Social and Affordable Housing.

Questions (11)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

9 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the additional provision he intends to make from within resources available to his Department in 2004 for the provision of accommodation for lone parents and other persons on low incomes, particularly in view of the decision by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to impose severe restrictions in eligibility for rent supplement and her views that the housing needs of such people should be met by local authorities; the length of notice his Department received from the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the planned changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7138/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Lone parents and persons on low income who are unable to provide housing for themselves from their own resources are entitled to apply for social housing which is provided by either a local authority or a voluntary housing body. The Government's positive commitment to the social housing programme is shown in the increased provision for social and affordable housing in 2004. The total housing provision, Exchequer and non-Exchequer, in 2004 of €1.884 billion represents an increase of 5.4% on the 2003 provision. The increase in the housing provision will allow for 5,000 starts under the main local authority programme, an increase of 500 above 2003 levels, and a further 500 commencements under area regeneration programmes in 2004. In addition, the voluntary and co-operative housing sector will provide some 1,800 units of accommodation in 2004. Many of the housing units being provided by local authorities and voluntary and co-operative bodies in 2004 will be let to lone parents and persons on low incomes.

The regulations made by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, in regard to changes in the SWA rent supplement scheme provide a number of exemptions. These are also reflected in guidelines issued by her Department to health boards regarding implementation of the new rules. My Department has advised housing authorities in regard to the changes. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs gave specific assurance in regard to the recent changes in the rent supplement scheme. She indicated, for example, that people who have particular problems and difficulties will be cared for, including people who are at risk of becoming homeless and other vulnerable people. In addition to the specific exemptions in the regulations, health boards have wide discretionary power to award rent supplement where the circumstances warrant payment. Accordingly, the question of additional provision in this context does not arise.

The regulations providing for the changes to the rent supplement scheme were made on 18 December 2003. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs informed me on 12 November of the proposal to introduce changes in this area in the context of the 2004 Estimates. During the intervening period there was a considerable amount of interaction between the two Departments, particularly in relation to the need for adequate safeguards and exemptions to ensure that people with genuine needs would not be adversely affected and to monitor closely the effects of the changes. These matters have been reflected in the regulations and guidelines.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Questions (12)

Jack Wall

Question:

10 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he intends to take to address concerns expressed by the trade union movement regarding the possible threat to workers posed by exposure to radon gas in the workplace; if he will consider the introduction of regulations requiring mandatory testing of workplaces for radon gas in areas of high risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7162/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Regulations relating to the exposure of workers in Ireland to radon gas in the workplace are set out in the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000. This requires employers to measure workplace radon levels if so directed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. It implements in Ireland the 1996 EU Council directive laying down basic safety standards for the protection of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. The RPII is responsible for the enforcement of the order in Ireland.

In addition, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 requires employers to identify the hazards at their workplace, assess the risk to health and safety from these hazards, and put in place measures to eliminate or reduce the risk. Where radon gas is identified as a hazard in the workplace the employer has a duty, as with any other hazard, to assess the risk and eliminate or reduce that risk. There is a general duty on employers in high radon areas to include radon in their risk assessment. This means that in order to comply with health and safety legislation, radon measurements should be carried out in indoor workplaces in these areas.

These regulations and obligations are considered sufficient at this time and the focus is currently on information provision and direction, and encouraging key players towards fulfilling their obligations.

In recent months the RPII has undertaken several initiatives to heighten awareness of the radon issue in Ireland. In October 2003, the RPII held the second in a series of three national radon fora in Galway to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. In November 2003 a media campaign on radon in the workplace was launched in ten high radon counties. Advertisements were placed in 13 local newspapers in counties Carlow, Clare, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

More recently, the RPII has been in discussion with SIPTU regarding radon in the workplace and have written an article about radon, including radon legislation, in the January SIPTU publication of "Report". In addition, in the coming months, it is the RPII's intention to continue this approach with other trade unions as well as with employers' groups. The RPII has also contributed to, and will be attending, a national forum on health and safety at work scheduled for 22 and 23 March.

I want to reassure the House that both the RPII and my Department will continue to use appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon.

Election Management System.

Questions (13)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

11 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed his consideration of the implications of the judgment of the Supreme Court given on 29 November 2002 in regard to the possible implications for legislation governing presidential, European and local elections; if amendments to the legislation are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7134/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The judgment referred to sets aside purported exemptions under the Electoral Act 1997 and has the effect that the cost of payments, services and facilities, which are met from public funds and available to candidates who hold elected office, are reckonable as election expenses to the extent that they are used for electoral purposes within the relevant election period. The 1997 Act had sought to provide an exemption for such costs.

It follows that costs met from public funds must, if used for electoral purposes in the forthcoming European elections, be included in candidates' returns of expenditure to the Standards in Public Offices Commission.

The court judgment has no implications for the local elections as expenditure limits do not operate in relation to these elections.

Presidential elections were not addressed in the court action concerned and were not included in the order of the court. However, I am reviewing the part of the Electoral Act 1997 which still applies to a presidential election. If amending legislation is required in relation to the presidential election, I intend that this will be addressed in the coming months.

Waste Management.

Questions (14, 15, 16)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

12 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action which has been taken to establish the source of thousands of tonnes of household waste, destined for Asia, which was recently intercepted in Rotterdam; the action being taken in connection with this consignment and to prevent further such consignments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7151/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

21 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the contacts he has made with local authorities regarding shipments of waste destined for India and Singapore that were seized in Rotterdam; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7117/04]

View answer

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

66 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on investigations made into the illegal trans-frontier shipment of waste by a number of Irish local authorities which were recently the subject of media reports. [7217/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 21 and 66 together.

Exports of waste from Ireland are governed by the provisions of EU Regulation 259/93 on the supervision and control of shipments of waste within, into and out of the European Community. While the provisions of the regulation are detailed, the position, in summary, is that the requirements applying in a particular case are determined by whether the waste is shipped for disposal or recovery and the intended destination of the waste. In the case of shipments for recovery, the requirements are further dependent on whether the waste falls to be classified as "green", "amber" or "red" waste.

In October last year, the Dutch authorities inspected a shipment of waste from Ireland which was in transit in Rotterdam awaiting onward shipment to India. I understand that the waste involved generally consisted of mixed recyclable materials such as cardboard, glass, plastic, paper and metals. The shipments had been ostensibly classified as "green" list waste on the basis that the waste was recyclable and contained a combination of waste types which were individually mentioned on the "green" list. However, on foot of their inspection, the Dutch authorities pointed to a 1998 European Court of Justice decision which held that mixtures of green list waste of municipal origin fell to be classified as "amber" list waste and, accordingly, deemed the shipment to be illegal.

The Dutch authorities contacted the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2004 with a view to requiring arrangements to be made to have the shipment returned to Ireland. Following liaison between the agency's Office of Environmental Enforcement, the local authorities from whose areas the waste emanated and the waste contractors who had responsibility for the waste prior to shipment, the full consignment of waste has now been returned to Ireland and is in the process of being returned to the premises of the waste contractors concerned. The containers are being inspected by officials of the relevant local authorities with a view to establishing the appropriate means of dealing with the wastes involved.

Following inspection by the Belgian authorities of a similar consignment of waste in transit in Antwerp, which appears to date from the same late 2003 period as the Rotterdam shipment, a request has been made to the Environmental Protection Agency for arrangements to be made for the return of this shipment to Ireland. I understand that arrangements are currently being made for the shipment to leave Antwerp by 11 March at the latest.

Following the Rotterdam incident coming to light, my Department wrote to all local authorities — who are the competent authorities for the purposes of exports of waste — reminding them of the need to ensure correct classification of waste exports leaving their functional areas and requesting that they ensure that the matters involved were brought to the attention of relevant waste companies operating in their areas. In addition, the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement has issued detailed guidance to each local authority. Furthermore, following a seminar for local authorities on the establishment of an environmental enforcement network last month, the OEE has identified support for local authorities in the performance of their regulatory functions in relation to the export of wastes as an area for priority attention.

I should point out also that a revised regulation to govern waste shipments was published by the European Commission last summer. I identified the advancement of the discussions on this proposal as a key objective of the Irish EU Presidency, particularly in terms of ensuring that as much clarity as possible is brought to bear in regard to the requirements involved. Following debate on the matter at the Environment Council earlier this week, work on the proposed regulation will now continue with a view to securing further progress on the matter at the June Council.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (17)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

13 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress he expects to be made during the Irish Presidency in regard to the proposed Council directive setting out basic obligations and general principles on the safety of nuclear installations and on the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7161/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

During its Presidency of the European Union, Ireland has sought actively to advance progress on these two proposed directives which collectively comprise the nuclear safety package. The two directives are under discussion in the European Council's Atomic Questions Working Group and to date have been addressed at three meetings of the group under the Irish Presidency. In the latter role, Ireland is seeking to find a sound consensus on this package which will enable its adoption at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Irish Presidency will continue, through dialogue, to seek and develop consensus on the directives. While there will obviously be a need for flexibility to accommodate the different views of member states, the Presidency will be guided by the need to ensure that nuclear safety is not compromised. If satisfactory consensus on the matter can be found it will be brought to the appropriate Council at the earliest possible date.

Planning Issues.

Questions (18)

Liz McManus

Question:

14 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the threat by the EU Commission to take legal action arising from the decision of the Government to introduce a €20 charge for making a submission on a planning application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7142/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

On 23 January 2003, the European Commission issued Ireland with a reasoned opinion to the effect that the €20 fee for the making of a submission on a planning application which requires environmental impact assessment is contrary to the public participation provisions of Directive 85/337/EEC on Environmental Impact Assessment. A reply, responding to each of the points raised in the reasoned opinion, issued to the European Commission on 16 May 2003, set out our contention that the imposition of a €20 participation fee is not in conflict with the provisions of the directive.

On 22 July 2003, the European Commission issued a press release in which it stated its intention to refer the case to the European Court of Justice. No official communication has been received from the Commission to date. I have no proposal to amend the relevant regulations which reflect an approach endorsed by the Oireachtas in the context of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (19, 20, 21)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

15 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the basis on which he proposes to proceed with electronic voting given public antipathy towards the proposal, the lack of a secure electronic voting system, and the premature nature of the project in the absence of a tangible verifiable paper record; the total cost to date in the entire exercise, including any costs arising from advertising, promotion or public relations; if he will outline from where the demand for electronic voting first arose and on whose recommendation; if he will outline the basis on which the issue received support and approval for the expenditure of public moneys; if he intends to proceed regardless of opposition among the general public and the Members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann; if he will outline the way the expenditure of public moneys to date and the likely further expenditure can be justified in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7227/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the constitutionality of his proposal to introduce electronic voting in the face of public and parliamentary opposition; if he can justify the expenditure to date on this issue given the countless competing and much more commendable demands such as housing now facing his Department; the total estimated cost of the venture from its inception to conclusion, including promotion, advertising or public relations and any likely costs hidden or otherwise to date or in the future; if he has seriously considered how he proposes to justify the costs involved in this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7228/04]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

57 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date with regard to the commitments given by the Government in regard to electronic voting contained in the Government amendment passed in Dáil Éireann on 18 February 2004; the consultation he plans to have with non-Government parties in Dáil Éireann in regard to these matters and the wider concerns that have been expressed regarding the security and reliability of the proposed electronic voting system; and his views on whether there is a widespread lack of public confidence in the proposed system. [7130/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 52 and 57 together.

I refer to the reply to Priority Questions Nos. 1 and 2 on today's Order Paper.

Electronic voting and counting will provide a more modern, user friendly and efficient system of voting to the Irish people. The project has been advanced in a considered and thorough way from the enactment of enabling legislation in 1999 and 2001, through the procurement of a proven and robust system, together with comprehensive testing and successful piloting in Irish conditions. The Irish public is strongly in favour of electronic voting: 87% of voters surveyed after the 2002 general election preferred the electronic system to the paper ballot.

The amended motion on electronic voting and counting approved by the Dáil on 18 February provided for: (a) the establishment of an independent body to verify the secrecy and accuracy of arrangements proposed for electronic voting — this body to be appointed in advance of the enactment of the legislation; and (b) legislation to give statutory recognition to this body; to apply electronic voting and counting to non-Dáil elections, to make more explicit arrangements regarding abstention from voting, and to clarify conditions under which tally data may be made available from the electronic counting system to interested parties.

This legislation is being urgently prepared and will be published at an early date. In accordance with the amended motion, the Government has already, on 2 March, appointed and mandated a Commission on Electronic Voting and Counting, with membership and terms of reference as set out below.

Electronic voting and counting is a welcome modernisation of our electoral process. It reflects a broader process of modernisation and an expectation that democratic processes should keep pace with other progressive developments in our society. I am confident that the new system procured by my Department will provide a reliable, efficient and user friendly service to Irish voters.

The membership of the Electronic Voting and Counting Commission is as follows: The Hon Mr. Justice Matthew P. Smith who is Chairman of the Standards in Public Office Commission will chair the Commission. It will also comprise: Mr. Kieran Coughlan, Clerk of Dáil Éireann; Ms Deirdre Lane, Clerk of Seanad Éireann; Dr. Danny O'Hare, Chairperson of the Information Society Commission and Former President of Dublin City University; and Mr. Brian Sweeney, Chairperson of Siemens Dublin Limited and a board member of the Smurfit School of Business. The Secretariat to the commission will be provided by the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The commission's terms of reference are as follows: the Commission, which shall be independent in the performance of its functions, shall prepare a number of reports for presentation to the Ceann Comhairle on the secrecy and accuracy of the chosen electronic voting and counting system, that is, the Powervote-Nedap system; the commission shall make one or more of such reports to the Ceann Comhairle not later than 1 May 2004; the commission's subsequent report or reports will record its views of the operation and experience of electronic voting and counting at elections; in carrying out its work, it will be open to the commission to review the tests already undertaken to validate the electronic voting and counting system, and to have further tests undertaken, it may also retain the service of such consultants or other persons that it considers are desirable; and the commission shall be entitled to invite and consider submissions on such basis as it thinks appropriate.

Regional Road Network.

Questions (22)

Joan Burton

Question:

16 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received representations concerning the heritage implications of the proposed motorway and toll road through Skryne Valley, County Meath; the assessment which has been made by his Department’s Heritage Service of these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7129/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I have received a number of representations regarding this project.

The statutory authority for approval of motorway schemes is An Bord Pleanála, which recently approved a motorway scheme and environmental impact assessment for the M3.

My Department was consulted by National Roads Authority consultants regarding the route selection stage. The environmental impact statement for the proposed M3 was sent to my Department for comment on 4 March 2002 and comments were forwarded to An Bord Pleanála on 22 and 25 April 2002. These comments are summarised below.

With regard to nature conservation, my Department is satisfied that the route proposed would not have a significant adverse impact on any designated area. The proposed route will cross sections of the Boyne and Blackwater Rivers, which were at the time under consideration for designation to protect salmon and its habitat. It was, therefore, recommended that the construction work would be carried out in consultation with the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, and mitigation measures to minimise any environmental impacts on habitats and species were also put forward.

Regarding archaeology, my Department indicated that it agreed with the detailed recommendations in the EIS in relation to the mitigation of impacts on archaeology. The Department recommended that the archaeological mitigation measures proposed in the EIS for the project should be implemented and that a number of additional measures be undertaken, to include pre-development archaeological testing and assessment at various points along the proposed route.

In addition, in regard to the architectural heritage, some issues as to the method used in the EIS to deal with this issue were raised.

EU Directives.

Questions (23)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

17 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of cases in which the European Commission has initiated legal action or announced that it intends to take legal action, arising from the failure by the Government to implement EU directives for which his Department has responsibility; the steps he is taking to ensure that all of these directives are implemented in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7152/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

There are currently six cases in respect of which the European Commission has initiated legal action in respect of non-implementation of EU directives in areas for which my Department has responsibility. The first five cases where legal action has been initiated arise with regard to directives concerning: dangerous substances in water; the protection of water against pollution by nitrates from agriculture; the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, commonly known as environmental impact assessment or EIA; the keeping of wild animals in zoos; and end-of-life vehicles. The sixth case relates to a number of waste issues.

