, however, that the basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Pending the conclusion of discussions with the representative interests, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The level of special educational resources allocated to pupils may be subject to review from time to time by my Department's professional staff and the level of these resources may be adjusted, depending on the specific needs and progress being made by the pupils in question.

School Transport.

Questions (195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200)

Denis Naughten

Question:

275 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils in County Roscommon using his Department’s school transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6978/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

277 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils in County Longford using his Department’s school transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6980/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

279 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils in County Leitrim using his Department’s school transport service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6982/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 275, 277 and 279 together.

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to furnish the information requested by the Deputy. I will arrange to have it sent on to the Deputy, as soon as possible.

Denis Naughten

Question:

276 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary pupils in County Roscommon using his Department’s school transport service; the numbers attending each post primary centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6979/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

278 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary pupils in County Longford using his Department’s school transport service; the numbers attending each post primary centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6981/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

280 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary pupils in County Leitrim using his Department’s school transport service; the numbers attending each post primary centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6983/04]

View answer

I propose to take Question Nos. 276, 278 and 280 together.

My Department has requested the relevant transport liaison officers to furnish the information requested by the Deputy. I will arrange to have it sent on to the Deputy, as soon as possible.

Question No. 277 answered with QuestionNo. 275.
Question No. 278 answered with QuestionNo. 276.
Question No. 279 answered with QuestionNo. 275.
Question No. 280 answered with QuestionNo. 276.

Summer Works Scheme.

Questions (201)

Pat Breen

Question:

281 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when the applications will be considered for Scropul school and Coore school in County Clare for the summer grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6994/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Applications for the summer works scheme 2004 were considered during the month of February and it was intended that details would be published on the website on 27 February. However, due to the volume of applications received under the summer works scheme 2004, approximately 90% of which were received on the closing date, publication of the successful applicants will now take place before Friday, 5 March 2004. The list of successful applicants will be published on the Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Home Tuition.

Questions (202)

David Stanton

Question:

282 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the rates of home tuition grant payments available; the conditions attached to the granting of such payments; the number of children in the various categories for which home tuition grant payments were made in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003; the number receiving such payments; the total amount paid in the respective categories in each of these years; the change that has been made in the rates of payment in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7025/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The hourly rate of home tuition grant payable to qualified teachers since April 2000 is as follows: 1 April 2000 — €22.31; 1 October 2000 — €24.24; 1 April 2001- €24.72; 1 October 2001 — €26.08, and 1 October 2002 — €27.12.

The home tuition scheme is intended to provide compensatory instruction to pupils with a medical ailment that is likely to cause major disruption to their attendance at school on a continuing basis. It is also utilised in instances where specific types of tuition are recommended by educational psychologists that may not be available in mainstream or special education provision locally and until a suitable school placement can be arranged. The scheme is also used to fund tuition during the month of July for children with autistic spectrum disorders and severe-profound general learning disabilities who have specific needs and are not receiving school-based teaching due to school holidays.

There are in the region of 1,000 children availing of the home tuition scheme. Approximately 900 children were in receipt of a home tuition grant in 2002. Almost half of this number are children with an autistic spectrum disorder. The remainder are in respect of children with a range of disabilities. The number of children that availed of the scheme in 2000 and 2001 is not readily available.

Expenditure on the home tuition scheme during the past three school years was as follows: 2000-01 — €2.28 million; 2001-02 — €3.92 million; and 2002-03 — in excess of €6.13 million.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (203)

Mary Upton

Question:

283 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the provision of special needs education to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; and if he will consider matters (details supplied). [7081/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The matter referred to by the Deputy has been reviewed by my Department's inspectorate and my officials will be in further contact with the parents of the person in question shortly.

State Examinations.

Questions (204)

Seán Crowe

Question:

284 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 272 of 17 February 2004, if verbal notification during a telephone call might not be reasonably understood by a school to be a sufficient basis on which to then approach parents for examination fees. [7083/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The normal practice is that increases in examination fees are notified in written form to schools. In November 2003, I announced an increase of €10 in the standard leaving certificate fee, from €76 to €86, and this was notified to schools formally and in writing by the State Examinations Commission in December 2003.

It is fully accepted that a telephone call with the commission could be expected to be a sufficient and convenient basis for an approach by schools to parents on an educational issue. However, the issue of the level of examination fees is a matter of conjecture until the Estimates are finalised for the year in question. Accordingly, if information was given by the State Examinations Commission to individual schools which inquired before any formal written announcement of fees finalised for 2004 issued, it was given in error and any inconvenience caused to schools and parents is sincerely regretted. Communication of the fee increases to schools is an operational matter which falls within the remit of the State Examinations Commission.

Fisheries Protection.

Questions (205)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

285 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he proposes to take in regard to the recommendation of the South Western Regional Fisheries board to change the law in regard to draft net fishing for salmon in Cork Harbour in view of the fact that the River Lee as a salmon river has been under such pressure for many years and that salmon anglers and trout and coarse angling colleagues are outraged by the proposed recommendation. [6631/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

I have very recently received the recommendations of the South Western Regional Fisheries Board following on the report which it commissioned last year to investigate the operational efficiency of different methods of draft net fishing in the Cork Harbour area.

I am aware of the divergent views expressed in relation to the findings contained in the report. It is my intention to carefully consider the recommendations in some detail before deciding on what appropriate action to take.

Fishery Harbour Centres.

Questions (206)

Joe Higgins

Question:

286 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received a request for a meeting with the Fishery Harbour Centres Users Group in connection with new charges for use of fishery harbour centres; and if he will consider meeting with this group at an early date to discuss its concerns and effect a quick resolution to the dispute over the new charges. [6752/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

My officials met with Fishery Harbour Centres Users Group on 26 February last. I understand that a useful exchange of views took place and a report of the meeting is being finalised for my information.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Questions (207)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to abolish the regional fisheries boards; the plans he has for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6996/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

I have no proposals at present to abolish the regional fisheries boards. The Deputy will no doubt be aware, however, that the report of the independent estimates review committee to the Minister for Finance indicated in respect of the fisheries boards that: "there would seem to be scope for rationalising the existing structures of the central and regional fisheries boards" and questioned "whether the existing arrangements represent the most efficient means by which the functions in question can be discharged".

As the Deputy will also be aware, late last year I commissioned a consortium of consultants, led by Farrell Grant Sparks Consulting, who are undertaking a high level review of the inland fisheries sector in Ireland. This review will not, however, just look at the central and regional fisheries boards but will be a root and branch examination of my Department's and the Government's involvement in the governance of the sector as well as the involvement of other State agencies including the Marine Institute, BIM, ESB, Dúchas, EPA and Bord Fáilte.

The consultants will be required to evaluate the adequacy of the current model for the governance of the inlands fisheries sector; to define the current relationship between the Government, the Department(s) and the inland fisheries sector and suggest new, more effective models; and to recommend a structure which will contribute to the optimum development of the inland fisheries resource in Ireland.

This review is to be completed in two stages over six months and I understand that the consultants expect to be in a position to report to me on the first stage by late March.

Leisure Centre Supports.

Questions (208)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

288 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the supports which are available for a leisure centre development attached to hotels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6538/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The only source of grant support generally available for the development of tourism capital projects is the tourism product development scheme. This scheme, which is funded under the European Regional Development Fund, supports investment in tourism product over the period of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and is administered directly by Fáilte Ireland. However, under the terms of the scheme, the development of leisure centres attached to hotels is not eligible for support.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Questions (209)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

289 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the progress to date on the Drogheda swimming pool. [6749/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As I indicated to the Deputy in reply to a similar question on 27 January last, the contract documents received from Drogheda Borough Council in relation to the provision of a new swimming in Drogheda are under consideration in my Department.

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (210)

Denis Naughten

Question:

290 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve a sports capital grant application for Boyle Celtic FC, Sligo Road, Boyle, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6977/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Sports Funding.

Questions (211)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

291 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding sponsored or provided through his Department in each of the past ten years to ladies professional golf tournaments staged in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6995/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The fund provided by my Department through the former subhead B3 of the Vote, tourism promotion and development fund, towards the Irish ladies' open golf tournament was as follows:

Year

Amount

1994

£125,000 (€158,717)

1995

£140,000 (€177,763)

1996

£100,000 (€126,974)

The allocation of resources in subsequent years to this event and other professional golf tournaments is a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland.

Registration of Marriages.

Questions (212)

Denis Naughten

Question:

292 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the new procedures for all couples wishing to marry to have their marriage registered following the introduction of the Civil Registration Bill 2004; when the Act comes into force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6629/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The new procedures for marriage are set out Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. The Bill introduces universal procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages.

