Job Losses.

Questions (10)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

10 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the renewed efforts she intends to make, with the assistance of State agencies, to assist existing companies which are experiencing difficulties to diversify and thus remain in business in County Donegal in view of the continuing closure and down-scaling of operations in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8085/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The issue of job creation is a day to day operational issue for the enterprise development agencies of my Department and not one in which I have a direct function. However, I share the Deputy's concern at the job losses that have occurred in County Donegal.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. Since 2000, IDA Ireland has assisted in the creation of 865 jobs in County Donegal. Unfortunately, during the period there has also been job losses, with net employment in overseas firms falling by 78 people.

IDA Ireland is also working to limit the immediate impact of the global downturn by working closely with foreign owned companies already located in Donegal. This involves concentrating more resources on helping to underpin the competitiveness of these companies by identifying new investment opportunities and encouraging them to move up the value chain.

A number of key developments for Donegal include the construction of a new IDA 80 acre business park in Letterkenny and the availability of new advanced buildings. This activity has resulted in an increased level of visits by potential investors and a number of companies are in active negotiation. Successful companies such as Prudential and PacifiCare continue to grow and both are actively recruiting at their Letterkenny locations. Letterkenny has been a priority area over recent years for the job creation agencies. Working together with the local authorities, FÁS and the institute of technology, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to improve its attractiveness for investors.

IDA Ireland is also working with Invest Northern Ireland, formerly the Industrial Development Board, to promote the north west region as a single location for inward investment. A joint website has been compiled to promote the region.

Enterprise Ireland works with companies in its portfolio to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation in products and processes in order that they can compete on world markets. Enterprise Ireland's range of supports includes strategy development, production and operations, marketing, human resources development, finance and research and development. Companies in Donegal that are facing difficulties in their markets or needing to diversify their product range have the support of Enterprise Ireland through their development adviser. This support is provided through developing new market strategies, independent advice and access to Enterprise Ireland specialist advisers.

At the micro-enterprise level, Donegal County Enterprise Board is actively promoting job creation activities throughout the county, through the range of supports that it provides to small businesses. In 2003, Donegal County Enterprise Board approved a total of €346,767 to 17 projects with the potential to create 36 new jobs in the county. There was a net increase of 223 jobs in CEB assisted businesses in 2003. The board will continue to work to support new and existing businesses.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of the BMW region.

Organisation of Working Time Act.

Questions (11)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

11 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals she has to increase the statutory entitlement to paid holidays or to increase the number of public holidays having regard to the findings of a number of recent surveys showing that Irish workers had the lowest level of holidays and worked longer hours than workers in other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8063/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which implemented EU Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, provides for an annual leave entitlement of four working weeks per annum for full-time employees andpro rata entitlements for part-time employees, as well as an average hourly working week of 48 hours averaged generally over a four month period. The Act also provides for an entitlement to nine public holidays per annum. Notwithstanding these provisions, it is possible for employers and employees to negotiate a longer annual leave entitlement or a lower hourly working week between themselves if they so wish. I have no plans at the moment to increase the statutory minimum annual leave or public holiday entitlement nor to lower the threshold on weekly working hours provided for in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Workplace Participation.

Questions (12)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

12 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which the Government intends to meet the targets set out in the Lisbon agenda for increased female participation in the workplace; the current level of full-time and part-time female participation in the workplace here; the way in which this compares with the European average; and the expected increase in participation within the next five years. [8112/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

In pursuit of the goal of full employment the European Council has set employment targets under the Lisbon agenda. These include a female employment rate of 57% by 2005 and 60% by 2010.

One of the main challenges in the area of employment is to increase the overall numbers of those at work, including women. The employment rate for women in Ireland has increased by 15% since 1994 and now stands at 56%. The EU average employment rate for women is 55.6%. The number of women in employment in Ireland is 764,100 of which 528,200, 69.1%, are in full time employment and 236,000, 30.9%, are in part-time employment. This gives a participation rate for women of 49.7%.