Legislation is in place in respect of each of the above six directives, and the legal actions relate to issues regarding elements of transposition and implementation. The European Commission recently indicated its intention to withdraw the case regarding the zoos directive and confirmation of that decision is awaited. A further legal action has been notified to Ireland in respect of reporting requirements under an EU regulation on ozone depleting substances.

The European Commission announced on 22 July 2003 its intention to take legal action against Ireland regarding the proposed decision by the Government to introduce a €20 charge on citizens wishing to make submissions on development consent procedures. The Commission also announced on 29 January 2004 its intention to take legal action against Ireland for alleged failure to designate a sufficient number of special protection areas, SPAs, for wild birds and adequately to protect sites that have or require SPA status. No communication has been received from the European Court of Justice in either matter.

Litter Pollution.

Questions (24)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

18 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures to make candidates in elections accountable to ensure removal of plastic poster ties on lamp posts by requiring that each political party or independent candidate have a distinct identifiable colour coded tie which can identify the offending candidate, if it was not removed after the election was over. [7220/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

It is the duty of political parties and others involved in elections and referenda to comply with litter legislation and primary responsibility for enforcement of that legislation lies with local authorities. My Department has written to all local authorities and the political parties on a number of occasions, drawing their attention to the provisions in the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003 on the exhibition and distribution of election-referendum advertising materials, including the need to remove all posters and poster ties within seven days of the polling date. Local authorities have also been requested to explore with the political parties the possibility of having appropriate arrangements put in place at local level to remove election poster ties and thus eradicate this particular litter problem. Such arrangements could then apply for future elections or referenda. I have no proposals along the lines of that to which the question refers.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (25)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

19 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress of the investigation being held by his Department into the circumstances in which a commercial company (details supplied) obtained access to a confidential paper on emissions trading commissioned by his Department; if the Garda has been asked to investigate the incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7147/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 168 of 3 February 2004. The Departments concerned and the consultants involved have indicated that the report in question was not released in draft to any commercial company. While any such possession was unauthorised, the final report required to underpin the Government's decision on the allocation of emission allowances has now been published following the Government determination in this regard. A copy is in the Oireachtas Library. In the circumstances, my Department will not be pursuing the matter any further at this stage.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Questions (26)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

20 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the contact group on the affordable housing initiative last met; its purpose and functions; its programme of work for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4777/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The contact group on the affordable housing initiative last met on 4 February 2004 and is due to meet again within the next month. This committee, which is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, also comprises representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Central Statistics Office. The committee has an important role in ensuring the effective implementation of the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative.

The committee's work programme for 2004 includes overseeing the effective and early implementation of the projects already identified, addressing any policy issues arising in implementing the initiative within the parameters of the agreement and continuing with the process of identifying State lands for use in the initiative. Furthermore, an implementation team within my Department and project managers at local level are all working to ensure the success of the initiative. We are also working with the parties to the pay agreement in addressing many of the complex issues that must be addressed in delivering a new initiative of this scale. Considerable work has been done to date in this regard, the fruits of which will emerge during this year and into the future as projects are brought to the market.

Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Questions (27)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

22 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is planning the introduction of restrictions or controls on the location of wind farms in view of the findings of the consultants report that found that the work on a wind farm in the Slieve Aughty mountains caused the major bogslide at Derrybrien in October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5863/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

My Department is currently revising the guidelines for planning authorities on wind farm development, which were published in 1996. The draft guidelines will encourage planning authorities to indicate, through their development plans, the appropriate locations for wind farms having regard to such factors as visual impact, impact on the surrounding environment and on the landscape. The guidelines will offer guidance to planning authorities on the reports that should accompany a planning application for a wind energy development including, where necessary, an environmental impact study to address,inter alia, the geological impacts of the wind energy development. The revised guidelines will be published for public consultation in the coming weeks.

Shared Ownership Scheme.

Questions (28, 29, 30)

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

23 Mr. B. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to increase the local authority loan of €130,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6543/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to raise the maximum amount of loan available under the shared ownership loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7374/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the maximum shared ownership loan is at €130,000 when it is clearly impossible for a purchaser to obtain a house at that price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7397/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 138 and 149 together.

It is a matter for each local authority to administer house purchase loans in their area, having regard, as appropriate, to the housing needs and circumstances of their area. In determining the maximum mortgage loan in each case, local authorities should have regard to the purchaser's ability to repay by reference to their net household income.

My Department is keeping the terms of the loan limit under review, taking into account the movement in house prices, the effectiveness of various schemes in meeting the needs of the relevant target group and the availability of mortgage finance in the private sector. Work is continuing with representatives of the Irish Mortgage Council and the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority on the provision of finance by the lending institutions for affordable housing and other initiatives.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (31, 32)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

24 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the industries to which it is proposed to allocate CO2 emissions which are in excess of those industries’ current emission levels; the reason such increased levels of allowances are being granted to those industries; the way in which he can reconcile these increases with the requirement to reduce CO2 emission levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7127/04]

View answer

Seán Crowe

Question:

64 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will address the criticism that the targets contained in the recently announced national allocation plan on emissions are weak and inadequate, thus eliminating the economic inducement that is necessary in order for emissions trading to be an effective tool in reducing emissions output and that the State’s taxpayers and not the big industrial polluters will end up carrying the financial burden which will result from the State’s failure to reduce emissions output in line with Kyoto commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7174/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 64 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 436 of 10 February 2004. The Government has decided that the EPA will be responsible in Ireland for implementing Directive 2003/87/EC, establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community. The agency is the designated national allocation authority to design and submit to the European Commission a national allocation plan, NAP, allocating the total quantity of allowances approved by Government for purposes of emissions trading by individual eligible installations. The EPA published its draft NAP on 23 February 2004 for public consultation in the period to 10 March 2004. The draft NAP listing allocations to individual installations is available on the EPA's website, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual allocations to installations, given the EPA's responsibility in this regard.

The Government is making available an average of 22.5 million allowances per annum for the pilot phase of emissions trading over the three-year period 2005 to 2007. This represents, on average, an estimated 96% to 98% of expected emissions by the trading sector and is also less than the expected outturn in emissions for 2003 for the sector. The overall allocation to the emissions trading sector is designed to be consistent with achieving our national obligations to limit annual emissions in the period 2008 to 2012 to 13% above 1990 levels which becomes obligatory at that time under the Kyoto Protocol.

The indicative allocation of an average 22 million allowances per annum announced by Government for the Kyoto phase is estimated to be 83% of installations' base case emissions averaged over the period. The allocation for this period takes account of the progressive reductions of emissions required towards achievement of the national Kyoto obligation while also recognising the learning by doing nature of the pilot phase. I am satisfied also that the creation of a market in CO2 allowances will provide an incentive, irrespective of the allocation made, for companies in the scheme, representing about one third of total national emissions, to achieve all reductions at up to and including the prevailing market price.

The indicative announcement of annual purchases by the State of 3.7 million allowances on the international market is in respect of reductions in emissions from sectors of the economy outside emissions trading at costs above the projected market price of €10 and will not lessen the burden on the emissions trading sector. The consultancy study underpinning the Government's allocation to the trading sector estimated that participants in emissions trading will make purchases of circa 2.1 million allowances during the same phase after in-house reductions up to the projected market price of €10 per tonne are implemented.

Population Levels.

Questions (33)

John Bruton

Question:

25 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the implications for public policy in regard to school provision, transport provision and hospital and health care provision of the decline in population on large parts of Dublin city; and if the Government intends to take further policy initiatives to encourage the settlement of young families within those parts of Dublin city, the population of which is in decline, in order to make best use of existing educational, transport and health infrastructure. [7121/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Population levels in some parts of Dublin city, particularly in inner suburban areas, have been falling and are showing a trend towards smaller average household sizes. Such decreases in population levels have implications for service provision in these areas. It is also encouraging, however, to note that as a result of the Government's proactive urban regeneration policies, significant amounts of new residential development in Dublin's inner city and docklands areas have reversed the long-established trend of declining population levels in these areas.

Two key planning policy documents issued by my Department have addressed the issue of declining population in parts of Dublin. First, Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density, 1999, promoted increased residential density in appropriate areas, including brownfield sites, and also on inner suburban in-fill sites. With regard to the latter, the guidelines stated that "The provision of additional dwellings within inner suburban areas of towns or cities, proximate to existing or due to be improved public transport corridors has the potential for revitalising areas by utilising the capacity of existing social and physical infrastructure. Such development can be provided either by in-fill or by sub-division [of large houses]." The guidelines have been successful in encouraging higher residential densities in urban areas; for example, most new housing within both inner city and suburban Dublin is now designed to meet the needs of smaller household sizes.

Second, the national spatial strategy, NSS, emphasised the importance of consolidating the greater Dublin area. The physical consolidation of Dublin, supported by effective land use policies for the urban area itself is an essential requirement for a competitive Dublin. The NSS, therefore, recommended that the regional and planning authorities in the metropolitan area, that is, the built up area of Dublin and its immediate environs, should "carry out a systematic audit of all vacant, derelict and under-used land to establish its capacity to accommodate housing or other suitable uses. Such an audit should be focused in particular on areas in or close to public transport corridors and areas with under-utilised physical and social infrastructure (e.g. schools)." I am pleased to note that this recommendation has been incorporated into the draft regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area which, when adopted, will replace the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Questions (34, 35)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

26 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the average cost of a new house in Dublin, a second hand house in Dublin, a new house outside Dublin and a second hand house outside Dublin in respect of 1997 and the latest year for which figures are available; the plans he has to ensure availability of affordable housing, in view of the recent surveys showing that house prices are continuing to rise; his estimate of the likely increase in house prices during 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7136/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The Government's strategy is to increase housing supply to meet demand and to improve affordability, particularly for first time buyers, and in this way to seek to bring moderation to house price increases. There is clear evidence that this strategy is proving effective. For example, 2003 was the ninth successive year of record housing output, with over 68,800 house completions, an increase of 19.3% on 2002. While the rate of house price increases is still problematic, this has moderated considerably since the late 1990s, when price increases peaked at 40% per annum in 1998. Information on house prices are set out in my Department's Housing Statistics Bulletin, copies of which are available in the OireachtasLibrary.

The Government is also concerned to ensure that the needs of low income groups and those with social and special housing needs are met. Almost €3.8 billion was spent in the first three years of the national development plan on social and affordable housing measures and the housing needs of over 12,000 households will be met in 2004 compared to almost 8,500 in 1998. The Government is committed to continuing with measures to boost the supply of housing and in this way seek to bring moderation to the rate of house price increases.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

27 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has proposals to encourage those who are seeking to acquire or build their first house. [7119/04]

View answer

The Government affords a high priority to housing issues, as evidenced by the range of policies and measures employed by my Department and other public agencies involved to ensure that the broad spectrum of housing needs is appropriately met. We have placed a strong emphasis on increasing housing supply to meet demand, particularly for first-time buyers, against a background of unprecedented demand for housing, fuelled mainly by rapid economic growth and demographic changes.

The measures introduced by the Government to boost supply and thereby improve affordability, including significant investment in infrastructure, improving planning capacity and promoting increased residential densities, are having effect. Last year was the ninth successive year of record house completions nationally, with 68,819 units completed, an increase in output of 19.3% on the corresponding figure for 2002. There was also a 10.5% increase in output in the Dublin area in the same period. Indicative data available to my Department show that first-time buyers continue to have a significant presence in the housing market. The Government will continue to focus on measures to maintain a high level of housing supply.

Government interventions have boosted the supply of affordable housing under targeted schemes for low and middle income purchasers. More than 10,400 households have benefited under the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes since January 1997. I anticipate that the numbers of such purchasers benefiting from affordable housing will further increase this year as more affordable housing comes on stream as a result of agreements under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. In the first nine months of 2003 a total of 82 units were acquired and a further 449 units were in progress under Part V agreements, with a further 1,895 units proposed at the end of September 2003.

The new affordable housing initiative introduced under the national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, is also being progressed as a priority. This new initiative is aimed at those who in the past would have expected to purchase a house from their own resources, but find they are unable to do so in the current market. The Government made two announcements in July and December 2003 on the release of State and local authority lands in counties Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Cork and Waterford to the initiative. Both announcements are critical steps in ensuring early delivery of affordable housing on these sites and under the initiative and will result in approximately 6,100 housing units in total. This initiative, combined with Part V arrangements, will build on the progress made in delivering existing affordable housing schemes to boost the supply of affordable housing over the coming years.

Planning Issues.

Questions (36)

Dan Boyle

Question:

28 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which his Department has investigated allegations of bribery in, for example, Galway, involving a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7222/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

As regards the matter raised, correspondence was received in my Department questioning the commercial practices of an organisation which had obtained permission from Galway County Council for a landfill facility. The grant is the subject of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. The correspondent was advised that if he had evidence of malpractice by local authority officials, he or she should report it to the Garda Síochána or, if appropriate, to the Tribunal of Inquiry into Planning Matters and Payments.

The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2001, provides for a presumption of corruption where there is proof that certain persons in public office have received money or other benefits from a person who has an interest in the way certain functions are carried out or the outcome of certain planning decisions. This provision is designed to make the investigation of corruption an easier task for the law enforcement agencies and it places the onus on the person receiving the payment to prove that the payment is legitimate.

Environmental Policy.

Questions (37, 38, 39, 40)

Dan Boyle

Question:

29 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to ensure that 12.5% of structural funds are dedicated to nature conservation including spending for Natura 2000 sites; if payment will be suspended to projects which damage fauna and flora protected under European nature conservation legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7221/04]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

44 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in his role as president of the Council of Ministers, he will ecologically audit the trans-European transport networks guidelines, reject those that would spell disaster for candidate Natura 2000 sites in the accession countries and require that strategic environmental assessment be incorporated into the revised guidelines on the corridor and priority project level. [7225/04]

View answer

John Gormley

Question:

55 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on progress being made to pursue as a priority a programme to establish a dedicated fund aimed at encouraging positive and active management of the Natura 2000 network on this, the 25th anniversary of the EU birds directive. [7224/04]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

69 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures to be undertaken in his role as president of the Council of Ministers to ensure that the natural heritage of the countries joining the EU on 1 May 2004 is to be protected through the correct and full implementation of EU nature conservation legislation and effective policy integration. [7226/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 44, 55 and 69 together.

As I have already stated, one of my key priorities for the Irish Presidency is the advancement of the EU's internal environment policy and legislation agenda. This encompasses giving priority to key proposals on nature conservation, including financing for management of Natura 2000 sites. A communication from the Commission on this topic is expected shortly, and I look forward to chairing discussions on the matter in the Environment Council.

It is the responsibility of accession countries to transpose and implement EU directives relevant to nature conservation, and a matter for the European Commission, rather than the Council of Ministers, to ensure compliance with such directives.

Electronic Voting System.

Questions (41)

Mary Upton

Question:

30 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons, in respect of the constituencies in the general election and the second Nice treaty referendum in which electronic voting was used, who signed in but did not press the “Cast Vote” button; the reason these were not counted as spoiled votes; the further reason they were not included in the overall turnout figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7132/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Electoral legislation on paper based voting addressed the phenomenon of spoilt votes and required returning officers to discard these for the purposes of the valid poll. Aggregated information on such spoilt votes has been published traditionally as part of official election returns, but not as a legal requirement.

Because the electronic voting and counting system is designed to prevent unintended spoiling of votes, the above legislative provisions, based on paper ballots, are explicitly disapplied from electronic voting and counting. Instead, new legislative provisions require a record to be kept of deactivations of the voting machine, in the event that a person approaches the voting machine but departs without pressing the "Cast Vote" button. On the basis of an improvement to the electronic voting machine implemented since the 2002 pilot exercises, records of all deactivations will in future be stored by the machine and be available as part of the election statistics provided by the system.