To meet the standard marriage civil preliminaries the couple must deliver to a registrar in person, a notification in writing in the approved form of their intention to marry not less than three months prior to the date of the intended marriage; sign a declaration that there is no impediment to the intended marriage; and produce identification and any other necessary documentation.

An exemption to the requirement to three months' notification can be obtained from the Circuit Family Court or the High Court. However, the couple must attend at a registrar's office to complete the civil preliminaries not less than five days prior to the marriage or, in exceptional circumstances, such lesser number of days as may be approved by the registrar. When all civil preliminaries are completed a registrar will issue a marriage registration form to the couple. The marriage registration form will be valid for a period of six months commencing with the intended date of marriage notified by the couple.

The Bill also provides for specific requirements for the solemnisation of marriages including the form of ceremony must be approved by an tArd-Chláraitheoir; a religious ceremony must be recognised by the religious body of which the solemniser is a member; a marriage cannot proceed unless the couple produce a marriage registration form to a registered solemniser; both parties to the marriage must be present at the ceremony; two witnesses aged 18 years or over must also be present; the venue for the marriage may be agreed between the couple and the solemniser; if the solemniser is a registrar, the venue must be approved by the local registration authority; the couple must understand the nature of the marriage ceremony; an interpreter must be used if required; the couple must make a declaration to the effect that there is no impediment to the marriage and a declaration that they accept each other as husband and wife; and the declaration of no impediment may be made up to two days before a religious ceremony to accommodate the liturgy of the different denominations.

Immediately after the solemnisation of the marriage, the marriage registration form must be signed by each party to the marriage, the two witnesses and the person who solemnised the marriage. The couple are responsible for the return of the completed marriage registration form to the registrar within one month of the marriage. The Civil Registration Act 2004 was signed into law by an tUachtaráin on 27 February.

The new marriage provisions contained in the Act amount to a very substantial modernisation and updating of the provisions which apply, many of which date back to the 19th century. The General Register Office is committed to ensuring that the new provisions are brought into operation as soon as possible. The office will, over the coming months, undertake the wide range of measures required to achieve this, including all necessary consultations with the churches.

Hospital Services.

Questions (213)

Dan Neville

Question:

293 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Southern Health Board at Tralee General Hospital will be funded for a drug to treat a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6535/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I understand that the Southern Health Board is considering the provision of treatment for the person in question at Tralee General Hospital. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to advise the Deputy of progress in this case.

Health Board Services.

Questions (214)

Jack Wall

Question:

294 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be appointed a social worker to assist with family problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6542/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy rests with the South Western Area Health Board and Eastern Regional Health Authority. Accordingly, my Department has asked the chief executive officer of the authority to reply directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Questions (215)

Michael Ring

Question:

295 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be treated under the national treatment purchase scheme. [6571/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The national treatment purchase fund, NTPF, has asked health boards to identify public hospital patients waiting longest on in-patient lists so that they can be offered treatment under this initiative. Public patients, who satisfy the criteria, can apply to their general practitioners, medical consultants or to their local health board to seek to have their treatment carried out under the NTPF.

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to the national treatment purchase fund and the person's eligibility and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Questions (216, 217)

Michael Ring

Question:

296 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive home help. [6585/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in Mayo is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Michael Ring

Question:

297 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the health boards which are using the national treatment purchase scheme to deal with orthodontic treatment waiting lists; and the number that have been taken off each health board treatment waiting list. [6586/04]

View answer

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards in the first instance.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards-authority in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities.

In June 2002 my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the national treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists. My Department instructed the health boards-authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: (i) treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; (ii) allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; (iii) efficiency and value for money; and (iv) equitable delivery across health board populations.

The chief executive officers of the health boards-authority have informed my Department of the following information regarding patients receiving treatment under the treatment purchase fund as at the end of December 2003:

Health Board/Authority

TPF Allocation € (1)

Numbers in treatment

ERHA

1.815m

721

MHB

0.289m

198

MWHB

0.451m

176

NEHB (2)

0.421m

196

NWHB

0.285m

119

SEHB (3)

0.554m

n/a

SHB (4)

0.720m

258

WHB

0.465m

101

(1) The proportion of allocated funds spent to date will vary according to private capacity in the health board areas.

(2) Ten of these patients have completed their treatment under this scheme.

(3) 2,249 children getting orthodontic treatment from the board (at 31 December 2003).

(4) 27 of these patients have completed their treatment under this scheme.

The chief executive officers of the health boards-authority have informed me that, at the end of the December quarter 2003, 21,295 children were receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Questions (218)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

298 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the South Western Area Health Board will allow a subvention to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 for a nursing home which is being assessed with net weekly value of assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6588/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 8 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Questions (219, 220)

Dan Neville

Question:

299 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will be made under the drugs refund scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6590/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

My Department put in place a refund scheme to process applications from people who may be eligible for a refund due to the delay in putting the drugs payment scheme on a statutory basis. The scheme was advertised in the national press on 26 June 2003 and again on 12 and 14 September for the extension of the closing date for applications to 31 October.

The GMS (Payments) Board is operating the scheme on behalf of the Department. I have had inquiries made in the matter and I understand that payment issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 25 February.

Dan Neville

Question:

300 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund under the drugs refund scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6591/04]

View answer

My Department put in place a refund scheme to process applications from people who may be eligible for a refund due to the delay in putting the drugs payment scheme on a statutory basis. The scheme was advertised in the national press on 26 June 2003, and again on 12 and 14 September for the extension of the closing date for applications to 31 October.

The GMS (Payments) Board is operating the scheme on behalf of the Department. I have had inquiries made in the matter and I understand that payment issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 25 February.

Children In Care.

Questions (221)

Dan Neville

Question:

301 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the role and functions of Coovagh House on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Limerick; and the number of young people at present undergoing treatment at the centre. [6650/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Coovagh House is a five-place special care unit operated by the Mid-Western Health Board catering for boys aged 11 to 17 years which provides residential, educational and therapeutic supports in a secure setting for a small number of non-offending children in need of special care or protection. The unit, which opened late last year, caters for children from the Mid-Western, Southern and South Eastern Health Boards. The Mid-Western Health Board has informed me that the unit is opening on a phased basis and that, with current staffing resources, there are two places available, of which one is occupied at present. There are no applications for admission to the unit.

Hospital Services.

Questions (222, 223, 224, 225)

Liz McManus

Question:

302 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for his failure to provide adequate funds for the development of the neurophysiology service in Dublin, in view of the fact that there has been no permanent consultant attached to either the national centres of neuroscience or spinal trauma in Dublin for two years, and that the Eastern Regional Health Authority has indicated a willingness to approve a post based at the national neuroscience centre at Beaumont, pending the provision of adequate funding by his Department for essential infrastructural development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6652/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The Eastern Regional Health Authority is charged with responsibility for commissioning health and personal social services on behalf of the population of the region and also on behalf of those outside the region who are referred for specialist treatment. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the issues raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that I requested Comhairle na nOspidéal to examine existing arrangements for the provision of consultant-level neurology and neurophysiology services nationally and to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of those services. Comhairle has recently published its report and, having considered it, I am happy to endorse its recommendations for a significant enhancement of neurology and neurophysiology services, including increases in consultant manpower.

The report also recognises that there are aspects of a number of other specialties and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. Comhairle has recommended that a national multidisciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to inform the policy framework further in regard to the development of neurology services.

Consistent with this recommendation and in line with commitments in the national health strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is currently being prepared by my Department. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow-up services. The rehabilitation action plan, together with the Comhairle report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland through its own publications will, in my view, offer a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services in this country.

My Department will continue to work closely with the alliance and with the Irish Consultant Neurologists' Association in regard to the future development of services. The implementation of the Comhairle recommendations will be progressed having regard to the evolving policy framework in this area, competing funding priorities and the report of the national task force on medical staffing.

Richard Bruton

Question:

303 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the systems which he has in place for monitoring and evaluating the standards of health care in hospitals; if the systems are based on self-evaluation by the hospital concerned or external evaluation; the frequency with which defects in standards of care have been uncovered; and the systems which are in place for rectifying such lapses. [6656/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

326 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the comparative results for the Dublin hospitals and the way in which they fared in the accreditation report conducted on their performance and services in 2003; and if he will rank the different hospitals in the order in which they performed under the different criteria applied to them. [6963/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

327 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way in which Tallaght Hospital performed in the accreditation report conducted on the hospital in 2003; and his views on this report on the hospital in view of the fact that it is in relative terms a new facility. [6964/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303, 326 and 327 together.