Measures are being implemented to encourage greater levels of female participation in the workforce including tax incentives, child income support, a greater commitment to flexible, family friendly working arrangements as well as child care provisions. It is expected that these measures will help to ensure greater female participation and enable the EU employment rate of 60% to be achieved by 2010.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Questions (13)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

13 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has satisfied herself that there are a sufficient number of inspectors to carry out an adequate level of workplace inspections; if she has plans to increase the numbers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8097/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The labour inspectorate of my Department is part of the employment rights enforcement section. The inspectorate has 17 inspector posts supported by a further seven administrative posts. The employment rights enforcement section comprises three interlinked units which, apart from the inspectorate, incorporates the employment rights information unit, with ten staff members, and the legal services, with a further five staff members.

The present structure of the employment rights enforcement section reflects full implementation of a key recommendation arising from a thorough business process re-engineering project undertaken in 2001 by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers. Other proposals to streamline activities have also been put in place.

A further recommendation was that the existing computer systems be retired and replaced by a more modern and robust application. This, too, has been delivered. In June 2003 a new electronic case management system was introduced into the labour inspectorate. For the period following its introduction the old system also continued in use. In December 2003, staff concentrated on ensuring all relevant data were finally committed to this legacy system and its day to day use then ceased.

I am confident that this work and investment in technology, together with other actions that have been completed, such as the streamlining of procedures, and the availability of newly developed user friendly employment rights information in print and on the web, ensure that the inspectorate is enabled to provide an effective and efficient service. There are no plans to increase the complement of inspectors at present.

It should be noted also that in many cases employment rights legislation contains provisions whereby workers who believe that they have been denied their entitlements, or otherwise unfairly treated, can take the matter before a commissioner in the rights commissioner service of the Labour Relations Commission.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (14)

Mary Upton

Question:

14 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department has yet carried out a risk assessment of the decentralisation plans announced by the Minister for Finance on budget day, in so far as they may impact either directly or indirectly on the Department or on any agency or body operating under the aegis of her Department; when she expects to receive the risk assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8069/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I wholeheartedly support the decentralisation programme announced by the Minister for Finance in budget 2004. I am a member of a Cabinet sub-committee which has been established to oversee the implementation of the decentralisation programme as set out in the budget speech in December. My Department is fully engaged with the process and we have set up internal structures to drive the process forward.

As part of the decentralisation programme, it was decided that 250 of my Department's core staff would decentralise to Carlow. It was also decided that four of my Department's agencies, FÁS, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority and Enterprise Ireland, are also to decentralise to Birr, Arklow, Thomastown and Shannon respectively. My Department, through internal structures established to support the decentralisation process and through representation on the Department of Finance's liaison officers group, is actively engaged in driving the programme across the Department and its agencies.

While an absolute timescale for completing the decentralisation programme has not yet been finalised, my Department is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Government decision as efficiently and expediently as possible. I have instructed my Department's officials to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of the decentralisation of the Department and agencies, including direct and indirect risks, and of risks to the synergies between the Department and agencies following decentralisation, to identify any and all threats to the effective and efficient roll out of the programme.

The decentralisation committee of my Department is meeting today to commence this process. I cannot at this point give an indication of the likely completion date of the risk assessment but I am confident that a comprehensive risk assessment will be produced as quickly as possible. In tandem with this risk assessment, some of the agencies have indicated that they will undertake separate risk assessments within their organisations to identify potential issues with regard to their own internal and external interfaces.

Job Losses.

Questions (15)

Dan Boyle

Question:

15 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans for job creation in the Cork area following recent job losses in companies (details supplied). [8113/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I am disappointed at the recent job loss announcements in Cork at Ridge Tool Company, CG Services, Jetmagic, Schering Plough and Irish Distillers, and I am conscious of the adverse effects on the workers, their families and the local communities. Finding alternative employment for the workers affected is a priority for FÁS and the State development agencies. FÁS is making available its full range of support services, including skills analysis, training and job placement for the workers affected.

In addition to targeting potential new greenfield investment from overseas industrialists, IDA Ireland is working with the existing base of companies in the county with a view to supporting them in expanding and diversifying activities. There is already a diverse range of companies located in County Cork representing a number of sectors, including international services, engineering, pharmaceuticals and consumer products.

There are currently 134 IDA assisted companies in County Cork employing approximately 18,000 people, an increase of 20% in IDA supported employment since 1999. In 2003, the agency announced 11 new projects for the Cork area, with a job potential of 800 including manufacturing, international services and high value research and development based activities. As regards indigenous companies, Enterprise Ireland provided assistance packages of €10.5 million in 2003 for the Cork area, with the companies concerned committed to invest €55.9 million to develop their businesses.