This recording feature was not incorporated in the version of the machine used in 2002. At the general election and second Nice treaty referendum, returning officers were required to record the incidence of deactivations in polling stations manually. While my Department understands that this manual recording was carried out, aggregate results were not in the event published by returning officers in the official election returns.

In the context of my Department's information booklet on referenda generally, which is published periodically, my Department will seek to include information regarding deactivations in the constituencies which employed electronic voting at the second Nice treaty referendum. From information available from the areas concerned, some 500 deactivations would have been recorded across the seven constituencies, compared with 270,124 votes validly cast.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (42)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

31 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has expressed concerns to the British authorities on the proposal to store foreign nuclear waste permanently in the UK, as suggested in a recent consultation document produced for the UK Department of Trade and Industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7163/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The UK Department of Trade and Industry has conducted a study into the possibility of intermediate level radioactive waste substitution, that is, swapping foreign owned intermediate level radioactive waste for equivalent quantities of United Kingdom owned high-level waste for return to the country of origin. This study has been published as a consultation document by the Department of Trade and Industry and my Department has received a copy. As we intend to respond to the consultation, which is open until 30 April next, I have asked the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland for its advice on the proposals.

Water Fluoridation.

Questions (43)

Martin Ferris

Question:

32 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his intention to introduce a ban on fluoridation in piped public water supplies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7175/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The fluoridation of water supplies is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, under the provisions of the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960.

Renewable Energy Projects.

Questions (44)

John Gormley

Question:

33 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the progress he is making to have the Euratom treaty phased out as a promotional vehicle for giving the nuclear industry special treatment in relation to renewable energy development. [7223/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I am aware of the view expressed by the European Commission in its Green Paper of 2001, Towards a European Strategy for the Security of Energy Supply, that the nuclear option must be examined in terms of its contribution to security of energy supply and greenhouse gas emissions. The Government rejects nuclear energy and does not regard it as the solution to the problem of security of energy supply and greenhouse gas emissions. With regard to the phasing out of the Euratom treaty, I refer to the reply to Question No. 141 of 3 February 2004.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (45)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

34 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons on local authority housing lists at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which this figure compares with the corresponding figure for the equivalent dates in each of the previous five years; the number of local authority dwellings completed or acquired in 2002 and 2003; the anticipated number for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7143/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I assume that the question refers to the years 2003 and 2004. The results of the statutory assessment of local authority housing need, which was undertaken by local authorities in March 2002, indicated that a total of 48,413 households were in need of housing, compared with 39,176 households in March 1999. Detailed information on the results of the 2002 assessment was published in my Department's September 2002 quarterly edition of the Housing Statistics Bulletin, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Sustaining Progress special initiative on housing and accommodation reflected the Government's expectation that the resources available in 2003 allowed for the needs of about 12,000 households to be met through the various social and affordable housing measures. A similar level is expected to be achieved again in 2004. This compares with almost 8,500 households in 1998. Local authorities completed or acquired 5,074 units in 2002 and almost 5,000 units in 2003. At this stage, it is estimated completions and acquisitions will be approximately at the same level in 2004.

Waste Management.

Questions (46, 47)

Mary Upton

Question:

35 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a decision will be made on the location of the proposed radioactive waste storage facility; if a shortlist of sites has been drawn up; if he will publish the shortlist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7158/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 205 of 3 February 2004. The position is unchanged.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

36 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the judgment of the European Court of Justice is expected in the case being taken by the European Commission against Ireland arising from the Government’s inadequate administrative response to illegal waste disposal activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7153/04]

View answer

I refer to the reply to Question No. 146 of 3 February 2004. The position is unchanged.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (48)

Martin Ferris

Question:

37 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in view of his announcement on 19 February 2004 on the number of house completions in 2003, the number of houses completed under social and affordable housing schemes; the number which were completed under voluntary or co-operative housing schemes; the number which were built as second or holiday homes; the number which were built by investors for the private rented sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7177/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I was pleased to announce that 2003 was the ninth consecutive year of record housing output with 68,819 units completed, a 19.3% increase on 2002 levels. There was also a significant increase in the output of housing in Dublin in 2003, with completions of 14,394, an increase of 14% on last year.

This outcome is proof that Government measures to boost housing supply and thereby improve affordability are having effect. Within the environment set by these policies, we have seen a positive response from the construction industry, local authorities and the voluntary and co-operative housing sector to meeting the unprecedented demand for housing that we have experienced in recent years. We do not have a definitive breakdown of house completions either by type of purchaser or whether they were second or holiday homes or intended for renting. However, indicative data available to my Department show that first time buyers continue to have a significant presence in the housing market. My Department is in discussion with the Central Statistics Office regarding the collection of more reliable information on second homes with the objective of addressing this information deficit.

The Government has been actively responding to the increased level of social housing need by expanding social and affordable housing output very significantly. Full data on the output from the range of social and affordable housing measures will be published later this month. It is estimated that the needs of over 12,000 households were addressed through these measures in 2003. The Government will continue to focus on measures to maintain a high level of overall housing supply in 2004 and to support the needs of low-income groups through the broad range of social and affordable housing measures.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (49)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

38 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the procedures that will be put in place to facilitate visually impaired voters in using the proposed new electronic voting system; if there has been consultation with organisations representing the visually impaired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7131/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 237 of 25 February 2004.

End-Of-Life Vehicles.

Questions (50)

Seán Ryan

Question:

39 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position with regard to the promised regulations concerning end-of-life vehicles; when the regulations will come into operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7155/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Enabling provisions to facilitate implementation of European Parliament and Council Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles were incorporated in the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. It is my intention to make regulations fully transposing the directive's provisions and facilitating its implementation as soon as possible.

Election Management System.

Questions (51)

Seán Crowe

Question:

40 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all source code and design details regarding a system (details supplied) of electronic voting being introduced in this State will be publicly available for inspection by citizens and computer science experts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7173/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Extensive design and test documentation on the electronic voting and counting system is available for public inspection at my Department's designated website:www.electronicvoting.ie.

The question of providing access to the election management system source code will be examined later in the year when the system, including a module to cover presidential elections, will have been fully completed and having regard to issues such as security and commercial sensitivity.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (52)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

41 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received the results of the research the IPA was asked to carry out into the regulation of lobbyists in other countries; if the Government remains committed to introducing legislation to control or regulate political lobbying; when the promised code of conduct for staff and members of local authorities will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7144/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I expect that the Institute of Public Administration's report on practice in the regulation of lobbying in other countries will be finalised this month. The report will be considered along with other current legislative proposals and initiatives in this area and the question of further legislation will be considered in this context. Draft codes of conduct for staff and members of local authorities were circulated for observations in December 2003 and I intend to have these definitively promulgated by mid 2004.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (53, 54)

Willie Penrose

Question:

42 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to comments by the Archbishop of Dublin stating that 4,000 people are now homeless in Dublin and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3869/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has proposals to address the issue of homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7382/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 145 together.

I am aware of the comments made by the Coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin, as referred to in the question. I wish to reiterate the Government's commitment to tackling this serious issue on a sustained basis with the aim of eliminating the need for rough sleeping by the end of 2004 and of providing adequate emergency and move on accommodation and support services to enable homeless persons to achieve independent living as soon as possible.

Considerable progress has been made since the publication of the Government's Integrated and Preventative Strategies on Homelessness in 2000 and 2002, respectively. As part of this process, local authorities, together with health boards and other statutory and voluntary bodies, are required to draw up local action plans to tackle homelessness. These plans are now being implemented under the aegis of the local homeless fora and significant progress is being made in meeting the accommodation and care needs of homeless persons.

A wide range of additional accommodation, ranging from emergency accommodation to long-term sheltered accommodation has been provided. This has enabled rough sleepers to access emergency accommodation and allowed homeless persons to move out of emergency accommodation and into accommodation more suitable to their needs. Increased levels of day care facilities as well as specific provisions to meet the needs of people with addiction problems or who are sleeping rough, as well as homeless offenders, have been put in place. Further facilities will be provided as part of the full implementation of the homeless action plans with particular emphasis on the provision of move on accommodation to minimise the long-term use of both emergency and bed and breakfast accommodation.

In Dublin, the Homeless Agency is responsible for the planning, co-ordination and delivery of services to people who are homeless. Substantial progress has been made in tackling homelessness under the existing action plan for Dublin, Shaping the Future, including the housing of almost 1,500 homeless persons by the local authorities, voluntary housing sectors and the Housing Access Unit in the three year period 2001-2003, the provision of more than 1,000 additional emergency beds and specialist designated accommodation for street drinkers and drug users. I understand that the preparatory work for the next plan is nearing completion.

Substantial additional funding has been made available to support the implementation of the homeless strategies. Current Exchequer funding for accommodation related homeless services by local authorities has increased substantially from €12.6 million in 2000 to €51 million this year. Capital funding for the direct provision by local authorities of accommodation for homeless persons is being doubled from €25.4 million to €50.8 million during the period 2001 to 2005. Funding continues to be made available to the voluntary sector for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons under the Department's capital assistance scheme.

With a view to ensuring that progress is sustained, the Cross Department Team on Homelessness continues to monitor the implementation of the homeless strategies and a review of the strategies is expected to be initiated shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (55)

Joe Costello

Question:

43 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the work undertaken to date by the internal implementation team within his Department dealing with decentralisation; if sites for decentralisation have been agreed; if the team has undertaken or plans to undertake a survey to establish the number of persons employed in his Department in boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7135/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The internal implementation team in my Department is actively co-operating with the decentralisation implementation group, the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works on the decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004. The internal implementation team is committed to developing innovative approaches to information management, communications and logistics so as to maintain and improve the quality of service to be delivered under decentralised arrangements and to minimise disruption. The team is also providing an avenue for full and timely communication with staff of the Department on the progress of the decentralisation programme, through the Department's partnership committee and otherwise.

The decentralisation programme envisages all Dublin based functions of my Department, with the exception of Met Éireann and some local based services, transferring to Wexford, which will serve as headquarters, Waterford, New Ross and Kilkenny. The Office of Public Works is currently assessing proposals from interested parties for the supply of suitable accommodation or suitable sites at the decentralised locations.

My Department considers that a survey of its staff to determine interest in transferring to the south eastern locations will most valuably be undertaken when greater clarification on detailed arrangements is available following,inter alia, the report of the decentralisation implementation group.

Question No. 44 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Electoral Acts.

Questions (56)

Joe Costello

Question:

45 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the report of the Standards in Public Office Commission into the operation of the Electoral Act 1997; his further views on the argument made by the Commission that there is no case for increasing spending limits for general elections and its warning of the dangers of increasing donation limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7133/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 468 of 3 February 2004.

Waste Management.

Questions (57)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

46 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date in regard to his consideration of the report of the Health Research Board study commissioned by his Department into the likely effects of landfill and thermal treatment; the steps he intends to take to deal with the finding in the report that Ireland had insufficient resources to carry out adequate risk assessments for proposed waste management facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7150/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 207 of 3 February 2004. The position is unchanged.

Housing Grants.

Questions (58)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

47 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will re-introduce the first-time buyer’s grant to apply to first-time buyers of new and second hand homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7179/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The termination of the new house grant scheme, which was announced on 14 November 2002, arose from the necessity, in the context of the 2003 Estimates, for the Government to ensure a sustainable match between expenditure and resources, and to concentrate housing programmes on areas of greatest impact and social need. It is not proposed to review the basis on which the scheme was terminated or to reintroduce the grant.

Local Authority Funding.

Questions (59)

Willie Penrose

Question:

48 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if consultants have been appointed to undertake the promised independent review of local government funding; the consultants appointed; the value of the contract awarded; the terms of reference of the review; when it is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7149/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I have appointed Indecon International Economic Consultants in association with the Institute of Local Government Studies to carry out the review of local government funding, at a contract price of €291,100. The terms of reference of the review are set out in the request for proposals document which has been placed in the Oireachtas Library. I anticipate that the review will take up to one year to complete.

Heritage Liaison Group.

Questions (60)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

49 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the promised high-level heritage liaison group has been established; the membership and terms of reference of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7148/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The group has been established and its composition is in the table set out below.

The terms of reference of the group, which relate to national monuments and historic properties in State care, are to monitor progress on my Department's capital programme at such properties, which is to be undertaken in future by the OPW; and resolve in a policy context any issues that arise in regard to that capital programme or the day to day management of any one of the entire suite of such properties, which management is now the responsibility of the Office of Public Works.

Composition of the high-level liaison group

Name

Department/Office

Ms. Mary Moylan, Assistant Secretary

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Mr. Liam A. O’Connell, Principal

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Mr. Paddy Breslin, Assistant Principal

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Mr. David Byers, Commissioner

Office of Public Works

Mr. Dermot Burke, Principal

Office of Public Works

Building Land.

Questions (61)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

50 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed his consideration of the results of the research he has commissioned from a company (details supplied) into the ownership and control of building land in certain development areas, particularly Dublin, to determine whether current practices are retarding the overall delivery of building land or impeding long-term market stability; when the results of the research will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7154/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The report on ownership and control of building land, which was commissioned by my Department from Goodbody Economic Consultants, remains under consideration and will be published in due course.

Nuclear Plants.

Questions (62)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

51 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in regard to his request to the British authorities to allow Irish experts inspect the Sellafield nuclear plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7159/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 142 and 197 of 3 February 2004. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Planning Issues.

Questions (63)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

53 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has issued a directive to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council concerning the draft development plan; the persons who made representations to him regarding the matter; the previous occasions on which a similar directive was issued to a local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7128/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

On 9 February 2004, I issued a direction under section 31(1) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in regard to the draft Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan 2004-2010. A planning authority is required to comply with any such direction.

The direction judges that the draft Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county development plan is deficient in that it does not zone sufficient residential land in order to satisfy the requirements of the council's housing strategy; such sufficient zoning is required under section 95(1)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Accordingly, the direction requires the council to amend the draft development plan to ensure that sufficient and suitable land is zoned as residential or for a mix of residential and other uses in order to meet the requirements of the housing strategy. Decisions as to the specific lands to be zoned in order to meet this requirement are entirely a matter for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

In regard to the direction, I received correspondence from the Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and from the county manager requesting the issuing of such a direction. I have also received correspondence from residents' organisations and from private individuals on matters relating to the zoning of land in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area.

The power to issue directions in regard to draft development plans is a relatively new provision in planning legislation introduced under the Planning and Development Act 2000. No other similar directive has so far been issued.

Nuclear Plants.

Questions (64)

Jack Wall

Question:

54 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding this country’s international legal case in connection with the Sellafield nuclear plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7160/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 177 of 3 February 2004 and Question No. 100 of 26 November 2003.

A formal defence to the legal proceedings instituted by the European Commission under Articles 10 and 292 EC, and Article 192 and 193 EURATOM was lodged on behalf of Ireland on 19 February 2004. The position is otherwise unchanged.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (65)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

56 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which Ireland is involved in research into nuclear fusion and thermo-nuclear physics; the implications for such research on the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7216/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

There are no actual fusion experiments being co-ordinated in Ireland, nor is it envisaged that such experiments would take place here.

Ireland's involvement in nuclear fusion research relates mainly to the study of the properties and behaviour of plasmas, the high temperature highly ionised gas in which nuclear fusion takes place. Much of this research is directed towards utilising the properties of plasmas in the fields of electronics and the production of medical devices. The funding for such research comes largely from the EURATOM research framework programme, and the research is carried out in academic establishments.

I am advised that there are no implications from such research on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I am also advised that one can never say categorically that the results of fusion research will not be hijacked by terrorists intent on using them for destructive purposes. Nevertheless, if fusion reactors were to replace fission reactors there would be no further need for uranium enrichment facilities which present a potential source of nuclear materials for terrorists. Also fusion reactors, unlike fission reactors, do not produce plutonium, which could also be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Benchmarking Awards.