The health strategy emphasises the need to ensure the provision of high quality and safe care at the heart of a modernised health service. Consistent with this policy, I established the Irish health services accreditation board, IHSAB, on 1 May 2002.

The IHSAB operates an accreditation programme in the acute hospital sector with the aim of assuring safety for patients, staff and the public, within a framework of continuously improving quality of care. The accreditation process operates through a combination of self-assessment and peer review, using the skills of trained independent Irish and international surveyors in order to assess the safety and quality of care being provided. The standards applied by the IHSAB have been internationally accredited by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare.

The accreditation process first requires each participating hospital to carry out a thorough self-assessment, and to submit its findings to the IHSAB. Subsequently, a team of surveyors will visit the hospital to carry out the accreditation survey, following which a detailed report is issued to the hospital. The process is designed to bring to the attention of the hospital all significant issues which have been identified during the survey.

To ensure that these issues are acted upon, each hospital is required to submit progress reports in relation to issues of specific concern, with a more comprehensive report required from the hospital 12 months after the survey. In addition, surveyors carry out review visits where significant areas of concern have been identified. There is also a requirement that a further complete survey is conducted 18 months following the initial IHSAB survey.

I am satisfied that the accreditation process is already serving to assist participating hospitals in identifying and acting upon opportunities for quality improvement, and I look forward to the continuing roll-out of the scheme by the IHSAB across the hospital sector.

The questions raised relating to the accreditation surveys conducted at Dublin hospitals are appropriate to the IHSAB and, accordingly, have been referred for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Questions (226)

Finian McGrath

Question:

304 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if, regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, the maximum advice, assistance and support will be given in regard to the query. [6657/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 9 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Northern Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

National Health Strategy.

Questions (227)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

305 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on progress to date on elements of an action plan (details supplied). [6660/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The national health strategy, Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You, launched in November 2001, contains a 121 point action plan. The Department compiles an annual report on progress achieved in the implementation of the strategy action plan. I have arranged for a copy of the annual report for 2002 to be forwarded to the Deputy. The Department is compiling a report in respect of 2003. A copy of same will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.

Hospital Services.

Questions (228)

Denis Naughten

Question:

306 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 723 of 27 January 2004, the position in regard to same; if it is acceptable that a reply has not been issued to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6672/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I refer the Deputy to the Western Health Board letter of 5 February 2004, a copy of which I have forwarded to the Deputy, and my reply to Question No. 386, dated 24 February 2004.

Nursing Education.

Questions (229)

Mary Wallace

Question:

307 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department can address in more detail the question raised in Question No. 341 with regard to the integrated sick children-general nursing degree programme as distinct from the degree programmes in the disciplines of general, psychiatric and mental handicap nursing; if his Department will acknowledge that, while the degree courses commenced in 2002 in the other disciplines, it has not commenced in the discipline referred to despite the fact that a Department of Health and Children sponsored tutor was appointed to UCD to develop the programme, which is essential to maintain the distinct identity of sick children’s nursing and to continue to attract students to this crucial area of the health service; if his Department could address the timeframe issue in February 2004 for the autumn 2004 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6686/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The Commission on Nursing, which reported in 1998, recommended that pre-registration nursing education move from a three year diploma programme to a four year degree programme in each of the disciplines of general, psychiatric and mental handicap nursing. The Government expressed its commitment to implementing the programme, providing capital investment in excess of €240 million to ensure the provision of purpose-built facilities for nursing students, with state-of-the-art clinical skills and human science laboratories. In addition, when the programme has a full cohort of students in 2006, the total annual revenue cost will be in excess of €90 million. The new nursing degree commenced in 13 higher education institutes in autumn 2002, with an annual approved intake of 1,640 students across the three disciplines concerned. This level of intake is 70% higher than it was in 1998.

In 1996, the education of sick children's nurses became a post-registration education qualification. It is an 18 month course open to nurses already registered with An Bord Altranais. Previously there had been direct entry courses in sick children's nursing and a key factor in the move to post-registration qualification was the increasing difficulty in recruiting students. Many nurses with only a sick children's nursing qualification had found it difficult to obtain employment outside the major Dublin paediatric hospitals. Developments in medical diagnosis and therapeutics meant that acutely ill children who might not previously have survived, were now being cared for by sick children's nurses. It was suggested that the nature of sick children's nursing and the changing nature of the family, with an increase in the number of single teenage parents, required a greater degree of maturity in the practice of sick children's nursing. In addition, the development of the degree programmes for direct entry nursing disciplines may lead to duplication between the current sick children's nursing programme and the pre-registration degree programmes.

The Commission on Nursing recommended that the qualification of sick children's nursing remain a post-registration qualification. However, the commission also proposed that, prior to the transfer of direct entry nursing disciplines to a degree programme, directors of nursing from the paediatric hospitals, sick children's nurse educators and An Bord Altranais should review the content, duration and academic award of the sick children's nursing course in the light of the proposed degree course curricula. In accordance with the above recommendation, I made funding available to UCD to undertake work on curriculum development for an integrated sick children's-general nursing degree programme.

It must be recognised that the costs of introducing an integrated sick children's-general nursing pre-registration degree are very high. Using the same costing template for the pre-registration nursing degree programme, it is estimated that the total annual revenue cost of an additional yearly intake of 133 students — the current intake into the post-registration course is 133 — would be in the region of €9.5 million. In addition, the third level institutions have indicated to my officials that it would not be possible to proceed with the transfer of paediatric education without incurring significant capital costs. The capital cost of transferring some 585 additional sick children's nursing students to the third level sector is almost €20 million.

While I recognise that there is concern in the profession that sick children's nursing has not moved to pre-registration degree level, it must be borne in mind that, given the current budgetary restraints and the substantial funding already allocated to the other pre-registration degree programmes, my officials must consider all the possibilities to ameliorate the high cost of the proposed integrated programme. As the closing date for applications for third level courses to the CAO has passed, it will not be possible to commence the integrated sick children's-general nursing degree in autumn 2004.

Child Abuse.

Questions (230, 231)

Phil Hogan

Question:

308 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no action was taken in respect of allegations of child abuse at Cappoquin, County Waterford, even though this information was available to the Garda Síochána, the South Eastern Health Board and his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6687/04]

View answer

Phil Hogan

Question:

309 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no action was taken in respect of allegations of child abuse at Cappoquin, County Waterford, in the year 1994, even though this information was available to the Garda Síochána, the South Eastern Health Board and his Department. [6688/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 309 together.

The Department of Health and Children was alerted by the South Eastern Health Board to allegations of child abuse in Cappoquin in January 1994. The health board was advised immediately that the gardaí should be notified of the allegations. The health board gave the Department assurances at the time that the alleged abuse was not continuing and that the children were safe. Within a few days of receiving this information, the Department also arranged for its then social work adviser to visit Cappoquin to confirm that the children then residing in the home were safe. The social work adviser subsequently reported back that, subject to the limitations inherent in a once-off visit, she was satisfied that the home was being well run and that the children appeared to be happy.

The chief executive officers of each health board were also circularised and instructed by the Department to ensure that children placed in residential care were visited regularly and that the care being provided to them was monitored closely. Additional resources were provided to the South Eastern Health Board in 1994, 1995 and 1996, in common with all other boards, in preparation for the full implementation of the Child Care Act 1991.

Furthermore, a working group to advise on standards in children's residential centres was established. This group included representatives of the Department of Health and Children, health boards, the Residential Managers Association, the Irish Association of Care Workers and the Conference of Religious of Ireland. As a result of this, the Child Care (Standards in Children's Residential Centres) Regulations 1996, SI 397 of 1996, were introduced. These regulations set out the statutory obligations in relation to the standards to be maintained in children's residential centres run by voluntary agencies.

Hospital Services.

Questions (232)

Willie Penrose

Question:

310 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will take steps to have a person (details supplied) immediately admitted for urgent medical care to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6689/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of County Westmeath rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Health Board Services.

Questions (233)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

311 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to extend the national treatment purchase fund to children waiting for orthodontic treatment in view of the long waiting lists in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6741/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of orthodontic treatment services is the responsibility of the health boards-authority in the first instance.

In June 2002 my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists. My Department instructed the health boards-authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: (i) treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; (ii) allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; (iii) efficiency and value for money; and (iv) equitable delivery across health board populations.