The major decentralisation package announced in the budget includes over 1,000 jobs to be relocated to County Cork. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in Cork. The State development agencies under the aegis of my Department will continue to actively promote both Cork city and county for investment and job creation.

Work Permits.

Questions (16)

Joe Costello

Question:

16 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the new rules announced by her on 18 February 2004 in regard to the new arrangements for spouses of skilled non-EEA nationals will come into operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8062/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

My Department, together with other Departments and agencies, is finalising the operational details for implementation of this recently announced initiative in this area. The Department is concerned to ensure the easy identification of the eligible spouses in order to facilitate their employment without undue formalities. I expect that the operational details will be finalised in a matter of weeks.

Consumer Protection.

Questions (17, 18)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

17 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her proposals for a new board to advise the Government on consumer issues and to promote consumers’ rights; the terms of reference of the board; the powers that will be available to it; when she expects to appoint the members; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8082/04]

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Damien English

Question:

70 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress that has been made in appointing an advisory group on consumer affairs; if a timescale has been agreed upon for the establishment of the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8011/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions No. 17 and 70 together.

I am announcing today the establishment of a new consumer strategy group with responsibility for advising on consumer policy issues and providing a stronger voice for the Irish consumer. The role of the consumer strategy group, CSG, shall be to advise and to make recommendations for the development of a national consumer policy which will provide consumers with the knowledge, information and confidence to be demanding of quality, service and value; ensure consumers are well informed of their rights and have effective means of redress in the event that those rights are denied; give consumers a powerful voice and effective representation and input in the development of policy proposals at national and local level; ensure the views of consumers are heard and taken into account in national debate on relevant business, trade and social policy issues; and promote among product and service providers best practice in the delivery of quality, service and value for money, and an appreciation of the contribution satisfied consumers make to the growth and development of business.

In performance of this role the CSG shall be entitled to advise in regard to the impact on consumer interests of existing and proposed legislation and to make recommendations accordingly, to examine best international practice in regard to the promotion and representation of consumer interests, to initiate studies which demonstrate objectively whether Irish consumers are getting a fair deal and to produce such interim reports to the Minister as it considers appropriate.

The CSG shall produce a final report to the Minister within nine months of establishment. It has been agreed that Forfás will provide a secretariat to the new group. I have decided to disband the previous consumer advisory council which had brought together consumer and business representatives to advise on issues relating to consumers. The new group will be chaired by Ms Ann Fitzgerald. The members of the CSG are Mr. Alex Schuster, Mr. Colin Hunt, Mr. John O'Sullivan, Dr. Edward Shinnick, Mr. Dermot Jewell, Ms Orla Ní Chionna, Mr. Simon Nugent, Ms Rosheen Callender and Ms Aileen O'Toole. It is hoped that this group will begin work immediately.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (19)

Mary Upton

Question:

18 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to proposals for decentralisation, she will give details of any survey that has been undertaken to establish the number of persons employed in her Department or in boards or agencies operating under the aegis of her Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech; the results of any such survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8068/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Following the announcement of the Government's decentralisation programme, under which 250 staff of my Department will decentralise to Carlow, a survey was conducted within the Department with a view to establishing the numbers of staff interested in decentralising to locations outside Dublin. A total of 503 staff responded to the survey, 69 of whom indicated that they would be prepared to transfer to Carlow and 160 of whom indicated a willingness to decentralise to other locations outside Dublin.

With regard to the agencies under the aegis of the Department which will be decentralised, surveys have been carried out in FÁS, decentralising to Birr, and the Health and Safety Authority, decentralising to Thomastown. Out of the 413 Dublin based FÁS staff who were surveyed, 30 expressed an interest in decentralising to Birr. Out of the 110 HSA staff surveyed, 15 expressed an interest. The National Standards Authority of Ireland, which will be decentralising to Arklow, and Enterprise Ireland, which will be decentralising to Shannon, have not conducted a survey of their staff on the issue of decentralisation.

Consumer Protection.