Questions (66)

Richard Bruton

Question:

58 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and value of awards withheld under benchmarking; and the recommendations of the performance verification group in each case. [4704/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

No benchmarking or Sustaining Progress awards are currently being withheld in the local government sector. Consideration of the position of certain general operatives in Dublin City Council who were involved in a work stoppage on 6 November 2003 had been deferred by the Secretary General of my Department, with the concurrence of the local government performance verification group, pending the outcome of a Labour Court hearing on the matter. This matter has now been resolved and the Secretary General, with the agreement of the performance verification group, has approved the payment of the benchmarking and the Sustaining Progress increases to this group with effect from 1 January 2004.

Waste Management.

Questions (67)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

59 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the success or otherwise of re-cycling policies to date; and if he has further proposals in this regard. [7118/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Recycling is a significant element of the Government's overall integrated policy framework on waste management — based on the internationally recognised waste hierarchy — prioritising waste prevention, minimisation, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and the environmentally sound disposal of residual waste which cannot be recycled or recovered.

This significant emphasis on recycling is reflected in the 1998 policy statement, Changing our Ways, which provided a national policy framework for the adoption and implementation by local authorities of strategic waste management plans under which specific national objectives and targets would be achieved. Specifically, Changing our Ways set ambitious recycling targets to be achieved over a 15-year timescale, as follows: recycling of 35% of municipal waste; and recycling of at least 50% of construction and demolition, C&D, waste by 2001, with a progressive increase to at least 85% by 2013.

Changing our Ways set a number of complementary targets aimed at increasing recycling rates, to be achieved over the same timescale, including: a diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill; a minimum 65% reduction in biodegradable waste consigned to landfill; and the development of composting and other biological treatment facilities capable of treating up to 300,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste per annum.

National waste statistics are published at three-yearly intervals by the EPA. The most recent national waste database report in respect of 2001, which was published in July 2003, estimated that out of total municipal — household and commercial — waste of 2,297,603 tonnes in that year, 305,554 tonnes, 13.3%, were recycled. This is an increase from 166,684 tonnes, or 9%, in 1998 and 117,732 tonnes, or 7.8%, in 1995. These figures indicate that significant progress is being made in this area and that we are now moving towards EU average municipal waste recycling rates. In addition, the 2001 EPA report estimated that of the 3,615,163 tonnes of C&D waste sent to landfill that year, just under 2.4 million tonnes, or 65.4%, was recovered and used for construction purposes or as landfill cover, thereby achieving the initial C&D waste recycling target set in Changing our Ways.

All the indications are that the recycling position has improved even further since 2001 arising from the implementation of the local and regional waste management plans, as follows: the progressive roll-out of household segregation and separate collection of dry recyclable and organic waste in urban areas — approximately 500,000 households nationally are now served by segregated household collection of recyclables whereas minimal numbers of households were served by such service in 2001 and separate collection of organic wastes has recently commenced in a number of areas and is to be extended to further areas in the near future; the continued expansion of the bring bank network — over 1,800 bring banks are currently in place compared to around 1,400 in 2001 and 850 in 1998; and the increased network of civic amenity recycling centres and waste transfer stations being progressively put in place — there are now approximately 50 civic amenity sites or recycling sites around the country accepting a wide range of materials for recycling.

In addition, new packaging regulations introduced last year requiring the segregation and recycling of specified back-door packaging waste by producers have influenced increased recycling rates in the commercial sector.

The expansion in the waste recycling infrastructure outlined has been assisted by significant funding provided to local authorities from the environment fund, which is financed by the proceeds generated by the landfill and plastic bag levies. In addition, an intensive waste awareness and communications campaign Race against Waste was launched in October 2003, aimed at heightening awareness among businesses and householders alike of the need to increase recycling rates. This campaign is being funded by the environment fund.

With a view to providing further impetus in this area, I will shortly be announcing implementation details of commitments contained in the Delivering Change policy statement published in 2002, as follows: the establishment of a market development programme to ensure that end markets exist for the materials which are collected for recycling; the publication of a national biodegradable waste strategy which will set out measures to progressively divert biodegradable municipal waste from landfill and to provide an effective basis for the achievement of the 2013 target set in Changing our Ways; and the development of further producer responsibility initiatives, in addition to existing initiatives on packaging, farm plastics and C&D wastes, on specific waste streams, that is, end-of-life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment, newsprint and tyres.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (68)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

60 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the so called TPP process currently being tested by a company (details supplied); if he has been formally advised of test results in respect of this process; the expert advice which he has received on the TPP process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7180/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I have continuously raised the issue of discharges of technetium-99 and other radionuclides from Sellafield into the Irish Sea with United Kingdom ministers, most recently when I met the Secretary of State for the Environment in December 2003. The decision, announced in June 2003, to proceed with trials in relation to TPP came as a result of a review of the discharge limits for technetium-99 from Sellafield, for which the Irish Government had pressed strongly. Following this review, the UK Government requested BNFL to cease discharges of technetium-99 to the Irish Sea pending plant trials of TPP.

TPP is an organophosphate which, when introduced into a chemical process during radioactive waste conditioning at Sellafield, combines with technetium-99 to create a solid compound. Following laboratory tests, a plant scale trial of the process was carried out by the Environment Agency and BNFL in November and December 2003. The trial is being conducted to assess the efficiency of removing technetium-99 from liquid discharges into the Irish Sea. As well as assessing TPP's ability to combine with technetium-99, the trial has looked at the costs of the process, the environmental impact of TPP, the form of waste produced, the safety and operability of the process and its impact on public and worker safety.

While the Environment Agency has reported informally on the mechanics of the trial, official results have not yet been published. I understand that, for TPP to be used on an ongoing basis by BNFL, authorisation by the regulators will be necessary. BNFL will need to obtain approval from the Environment Agency for TPP discharges, a letter of comfort from Nirex for the storage of solid technetium-99 waste, and approval from the nuclear installations inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive for the new processes involved.

I have asked the Secretary of State for a full report on the trials once final conclusions have been drawn. Experts from the RPII have also been in contact with their counterparts in the UK Environment Agency concerning the progress of the trials.

Planning Issues.

Questions (69, 70)

Liz McManus

Question:

61 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to introduce the promised guidelines under the Planning and Development Act to deal with the issue of one-off housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7141/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Earlier today, I published a public consultation draft of Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing. The guidelines will be issued in due course as ministerial guidelines under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 having regard to the views expressed during the public consultation process. Section 28 provides that planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála shall have regard to the provisions of any such guidelines in the performance of their functions.

The draft guidelines set out in detail how the Government's policies on rural housing are to be implemented by planning authorities in their development plans and in the operation of the development control system to support the sustainable development of all rural areas.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

62 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date in the review of the retail planning guidelines relating to the floor space cap on retail warehouses; when he expects that the process will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7146/04]

View answer

In August 2003 I announced a review of the retail planning guidelines in regard to the floor space cap on retail warehouses contained in the guidelines. The guidelines currently prescribe a maximum floor area of 6,000 sq. m. gross retail floor space for large scale single retail warehouse development. This cap is now being reviewed, taking account of the need to ensure effective competition in this sector of retailing and ongoing developments in retail formats, while also having regard to issues of proper planning and sustainable development. Central to this review will be the potential impact of the national spatial strategy on the guidelines and the need to ensure that cities and towns have the range of retail facilities that supports their attractiveness and competitiveness for investment and population growth.

To assist in carrying out the review, I invited interested parties to make submissions to my Department. Some 71 submissions were received by and are now being assessed. They will be fully taken into account in considering further whether any changes are needed in the guidelines. I expect that the process will be completed shortly.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (71)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

63 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the main provisions of the proposed National Infrastructure Bill; if the heads of the Bill have been brought before Government and approved; when the Bill is likely to be published and brought before Dáil Éireann; if it is intended that incinerators will fall within the remit of the National Infrastructure Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7139/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 171 of 3 February 2004.

Question No. 64 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Noise Pollution.

Questions (72)

Seán Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to introduce regulations or controls to limit the noise pollution and nuisance effect of house alarms which are allowed to ring continuously and which can cause great annoyance and distress to other householders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7156/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I am aware that intruder alarms gave rise to 7% of the noise complaints made to Dublin City Council in 2002, down from 11% in 2001. Noise from alarms was the third lowest of all categories of complaints listed by the council in the annual report of its noise control unit for the period 2002-2003. Nonetheless I recognise that alarms are a source of neighbourhood noise nuisance. Section 107 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 provides local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency, as appropriate, with powers to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit noise. A number of additional arrangements are in place to reduce the incidences of unnecessary noise from alarms and to tackle persistent incidence of such noise.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, has published a voluntary standards specification, No. 199 of 1987, and operates a certification scheme to that standard which specifies a minimum 15 minutes and maximum 30 minutes duration for the sounding of external alarms in buildings with the alarms being required to cease automatically after the maximum duration. The connection of monitored intruder alarm systems to Garda stations is contingent,inter alia, upon the use of alarm systems which are certified by NSAI and installed by certified installers, and the provision to the Garda of contact details for the key holder and alternate key holders.

A European standard for external intruder alarms, which will replace all national standards, will incorporate considerably stricter controls regarding minimum and maximum duration for the sounding of alarms. The new limits will be 90 seconds minimum and 15 minutes maximum. This new standard is the only one applied by the NSAI for intruder alarms installed from 1 March 2004.

In addition, the Private Security Services Bill 2001 when enacted, will provide for a private security authority to license, control and supervise all alarm installers and for the authority to have powers to maintain and improve standards in the provision of services, including standards for intruder alarms.

I understand that the promulgation of the Irish standard, the introduction of the European standard, the requirements of the Garda for monitored alarms, improved equipment and the co-operation of the installers certified by the NSAI have together been instrumental in ensuring the incidence of false alarms and the failure of audible alarms to cut off have been significantly reduced.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, a local authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, or any person may seek an order in the district court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A free public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance is available from my Department.

In light of the above, I have no proposals at this time to introduce further legislation as regards noise arising from house alarm systems.

Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Homeless Persons.

Questions (73, 74)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

67 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to recent concerns expressed by such organisations as Focus Ireland and the Simon Community regarding the increasing number of homeless persons; the steps being taken to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7137/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

68 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the findings of the street count of rough sleepers carried out by the homeless agency in conjunction with the voluntary sector between 12 and 29 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7182/04]

View answer

The assessment of homelessness is, in the first instance, a matter for local authorities. The Homeless Agency, in conjunction with the voluntary sector, carried out a street count of rough sleepers in the four Dublin local authority areas that commenced on 12 January and was completed on 29 January 2004. This was part of an overall exercise that included gathering information from a range of statutory and voluntary service providers up to and including 29 February 2004. I understand the data is at present being collated and it is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (75)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

70 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he intends to take arising from the recent report of the Environmental Protection Agency showing that more than a quarter of group water schemes tested in 2002 showed evidence of contamination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7157/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Water quality deficiencies in the group water scheme sector are mainly confined to schemes serving some 3.5% of households nationally that abstract supplies from private sources, such as rivers, lakes and boreholes. Water is generally supplied to the 46,000 households involved without prior treatment or disinfection.

The National Rural Water Monitoring Committee, which is representative of the local authorities, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, the rural organisations and my own Department, has produced an Action Plan for Rural Drinking Water Quality 2003 — 2006 that has as its objective the urgent upgrading of water quality in privately sourced group water schemes.

The action plan sets out a strategy for bringing substandard schemes up to the required standard through connections to local authority systems, the taking in charge of individual schemes by local authorities and, where these options are not practicable, the provision of on-site water treatment and disinfection facilities. Grants of up to 100% of cost are available to group schemes for treatment and disinfection facilities. An 85% grant, subject to a maximum of €6,475 per house, is payable for related civil works such as buildings, reservoirs and pipelines, and for upgrading works and connections to public supplies.

A sum of €644 million has been provided under the National Development Plan 2000 — 2006 for the upgrading of rural water infrastructure, particularly privately sourced group water schemes. Last year I allocated a record €100 million for the 2003 rural water programme. I will shortly announce details of the 2004 block grant allocations to county councils under that programme. The National Rural Water Monitoring Committee's action plan acknowledges the adequacy of the NDP funding available for the rural water programme and identifies the key issue now as one of logistics and speed of implementation.

In accordance with the action plan strategy, there are currently 16 projects, involving some 176 individual group water schemes serving around 30,000 households, at construction or at an advanced stage of planning. A further five projects, involving 69 group schemes serving over 6,000 households, are at an earlier stage in the planning process. Proposals to resolve the water quality deficiencies in the remainder of the schemes concerned are being advanced as rapidly as possible.

Companies Registration Office.

Questions (76)

Bernard Allen

Question:

71 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will examine the situation of an association (details supplied); and if his Department will request the Revenue Commissioners to review the case. [7416/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

It is a statutory requirement under the Companies Acts for companies to file an annual return and accounts with the Companies Registration Office, CRO. There is a statutory requirement where returns are filed late for a late filing penalty to be paid. It is the policy of the CRO that late filing penalties are waived only in exceptional circumstances, and for particular categories of company, such as charities, on a once-off basis only.

The company in question is the kind of company, which would be considered for a once-off waiver of late filing penalties, on the basis that its objectives and activities relate to the promotion of community welfare in its local area.

The company's 2002 annual return was due to be made up to a date no later than its annual return date of 12 June 2002, and had to be filed with CRO no later than 12 July 2002 in order to avoid late filing penalties. In the event, that return was not filed until 25 October 2002, thus incurring a late filing penalty of €418. This late filing penalty was waived, on the basis of the applicable criteria, on a once-off basis and the company was so informed.

The company's 2003 annual return was due to be made up to a date no later than 12 June 2003, and had to be filed no later than 12 July 2003 in order to avoid late filing penalties. That return was not filed until 25 January 2004, thus incurring a late filing penalty of €694. I understand that the late filing penalty has been paid.

The CRO never allows a second waiver of late filing penalties, having regard to what has been advertised and notified to beneficiary companies as the once-off nature of the waiver. The CRO is accordingly not prepared to refund the late filing penalty.

As regards its 2003 annual return, CRO records show that the company was notified, by a letter from the office dated 14 May 2003, of its upcoming annual return date, of 12 June 2003, and once the filing date had passed without the return being filed, the office issued a letter to the company dated 14 July 2003 to remind it that it was now incurring late filing penalties and should file without delay. I agree with the CRO's policy in this matter. I regret, therefore, that it is not possible to grant a second waiver in this case.

Job Initiative.

Questions (77)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

72 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the position regarding jobs initiative workers in view of the vital function they perform in many disadvantaged communities; and her views on whether job initiative workers must have full workforce entitlements while community organisations must be allowed to maintain vital services through the jobs initiative structures. [7352/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Job initiative is a temporary work experience programme for persons 35 years of age or older who have been unemployed for five years or longer. Participants are offered temporary full-time employment for a period of three years. The fundamental objective of the programme is to prepare participants to progress into mainstream jobs.

A number of participants on job initiative, which was designed as a three-year programme, continue to have difficulty progressing from the programme to employment and have remained on the programme since its commencement. The lack of progression for such persons gives rise to concerns regarding the effectiveness of the programme.

Funding has been provided to ensure that target participation levels on the job initiative programme can be maintained at its current level for 2004, which is in the region of 2,200. However, the future structure of the community employment and job initiative programmes remains under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS, and this group will report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly. Any decisions regarding the future structure of the job initiative scheme will be taken in that context.

Work Permits.

Questions (78)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps her Department is taking to ensure that the alleged gangmaster system of providing immigrant labour is not permitted to operate in the economy here following the recent very tragic death of Chinese migrant workers while cockle picking in the UK. [7353/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

In this country, work permits are generally granted to specific employers to employ specific employees to fill specific vacancies. This ensures a direct link between employer and employee and facilitates enforcement of employment law.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will not knowingly grant work permits to facilitate the hiring out of individuals as a form of contract labour and would be most interested in seeing any evidence to the effect that this might be happening in any sector.

Any issue relating to non-EEA nationals working illegally is a matter for Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Industrial Development.