The funding is enabling boards-authority to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The Eastern Regional Health Authority was allocated an additional €1.815 million from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way and this is enabling the authority to treat an additional 721 patients.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities. It will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

The chief executive officers of the health boards-authority have informed me that, at the end of the December quarter 2003, 21,295 children were receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Questions (234)

Michael Ring

Question:

312 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for hip surgery; and if this person can be treated under the national treatment purchase plan in view of the fact that they are waiting for this surgery since 1999. [6742/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The national treatment purchase fund, NTPF, has asked health boards to identify public hospital patients waiting longest on in-patient lists so that they can be offered treatment under this initiative. Public patients, who satisfy the criteria, can apply to their general practitioners, medical consultants or to their local health board to seek to have their treatment carried out under the NTPF.

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to the national treatment purchase fund and the person's eligibility and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Questions (235)

John McGuinness

Question:

313 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he is taking to provide proper care and treatment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason this person has not been transferred to Newmarket House in the UK or Marino Therapy Centre, Dublin; if he will take the decision at Department level in this case on the medical advice available in view of the fact that the South Eastern Health Board appears to be unable to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6743/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of care and treatment of the named individual rests with the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Questions (236)

John McGuinness

Question:

314 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 377 of 24 February 2004, the date of the original submission to his Department from the South Eastern Health Board; the number of meetings held between the board and his Department; the time frame involved in such a process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6744/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

An outline proposal on the matter referred to by the Deputy was submitted by the South Eastern Health Board to my Department on 16 June 2003. The matter was discussed during the course of three meetings with the board. The board subsequently submitted a needs assessment report in December 2003. The matter is currently under consideration by my Department in consultation with the board.

Hospital Staff.

Questions (237)

Paudge Connolly

Question:

315 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of locum consultants who were employed at Cavan General Hospital since consultants (details supplied) were suspended in August 2003; the number of hours each locum worked and the cost involved in employing each locum consultant; the number of times each locum was released on a paid basis for interviews and other duties external to the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6745/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the employment of locum consultants in Cavan General Hospital rests with the North Eastern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the CEO of the North Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Questions (238)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

316 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will extend the national treatment purchase fund to those waiting for assessment by an occupational therapist in view of the considerable waiting lists, some more than three years, and considering the vast majority of those awaiting assessment are elderly and may not be able to reside at home if these assessments are not carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6845/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The national treatment purchase fund was established specifically for the purpose of arranging treatment for those public patients who have been waiting longest for admission to acute hospitals for mainly surgical procedures. The fund has been successful in locating additional capacity and arranging treatments for approximately 11,000 patients to date. It is now the case that in most instances, adults waiting more than six months for an operation and children waiting for more than three months will now be facilitated by the fund.

As the Deputy may be aware, intensive efforts have been undertaken to improve staffing levels in occupational therapy both at local and national level. The success of these measures is reflected in the increase of 218 occupational therapists on a whole-time equivalent basis — an increase of 49% — employed in the public health service over the past three years. Relevant developments include the continued implementation of the recommendations of the report of the expert group on various health professions, which included new pay scales and career structures, the undertaking of a concerted overseas recruitment drive on behalf of all health boards, the introduction of a fast-track working visa scheme for health and social care professionals and the streamlining of procedures for the validation of overseas qualifications. The full implementation of the pay recommendations of the public service benchmarking body is also expected to play a part in increasing staffing levels.

In addition, three new occupational therapy courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year in University College Cork, National University of Ireland Galway and the University of Limerick. In total, these courses will provide an additional 75 training places in occupational therapy. This expansion in training numbers was identified in the Bacon report as necessary to meet the long-term demand-supply balance for occupational therapists in Ireland.

Hospital Accommodation.

Questions (239)

Dinny McGinley

Question:

317 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of additional accommodation to the accident and emergency unit of Letterkenny General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6846/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of services at Letterkenny General Hospital rests with the North Western Health Board. In July 2003 I gave approval to the board to proceed with the planning of an extension to the accident and emergency department of the hospital. The board is currently in consultation with my Department with a view to progressing this project.

Smoking Ban.

Questions (240)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

318 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if publicans and their staff will personally have to enforce the smoking regulations in their own premises. [6868/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The owner, manager or person in charge of a workplace is legally responsible for ensuring compliance with health and safety requirements, including the prohibition on smoking in the workplace. The Office of Tobacco Control has drawn up guidelines for the licensed trade to help owners, managers and staff with the introduction of the new measure. The office consulted with the trade in preparing the guidelines and these will be accessible on its website today. The emphasis will be on compliance building and providing guidance and information to people in the sector. As part of the process of monitoring compliance with the smoke-free workplace requirement, authorised officers from the health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control will visit premises. I expect that the vast majority of employers, employees and the public will respect the new measures, which are primarily to protect people from exposure to toxic environmental tobacco smoke.

Hospital Services.

Questions (241)

Michael Ring

Question:

319 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip operation. [6944/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Mayo is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Questions (242)

Michael Ring

Question:

320 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be brought for treatment under the national treatment purchase plan. [6945/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The national treatment purchase fund, NTPF, has asked health boards to identify public hospital patients waiting longest on in-patient lists so that they can be offered treatment under this initiative. Public patients who satisfy the criteria can apply to their general practitioners, medical consultants or local health boards to have their treatment carried out under the NTPF. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter referred to by the Deputy and the person's eligibility for treatment under the NTPF and reply directly to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (243)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

321 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there were consultations between his Department and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the implications for cases of medical malpractice and negligence of the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004, which proposes to reduce the period covered by the Statute of Limitations from three years to one year. [6946/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

In accordance with standard practice, the draft Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004 was circulated to my Department for information and for any observations on its possible implications for the Department's area of responsibility.

Ambulance Service.

Questions (244, 245)

Paudge Connolly

Question:

322 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the written and oral instructions given to ambulance staff in the matter of removing patients to Monaghan General Hospital or to Cavan General Hospital; the criteria used in formulating these instructions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6947/04]

View answer

Paudge Connolly

Question:

323 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in the event of a general practitioner referring a patient to Monaghan General Hospital, the ambulance staff have a right to countermand this referral under their instructions from the health board executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6948/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.

The North Eastern Health Board is responsible for the provision of ambulance services in its functional area. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Service Staff.

Questions (246)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

324 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new posts created within the health sector for 2002, 2003 and 2004; and the breakdown of the categories of these posts and the number of posts within each category. [6953/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Health service employment, as measured by the quarterly health service personnel census, increased by 5,377 in whole-time equivalent, WTE, terms in 2002. This increase represents net additions to the health service workforce, including both new posts created and recruitment to posts previously unfilled. The Deputy may wish to note that within this overall increase, employment in nursing grades increased by 1,966 WTEs, or more than 6%, and employment in medical and dental grades increased by 489 WTEs, or nearly 8%. Substantial increases also took place in the health and social care professional grades and other health service grade categories providing direct patient services to the public. Information in respect of the increases in all grade categories is currently being compiled by my Department, taking into account changes in classifications which took place in the course of 2002. This information, together with comprehensive information for 2003, will be made available to the Deputy as soon as it is finalised.

As far as the current year is concerned, the letter of determination issued by my Department to each health board or authority for 2004 stated that employment requirements of specific services, consistent with planned activity levels, should be met through the management of the approved employment complement. This includes the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff employed in the approved health workforce. The first quarterly employment report for 2004, setting out the composition of the health service workforce at the end of March 2004, will be available in June 2004.

Smoking Ban.

Questions (247)

Conor Lenihan

Question:

325 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way in which he intends to implement the smoking ban on the ground in terms of enforcement; and if additional staff or resources are being given to the task by the health boards. [6962/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

A national public information campaign, entitled Smoke-Free at Work, will be rolled out across TV, radio and print media. In addition, a series of print materials for workplaces, employees and the general public will be available over the coming weeks and these will be available on-line at the new Smoke-Free at Work website. The campaign will provide guidance and information to all sectors of society in preparation for 29 March. Information will also be available on-line from the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority websites. A memorandum of understanding has been agreed by the two agencies which will help to ensure compliance with the new measure.

Workplace locations traditionally visited by the Health and Safety Authority will now also have to comply with the new smoke-free measure as part of their general compliance with health and safety requirements. Monitoring compliance with the smoke-free requirements in the food and hospitality area will be carried out by officers from health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control. Health boards with vacancies in their established environmental health officer complements in the tobacco control area are in the process of filling these posts. The emphasis of the campaign will be on compliance building and harnessing the widespread public support and goodwill that exists for a smoke-free environment.

Adapting to the new measure will require some adjustment, particularly for those in workplaces which up to now have not benefited from the existing statutory controls on the smoking of tobacco products. I am confident that people will adjust, just as they did when cinemas, theatres, hairdressing salons, aeroplanes and numerous other settings became smoke-free. The trade union movement is strongly supportive and I am encouraged by the willingness shown by employers' organisations in the various sectors in recommending compliance with the new measure to their members. Most people are law-abiding and responsible and I expect that the vast majority of employers, employees and the public will respect this important new public health measure.