Questions (20)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

19 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of prosecutions against retailers who breach price display regulations; the number of officers employed to enforce the regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8005/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, S.I. 639 of 2002, came into force on 1st March 2003. Since then the office of the Director of Consumer Affairs has been proactively enforcing this legislation with excellent co-operation from the retail trade. There were no prosecutions under these regulations last year as prosecution is always the last resort as a means of achieving compliance. There are 20 officers employed in the office of the Director of Consumer Affairs in the general area of enforcement, including enforcement of these regulations.

World Trade Negotiations.

Questions (21)

Joe Costello

Question:

20 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to concerns that a threatened trade war between the EU and the US could considerably raise the cost of raw materials for Irish industry; the steps she intends to take in her capacity as President of the Council of Ministers to seek a solution to the dispute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8071/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The dispute to which the Deputy refers concerns the ruling by the World Trade Organisation, which found the US foreign sales corporation measures to constitute an illegal subsidy. In May 2003, the WTO endorsed the EU request for countermeasures. The EU however, avoided any immediate recourse to countermeasures so as to give a reasonable period of time for the US Administration and Congress to adopt the necessary amending legislation to comply with the WTO ruling. Subsequently, in December 2003, the EU Council unanimously adopted Council regulation No. 2193/2003 which set a deadline for compliance of 1 March 2004.

The EU's objective remains the withdrawal of the US illegal subsidy and in this regard the EU has opted for a measured and gradual response geared towards focusing the minds of the US legislators to implement amending legislation which complies with the WTO ruling. In order to minimise the negative consequences that possible EU countermeasures could cause to EU economic operators, the EU Commission, in preparing the list of products to which sanctions apply, included only products on which dependency from the US was considered low. Thus the product list was confined to imports from the US which represented a maximum 20% of total imports into the EU, and which were also exported from the EU. The product list was finalised following a public consultation process with EU industry.

In Ireland, we implemented our own national consultation process with a wide range of key stakeholders, including with Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and with business interests including IBEC and the chambers of commerce. Many Irish companies applied to the EU Commission successfully to have their products removed from the list. I am satisfied, therefore, that every effort was made to minimise the impact on Irish industry and users of the imposition of these trade sanctions.

The EU stands ready to respond positively should Congress approve legislation which brings the United States into compliance with the WTO rulings. During its Presidency, Ireland will look at opportunities to facilitate discussion at the Council leading to the resolution of this dispute and be ready, in conjunction with other EU Ministers, to consider and enact a new regulation rescinding the countermeasures on the basis of WTO compatible legislation being enacted by the US. I am sure that EU member states and the European Commission fully subscribe to this approach, on which we can work successfully.

Job Creation.

Questions (22, 23)

Willie Penrose

Question:

21 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs announced during 2003 from new investments or expansion of IDA backed plants; the expected level of announcements during 2004; the steps being taken to promote job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8093/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. In 2003, 32 green field and expansion job creation projects were announced by IDA Ireland with a projected total job content of nearly 5,600 jobs. This result was achieved against the backdrop of two consecutive years of falling global inflows of foreign direct investment, FDI. In 2002, for example, global FDI inflows declined by one fifth to $651 billion, the lowest level since 1998. The main factor behind the decline was slow economic growth in most parts of the world, a phenomenon that had an inevitable impact on a small, open, trade dependent economy such as Ireland.

Looking to 2004, IDA believes that this year will be its best since 2000 in terms of new investments into Ireland and of growth in the value and scale of activities in overseas companies operating here. This view is based on contacts with client companies and strong indications of a substantial recovery in growth in the global economy and consequent increased flows of FDI. The IDA is now competing for some significant, high value investments. I believe vigorous pursuit by IDA Ireland of its main policy objectives is the best response to the current challenging environment.

Key features of this approach include: continuing investment promotion activities to generate new flows of FDI into Ireland, which involves pursuing high quality sustainable projects that are in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the Irish economy today and seeking out niches of business in which Ireland can carve out world market leadership, so as to continue the growth and development of the economy; limiting the immediate impact of the global downturn by working closely with foreign owned companies already located in Ireland, which involves concentrating more resources on helping to underpin the competitiveness of these companies by identifying new investment opportunities and encouraging them to move up the value chain into higher value products and services and into higher order functions, such as R&D; and working to maximise investment levels from sectors less affected by the global economic downturn, such as health care and pharmaceuticals.

As the ultimate decision regarding where to locate a project rests with overseas investors, it is difficult to predict the exact number of IDA supported investment projects announcements that might be made in 2004. However, I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of maximising new investment and jobs.