Questions (79, 80, 81)

Richard Bruton

Question:

74 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of the grant cost per job approved by the IDA and the grant cost per job sustained by the IDA in the years since 1980. [7361/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

IDA Ireland does not provide details of grant costs per job approved for confidentiality and competitive reasons. The table provides details of the cost per job sustained by the IDA in the years since 1980. The cost per job sustained is calculated by taking into account all IDA Ireland expenditure to all firms in the period of calculation. Only jobs created during and sustained to the end of each seven-year period are credited in thecalculations.

Cost Per Job Sustained (Constant 2002 Prices)

Period

1981/1987

1982/1988

1983/1989

1984/1990

1985/1991

1986/1992

1987/1993

1988/1994

Cost €

50,413

45,220

38,802

34,060

32,369

30,350

25,417

20,625

Period

1989/1995

1990/1996

1991/1997

1992/1998

1993/1999

1994/2000

1995/2001

1996/2002

Cost €

18,960

18,428

17,965

17,166

15,124

14,076

14,017

15,897

Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey 2002

Richard Bruton

Question:

75 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of the number of jobs in IDAassisted foreign owned enterprises since 1980. [7362/04]

View answer

The table provides details of permanent jobs in IDA assisted foreign owned enterprises since1980:

Number of permanent jobs in IDA assisted foreign owned enterprises since 1980.

Year

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

Jobs

64,048

68,345

68,471

65,819

64,154

62,648

64,099

63,820

67,065

Year

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

Jobs

72,067

75,484

77,026

78,233

80,594

84,945

92,015

99,127

108,669

Year

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Jobs

117,247

125,272

139,752

134,907

130,591

127,616

Source: Annual Forfás Employment Survey

Richard Bruton

Question:

76 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the restrictions on State aid which apply in the Border, Midland and West region, in the Dublin region, and in the rest of the country under EU rules; and if she will outline the guidelines for deciding on levels of grant aid to new investors by the IDA in the respective regions. [7363/04]

View answer

Under Ireland's regional aid map for the period 2000-06 the maximum aid rates permissible for regional aid towards investment and job creation in the designated regions are set out:

Aid rates (%) for initial investment for regions in Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004-06

‘C’ Region

South-East

40

37

31

26

20

Mid-West

40

37

31

26

20

plus

South-West

40

37

31

26

20

10% gross

Mid-East

40

35

29

23

18

for

Dublin

17.5

17.5

17.5

17.5

17.5

SMEs

‘A’ Region

Border, Midlands, West

40

40

40

40

40

plus 15% gross for SMEs

The rates above are subject to the new multisectoral framework for large investment projects, which progressively reduces the effective grant ceiling for regional aid below the levels set out above where the value of the investment being aided exceeds €50 million inclusive of grant assistance.

As the table indicates, from 2000 Ireland was still entitled to provide significant rates of regional aid throughout the country and less so in the Dublin region. In line with the regional aid map, regional aid can continue to be awarded up to a rate of 40%, or 55% for SMEs, in the BMW region until the end of 2006. The aid rates elsewhere, other than Dublin, have been gradually declining since 2000. This is due to the fact that, in accordance with Article 87(3) of the EU Treaty, regional aid is permitted in the most disadvantaged regions of the European Community only where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious underemployment. In less disadvantaged regions, regional aid may be given where such aid does not affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

While the regional aid rates listed above are secure until end 2006, given Ireland's level of economic development in recent years we cannot expect to be able to provide significant rates of regional aid after 2006. In addition, the European Commission has signalled its intention to significantly reduce the scope for regional aid for large companies in all member states after 2006. However, it should be remembered that regional aid is not the only form of State aid that may be given to assist company development. State aid may also be given throughout Ireland under various EU guidelines relating to European Community objectives such as research and development, employment, development of SMEs, training, and environmental protection.

In deciding on levels of grant aid within the rates permitted in the Regional Aid Map, IDA Ireland operates a set of internal negotiating guidelines. These negotiating guidelines are designed to ensure that the maximum value for money is achieved consistent with facilitating the development of desirable investment initiatives; provide more aid for particularly high quality and strategically important investments that are in line with enterprise development policy and Ireland's competitive characteristics; and help implement IDA Ireland's regional development strategy, which includes a high priority on increasing the level of investment going into less developed regions, particularly the BMW.

It is important to remember that EU State aid regulations apply to all member states. IDA Ireland continues to successfully attract investment within the framework set by the existing regulations.

Job Creation.

Questions (82)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason several large factory premises at Clonshaugh Industrial Estate, Dublin 17, are lying empty, including the former major premises of Gateway 2000 that has laid idle for nearly three years; and her views on the future of a company (details supplied) following a recent takeover. [7372/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The industrial estate in Coolock is a key development in the Dublin area for IDA Ireland. The company has informed me that over the past year a number of its units have been under negotiation for purchase and that, effectively, only the former Gateway facility is not being negotiated for sale at present.

To date the Gateway 330,000 sq. ft. facility has had a number of potential purchasers and continues to be marketed by IDA Ireland. It is difficult to dispose of such a large facility in the present climate due to the global downturn in the ICT sector.

In regard to the future of the company referred to by the Deputy, I understand that on 14 January the IDA met the company referred to by the Deputy. The company remained confident that the Irish operation had much to offer new owners. At present discussions regarding its strategic direction are under way between IDA Ireland and the company. An outcome to these discussions is anticipated within the next two months.

Milk Quota.

Questions (83, 84, 85)

Michael Noonan

Question:

78 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status regarding an application for extra milk quota for persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7297/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The milk quota appeals tribunal recommends allocations from the national reserve. It was established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named last applied to the tribunal in the 2001-02 milk quota year. There is no record of an application for the current 2003-04 quota year but its deadline for applications has passed. He can apply for the 2004-05 quota year when forms are become available in the autumn.

Michael Noonan

Question:

79 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status regarding an application for extra milk quota for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7298/04]

View answer

The milk quota appeals tribunal recommends allocations from the national reserve. It was established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of hardship in the current 2003-04 milk quota year. Last January the tribunal examined his application but did not recommend an allocation. Every application is treated in a fair and sympathetic manner. However, it has not been possible, within the constraints of the limited amount of quota available and the sizeable number of applications received, to meet the demand.

Michael Noonan

Question:

80 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status regarding an application for extra milk quota for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7299/04]

View answer

The milk quota appeals tribunal recommends allocations from the national reserve. It was established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named last applied to the tribunal in the 2001-02 milk quota year. There is no record of an application for the current 2003-04 quota year but its deadline for applications has passed. He can apply for the 2004-05 quota year when forms are become available in the autumn.

Grant Payments.

Questions (86, 87, 88)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

81 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if bull premia will be abolished; if it will result in a large amount of male cattle leaving Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7342/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

All direct payments for cattle, sheep, dairying and arable crops will be decoupled from production on 1 January 2005. They will be replaced by a single payment based on farmers entitlements for the reference years 2000-02.

Premia on young bulls is payable only once during the lifetime of the animals from the age of nine months. In 2003 as many as 14% of the total eligible male animals in the category qualified for the payment with the balance being paid for first age steers.

It is not expected that decoupling will lead to a significant increase in male cattle exports. Decoupling will allow farmers the freedom to produce for the market and to focus on minimising production costs and maximising their incomes.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

82 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7343/04]

View answer

The person named claimed 12.59 hectares of forage on a parcel of land that contained a gross area of 6.32 hectares. This resulted in an overclaim of 6.27 hectares or 99.21%. The claimant was consulted about the matter and he accepted the gross area of 6.32 hectares as correct.

Under EU regulations where an applicant makes an area overclaim of greater than 50%, no premia payments are made for the year of application. In addition, a forage area equal to the eligible forage area found 6.32 hectares will be deducted from the eligible forage area found during the three years following the year of application in so far as premia payments are concerned.

The area claimed by the applicant on his 2003 area aid application was reduced to zero in accordance with the regulations. Therefore, he cannot be paid premia for 2004 in respect of the first 6.32 hectares of eligible forage area claimed. His single payment entitlement will not be effected by the penalty.

The EU regulations governing the 2003 area based compensatory allowance scheme are somewhat different. Although the person named cannot be paid the 2003 allowance because the difference between the area declared and the area found exceeded 20%. He can be paid for the next three years if eligible each year under the regulations for such payment.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

83 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department will grant moneys owed to a person (details supplied) in County Cork immediately because they are under severe financial pressure. [7344/04]

View answer

The 2003 area aid application for the person named has been processed with a total forage area of 23.38 hectares. He applied for premia on 21 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. A payment for €3765.72 issued on 16 October 2003. It represented his 80% advance instalment for the 21 animals. Balancing payments are due to commence later this month.

He lodged five applications in respect of 14 animals under the 2003 special beef premium scheme. He was paid the 80% advance in respect of 13 animals. His final application was processed and the 80% advance payment in respect of one animal will issue shortly. Balancing payments are scheduled to commence in late March or early in April.

Milk Quota.

Questions (89)

Phil Hogan

Question:

84 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if extra milk quota will be allocated under the animal disease scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7409/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The milk quota appeals tribunal recommends allocations from the national reserve. It was established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system. It also examines applications from producers whose herds have been restricted by animal disease in the current quota year.

My Department received an application from the person in question for additional quota on the grounds of animal disease. The tribunal will examine his application in the near future and he will be notified of the outcome in due course.

Tax Code.

Questions (90)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

85 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has to introduce a scheme whereby local authority tenants can claim tax relief on rent they are paying when such tenants are paying rents to the equivalent of a mortgage; and if he will make a statement on this proposal which was approved by a vote of Fingal County Council on 10 November 2003. [7308/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As I mentioned in my reply to the same question on 10 December 2003, responsibility for rent schemes was devolved to local authorities in August 1986. The principles governing rent schemes are as follows: the rent payable should be related to income and a smaller proportion of income should be required from low income households; allowances should be made for dependent children including those under 21 years of age in full-time education; a contribution towards rent should be required from subsidiary earners in the household; provision should be included for the acceptance of a lower rent than that required under the terms of the scheme in exceptional cases where payment of the normal rent would give rise to hardship; and appropriate local factors should be taken into account including the costs of the maintenance and management of the stock of rented dwellings and the adequacy of the rental income to meet such costs.

Within the broad principles outlined above, authorities have discretion as to the types of income to be taken into account in the assessment of rents and how to deal with hardship cases, poverty traps and anomalies that arise in individual cases. By definition, local authority rents should reflect ability to pay. They bear no relation to economic rents in the private sector. Based on the most recent returns from local authorities the average weekly rent in 2002 was €29.62 per week.

It is clear that local authority rents are heavily subsidised at present. It would not be appropriate to provide subsidised housing to a person and then offer a further subsidy through the tax system. At present I have no plans to introduce a scheme whereby tenants renting local authority houses can claim tax relief on rent paid.

I have received no correspondence from Fingal County Council in respect of the motion referred to by the Deputy.

Archaeological Sites.

Questions (91)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

86 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on progress on the Oldbridge Estate and Battle of the Boyne site project, and plans for its future development and usage, including landscape changes and facilities; and the organisations or groups involved following the commitment to consult closely with representatives of the Unionist tradition, local authorities and community groups. [7312/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Presentation of the site of the Battle of the Boyne is centred around the former Oldbridge Estate that comprises extensive grounds, the large 18th century Oldbridge House and adjoining outbuildings, walled garden, farm buildings and gate lodge. Some 100 acres of the property have already been developed and opened to the public to mark the core of the historic battle site. Guided tours are available from May to September and by prior arrangement outside the period.

Developments to date include: a series of interpretative panels marking strategic battle locations; a replica 17th century cannon and military equipment; 3.5 km of scenic walkways with interpretative markers; improved land management and public accessibility; initial improvements to adjacent public roads and further plans for major roadworks from Donore village; stabilisation, weather proofing and security works to the main house; and archaeological, planning and related studies. Consideration will be given to further improvements as resources permit.

In response to public advertisements, submissions were made and consultations held with many interests North and South, including groups and local authorities.

Detention of Prisoner.

Questions (92)

John Gormley

Question:

87 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) is languishing in a Thai prison without real or proper assistance as should be afforded to an Irish national in distress or difficulty overseas. [7351/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Irish Embassy in Malaysia, that is also accredited to Thailand, and the Honorary Consulate in Bangkok have been in regular contact with the person to whom the Deputy refers since his imprisonment. In July 2000 he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years and four months. After an appeal his sentence was reduced to ten years.

The embassy raised his case formally with the Thai Foreign Ministry on numerous occasions. The honorary consul visits him frequently. The ambassador and other officials from the embassy in Kuala Lumpur have also visited him on a number of occasions.

In addition to providing regular consular assistance, the honorary consul has written to the Thai Department of Corrections and the prison on his behalf and has arranged numerous visits by family and friends. At present the person is applying for parole, an application to which the Department, through the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, has lent its support.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (93)

Richard Bruton

Question:

88 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made in developing a second level class for children with Asperger’s Syndrome on Dublin’s northside; if agreement has been secured to develop a facility at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7302/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

At present my Department is actively engaged in pursuing the development of a dedicated second level programme for children with special needs on Dublin's northside.

The school to which the Deputy refers has indicated its agreement in principle to host the proposed unit. Further discussions are being arranged to address accommodation needs and teaching and other supports required by the school in order to facilitate the development. I expected the unit to be in place for the coming school year.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (94, 95)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to allow the ABA school in Rathfarnham, County Dublin to proceed; if he will authorise the works to commence immediately in view of the number of children awaiting places; when he expects it to be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7398/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department is actively considering the application. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service and a response will be issued to the applicants as quickly as possible.

My Department perused the application and asked the applicants about the children who would attend the facility and the proposed accommodation. A response is awaited.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

90 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science when a new school (details supplied) in County Cork will be opened. [7415/04]

View answer

The construction of a new three classroom school is nearing completion. It is envisaged that upon its completion the school will be ready for occupation.

Prospecting Licences.

Questions (96)

Phil Hogan

Question:

91 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has consulted the surveys and cores that were undertaken in 1993 on the lands for the proposed extension of the M9 route for mineral extraction; if the Geological Survey of Ireland has any information available on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7301/04]

View answer

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

As I explained in my reply to Question No. 116 on 29 January and Question No. 158 on 19 February, reports on the mineral deposits in the area, supplied by the existing mine lessee's experts, and material supplied by the geological survey, were assessed by the technical staff of my Department's exploration and mining division. They are satisfied that sizeable deposits of minerals exist. My Department has no details of surveys undertaken in 1993. If the Deputy can supply me with the details I will be happy to have them examined.

Coastal Protection.

Questions (97, 98)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

92 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the funds available from his Department for coastal protection work for 2004 and for each of the past five years. [7326/04]

View answer

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

Exchequer funding is as follows:

Year

€million

1999

3.108

2000

6.005

2001

7.733

2002

4.898

2003

2.098

2004

0.78

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

93 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the moneys that have been allocated to combat coastal erosion in Cork for the year 2004 and for each of the past five years; and if he will provide a comparison with moneys allocated for other coastal counties during the same period. [7327/04]

View answer

Under my Department's coastal protection programme for 2004 there is an exchequer allocation of €0.78 million provided for the country. A final decision on the disbursement of the allocation to individual projects has not yet been made.

Funding provided by my Department for county Cork in each of the past five years is as follows: 1999, €105,016.27; 2000, €0.00; 2001, €113,929.79; 2002, €494,438.83; 2003, €184,310.81.

Department funding for other coastal counties for each of the five years prior to 2004.