Questions Nos. 326 and 327 answered with Question No. 303.

Hospital Services.

Questions (248, 249, 250)

Conor Lenihan

Question:

328 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the mooted merger between Tallaght Hospital and St. James’s Hospital and the extent to which his Department and officials have been involved or consulted with regard to the discussions. [6965/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

329 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children his views, in light of the Hanly report recommendations for the country’s hospitals, on whether there could be significant savings in the area of shared services and administration through hospital merging in the manner now proposed by executives in Tallaght Hospital and St. James’s Hospital. [6966/04]

View answer

Conor Lenihan

Question:

330 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in the event of a merger between Tallaght Hospital and St. James’s Hospital, such a merger will not be given his approval if it leads to the downgrading of Tallaght hospital in terms of the expansion of services at this relatively new facility. [6967/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 to 330, inclusive, together.

Officials of my Department have received a preliminary briefing on discussions which are ongoing between representatives of the hospitals mentioned by the Deputy and the faculty of health sciences at Trinity College Dublin on future governance arrangements. As far as I am aware, this process is about developing the hospital services and the question of downgrading any facility does not arise.

The acute hospitals review group has been asked to prepare a national hospitals plan for the interim health services executive, taking account of the principles set out in the Hanly report. The Hanly proposals include the development of integrated hospital networks, within which the management of hospitals would be closely linked. Any proposals regarding the management of individual hospitals or groups of hospitals will be relevant to the work of the review group.

Vaccination Programme.

Questions (251)

John Gormley

Question:

331 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the use of mercury in vaccinations for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6973/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The Irish Medicines Board, which has statutory responsibility for licensing all pharmaceutical products for use in Ireland, has provided the following information in relation to thiomersal. Thiomersal is a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines to prevent bacterial contamination. There has been no thiomersal in the vaccines used in the national primary childhood immunisation programme, which covers children from birth to the age of two, since 1996; this includes BCG, DTaP — diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and inactivated polio vaccine — oral polio, Hib and MMR.

The IMB has advised that thiomersal is present in the newer four-in-one and five-in-one vaccines, Tetravac and Pentavac, in trace amounts. The trace amounts are equivalent to values below the limit of detection, corresponding to less than 18 nanograms per vaccine dose. According to the IMB, these trace amounts of mercury have no biological effect and such products should be considered equivalent to thiomersal-free products. The IMB has further clarified that, as with any agent, hypersensitivity reactions can occur in sensitised individuals despite this very low concentration; however, previous experience with Pentavac and Tetravac in other countries has shown no evidence of any such reactions having occurred due to thiomersal. TheLancet published an article in 2003 which suggests that the level of thiomersal in vaccines given in infancy does not appear to elevate blood concentrations of mercury above safe levels in infants. The IMB has published articles on the subject of thiomersal in its drug safety newsletter; these articles are available at www.imb.ie.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Questions (252)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

332 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has encouraged the national cervical screening programme to participate in the proposed trial of the new molecular traffic light test of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6974/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Phase one of the national cervical screening programme has been operating in the Mid-Western Health Board since October 2000. In the interests of best practice and quality assurance, organised screening programmes such as phase one must be based on established tests which have been fully evaluated and whose value is supported by clear evidence. These criteria are set down by the national cancer forum. The test described by the Deputy has not been assessed and therefore there is no basis for recommending its inclusion as a screening test at this point in time.

The national health strategy includes a commitment to extend the programme to the rest of the country. The health boards executive, HeBE, has initiated an examination of the feasibility and implications of a roll-out of the national programme. The work currently being undertaken as part of the roll-out includes an evaluation of phase one, policy development including use of new technologies, and the establishment of national governance arrangements. This work has regard to the experiences gained from the phase one programme and other international programmes as well as current best practice. The evaluation of phase one is a key element in informing the development of a high-quality cervical screening model for Ireland. The evaluation is currently under way and it is anticipated that it will be completed within the next few months. Once completed, HeBE has advised that it will be in a position to prepare a draft roll-out plan.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Questions (253)

Willie Penrose

Question:

333 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason prescribed medication such as quinine for the treatment of cramps is not available to the holders of medical cards but must be purchased by them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6975/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the general medical services and drug payment schemes. This list ensures equity between the schemes in the range of medicines paid for by the State. The list is reviewed and amended monthly as new products become available and deletions are notified.

For an item to be included on the common list, it must comply with a published list of criteria. These include authorisation status where appropriate, price, and in certain cases the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Quinine is licensed in Ireland for the treatment of malaria only. It is not included on the common list. A medical card holder who experiences financial difficulty in obtaining items not on the common list should approach the health board for assistance.

Vaccination Programme.

Questions (254)

Denis Naughten

Question:

334 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 389 of 17 February 2004, the details of the preliminary review of the schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6984/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The preliminary review undertaken involved a general overview of details of schemes in place in a number of other countries. This review was done in order to establish general details of schemes already in existence; however, a detailed examination of such schemes has not yet been undertaken.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Questions (255)

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

335 Mr. B. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when he proposes to appoint a design team for the construction of the Irish blood transfusion Munster centre in Cork, as recommended by the international panel in October 2002. [6989/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The development brief for the project was submitted to the Department by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service in March 2003. The estimated current capital cost of the project, including special facilities for nucleic acid amplification technology testing, is approximately €28 million. Officials of my Department are in discussions with the Department of Finance in order to agree a capital investment framework for the period 2004-08. The project mentioned by the Deputy is being considered in that context.

Hospital Staff.

Questions (256)

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

336 Mr. B. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nurses Manpower Planning suggests will be required to be recruited during 2004 and 2005; his views on the marketing strategy in terms of employment adopted by UK medical facilities; and the way he intends to counteract their employment recruitment initiatives. [6990/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The recruitment and retention of adequate numbers of nursing staff has been a concern of this Government for some time, and a number of substantial measures have been introduced in recent years. These include: an increase of 70% in the number of nursing training places from 968 in 1998 to 1,640 from 2002 onwards; payment of fees to nurses and midwives undertaking part-time nursing and certain other undergraduate degree courses; improved schemes of financial support for student paediatric nurses and student midwives; payment of fees and enhanced salary to nurses and midwives undertaking courses in specialised areas of clinical practice; abolition of fees for back-to-practice courses and payment of salary to nurses and midwives undertaking such courses; financial support to State-enrolled nurses working in the Irish health service who wish to undertake nursing conversion programmes in the United Kingdom; and the availability of 40 sponsorships each year for certain categories of health service employees wishing to train as nurses.

The following table illustrates the improvements that have taken place in nursing numbers over the past number of years:

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Whole time equivalents

26,611

27,044

29,173

31,428

33,395

In 1998, there were 26,611 whole-time equivalent nurses employed in the public health system. By the end of 2002 this figure had reached 33,395. This is an increase of almost 6,800 during the period, or over 25%. It is clear from these figures that the recruitment and retention measures I introduced are proving veryeffective.

Figures from An Bord Altranais for the same period indicate that there is a steady stream of new entrants into the profession over and above those graduating from the Irish system, thus further increasing the potential recruitment pool. The following table illustrates the number of applications for registration between 1998 and November 2003:

Division

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

General

2,092

2,143

2,518

4,582

3,450

1,970

Mental handicap

140

163

188

176

153

156

Psychiatric

239

236

248

266

410

365

Total

2,471

2,542

2,954

5,024

4,013

2,491

Foreign recruitment has made a valuable contribution to addressing domestic staff shortages in the nursing area. An Bord Altranais continues to receive applications for registration from overseas nurses. The total number of foreign registrations for the period 1998 to 2003 is set out as follows:

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

November 2003

Overseas

94

142

631

2,311

1,760

740

EU (excluding Ireland)

1,417

1,521

1,585

1,424

1,194

839

Total (excluding Ireland)

1,511

1,663

2,216

3,735

2,954

1,579

The procedures for recruiting overseas nurses into the health service are well developed and extensive supports are in place to enable overseas nurses to obtain registration with An Bord Altranais.

In 2002, as part of the Government's commitment to implementing the recommendation of the commission on nursing, the education of student nurses was transferred to the third level education sector. This transfer is supported by a very significant capital development programme involving expenditure of more than €240 million in 13 institutes of higher education nationwide. Revenue expenditure will exceed €90 million per annum when the programme has a full population of students from 2006 onwards. Of the remaining three-year diploma students, around 1,500 will graduate this year. It is expected that these 1,500 graduates, in addition to the continued recruitment of overseas nurses and increased utilisation of health care assistants, will be sufficient to meet health service needs in 2004.