Liz McManus

Question:

22 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the results of her recent investment promotion trip to the United States; if specific commitments were made in regard to investment projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8072/04]

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I recently visited the US from 23 to 27 February on a promotional programme organised by IDA Ireland. IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland. The primary objective of my visit was to market "Ireland Inc." as an ideal business location for US companies wishing to invest or increase their investment overseas and also to further enhance and develop the existing relationships Ireland has with US companies which already operate here. The programme involved meeting with chairmen, CEOs and other senior executives of leading companies in pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information and communications technology and other sectors that offer high quality sustainable FDI that is in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the Irish economy today.

While many of the companies involved already have substantial and valuable activities in Ireland, I also met with companies that are considering major investments here for the first time. The feedback from these meetings confirmed to me the high standing in which Ireland is viewed as a business location by leading global companies. They are aware of, and impressed by, the high standards of performance that are achieved and maintained by Irish management and staff within foreign owned companies who have existing operations here. The meetings also underlined to me the importance of the Government's commitment to strengthen research and education capabilities, while retaining the flexibility and responsiveness of our operating environment and low tax regime.

While no specific commitments were made in regard to new investment projects during my visit, I am not surprised at this as most major FDI projects can involve a lengthy evaluation/decision making process. It is often the case following such visits that a considerable number of meetings and discussions will take place between the company and IDA Ireland before the company makes a final decision on location. However, I am optimistic that new investments and jobs will follow in time, particularly given the positive views expressed to me about Ireland and the high standing in which Ireland is viewed as a business location by leading global companies.

Export Controls System.

Questions (24)

Jack Wall

Question:

23 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she expects to receive phase 2 of the report from the economic consultants, Fitzpatrick Associates on export licensing for military and dual-use goods; if it is intended to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8067/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I understand that the report of phase II of the review of the operation of Ireland's export controls system is nearing completion and I hope to receive it shortly. It is my intention to make the report publicly available.

Job Losses.

Questions (25)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

24 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to further job losses at a company (details supplied) in County Kerry ; if she will visit Listowel to discuss the jobs crisis in the town with the chamber of commerce, the local UDC and community leaders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7968/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I regret very much the announcement by Imperial Stag Ltd., Listowel, that 28 employees are to be made redundant. The company has stated that its decision was based on a decline in demand for its products and strong competition from the Far East, putting the company in an increasingly tighter position in terms of overall costs. IDA Ireland will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide every assistance to the company. FÁS has already been in contact with the company and offered to make available its full range of support services to the workers affected with a view to finding alternative employment.

IDA Ireland continues to actively promote Kerry to potential investors from across the sectors in either manufacturing or international services via its network of overseas offices and project divisions, with every effort being made to secure new investments for the area. In addition to targeting potential new projects, the State development agencies continue to work with the existing base of companies in the region, with a view to supporting such companies with potential expansions and diversification of activities.

In February 2004, Shannon Development launched plans for a business development centre in Listowel involving an investment of almost €1.7 million. The building, which will be located in a two acre site at Listowel Business Park, will mark a departure in the style of premises available to indigenous start-up businesses in the area.

The State development agencies participate in the Listowel Development Group, an initiative which brings together all of the resources relevant to the promotion of Listowel and includes the key development agencies for the region, together with representatives of local industry. A key function of the group was to secure a tenant or project for the BES building in the town. I understand that a tenant has now been found for the building.

The major decentralisation programme announced in the budget includes 50 jobs to be relocated to Listowel and a further 165 jobs for Killarney. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in Kerry. I will be glad to discuss the job situation in Listowel with the relevant interests during my next visit to the area.

State Guarantees.

Questions (26)

Dan Boyle

Question:

25 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a £10 million bond has been surrendered by the Government to a company (details supplied); and the reasons such a bond may have been returned. [8114/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

It is assumed that the question relates to certain security provided to the State as counter cover for State guarantees that remained in place following the sale of Irish Steel to Ispat Mexicana in 1996. Specifically, at the time of the sale, Irish Steel Ltd. had outstanding loans from ACC Bank and the European Coal and Steel Community, ECSC, that were covered by State guarantees. As part of the sale agreement, it was agreed that Irish Ispat Ltd. would take over all the liabilities of Irish Steel Ltd., including the servicing of these two loans. The Government undertook to continue to provide guarantees on these two loans and this continuation was covered in section 7 of the Irish Steel Act 1996.