County

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Sligo

0.00

599,786.26

499,442.26

198,982.30

106,056.60

Clare

159,837.03

45,897.00

529,107.96

399,372.42

771,987.74

Wexford

124,365.43

404,100.41

918,895.51

185,642.03

258,672.29

Waterford

142,941.73

472,468.48

911,526.05

72,670.00

32,222.33

Dublin

91,250.00

709,788.40

63,880.52

80,067.98

13,348.48

Kerry

408,055.26

452,099.58

1,386,430.06

1,515,372.11

152,368.57

Wicklow

37,351.79

440,244.00

1,439,824.88

2,005,083.43

787,363.11

Mayo

129,183.00

223,805.00

462,640.52

279,148.82

39,005.36

Louth

287,366.25

813,571.39

183,362.78

91,067.62

19,046.07

Donegal

115,277.59

329,332.34

748,565.84

629,070.33

254,265.05

Galway

0.00

276,618.97

321,753.61

459,422.41

267,210.66

All of the above figures represent 75% of the cost of the projects. Each local authority contributed an additional 25% within their areas of responsibility.

Departmental Levies.

Questions (99)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on a spectrum tax or levy in view of his recent statements to the media regarding windfall profits for radio spectrum licences. [7354/04]

View answer

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

The current basis for charging for spectrum is governed by the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1926. My Department is updating the Act to take account of changes in the environment where radio spectrum is used. Among the items that it is intended to address are charges for the facility and trading in radio licences. Later this year I hope to bring forward proposals for legislation.

The price of radio licences is being considered separately and I will publish proposals shortly.

Broadband Services.

Questions (100)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

95 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will list the tender applications for the Management Services Entity competition and announce the winning tender. [7355/04]

View answer

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

The MSE is an independent body. It will be engaged to manage, market and maintain the fibre optic metropolitan area networks currently being constructed under the regional broadband programme.

Notice of my Department's intention to commence a competitive tender process for the engagement of an MSE was published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 19 June 2003. Responses received by the tender deadline of 15 August 2003 have been evaluated. I anticipate that the procurement process will reach a conclusion shortly. I will not comment on the identity of participating parties prior to then.

Harbour Master Posts.

Questions (101)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

96 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when harbour masters will be appointed at Howth and Dunmore East; and the reason the appointments have not been made to date. [7367/04]

View answer

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

My Department hopes to hold a recruitment competition to fill the vacant posts in the near future. The Department of Finance must set the terms and conditions for the grade. In the interim, the responsibilities of the harbour masters at Howth and Dunmore East are being met by a combination of locally based acting appointments and overall supervision and direction from my Department's head office.

Electricity Regulations.

Questions (102)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

97 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the timetable and likely regulatory changes for the development of a deregulated electricity market by 2005; and the legislative changes necessary and likely timetable. [7368/04]

View answer

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

Liberalisation of the electricity market in Ireland is well under way. It is proceeding on a phased basis under the regulatory oversight of the Commission for Energy Regulation.

By virtue of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 and the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2000, a new regulatory regime was established in Ireland. It is designed to facilitate and stimulate properly regulated and fair competition. Combined, these two legal instruments implementing EU Electricity Directive (96/92/EC) Concerning Common Rules for the Internal Market in Electricity, provide the overall legislative framework for the developing competitive electricity sector.

The Electricity Regulation Act 1999 provided for the introduction of limited competition in the electricity market. It also provided for the establishment of the CER that took over from the ESB the function of licensing the generation and supply of electricity and overseeing access to the transmission and distribution systems and related charges.

The subsequent European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulation 2000 provided for,inter alia, the licensing and establishment of the independent transmission system operator known as EirGríd. It also provided for the functions and licensing of the transmission system owner, the ESB, and the distribution system operator.

The EU Electricity Directive 2003/54/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity and repealing Directive 96/92/EC is required to be transposed into Irish law by 1 July 2004. It strengthens the unbundling provisions of the transmission and distribution operators, explicitly provides for levels of consumer protection and sets out a timetable for market opening. It also requires member states to ensure proper regulation by independent national regulatory authorities.

The regulatory framework currently in place here already takes account of many of the provisions of the new directive. At present my Department is finalising a draft statutory instrument under the European Communities Act 1972 to give effect to the requirements of the new directive and build on the measures already in place. While unbundling in the area of transmission operation has already been catered for, the legislation will provide for the legal unbundling of the distribution system operator.

The legislation will seek to explicitly set out the rights of consumers regarding their dealings with suppliers along with enshrining the right of all customers to be supplied with electricity of a specified quality at reasonable prices.

With regard to the market opening provisions of the directive, on 19 February electricity market opening increased from 40% to 56% by virtue of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Eligible Customer) (Consumption of Electricity) Order 2003 (SI No. 632 of 2003). All large and many small and medium-sized businesses are now eligible customers and are free to source their electricity from licensed electricity suppliers other than the ESB. All customers have been free to purchase electricity from any green or combined heat and power licensed supplier since February 2000 and April 2001, respectively.

The Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Eligible Customer) (Consumption of Electricity) Order 2003 also provides for the full liberalisation of the electricity market. By 19 February 2005 every customer will be eligible to source electricity from any supplier licensed by the CER. This date is well in advance of the July 2007 deadline for full liberalisation of electricity markets set down in the new electricity directive.

Telecommunications Services.

Questions (103)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

98 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has up to date audit figures on the quality of the telecommunications grid network here; if his Department has requested such figures from ComReg or from companies (details supplied) or from other telecommunications companies; and his views on whether he is responsible to Dáil Éireann for this critical matter for the economy. [7369/04]

View answer

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

I am responsible for policy relating to the telecommunications sector. The responsibility for regulation of the sector rests with ComReg, the telecommunications regulator.

Responsibility for the quality of telecommunications networks is a matter for the network operator. The detailed operation and planning of telecommunication networks is also a matter for each operator. ComReg monitors the service level agreements between operators and customers.

I engage with and request information from Departments, ComReg and operators in the sector, as necessary, on an ongoing basis, in discharging my policy role regarding these issues.

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (104, 105, 106)

Willie Penrose

Question:

99 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he received an application under the capital sports scheme from a club (details supplied); if he will ensure that same is considered in view of the important facilities that are being provided to the pupils of the adjacent school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7300/04]

View answer

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

The national lottery funded sports capital programme is administered by my Department. Funds are allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level. The programme is advertised on an annualbasis.

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. All applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, that were outlined in its guidelines, terms and conditions. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

100 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make a statement on the sports capital grants applications; when a decision will be made regarding the applications received; if a grant is being considered in the case of an application (details supplied); and if this application satisfied all required criteria. [7345/04]

View answer

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.

There is no record of an application from a club of the name supplied by the Deputy. However, there is an application from a club named Cumann Iománaíochta Cloch Dhubh, which may be the club to which the Deputy refers.

All applications received prior to the deadline are currently 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. I do not propose to provide details of individual applicants until the assessment process has been completed and allocations have been made.

John Perry

Question:

101 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding which has been allocated to a playing ground (details supplied) under the sports capital programme 2000, 2001 and 2002; if there are outstanding payments due; if a current application is on file; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7417/04]

View answer

The project in question has been allocated a total of €95,711 in funding under the national-lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, through the following allocations: €45,711 in 2000; €30,000 in 2002; and €20,000 in 2003.

To date, 95% of the 2000 grant has been paid, the remaining 5% being retained in accordance with standard practice pending the receipt of certification of completion of the defects liability period of the project. None of the funding provisionally allocated to the project under the 2002 and 2003 programmes has yet been drawn down.

All grants allocated are subject to the terms and conditions of the programme, one of which is a requirement to execute a deed of covenant and charge where a grant or an accumulation of grants exceeds €80,000, which they do in this case. The deed of covenant and charge provides,inter alia, for a refund of grants in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated. It is invoked by my Department’s legal advisers, the Chief State Solicitor’s office, CSSO. Payment of the grants due can only proceed when the deed of covenant and charge is in place. I understand that progress is being made by the club with the CSSO in this matter.

An application has also been submitted for the project under the 2004 sports capital programme. All applications under the programme are currently 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Questions (107)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

102 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position concerning the proposed new community hospital for Tuam; when the Government will commit funding to the project; the amount of funding that has been spent on the project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7313/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

It is presumed that the Deputy is referring to the Bon Secours site in Tuam. As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Galway area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Western Health Board. The board has submitted to my Department a proposal to develop a health campus on the Bon Secours site in Tuam. Expenditure to date is €3,997,277.

My Department is currently examining the health capital programme for 2004 and beyond to ascertain what new projects can be progressed through either planning or construction stages, taking account of existing commitments and overall funding resources available. It is in this context that my Department will continue to liaise with the Western Health Board regarding the proposed development in Tuam in the light of the board's overall capital funding priorities.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Questions (108)

Dan Neville

Question:

103 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the unregulated nature of the community pharmacy sector here in view of the extent of regulation in other member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7314/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As Minister for Health and Children, my responsibilities centre on the provisions of a high quality health service and this includes ensuring, in so far as possible, that adequate and accessible pharmacy services are generally available.

The retail pharmacy sector has not been deregulated. It is subject to a wide range of legislative controls. The opening and operation of retail pharmacies in Ireland is governed by the Pharmacy Acts 1875-1977, subject to restrictions imposed by non-pharmacy legislation such as the Planning Act. Any individual or company may open a pharmacy providing that the shop and the dispensing and compounding of medical prescriptions are personally supervised by a full-time pharmacist who is not acting elsewhere in a similar capacity. This has been the position since 1890.

The issue of pharmacy regulation was examined by the Pharmacy Review Group. I established the Pharmacy Review Group in November 2001 to examine the pharmacy issues raised in the OECD report on regulatory reform in Ireland. The group submitted its report on 31 January 2003. I have been examining the complex legal and other issues surrounding the group's recommendations. Deputies will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the report's recommendations before completion of this examination. I have published the Pharmacy Review Group report on the Department's website,www.doh.ie.

Health Board Services.

Questions (109, 110)

Denis Naughten

Question:

104 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 740 of 27 January 2004 and the subsequent response from the health board of 10 February 2004, his views on whether this is a satisfactory response; if he will ensure that the original question is answered in full; the current procedures in place for answering such questions; if in light of this reply, he will review this procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7315/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of services for persons resident in County Roscommon is a matter for the Western Health Board in the first instance. The Western Health Board has advised that the person referred to in the question was admitted for treatment to Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin on 23 February 2004. I understand that Crumlin hospital has informed the board that it has been necessary to cancel elective admissions due to lack of beds and to facilitate emergency admissions.

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine procedures by reference to matters raised in the Deputy's question.

Tony Gregory

Question:

105 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will request a report from the appropriate health board authorities on a request for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 for a place in the new unit in Cherry Orchard Hospital, Dublin 10 who is in need of medical care. [7317/04]

View answer

Responsibility for the provision of health services to residents of Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Child Care Staff.

Questions (111)

Seán Ryan

Question:

106 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the circumstances whereby people employed as residential child care workers within the Northern Area Health Board are not in receipt of the scale of pay as outlined on his Department’s website for child care workers. [7318/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the implementation of pay scales rests in this instance with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

Questions (112, 113)

Denis Naughten

Question:

107 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in replying to correspondence (details supplied); when a reply will be issued to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7347/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware the provision of health services in the Sligo area is, in the first instance, a matter for the North Western Health Board. A reply has been issued to the correspondence of 4 December 2003 in regard to the North West Hospice.

Jack Wall

Question:

108 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment for physiotherapy treatment. [7348/04]

View answer

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Questions (114)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

109 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans there are for the development of radiation oncology services in the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7366/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy is aware, I launched the Report on the Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland in October 2003. Its recommendations have been accepted by Government. The Government agrees that a major programme is now required to rapidly develop clinical radiation oncology treatment services to modern standards. Furthermore, the Government has agreed that the first phase of the programme will be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

The implementation of the report's recommendations is my most important priority in cancer services in the acute hospital setting. As a first step, I have provided additional resources this year to begin to implement the report's recommendations. In regard to the supra-regional centre at University College Hospital, Galway, I am making available €2.5 million ongoing revenue funding for this service this year. This centre is constructed and the equipment is currently being commissioned. Last year, I approved the appointment of a consultant radiation oncologist. This week, I approved the appointment of a second medical oncologist and an additional consultant radiation oncologist with significant sessional commitments to the North-Western Health Board.

I have requested the Western Health Board to prepare a development control plan to facilitate an increase from three to six in the number of linear accelerators at UCHG in the medium term. I have also approved the establishment of a project team to plan this expansion in the region. The project team will meet for the first time next week. These developments will have significant benefits for patients in the north-western region.

It is my intention to develop a national integrated network of radiation oncology, based on equitable access regardless of location and an effective national quality assurance programme. As recommended in the report, I have established the National Radiation Oncology Co-ordinating Group. The group, which recently held its first meeting, comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group's remit encompasses recommending measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. I expect the group to develop proposals in these important areas.

The Government has also decided that in the future development of services, consideration should be given to developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the north-west. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the efficacy of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Questions (115)

John Perry

Question:

110 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he has taken to address the EU directive Article 2.2 of 85/433 EEC and its impact on Irish/EU qualified pharmacists who wish to work in a pharmacy that is less than three years old; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7412/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Through the derogation available under Article 2.2 of Directive 85/433/EEC on the free movement of pharmacists, EU or EEA pharmacists who qualified in another EU or EEA state cannot own in their own right, operate or manage a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old.

The derogation was implemented in Ireland through the European Communities (Recognition of Qualifications In Pharmacy) Regulations 1987 (SI 239 of 1987) and European Communities (Recognition of Qualifications In Pharmacy) Regulations 1991 (SI 330 of 1991). These regulations do not preclude such pharmacists from working in a pharmacy less than three years old, other than as a supervising pharmacist.

The Pharmacy Review Group considered the issue of the derogation and its report is available on my Department's website,www.doh.ie. I have been examining the complex legal and other issues surrounding its recommendations and consideration will be given to Ireland’s use of the derogation on completion of this examination.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Questions (116)

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

111 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to fund a specific type of resource centre in north Cork. [7413/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of health related services, including funding of services, to people with physical and-or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Questions (117)

Bernard Allen

Question:

112 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is being refused an enhanced nursing home subvention. [7414/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

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

Taxi Regulations.

Questions (118)

Seán Ryan

Question:

113 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the way he proposes to implement the recommendations of the European Parliament Committee on Petitions which state that the Government has a moral and political responsibility to provide a proper redress to the serious plight of the pre-deregulation taxi families. [7322/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 244, 246 and 248 of 3 March 2004 which states:

The Government approved the implementation on a phased basis of the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel. The independent three person panel was established to report, in general terms, on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime. The panel recommended the establishment of a scheme to provide payments to taxi licence holders who fall into one of six categories that it assessed as having suffered extreme personal financial hardship arising from taxi liberalisation.

I am aware of the report of the EU Committee on Petitions and their fact finding mission to Ireland on the effects of taxi liberalisation. As I have explained previously in the House and to the committee, based on legal precedent there can be no legal duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders for open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation. The position remains unchanged and I have no proposals to reopen either the terms of the taxi hardship panel report or the Government's decision on it.

The process of implementing the panel's recommendations through the taxi hardship payments scheme is well under way with Area Development Management Limited administering and managing it. Payments to qualifying persons commenced in December 2003.

With regard to the third recommendation of the EU Committee report concerning regulation and standards, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, enacted in July 2003, provides a legislative basis for the establishment of the commission for taxi regulation. A commissioner must also be selected by open recruitment competition held by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

Following a competition for the post of taxi commissioner in 2003, the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission was unable to recommend a candidate for appointment. A further recruitment competition is being progressed with an enhanced salary and the closing date for receipt of applications is 4 March 2004.

The taxi commission will be an independent public body. Its principal function will be the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers. It will pursue a range of objectives that will be focused on the promotion of quality oriented services by all small public service vehicle operators and drivers. This will be based primarily on the deployment of new qualitative standards, to be applied to the licensing and ongoing operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers, that will be focused on the enhancement of customer services.

Provisional Driving Licences.

Questions (120)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

115 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of current provisional driving licences; and if he will provide a breakdown of these into the various categories of licence. [7399/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who hold and administer the national driver file, has advised me that the number of provisional licence holders was 367,807 as at 31 December 2003. I have asked that Department to provide a breakdown of this figure into the various categories as the Deputy has requested. I will forward the information to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Road Fatalities.