Under the new degree programme, nursing students will be employed in the health service for a 12-month period during their training. The students will be part of the rostered workforce and will receive a salary for this 12-month period. The first students will commence their rostered service in spring 2005, continuing until spring 2006. These students will make a substantial contribution to the health service and will help address the difficulties caused by the loss of a graduating class in 2005. It should be noted that such rostered students will be a constant feature of the health services from 2005 onwards.

Officials from my Department are in touch with senior nurse managers throughout the country on a regular basis and discussions indicate that the problem of a lack of graduates in 2005 will only manifest itself in spring 2006. As there will be a cohort of graduates available by early autumn 2006, the problem has a relatively short lifespan. A working group representing health service employers and my Department is in the process of being established for the purpose of identifying where the main gaps are likely to arise as a result of the lack of graduates in 2005 and to devise a strategy for dealing with these gaps.

My Department recently gave approval to the roll-out, on a national basis, of the health care assistant training programme, which commenced in December 2003. The main objective of the programme is to increase the skills of health care assistants so that, working under the supervision of nurses, they are enabled to take on a wider range of duties, thereby freeing nursing resources to concentrate on exclusively nursing tasks. Up to 500 health care assistants will be trained each year at an estimated annual cost of €3 million.

I am confident the extensive range of measures outlined, including recruitment of overseas nurses and increased use of health care assistants, in addition to close monitoring and assessment of the situation on an ongoing basis will prove to be effective in addressing any shortfall arising in the nursing workforce in 2004 and 2005.

Marketing strategies adopted by UK employers are strictly a matter for those employers. However, there is considerable movement of UK-trained nurses into Ireland. In the three years up to the end of 2003, a total of 3,051 UK-trained nurses registered with An Bord Altranais. Overall, the total number of overseas nurses registered in Ireland in the same period was almost 8,300. It is clear from these figures that overseas nurses, including those from the UK, find Ireland an attractive location in which to pursue their careers.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Questions (257, 258)

David Stanton

Question:

337 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the core funding made available to service providers in respect of disability services provided directly by his Department or through the respective health boards in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; the amount received by each of the service providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7029/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The following is the estimated non-capital expenditure by my Department on the disability programme for the years in question:

Year

Estimated expenditure (€)

1999

520,835

2000

651,562

2001

815,909

2002

962,932

2003

1,125,889

Total

4,077,127

The amounts provided to the various service providers are a matter for decision by the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officers of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards with a request that they examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

David Stanton

Question:

338 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children when the specific information provided in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 451 of 16 December 2003 and requested from the health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7030/04]

View answer

My Department is finalising the information requested by the Deputy. As soon as the information is collated, it will be made available.

Medical Cards.

Questions (259, 260, 261)

Denis Naughten

Question:

339 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the total number of medical cards issued in County Roscommon for each year from 1997 to 2004; the number each year that were issued to those over 70; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7078/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

340 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the total number of medical cards issued in County Longford for each year from 1997 to 2004; the number each year that were issued to those over 70; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7079/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

341 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the total number of medical cards issued in County Leitrim for each year from 1997 to 2004; the number each year that were issued to those over 70; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7080/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 to 341, inclusive, together.

The statistical information in respect of the number of medical cards in the three counties for the specific years, provided by the relevant health boards, is provided in the following tabular form.

County

Year

Number of persons covered

Roscommon

1997

23,629

1998

22,332

1999

21,373

2000

20,575

2001

20,894

2002

20,376

2003

20,165

Leitrim

1997

12,246

1998

11,914

1999

11,766

2000

11,555

2001

11,539

2002

11,476

2003

11,236

Longford

1997

12,880

1998

12,889

1999

12,450

2000

12,557

2001

12,890

2002

12,499

2003

12,171

The reduction in the number of persons covered by medical cards in recent years can be attributed in some measure to the rise in the numbers of persons in employment. Another factor was the data-cleaning exercise which was carried out on medical card lists on health boards' databases. Since early 2003 this has resulted in more than 80,000 persons being removed from the registers nationally. It should be noted that most of these deletions arose from normal medical card review activity.

Annual statistical data on this group of persons was categorised as persons aged 65 years and over until 2002. While the national medical card coverage for these categories for the years mentioned is detailed in the following table, it is intended to provide to the Deputy under separate cover a breakdown by specified county for persons aged 70 years and over for the years since 2002.

Year

Age band

Number of persons covered

1997

Aged 65 years and over

294,526

1998

296,682

1999

312,687

2000

323,418

2001

397,590

2002

Aged 70 years and over

317,374

2003

309,612

February 2004

308,277

Hospital Services.

Questions (262)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

342 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that are in place in the North Eastern Health Board area to provide a dedicated hospital service for victims of sexual assault; and if there are plans for such a unit to be provided in the Drogheda area. [7082/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services in the north eastern region rests with the North Eastern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine the matters raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Driving Tests.

Questions (263)

Phil Hogan

Question:

343 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who applied for a driving test will be called; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6529/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

An application from a person with a broadly similar address is with my Department. A test appointment will be arranged as soon as possible for the person concerned.

Question No. 344 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Rail Services.

Questions (264)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

345 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the business case proposal for the first stage of the Dublin metro to go to Cabinet for a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7074/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro with a link to Dublin Airport. I have received the revised outline business case for phase one, which involves a line from the airport to the city centre, from the Railway Procurement Agency. I am currently finalising my proposals on the metro in the context of the wider need of the greater Dublin area and I expect to bring this to Government in the coming weeks.

Transport and Land Use Authority.

Questions (265)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

346 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his plans to establish a single transport and land use authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7092/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Government consultation paper, New Institutional Arrangements for Land Use and Transport in the Greater Dublin Area, was published jointly by the Departments of the Environment and Local Government and Public Enterprise in April 2001. The paper proposed the establishment of a new strategic land use and transportation planning authority for the greater Dublin area. Developments since the publication of this consultation document have caused me to review its proposals. The regional authorities are currently finalising regional planning guidelines under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000. These will provide effective regional land use strategies consistent with the national spatial strategy. The Dublin and mid-east regional authorities are collaborating to produce a single set of guidelines for the greater Dublin area. The DTO is continuing to carry out effective strategic transport planning for the greater Dublin area.

I have concluded that the establishment of an independent national public transport procurement and regulatory body is the most effective way of implementing regulatory reform. In the light of these developments the policy objectives of effective land use and transport planning can, for the present, be successfully addressed within these existing structures. It is not a priority to establish a strategic land use and transportation authority for the greater Dublin area.

Bus Accident.

Questions (266)

Finian McGrath

Question:

347 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if Dublin Bus was warned that the No. 66 bus stop was dangerous a few weeks before the tragic accident of 21 February 2004; if victims’ families will receive the maximum support, advice and assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6545/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Dublin Bus had received a small number of complaints relating to the No. 66 bus stop at Wellington Quay. These complaints mainly related to the night-time environment in proximity to Temple Bar, public lighting, bus shelters, vehicle noise and the pedestrian environment. Since this terminus was relocated to Wellington Quay there have been no reported incidents of personal injury associated with the location of this terminus.

Dublin Bus has made available a team of counsellors, expert in dealing with bereavement and trauma, to help all those involved in the recent accident and also the drivers concerned. The company has also stated that it will cover the medical expenses of those involved in the accident and deal with all other matters arising in a caring and urgent manner. The company assures me it is doing its best to deal with the matter in a compassionate and professional manner.

State Airports.

Questions (267, 268)

Pat Breen

Question:

348 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 415 of 3 February 2004, if, in accordance with the terms of the 1944 ICAO Chicago Convention, member states are obliged to prepare aerodrome safeguarding maps in order to ensure that certain pathways through the air on approaches to runways should be clear of obstacles at certain heights; if he is ultimately responsible for ensuring that such maps are prepared in respect of each runway at the three State airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6575/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

This is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority, as the issue of safeguarding maps is covered in Annex 14 to the Chicago Convention.

Pat Breen

Question:

349 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 480 of 16 December 2003, the date that red zones changed from being two-dimensional surfaces on the ground to three-dimensional surfaces in the sky; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6576/04]

View answer

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 438 of 17 February 2004.

Road Safety.

Questions (269, 270, 271)

Pat Breen

Question:

350 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the fact that there were a total of 466 pedestrian fatalities on roads during the years 1998 to 2002, he has plans to appoint consultants to assess third party risk on such roads in like manner to the recent study undertaken at State airports by ERM; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6577/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The purpose of the engagement of ERM was to advise on any restrictions that should be imposed on planning and development in and around airports against the background of possible airline crashes. That type of study would not be relevant to situations in which pedestrian casualties result from traffic accidents.