To protect the Government in the event of Irish Ispat Ltd. defaulting on the repayment of these loans, the sale agreement also provided the following protections for the State. A capital contribution of €5.86 million due to Ispat as part of the agreement for the purchase of Irish Steel Ltd. was lodged to an escrow account opened in the joint names of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Ispat Mexicana. It was agreed that the balance in this account could be unilaterally withdrawn by the Minister in the event that Irish Ispat defaulted on either of the ACC or the ECSC loans. Ispat Mexicana was obliged to provide a letter of credit from the Midland Bank in the amount of €5.09 million and Ispat Mexicana was also obliged to provide mortgage and pledge agreements in respect of certain assets as security against Irish Ispat's liabilities under the ECSC loan.

Irish Ispat Ltd. repaid the ECSC loan in full with a final payment made in July 1999. Once this loan had been repaid, Ispat Mexicana's obligations under the mortgage and pledge agreements, which had been provided specifically as security against this loan, were discharged and the company was formally released from these agreements.

Following the liquidation of Irish Ispat Ltd. in 2001, an amount of €10.6 million was paid to ACC on 30 November 2001 on foot of the State guarantee. The Department then proceeded to secure the reimbursement of this amount from the counter cover provided by the escrow account and the letter of credit. On 4 March 2002, the balance of just over €7 million in the escrow account was received while the balance, that is, nearly €3.6 million was recovered from the letter of credit in April 2002. As the State had been fully reimbursed for the amount paid out on foot of the guarantee, the Minister then agreed to the cancellation of the letter of credit. It should be stressed that the securities outlined above were provided specifically and exclusively as cover against the two loans, that the security was drawn on to the full extent possible and that the security was not available to cover any other liabilities.

Industrial Employment.

Questions (27)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the figures for the level of industrial employment at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which they compare with the equivalent date in each of the previous five years; the steps being taken to counter the decline in industrial employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8095/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The figures for average annual level of industrial employment between 1998 and 2002 together with the latest provisional figure, which is for September 2003, are as follows:

Average Annual Industrial Employment 1998-2002

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003 (Sept.)

257,900

257,000

266,700

269,000

256,500

241,500

Source: CSO — Industrial Employment

The decline in industrial employment since 2001 undoubtedly reflects the difficult business conditions in the global marketplace in recent years. However, we must also bear in mind that the numbers in employment overall have continued to rise throughout this period. The fact that employment has grown by over 440,000 since 1997 reflects favourably on the Government's management of the economy in difficult circumstances. While industrial employment has tended to reduce in the past two years, employment in international and financial services has displayed remarkable resilience to international difficulties and has more than offset the contraction in industrial jobs. Among firms within these sectors, supported by agencies under my Department, employment has grown consistently from 39,500 in 1998 to over 66,500 in 2003, an increase of 68.5%. Employment in these sectors remained relatively stable last year, which is quite an achievement given the readjustment of financial markets after a period of international upheaval.

Our business support agencies are undertaking co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote growth in industrial employment. More resources are targeted towards underpinning the competitiveness of existing companies in Ireland, by encouraging existing clients to move into higher value products and higher order functions, such as R& D and more complex or demanding services. IDA Ireland, for example, is pursuing high quality new FDI that is in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the modern Irish economy.

Our objective is to excel in niche areas of biotechnology, software and information and communications technologies. In conjunction with the private sector, Enterprise Ireland, EI, has developed a range of seed and venture capital funds, in many cases dedicated to specific emerging technologies or focused on business development in the regions outside of Dublin. More companies are being persuaded to put product and process innovation at the centre of their growth plans and for this to become an embedded feature of their strategic development. EI's other focus on increasing export capacity in indigenous firms has not diminished.

Furthermore, I have set up the enterprise strategy group, under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll. I want the group to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. It will examine how to strengthen our enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and a knowledge driven economy while helping sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group will report to me in a few months.

Consumer Protection.