Questions (121)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

116 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatal road accidents which occurred in each of the past three years in which a HGV was involved; if details are available regarding whether drivers of such vehicles had full or provisional licences; the current requirements of a provisional licence for HGVs in respect of an accompanying driver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7400/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority, NRA, in its annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The NRA reports contain details of the number of accidents where goods vehicles were involved. This classification of vehicle type includes heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, vans and the tractor units of articulated lorries. Specific information in regard to the number of fatal road accidents in which a HGV was involved is not contained in the reports.

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 goods vehicles, is not yet fully analysed and authenticated. They will be set out in the Road Accident Facts 2003, which will be published by the National Roads Authority later this year.

A person holding a category C1, trucks up to 7,500 kg, or category C, trucks over 3,500 kg, provisional licence must be accompanied by a person who holds a driving licence in the category of vehicle which that person is driving. The NRA reports do not contain details as to whether the drivers of such vehicles involved in fatal accidents had full or provisional licences.

Road Safety.

Questions (122)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

117 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the detection rate in respect of each of the past three years for HGV drivers who have exceeded the number of hours without a break for sleep; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7401/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The following table sets out the relevant information concerning the detection of infringements by HGV drivers in respect of daily driving time, daily rest and weekly rest, for the past three years.

Year

Daily driving time exceeded

Inadequate daily rest

Inadequate weekly rest

2001

731

1,162

6

2002

1,174

1,249

137

2003

762

965

35

Registration of Title.

Questions (123)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

118 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a transaction between persons (details supplied) will be completed. [7296/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for transfer of part which was lodged on 13 November 1997. Dealing Number D1997CK012708X refers.

I am also informed that on foot of a reminder, which was issued on 13 February 2004, in regard to a query which was issued on 10 May 2000, a reply was received from the lodging solicitor on 23 February 2004. I am further informed that this application was completed on 2 March 2004.

Parking Regulations.

Questions (124)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

119 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform whether the gardaí are responsible for enforcing the by-laws banning vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes from parking on public roads in residential areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7332/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I understand the law in relation to the issue raised by the Deputy is set out in the Road Traffic (Traffic & Parking) Regulations 1997. These regulations require that an appropriate road sign is provided at the entrance to such an area and that certain prescribed information concerning vehicles should also be publicly displayed. The Garda Síochána is responsible for enforcing this provision where the conditions set out in the regulations regarding signage are met.

Crime Levels.

Questions (125)

John Gormley

Question:

120 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the serious increase in vandalism in the Upper Erne Street area; if the gardaí intend to tackle this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7338/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Residents of Upper Erne Street have already informed me of the problems referred to by the Deputy and I have already met with residents with a view to tackling the very serious problems reported to me.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that gardaí from Pearse Street station are currently investigating recent incidents of theft and criminal damage in the area referred to by the Deputy. I understand that regular Garda patrols have been instructed to give the area ongoing attention with a view to identifying the offenders and ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence. These uniformed Garda patrols are being backed up by detective patrols, the divisional crime task force, the special resource unit, the drugs unit and the community policing unit.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (126)

John Gormley

Question:

121 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the EU Presidency is affecting policing duties in the city in view of the fact that visiting EU dignitaries require special policing arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7339/04]

View answer

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 policing arrangements for the EU Presidency are not adversely affecting normal policing duties in the city.

Some €7.5 million for Garda overtime has been provided to take account of the increased workload associated with our hosting of the EU Presidency in 2004. I have ensured through this allocation that normal policing resources would not be diverted during the six month Presidency period.

Prison Medical Service.

Questions (127)

Joe Costello

Question:

122 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he proposes to take to implement the Dublin Declaration on HIV-AIDS in prisons in Europe and Central Asia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7341/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I understand that the document referred to by the Deputy is a policy paper, prepared by a number of individuals working on behalf of a number of non-governmental organisations. This document focuses on certain prevention and treatment strategies for infectious diseases in prisons in Europe and Central Asia. While I have no difficulty with many of the points made in the paper, I do not agree with certain recommendations and statements, such as the provision of sterile syringes and injecting paraphernalia to prisoners. The paper also calls for a policy of harm reduction rather than zero tolerance of drug use in prisons.

In this country, it has been long-standing practice to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of HIV-AIDS among the prison population and this will continue to be the situation. Prisoners with a diagnosis of HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious disease continue to receive medical treatment while in custody, in line with clinical recommendations. Indeed, this medical treatment is generally in line with that available in the community. It has been long-standing practice to refer prisoners suffering from infectious diseases to specialist hospital services and to act on the basis of the clinical advice received. All such treatment is provided on the basis of informed consent. Emphasis within prisons is on health education and appropriate substitution treatment, where required. There is an ongoing process of education and information supply to prisoners regarding risks of infection and appropriate prevention strategies.

It is my policy to apply best practice to the prison situation. Best practice, as far as I am concerned, is to prevent drugs from being introduced into or used in prisons. The programme for Government commits me to creating a drug free Prison Service with mandatory drug testing of prisoners. I intend to put this commitment into effect and expect to receive shortly, from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, a new set of prison rules which will make provision for, among other things, mandatory drug testing.

In addition, a group consisting of Irish Prison Service management, including prison governors and health board staff together with relevant clinicians have prepared a draft prison drug treatment policy which I am currently considering.

It is both my policy and that of the Irish Prison Service, in common with most prison systems worldwide, not to issue needles or injecting equipment to prisoners. The Report of the Group to Review the Structure and Organisation of Prison Health Care Services considered the matter of developing a syringe exchange programme within Irish prisons and came to the conclusion that such a step could not be recommended.

Crime Levels.

Questions (3, 4)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

3 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he is taking to address the serious problem of illegal dumping of waste from the State in the Six Counties and the discussions which have been held with the authorities in the North on this problem. [7323/04]

View answer

Arthur Morgan

Question:

128 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he is taking to address the serious problem of illegal dumping of waste in the State and of waste from the State being disposed of illegally in the Six Counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7324/04]

View answer

Oral answers (20 contributions) (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 128 together.

There can be no excuse for illegal waste activities, irrespective of whether they take the form of illegal dumping within the State or the illegal exportation of waste to another jurisdiction. I have, therefore, introduced a number of significant initiatives designed to achieve more vigorous enforcement of the waste code.

I took the opportunity by way of the Protection of the Environment Act 2003 to provide new enforcement powers for the environmental authorities concerned and to increase the maximum fines that can be imposed for contraventions of the waste code. I have recognised the need for improved structural arrangements to underpin the enforcement effort. Last October I announced details of the establishment of a new Office of Environmental Enforcement, OEE, located within the Environmental Protection Agency. While it has a wide remit, the OEE, at my request, is focusing on waste related enforcement activities as a priority.

I have allocated €7 million from the environment fund to support the first year of a major five year programme of local authority waste enforcement activities. The aim is to provide a stronger and more visible local authority enforcement presence on the ground and ensure more frequent inspections and speedier responses to reported instances of illegal dumping.

I am not in a position to comment on individual cases of suggested illegal dumping in this jurisdiction as the investigation of such complaints is a matter for the relevant local authority, the OEE and, in some cases, the Garda. On reported incidences of illegal cross-Border dumping in Northern Ireland, the OEE is considering how the extent of such incidences might be more precisely established. I am aware that there are ongoing contacts on individual cases between the relevant authorities, North and South. I have also recenltly received correspondence on the matter from Omagh District Council, in response to which I have sought a report from the OEE. The relevant authorities in this jurisdiction will co-operate actively with the authorities in Northern Ireland with a view to dealing effectively with illegal cross-Border movements of waste.

Is the Minister satisfied with the action being taken by his Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, local authorities and the OEE? If so, why is the activity of illegal dumpers continuing? If not, what action will he take to make the relevant groups more effective? He will agree that they have not been effective given that between six and eight 40-foot trucks per day are trundling in and out of Eskra, County Tyrone, containing documents from a Department. Does he agree that waste from the State is mounting in illegal dumps throughout the North, in Border areas in particular, because of a lack of activity and seriousness on the part of the relevant agencies in pursuing the illegal operators? Does he further agree that it is increasingly evident that illegal waste contractors are getting a clear message that they are free to continue their illegal activity, in the North in particular?

I agree with the Deputy in that there was a weakness in the system and that we needed to upscale enforcement of waste regulations substantially. We have done this in the past year with the support of all Members of the Oireachtas and it is already beginning to have a significant effect.

I do not agree that wholesale dumping is taking place in Northern Ireland but if Sinn Féin, given its extensive contacts, has information on who is engaged in illegal dumping, I would be delighted to receive it. Equally, I would be very pleased if it informed the Garda or the OEE in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Or the PSNI.

Yes. All of these bodies can combat the problem. I can only act on the facts as they are presented but if the Deputy has more information, we would be more than happy to receive it.

It is not necessarily illegal to ship waste, for which there is a legal basis. There are legal activities but as the Deputy is well aware, there are always those who seek to undermine and break the law, and they can be very clever in doing so. We must be ever vigilant regarding such activities. The OEE which is now beginning to take major action will certainly be of great assistance.

As a matter of interest to the House, I was astonished about ten days ago while trying to get onto the M50 not far from Rathfarnham when I saw a major roadblock. When I approached it, I asked what it was for and was told it had been initiated by the local authority and the Garda to detect illegal dumping. It was the first time I had come across such a roadblock.

Did they suspect the Minister?

No. It was a spot check. I was thrilled to see the authorities doing such a check and assure the Deputy that they were surprised to see me. Everybody was happy.

Such activities are very much part of the efforts being made by the local authorities, the Garda and the OEE within the Environmental Protection Agency. I very much welcome this development and hope to see many local authorities and the Garda co-operating in making spot checks throughout the country. If they do not rid us entirely of the problem, we can certainly reduce it to a manageable level. Those operating illegally will be brought to book. Any effort Members of the House can make in achieving this end will be very welcome.

Did the Minister discuss specific dumps in his contacts with agencies in the North? Were investigations launched? If so, when will the results be available and will the House be informed of them? Does the Minister agree that the Government's failure to pursue a policy of reduce, reuse and recycle is one of the root causes of the waste management crisis and fuelling the illegal dumping of waste?

I have stated I recently received correspondence on the matter from Omagh District Council, in response to which I sought a report from the OEE. Obviously, there is much contact at official level. I do not have any further details of individual contacts but my Department certainly works very closely with its co-Department in Northern Ireland. We are involved in many issues together. There is weekly contact. As the Deputy knows, we are taking an all-island approach to resolving some waste management issues.

The illegal dumpers are also taking an all-island view.

If the Deputy and his party could be of assistance, we would welcome it.

Last summer I visited——

We must proceed to the next question.

——every location in south Tyrone.

Question No. 4, please.

I am delighted with the success of the Race against Waste campaign. I was surprised and very heartened to find out today that some of the St. Patrick's Day parades had adopted the theme "reduce, reuse and recycle". If this is not driving the message home and winning the argument, I do not know what is.

St. Patrick will look after the snakes.

I am sure he will. He drove the snakes out of Ireland.

He did not get all of them.

He might also help us to drive out the illegal dumpers and their fellow travellers.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (129, 130)

David Stanton

Question:

124 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has given consideration under section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 to give leave to a person (details supplied) in County Cork to remain in the State; if this person will be issued with identification documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7406/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The person in question arrived in the State in June 2002 and made an asylum application. This application was unsuccessful. She had an Irish born child in September 2002 and applied for residency on the basis of parentage of that child.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases which were outstanding on that date. There are a large number of such cases outstanding at present, including the case to which the Deputy refers.

Since the person in question does not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction the issue of permission to remain will be considered — but only in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport her. In that context she has already been notified of such proposal and was given an opportunity to make representations in regard to it. If, in the light of those representations and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order she will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

If she is given permission to remain in the State she would then be in a position to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and obtain a certificate of registration card. Because of the large number of such cases on hand I am unable to say at this stage when the file will be further examined.

David Stanton

Question:

125 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for persons being considered under section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 regarding whether they should be given leave to remain in the State or obliged to return to their country of origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7407/04]

View answer

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the number of representations made by applicants for leave to remain made pursuant to section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended.

In relation to the number of applications for leave to remain, it should be noted that this issue arises only in a circumstance where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act, 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, viz., to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of the deportation order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a deportation order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Under section 3(6) of the Act the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is any representation made by or on behalf of the person. The determination as to whether a deportation order is made or whether leave to remain is granted is not dependent on whether, in fact, the person has made representations for leave to remain. Thus, statistics are not maintained to distinguish between cases where representations have been made for leave to remain from those where no such representations were made.

Civilian Personnel.

Questions (131)

David Stanton

Question:

126 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of personnel employed in each Garda division; the number of vacancies for civilians in each Garda division; his plans to sanction the employment of additional personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7408/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the number of civil servants employed in each Garda division. The information requested is set out in the attached table. In regard to the number of personnel employed, where there is a vacancy of less than one full post, it is usually the case that such a vacancy arises from a work-sharing arrangement.

In October 2001 the Government approved the Report on Civilianisation in An Garda Síochána which recommended a programme of civilianisation to allow for the release of Garda members to operational policing. In this context, my Department is currently reviewing these figures in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Garda management.

The civilianisation report also provides for the transfer of finance functions from the Garda district clerks to civilians, and the subsequent upgrading of the new civilian role to staff officer. A competition is currently under way to fill these posts.

Division

Number of civilian personnel employed in each Garda Division as at 29/02/04

Number of civilian vacancies in each Garda Division as at 29/02/04

DMR South Central

30.8

0.7

DMR North Central

56.5

9

DMR Eastern

24.7

0.8

DMR Western

35

DMR Northern

29.3

2.2

DMR Southern

28.4

0

Longford/Westmeath

17.5

1.5

DMR Traffic Division Dublin Castle

9.4

Clare

18.5

0.5

Donegal

12

0.4

Galway West

21.8

1.2

Roscommon/Galway East

13.5

0.5

Kerry

19.3

Laois /Offaly

13

1

Louth/Meath

30.3

0.2

Mayo

22.6

Sligo/Leitrim

13

Tipperary

20.8

Wexford

19.6

0.4

Cavan/Monaghan

19

Carlow/Kildare

21.1

0.1

Waterford/Kilkenny

23.3

3.7

Cork West

12.5

2

Cork North

15.6

0.4

Cork City

46.3

2.2

Limerick

40.3

Juvenile Offenders.

Questions (132)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

127 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to correspondence (details supplied) his views on the percentage of the statistics given in each category which was committed by a juvenile and the special measures being taken to address problems that these statistics may present. [7418/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities regarding the number of incidents involving juveniles in the Carndonagh area. The information requested is laid out in the table below.

Incidents in Carndonagh area involving juveniles from 01/01/03 to 24/09/03

Total number of incidents

Incidents involving Juveniles

Incidents involving Juveniles as a percentage of total

%

Public Order

87

19

21.8

Dangerous Driving

35

6

17.1

Criminal Damage

25

2

8

Theft

10

0

0

Assault

25

6

24

Local Garda management is monitoring all policing issues arising from the activities of young and old offenders alike and appropriate action is being taken to address these issues.

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 3.

Grant Payments.

Questions (133)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

129 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in regard to an application by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal, in view of the fact that his Department received notification of State aid approval at the end of June 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7303/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 192 of 18 December 2003.

My Department is currently in the process of considering the significant number of private sector grant applications received, taking account of existing commitments and competing demands on the environment fund, with a view to advising applicants of the outcome as soon as possible.

National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Questions (134)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

130 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a conservation ranger for north County Dublin has yet been recruited through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners as referred to in correspondence to this Deputy on 10 October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7307/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners were requested some months ago by my Department to hold a public competition to fill this and other conservation ranger vacancies in the national parks and wildlife service. While the commissioners exercise this function independently, they have been asked to expedite the matter.

Environmental Projects.