Third party insurance cover against civil liability arising from the negligent use of a motor vehicle on a public road is compulsory under the Road Traffic Act 1961, including such civil liability to pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Under the 1988 agreement between the then Minister for the Environment and the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland, compensation is payable by the bureau to innocent victims of road accidents involving uninsured drivers and untraced vehicles, in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Such compensation covers personal injuries and injury to property in the case of accidents caused by uninsured drivers and personal injury in the case of accidents alleged to have been caused by uninsured drivers.

In this country the primary immediate investigative role in road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road accidents and in particular to the determination of whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to an occurrence. Garda reports on road traffic accidents are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of establishing accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate the carrying out of remedial works relating to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.

Michael Ring

Question:

351 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatalities on the roads in 2003; the number caused by car accidents; and the number caused by heavy goods vehicles. [6648/04]

View answer

Michael Ring

Question:

353 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatalities on the roads in 2003; the number that were caused by car accidents; and the number that were caused by heavy goods vehicles. [6668/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 and 353 together.

Statistics on road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and this, along with reports relating to previous years, is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Provisional figures for 2003 indicate that 341 road deaths occurred during that year. A breakdown of the number of traffic accident fatalities in 2003 caused by cars and heavy goods vehicles is not yet fully analysed and authenticated. This will be set out in Road Accident Facts 2003, which will be published by the National Roads Authority later this year.

Rail Services.

Questions (272)

John Perry

Question:

352 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure that new carriages are put in place on the Sligo-Dublin trains in view of the fact that they are overcrowded, particularly when used by students returning to college; when they will be sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6662/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The allocation of rolling stock and the timetabling of trains is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann. However, I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that it has 67 new mainline railway carriages on order for delivery in 2005. The delivery of these vehicles will allow Iarnród Éireann to retire some older rolling stock and upgrade its remaining fleet, including rolling stock on the Dublin-Sligo route.

Question No. 353 answered with QuestionNo. 351.

National Car Test.

Questions (273)

Phil Hogan

Question:

354 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the number of people tested in 2003 under the national car testing programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6692/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The information requested in connection with the NCT is published and available on the website maintained by National Car Testing Service Limited, the address of which iswww.ncts.ie. In 2003, 631,257 cars underwent the full NCT and 303,320 cars had retests.

Driving Licences.

Questions (274)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

355 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the reason there is a requirement for an eye test for those over 70; his views on whether this requirement is discriminatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6952/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

A first-time application for a provisional licence must be accompanied by an eyesight report. An application for a provisional licence or driving licence is required in certain instances to be accompanied by a medical report. These include instances in which the applicant will be aged 70 years or more when the licence takes effect or suffers from any of a specified list of disabilities or diseases, including diplopia, defective binocular vision or loss of visual field. These provisions are in line with general EU requirements regarding medical standards and periodic assessment of licence holders, and are in the interest of the individuals concerned, other road users, and road safety generally.

Road Signage.

Questions (275)

Denis Naughten

Question:

356 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if, further to correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Cork, these proposals were considered by the speed limits working group; the reason the proposal was not included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6985/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The working group on the review of speed limits reviewed the present policy on road signs that are deployed for the signing of speed limits. In this context, the group gave consideration to a number of proposals for new approaches to such signage that had been submitted, including a proposal from the person to whom the Deputy is referring.

The report of the working group stated in paragraph 8.8 that having examined these various proposals, the group was of the view that there is no compelling argument for changing the current approach that applies to speed limit signing generally. In addition, the group advised that the adoption of complex signage proposals that would deviate substantially from current national and international practice and experience should not be promoted. The report of the review group is available on my Department's website and I am arranging to forward copies to the Oireachtas.

Rail Network.

Questions (276)

Denis Naughten

Question:

357 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the total expenditure involved in reconstructing the railway bridge on the East Wall Road, Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6986/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Iarnród Éireann informs me that the East Wall Road bridge has been struck on a number of occasions by high vehicles and the decision was taken in early 2002 to replace the bridge. The major benefit from this work is the enhanced safety of rail traffic over this key artery which carries northside DART services, the Drogheda and Dundalk suburban service and the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service. Work on the railway bridge, which crosses both the East Wall Road and the river Tolka, was completed in August 2003 at a total cost of €23.4 million.

National Car Test.

Questions (277)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

358 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if some NCTs are so severe as to render a brand new motor vehicle incapable of passing more than two tests in a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7032/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

A passenger car is not liable for the NCT until it is four years old. The test procedures followed during the NCT are in line with best international practice and do not pose a risk of damage to a vehicle being tested provided it has been maintained and operated in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

National Development Plan.

Questions (278)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which the road development targets set in the national plan are being achieved or are achievable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7041/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Good progress is being made in the implementation of the national roads development programme mandated in the national development plan. Total Exchequer investment over the period 2000 to 2004 will amount to almost €5.3 billion. Since 2000 a total of 37 projects, totalling over 250 km., have been completed. Work is currently under way on a further 17 projects, totalling 150 km., and 16 projects, totalling 150 km., are at tender stage.

The current position on the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway or high-quality dual carriageway standard is as follows. The M1 is expected to be fully complete by the end of 2006. Work is under way on major projects on the N7 Monasterevin bypass and Limerick southern ring road phase 1, on the N8 Cashel bypass and on the N4-N6 at Kilcock-Kinnegad. Work is expected to start this year on the Dundalk western bypass and the Dundalk to Newry section of the M1, the Fermoy bypass on the N8, the Waterford city bypass on the N9-N25 and the widening of the N7 on the Naas road. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by or in consideration by An Bord Pleanála by the end of 2004. On the basis of current planning and funding, the National Roads Authority estimates that the full completion of these routes, other than the M1, will extend to 2010, compared to 2006 as mandated in the NDP. In response to a request from me, in the context of the multi-annual programme being prepared in response to the announcement by the Minister for Finance of a multi-annual funding framework for capital investment, the NRA is considering the possibility of bringing forward the completion of the Cork-Dublin and Galway-Dublin routes to 2007.

Rail Services.

Questions (279, 280, 281)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to transfer a greater amount of freight traffic to the railways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7042/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The responsibility for the development of rail freight rests with Iarnród Éireann. I have stated consistently that every effort should be made by the company to develop its rail freight business. The company's immediate priority is to achieve financial viability for this division of its operations. Its strategy is to develop the profitable traffic it already has, such as bulk freight and train-load traffic, and reshape the loss-making container business. I understand that the company has won new business in recent times and the fortunes of its freight operations have improved considerably. I expect that Iarnród Éireann will continue to develop its rail freight business in line with this approach.

Question No. 361 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 362 answered with QuestionNo. 125.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

363 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily passenger capacity of the railway stations at Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey; the extent to which it is intended to increase the daily figures in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7046/04]

View answer

I am informed by Irish Rail that, since the introduction of the new timetable in December 2003, capacity has been increased by 24% on the Maynooth route, which serves Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey. This has been achieved by introducing to the route some of the new fleet of 80 diesel railcars delivered over the past few months. This latest capacity increase comes on top of a 100% increase achieved in 2001 when the double tracking of the route was completed.

In addition, Irish Rail has recently placed an order for another 36 diesel railcars, which will be delivered in 2005. It is proposed that some of these railcars will operate on the Maynooth line to increase capacity further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

364 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which daily passenger capacity is likely to be increased on the Monasterevin, Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins and Hazelhatch/Celbridge commuter routes; when it is expected to achieve these objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7047/04]

View answer

Irish Rail has informed me that it has increased the commuter capacity of the Kildare route by 130% since the new timetable was introduced on 14 December 2003. A number of the new diesel railcars, acquired by Irish Rail in 2003, were assigned to the route to lengthen the trains to eight cars. In addition, new turn-back facilities at Hazelhatch and Sallins were installed to allow more efficient use of the available train paths into and out of Heuston in peak periods. Irish Rail recently ordered a further 36 diesel railcars to boost capacity on outer suburban routes serving Dublin.

Irish Rail is now proceeding with plans to quadruple a section of the route between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch, as part of the Kildare route project, which will enable the separation of intercity and commuting traffic and increase the capacity of the line. I await the details of the project as part of the Railway Order process. I understand the company is in the process of completing the draft order and I understand that the application will be submitted to me in the middle of this year.

Public Transport.