Questions (28)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will identify the ten items, goods or services, which have recorded price increases, most in excess of inflation in the past two years and thereby negatively affecting competitiveness of the economy; if she has in mind proposals to deal with the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8029/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

According to the Central Statistics Office, the ten categories of goods and services within the consumer price index which have recorded the greatest percentage change over the period January 2002 to January 2004, the latest period for which data is available, are the following:

Good/Service

% Change Jan 02-Jan 04

Water supply, refuse and misc. services

49.5

Hospital Services

32.5

Motor Cycle Insurance

30.2

Sea Transport

28.7

Health Insurance

28.0

Sports Admittance

26.8

Financial Services

26.7

Spirits (purchased in an off licence or supermarket)

25.9

Television Services

25.2

Second Level Education (private)

23.7

Overall CPI

6.7

The ten categories indicated in the table account for 4.25% of the total CPI basket of goods and services and contributed 1.2% to the overall change of 6.7% in the CPI over the period January 2002 to January 2004.

Job Losses.

Questions (29)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

28 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action that has been taken to secure replacement employment following the deferral of new jobs in Birr, County Offaly, and the loss of 160 jobs in Limerick at Thomson NETg’s facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8006/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I regret very much the job losses announced by Thomson in Limerick and the consequent effect on the workers and their families. FÁS has been in contact with the company and is offering its full range of services to the workers being made redundant, as is Enterprise Ireland. I understand that Thomson NETg announced, in November 2003, that as part of an ongoing assessment and reorganisation of its global business operations, a decision had been made to consolidate its global product development activity in Naperville, Illinois. As a result of this decision, the company's product development facility in Limerick would cease operations with the loss of 173 jobs. The company had earlier decided that it would not undertake the establishment of an operation in Birr due to the adverse economic climate, particularly in the e-learning sector.

IDA Ireland continues to actively promote Limerick to potential investors from across all sectors in either manufacturing or internationally traded services via its network of overseas offices. The agency is also actively marketing Birr and the Thomson NETg facility for potential new investment. The current economic slow down has meant that there are a lower number of companies actively seeking to invest and consequently there are fewer companies visiting Ireland. There were 17 first time site visits to the mid-west in 2003, with 13 first time site visits to Limerick. So far this year, there have been four first time site visits to the mid-west and three to Limerick.

The decision where an overseas company decides to locate lies, of course, ultimately with the company itself. In addition to targeting potential new projects, IDA and Enterprise Ireland continue to work with the existing base of companies in the region with a view to supporting companies with potential expansion and diversification objectives. The major decentralisation programme announced in the budget includes 180 jobs to be relocated to County Limerick and a further 455 jobs for County Offaly. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in these areas.

World Trade Negotiations.

Questions (30)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

29 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if deregulation will take place in the process of the GATT agreement in view of the fact that the WTO does not in practice regard public services as exempt from international trade and that the GATT process involves progressive deregulation in order to facilitate trade. [8121/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

As indicated by my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, in her address to the National Forum on Europe, on 4 March 2004, the multilateral trade negotiations currently under way in the area of trade in services are considered in the context of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services, otherwise known as the GATS negotiations.

Ireland's and the Union's objectives in the services negotiations are to seek better access for European service providers in third country markets and to secure a more transparent and predictable regulatory environment for services. The formal requests submitted by the EU to our WTO partners do not seek to dismantle public services nor to privatise state owned companies. No requests are being made on health services or audio-visual services to any country by the EU. In relation to education, only the US has received a request from the EU, limited to privately funded higher education. On environmental services, EU requests do not touch on the issue of access to water resources.

As regards the initial offer made by the EU, some WTO partners have requested that the EU open its services markets to third country providers beyond that committed under the Uruguay round. The European Union has made no offer to them in the areas of education, health or social services. GATS negotiations are about opening up trade, not about deregulating public services. These are regulated for very good reasons, be it to uphold, for example, safety standards or quality of services. Governments across the full membership of the WTO remain free to set levels of quality, safety, price and other objectives they see fit. The EU has no intention to promote or request privatisation or the dismantling of public services in any sector in the GATS or in any country. The GATS expressly provides that all WTO members can legitimately regulate economic and non-economic sectors within their territory to guarantee the achievement of public objectives.

Labour Standards.