Questions (135)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

131 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the research project called Linnet. [7309/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The intensification of agriculture over the past half century has led to radical changes in land use, including the loss of the small cereal plots, particularly oats, that used to be grown on most small-holdings for animal feed and thatching. This in turn has resulted in the loss or serious decline of several bird species, notably the corn bunting, now extinct in Ireland as a breeding species, the yellowhammer, the grey partridge and the tree sparrow, and of characteristic plants such as the corn cockle and the cornflower, as well as a wider loss of biodiversity including insects.

Between 2000 and 2003, staff of the national parks and wildlife service of my Department piloted a project to address this loss by planting small plots of oats and linseed on State property and managing them for wildlife. The results of these trials were encouraging and, on that basis, a proposal has been put to the Department of Agriculture and Food for inclusion of such plots as an option in the revised REP scheme, with a view to achieving nationwide distribution of these plots.

A seminar reviewing the success of the project was held in January 2003, with international participation to enable comparison with similar efforts elsewhere. The proceedings of this seminar will be published shortly and I will arrange for a copy of the publication to be sent to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.

Waste Management.

Questions (136)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

132 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on correspondence or meetings held with the delegation from UNESCO which visited the Boyne Valley area in regard to plans by a company (details supplied) to locate an incinerator at Carranstown, Duleek, County Meath. [7310/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Officials of my Department met with the UNESCO delegation to assist it in its mission which is to report to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation generally of the Brú na Bóinne world heritage site and on any impact on this site from the proposed thermal waste facility at Carranstown, County Meath.

My officials arranged a programme for the delegation which included visits to Brú na Bóinne and to the site of the proposed thermal waste facility and meetings with elected local representatives, officials of Meath County Council, local interested parties including NGO representatives, officials from OPW and my Department and Indaver Ireland. The delegation will submit a report to the World Heritage Committee at its meeting to take place this summer.

Election Management System.

Questions (137)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

133 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Local Government Commission, provided for in the Local Government Act 2001, will be set up in advance of the June 2004 local elections; and if it will be possible for changes in boundaries to be made before these elections. [7311/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The June local elections will take place on the basis of the current local electoral boundaries. There are currently no applications on hand for boundary alterations; all such applications have been finalised with the most recent boundary alterations being implemented on 1 January 2004. It is intended to commence the boundary related provisions of the Local Government Act 2001, including arrangements for the establishment of the Local Government Commission, in the second half of the year.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (138, 139)

Mary Wallace

Question:

134 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the sewerage pipe for Dunboyne is built to cater for 18,000 PE; if there is approximately 6,000 PE use of the pipe at present; and if he will clarify the matter. [7349/04]

View answer

Mary Wallace

Question:

135 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of funding provided to upgrade and improve the sewerage plant at Ringsend in recent years in order to cater for the greater Dublin area; if this included catering for areas in south County Meath such as Dunboyne; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7350/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

My Department has recouped €294 million to Dublin City Council to date in respect of the capital cost of the Dublin Bay wastewater treatment scheme, which includes the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant. The Ringsend plant provides for the wastewater treatment requirements of all of Dublin city and south Dublin, significant areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal, and the towns of Ashbourne, Ratoath, Clonee and Dunboyne in County Meath. Meath County Council has an agreement with Fingal County Council for the discharge of wastewater from these towns into Fingal's sewers for onward transmission to the Ringsend plant. The agreement currently provides for a population equivalent, PE, of 6,000 in respect of the Dunboyne-Clonee area.

The design capacity approved by my Department under the water services investment programme in respect of the Dunboyne-Clonee sewerage scheme, which was completed in 1999, was 10,000 PE. The actual capacity provided by the scheme would depend on a number of factors, including pipe diameter, gradient and the roughness co-efficient of the type of pipe used. The ongoing greater Dublin strategic drainage study is reviewing the available capacity in all trunk sewers within the Dublin region. On the basis of this information the study will recommend how capacity in the collection network, and at the Ringsend plant, should be assigned between Dublin and neighbouring local authorities.

Light Pollution.

Questions (140)

Mary Upton

Question:

136 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the astronomy and space committee of the Royal Irish Academy has made repeated requests to his Department for preliminary discussions on the way in which the problem of light pollution here may be abated; the reason commitments to respond to these requests have not been met; the further reason his Department appears unwilling to consider a matter of such importance to planning, the physical environment and international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol; if this is the normal way for the scientific community to be treated; if he will facilitate the holding of such preliminary discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7370/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

One request for a meeting was made by the National Committee for Astronomy and Space Research of the Royal Irish Academy. My Department regrets that a reply has not yet issued, and will rectify the matter. I am happy to facilitate a meeting in this case with the Royal Irish Academy or on other matters of interest to them within the areas of my responsibility, as appropriate.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1542 to 1558, inclusive, of 9 October 2002 and my stated view that it would be premature to commit to new legislative or other systematic measures to address light pollution in view of the Government's ongoing priorities in the area of environmental legislation. I note that EU environmental policy is not as yet addressing the issue of light pollution.

House Prices.

Questions (141)

Mary Upton

Question:

137 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to prevent gazumping in the sale and purchase of houses; and the reforms he proposes in this sector. [7371/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The general issue of gazumping was examined by the Law Reform Commission, LRC, in October 1999. Its report examined the practice of taking booking deposits on the sale of new residential properties. The commission found that gazumping occurred in only a handful of cases, less than 5% and almost always on the sale of new houses. It concluded that the current legal position, which does not confer any interest in property upon the payment of a booking deposit, generally benefits the purchaser more than the vendor, allowing the purchaser flexibility to conduct the necessary preliminary investigations before committing to an irrevocable agreement.

Among the recommendations of the LRC report was the initiation of, and adherence to voluntary codes of practice among the industry such as the home purchase protection pledge established by the Irish Home Builders Association, IHBA.

Under the IHBA code of practice, members must not increase the price of the property or accept any offer from any other party for the property for a seven week period following payment of a booking deposit, during which time contracts should be exchanged and signed. The code stipulates that IHBA members are only entitled to increase the price of properties in circumstances where VAT rates have changed or as a result of newly enacted legislation that would directly affect the price of a property. In the event of non-compliance by a member of the IHBA in regard to this aspect of the code, the IHBA may take appropriate sanctions against that member.

My Department plans to engage with the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs during 2004 to consider a range of consumer issues related to housing including gazumping.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 23.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (142, 143, 144)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to increase the number of local authority building starts in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7376/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of families seeking a home by way of application to the various local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7380/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which he proposes to provide the necessary resources to the local authorities in County Kildare to enable them to deal with the housing problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7384/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 143 and 147 together.

The results of the statutory assessment of local authority housing need, which was undertaken by local authorities in March 2002, indicated that a total of 48,413 households were in need of housing, of which 32,891 were households consisting of two or more persons. Detailed information on the results of the 2002 assessment was published in my Department's September 2002 quarterly edition of the Housing Statistics Bulletin, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Sustaining Progress special initiative on housing and accommodation reflected the Government's expectation that the resources available in 2003 allowed for the needs of about 12,000 households to be met through the various social and affordable housing measures. A similar level is expected to be achieved again in 2004. This compares with almost 8,500 households in 1998. It is expected that local authorities will commence-acquire some 5,500 units in 2004. This compared with 4,900 starts-acquisitions in 2003.

My Department is currently examining individual house building programmes and estimated expenditure requirements for 2004 that have been received from local authorities including the three local authorities in County Kildare. This will enable my Department to determine capital allocations for 2004 for each local authority in the near future.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (145)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the expected final cost of his plans to replace the conventional voting system; if he expects cost over-runs; if budgetary provision has been made in anticipation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7377/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I refer to the reply to Priority Questions Nos. 1 and 2 on today's Order Paper. I do not anticipate cost overruns on the project.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (146, 147, 148)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to improve the supply of housing for first time home buyers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7378/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans, on a year by year basis, to deal with the housing problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7385/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 148 together.

The unprecedented demand for housing, fuelled mainly by rapid economic growth and demographic changes, has been the major driver of house price increases in recent years. The Government's strategy is to increase housing supply to meet demand and to improve affordability, particularly for first time buyers, and in this way to seek to bring moderation to house price increases.

The measures introduced by this Government to boost supply, including significant investment in infrastructure, improving planning capacity and promoting increased residential densities, are having effect. The year 2003 was the ninth record year for completions of houses, with 68,819 units completed, an increase in output of 19.3% on 2002 and an increase of 10.5% in output in the greater Dublin area during the same period. Ireland is building at the fastest rate in Europe — close to 15 units per 1,000 population — which is an outstanding achievement. Indicative data available to the Department show that first-time buyers continue to have a significant presence in the housing market.

The Government will continue to focus on measures to maintain a high level of housing supply. The investment in the servicing of land has led to a strong stock of land available for residential development.

At the same time, the Government is concerned to ensure that the broad spectrum of housing needs is met. Almost €3.8 billion was spent in the first three years of the national development plan on social and affordable housing measures, reflecting the strong commitment of the Government to meeting needs of low income groups and those with social and special housing needs. The housing needs of over 12,000 households will be met in 2004 compared to almost 8,500 in 1998. The Government is committed to continuing with measures to boost the supply of housing and ensuring that the demand for housing is met in a sustainable manner.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 140.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to improve the quality or condition of older local authority housing schemes in need of refurbishment in Dublin or countrywide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7381/04]

View answer

My Department's remedial works programme is aimed at improving local authority housing schemes that are in need of significant refurbishment. It is open to local authorities to develop and submit proposals for funding of major refurbishment works under this programme, and my Department has been actively encouraging local authorities in relation to such initiatives.

A provision of €26.793 million has been allocated for the remedial works programme in 2004.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 42.

Road Network.

Questions (149)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, notwithstanding the allocation made for the repair of non-national roads, he will substantially increase this amount in view of the very poor condition of these roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7383/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The total 2004 allocation for non-national road grant allocations is €476.8 million. This is more than double the 1997 State expenditure on non-national roads and represents a substantial increase of almost 10% on last year's initial State grant allocation.

I am satisfied that this very significant level of State funding, supplemented by local authorities' own resources, will provide adequately and appropriately for the ongoing maintenance and improvement needs of the non-national road network in 2004.

Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 140.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Security of the Elderly.

Questions (150)

Richard Bruton

Question:

150 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the wide disparity in the charges made for alarm monitoring in respect of alarms that have been installed for persons whose health condition requires this service; if his attention has been further drawn the fact that the charges in some cases are resulting in elderly people not having any monitoring service on alarm systems that have been installed with public support; if he will make arrangements to negotiate a standard affordable rate for such monitoring to ensure that this preventive intervention is easily accessible to people regardless of income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7316/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The purpose of the scheme of community support for older people is to provide funding for initiatives to improve the security of vulnerable older people including personal alarm facilities.

The scheme is advertised annually in the national and provincial papers. Applications are invited from local groups to apply on behalf of the older people, people aged 65 and over, in their area. The applications are received and assessed by my Department. Once a group has satisfied all criteria under the scheme, it may be approved for up to 90% of the costs involved. The local group has responsibility for the purchase and installation of the equipment and each group is advised that responsibility for annual monitoring fees or maintenance fees associated with these systems are not covered under the scheme. It is a matter for the local groups to choose the security supplier which provides greatest value and which meets all the requirements of their clients. My Department is currently undertaking a review of the scheme rules and guidelines, prior to advertising the 2004 scheme in the coming months. The concerns expressed by the Deputy will be taken into account in that review.

Coastal Protection.

Questions (151, 152)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

151 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funds that are available from his Department for coastal protection work for the year 2004, and for each of the past five years. [7328/04]

View answer

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

152 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the moneys that have been allocated to combat coastal erosion in Cork for the year 2004 and for each of the past five years; and if he will provide a comparison for these figures with moneys allocated for other coastal counties during the same period. [7329/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 152 together.

While primary responsibility for coastal protection comes within the remit of the Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, my Department has, over the past five years, made some funding available for that purpose. The table set out below provides a breakdown of expenditure by my Department on dedicated coastal protection projects on the islands for the period 1999 to 2004 to date, together with a breakdown of grants approved but not yet paid. No specific allocation has been set aside for 2004. With regard to coastal protection works in the Gaeltacht, an allocation of €108,500 in total has been sanctioned for two projects in the period since 1999, one in Mayo for €82,500 and the other in Galway for €26,000. Work is still ongoing on these projects.

Island Coastal Protection Works

Expenditure by year

Cork

Kerry

Galway

Mayo

Donegal

1999

2,539

0

27,934

34,918

92,056

2000

2,222

0

79,993

6,349

76,184

2001

4,317

0

0

69,836

669,406

2002

1,301

0

125,975

55,000

345,286

2003

0

17,836

8,863

30,000

66,857

2004 (to date)

0

0

51,623

0

0

Grants unpaid at 03/03/04

0

2,164

57,220

0

27,500

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (153, 154, 155, 156, 157)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

153 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the missing rent supplement cheque for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow which was cashed by another party, will be issued; if this person will receive an apology for being wrongly accused of the incident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7333/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The South Eastern Health Board was contacted in this case and has advised that the person concerned contacted the board on 26 January 2004 stating that she had not received her rent supplement cheque. My Department's accounts branch was contacted and advised that the cheque had been cashed in the main post office in Carlow on 22 January 2004. In the circumstances the board contacted the gardaí and requested that they investigate the matter.

The Deputy will appreciate that the health board has a duty to refer cases such as this to the gardaí so that the circumstances can be fully investigated and the appropriate follow-up action can be undertaken by the board and, if necessary, by the gardaí. The board is awaiting the outcome of the Garda investigation before determining whether or not a replacement cheque can be issued in this case. Obviously the question as to whether any apology may be warranted and, if so, by whom, will also depend on the outcome of the Garda investigation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7389/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance-FÁS payment payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7390/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.

Supplementary welfare allowance is not normally payable to people in full-time employment. However, special arrangements have been in place for a number of years which allow people on approved schemes such as community employment to retain a portion of their rent for up to four years subject to a gross household income limit of €317.43 per week, the supplement being retained at 75% in year one, 50% in year two and 25% in years three and four.

As a participant in community employment a person may opt to be assessed in accordance with the tapered withdrawal system or under standard supplementary welfare allowance rules, whereby up to €50 per week is disregarded, and will be entitled to whichever option is more beneficial.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that the amount of supplement currently in payment was calculated on the basis of the tapered system outlined above. However, it has now come to light that the standard assessment is more beneficial in this particular case.

The board has further advised that the revised amount of rent supplement, and any arrears due, will be put into payment at the earliest opportunity.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance has been reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7392/04]

View answer

Rent supplements are provided for under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards.

In my reply to a question from the Deputy on 6 November 2003, I advised that rent supplement was paid up to October 2003 at the maximum rate applicable to a lone parent with one child and who had no maintenance payments. In fact, the person concerned had recently given birth to a second child and was in receipt of maintenance payments of €30 per week. At that time neither my Department nor the health board was aware that she had given birth to a second child. The South Western Area Health Board was contacted and a review of the amount of rent supplement in payment was carried out to take account of the additional child and the maintenance payments. As a consequence of this a slightly lower rate of rent supplement was put into payment from November 2003. This was based on her actual income at that time taking into account that she now had two children but was receiving one parent family payment for only one of these and repaying €20 per month of an overpayment incurred some years ago. My Department also undertook a review of her one-parent family payment in view of the change in her circumstances and the person was subsequently awarded the appropriate increased rate of one-parent family payment. The health board will contact the person concerned with a view to reviewing the amount of supplement payable in light of the fact that she is now in receipt of a higher rate of one-parent family payment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7393/04]

View answer

One-parent family payment was disallowed in this case on the grounds that the person concerned failed to fully disclose her means. There is a statutory obligation on all claimants to satisfy, and continue to satisfy, the conditions for entitlement to payment. The person concerned had income which was not consistent with her declared means and she has failed to explain the discrepancy to date. She was afforded the right of appeal, however, to date there is no record of her having written to the appeals office to appeal the decision.

Under social welfare legislation decisions in regard to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.