Questions (282, 283, 284)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he expects the port tunnel to cater for all vehicle types; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7048/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Dublin Port tunnel, DPT, as a motorway, will, subject to compliance with the height requirements of the tunnel as constructed, cater for all vehicles entitled to use a motorway as set out in Article 7 of the Roads Regulations, 1994, S.I. No. 119 of 1994. The position regarding the use of the DPT by HGVs greater than 4.65 metres in height is that I am currently reviewing the height of the port tunnel based on information contained in a report prepared by W.S. Atkins for my Department. W.S. Atkins was requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions. It should be noted however that the Dublin Port tunnel, which was designed having regard to best international practice in terms of tunnel heights, will cater for almost 99% of truck traffic entering and leaving the port.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

366 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the increasing incidences of bus jams at different locations throughout Dublin city; the way in which he expects matters to progress when Luas comes on stream thereby competing further with the bus fleet for road space; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7049/04]

View answer

The investment in recent years in expanding the bus fleet of Dublin Bus and the network of quality bus corridors has provided better infrastructure and service frequency for commuters. The quality bus network project office of Dublin City Council is currently examining proposals to reduce congestion at specific pinch points in the Dublin region identified by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. Responsibility for traffic management in Dublin lies with the relevant local authority.

As regards Luas, Dublin Bus has introduced the measures necessary to accommodate Luas construction and a need for additional road space for buses along the corridors affected is not foreseen when Luas services commence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the extent to which city traffic has been impeded by various converging and competing traffic management furniture resulting in a dramatically reduced area for public or private transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7050/04]

View answer

Significant and unprecedented investment has been made and continues to be made by my Department in transport infrastructure and services in the greater Dublin area. This investment in infrastructure and services is showing dividends, and will do so even more so in the future as key projects such as the Luas, the port tunnel, the DART upgrade and completion of the M50 come on stream. However, day to day responsibility for the management of traffic in Dublin lies with the relevant local authority.

On the issue of what the Deputy refers to as traffic management furniture, the Road Traffic Acts establish that the provision of traffic signs, including those necessary for the application of regulatory controls, traffic calming and other traffic management measures is the responsibility of local authorities.

Questions Nos. 368 and 369 answered with Question No. 191.
Question No. 370 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Railway Stations.

Questions (285)

David Stanton

Question:

371 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 14 October 2003, the further progress that has been made regarding the development of Kent station in Cork and the commercial development of Horgan’s Quay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7054/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I understand from CIE that there have been no significant developments since October 2003. Discussions are still continuing between CIE property division, a developer and Cork City Council. It is planned to bring a proposal to the city council in the current year.

Traffic Fines.

Questions (286)

Michael Ring

Question:

372 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the moneys which were collected through speeding fines in 2003; and the breakdown of the numbers collected from breaking 30 miles, 40 miles, 50 miles and over 60 miles an hour speed limits. [6647/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Approximately €15.9 million was paid to the Garda Síochána in respect of fines-on-the-spot and fixed charges in 2003. A further € 8.7 million was paid through court offices in respect of fines imposed by the courts.

However, no breakdown is currently available between speeding offences and other road traffic offences, nor is a breakdown available in respect of the different speed limit zones. I regret that the compilation of such information would involve a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Treatment of Prisoners.

Questions (287)

Finian McGrath

Question:

373 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a person (details supplied) who is on hunger strike; if this person’s human rights will be respected; if they will be given the maximum assistance and support from the prison authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6523/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The person referred to is on remand in Limerick prison pending a further court appearance on 11 March 2004. I am informed that he has been charged with wilful obstruction, dangerous driving, obstruction of a peace officer, obstructing a member of the Garda Síochána in the course of his duty, failing to comply with the direction of a member of the Garda Síochána and abusive behaviour in a public place.

I have made inquiries regarding this case and I am satisfied the person referred to is being given appropriate assistance and support by the prison authorities. I have been informed that he ended his hunger strike on 1 March 2004.

Citizenship Applications.

Questions (288)

Mary Upton

Question:

374 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for a passport. [6524/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The issue of Irish passports is a matter for my colleague, Deputy Brian Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, prior to obtaining an Irish passport, a non-national must first become an Irish citizen. On the assumption that the person concerned is not entitled to Irish citizenship by birth in Ireland or through his or her antecedents, it would be necessary for him or her to apply for Irish citizenship.

I have been informed by officials in the citizenship section of my Department that there is no record of an application for Irish citizenship having been received from the person concerned and without further details, I am unable to advise the Deputy if the person concerned is eligible to make an application. If the Deputy wishes to contact my departmental office with further details, I will arrange for my officials to assist her in whatever way they can. Alternatively, the person concerned can contact the citizenship section of my Department directly at Lo-call 1890 551 500 or 01-616 7700 each Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12.30 p.m.

Garda Stations.

Questions (289)

Damien English

Question:

375 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to expand the DMR to include Lusk; if he has plans to extend the opening hours of the Garda station in Lusk and to increase the number of gardaí assigned to it; if there are plans to have community gardaí appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6525/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the current personnel strength of Lusk Garda station is four, all ranks, and that there are currently no plans to include Lusk Garda station in the Dublin metropolitan region.

The opening hours of Lusk Garda station are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Saturday inclusive and from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays, depending on availability of personnel. When the station is not open, PACB and call diversion systems are in operation and connected to the district headquarters in Balbriggan.

I am further informed that the extension of the current opening hours of Lusk Garda station would necessitate the employment of Garda personnel on indoor administrative duties. Such personnel can be utilised more effectively in providing a visible Garda presence on outdoor policing duties. There are currently no plans to provide a community Garda in the Lusk area. Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative policy employed in Lusk with a view to ensuring an effective Garda service is maintained. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next becomes available the needs of Lusk Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country.

Visa Applications.

Questions (290)

Seán Power

Question:

376 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the refusal of visas to persons (details supplied). [6526/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The visa applications in question were for the wife and daughter of a non-EEA national employed in the State under the work permit scheme to enable them to join him in the State. The applications were refused because there was no documentation submitted to show the worker was in a position to fully support his family members without the need for them to have recourse to public funds. Evidence in the form of current payslips and bank statements is acceptable in this regard. It is open to the persons in question to appeal against the refusal of the visas by writing to the visa appeals officer in my Department, enclosing the documentation outlined above.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (291)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

377 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider the request from Patient Focus to withdraw the proposal in the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004 to reduce the time limit for taking legal action in cases of medical negligence from three years to 12 months. [6556/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The reduction in the time limit for bringing personal injuries actions from three years to one year, proposed in the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004, is intended to ensure that claims are brought forward without undue delay. There is no change in the law that the time limit begins to run from the date of accrual of the cause of action or date of knowledge of the injury, whichever is the later. Nor is there any change in the law providing for the extension of the limitation period in cases where the person having the right to bring the action is under a disability. I will consider the views expressed by Patient Focus on the matter and I look forward to a debate in the House on this and other issues in due course.

Garda Stations.

Questions (292)

Bernard Allen

Question:

378 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Goleen Garda station will be repaired. [6557/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the refurbishment works required at Goleen Garda station have been identified in consultation with the Office of Public Works. I am not in a position at this time to indicate when these works might be undertaken. However, I assure the Deputy that there will be no undue delay and that they will be done as quickly as overall priorities within the Garda building programme and the availability of financial and other resources allow.

Legal Costs.

Questions (293)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

379 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review and change the Supreme and High Court (Fees) Order 1989 by which a ship’s crew has to initiate legal proceedings to recover wages by an arrest and sale of a ship due to the fact that these State fees are levied before wages can be paid; and his views on whether such fees should be waived in these exceptional circumstances. [6559/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Court fees orders are made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The Supreme Court and High Court (Fees) Order — in common with other fees orders — provide that no fees shall be payable on any court document required in connection with various categories of proceedings, including family law cases and cases under the Guardianship of Infants Act. There are no proposals to amend the categories of proceedings for which fees are not payable to include the type of case referred to by the Deputy.

Criminal Offences.

Questions (294)

Pat Breen

Question:

380 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason incorporeal hereditaments are included as an exception to theft in accordance with the terms of section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6579/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Subsection (2) of section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 provides that a person cannot steal land or things forming part of land and severed from it by or under his or her directions, subject to certain exceptions, which are not relevant to the Deputy's question. These are set out in subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c). The section goes on to provide in subsection (3), that "for the purposes of subsection (2), land does not include incorporeal hereditaments". Accordingly, incorporeal hereditaments are not an exception to theft within the meaning of the section and are, therefore, stealable.

Visa Applications.

Questions (295)

John Deasy

Question:

381 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visa application for a person (details supplied) will issue as soon as possible in view of the fact that this person’s work permit issued in early January 2004 for a period of 12 months, of which two have been lost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6654/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)