Questions (31)

David Stanton

Question:

30 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures the Government has in place to ascertain whether imported manufactured goods are not produced by slave or child labour in other countries; her views in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8100/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Irish trade is regulated in accordance with the common commercial policy rules of the European Union. The EU has a long standing commitment to the promotion of core labour standards and social development and the charter of fundamental rights of the EU confirms the aim to fully integrate these standards in all its policies and actions. Co-operation agreements between the EU and other countries, as a matter of course, include human rights and core labour standard clauses as set out in International Labour Organisation conventions. In addition, the EU uses its trade policy mechanisms to encourage other countries to improve standards by offering additional preferential access dependent on adherence to ILO conventions.

Within the World Trade Organisation also, the EU, with our support, has been pursuing improved international regulation in the area of trade and labour standards. Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to promote core labour standards. In 1998, we supported the adoption by the ILO of a declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. This commits the ILO's 175 member states world-wide to respect the principles inherent in the core labour standards and to promote their universal application. Ireland has ratified all eight core labour standards, including those addressing the abolition of forced or compulsory labour and child labour.

Economic Competitiveness.

Questions (32)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

31 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of the EU high level group on competitiveness held in Dublin Castle on 25 January 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8091/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The high level group on competitiveness and growth held an informal meeting in Dublin Castle on 25 January 2004. This group is the main preparatory working group of the EU competitiveness council and is chaired by a senior official in my Department. The agenda for the meeting included a discussion of the competitiveness council contribution to the spring European Council and a discussion of the role and work programme of the group.

Following consideration by the group of key competitiveness issues facing the EU in the short to medium term, the Presidency drafted the contribution of the competitiveness council which was considered at a formal meeting of the group in Brussels on 18 February. This document will form the basis for discussion by Ministers at the EU competitiveness council, which takes place on 11 March 2004.

Insurance Industry.

Questions (33, 34, 35)

Damien English

Question:

32 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of recommendations of the motor insurance advisory board that have been implemented; the timeframe for implementation of those outstanding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8007/04]

View answer

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

35 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of her action plan for the insurance industry; the elements of the plan yet to be implemented; the timetable for the implementation of the different elements of the plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8075/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 35 together.

The insurance reform programme that I announced on 25 October 2002 comprises a comprehensive set of inter-related measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. I chair a ministerial committee established to drive the co-ordinated implementation of this reform programme across the relevant Government Departments and other bodies concerned. Substantial progress is being made on a range of measures that will radically overhaul the functioning of the insurance market and help tackle the high cost of insurance.

One of the key measures in the reform programme is the implementation of the recommendations in the motor insurance advisory board action plan within a target timeframe. To date, 32 of the recommendations have been fully implemented, four partially implemented and work is in progress on the implementation of the other recommendations. Precise information on each of the recommendations is shown in the table.

Another key measure is the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. As the Deputy will be aware, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 was signed by the President on 28 December 2003. The provisions of this Act will be commenced in the near future. A CEO designate has been appointed and commenced duty on 2 February 2004. The proposed structure and staffing levels of the new body are finalised and a recruitment campaign commenced in February. The board will be operational when the necessary staff and IT systems are in place, which is expected to be in the second quarter of this year. The PIAB interim board has made significant progress in this regard.

In addition, my Department and the Competition Authority are undertaking a joint study into the insurance market. The study will identify and analyse barriers to entry and limitations on rivalry in the insurance marketplace. It aims to make recommendations to ensure that competition works well for consumers in the Irish market. It will also make recommendations for changes in the case of problems identified at EU level. A preliminary report and consultation document on competition issues in the non-life insurance market was published in February. Following a two month consultation process, which will end on 18 April 2004, a final report will be published containing recommendations resulting from the findings.

Significant progress has been made by the Department of Transport on the implementation of the road safety strategy. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Civil Liability and Courts Bill on 11 February. This Bill contains measures to streamline the law on personal injury claims including measures to deal with fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

Indications to date are that the reform programme is having its desired effect. The CSO publishes monthly indices of costs for a number of classes of insurance. These statistics show that there was a reduction of 11.8 index points,11.1%, in motor car insurance between the months of January 2003 and January 2004. Further, the CSO noted a significant contribution from insurance to the recent reduction in inflation. As implementation of the reform programme continues, I expect further reductions to occur in all forms of insurance. I am also confident that the measures the Government is putting in place to reform the Irish insurance market will attract new players into the market and lead to further downward pressure on premia.

Summary Report on MIAB recommendations March 2004.
In summary: of the 67 MIAB recommendations, 32 have been implemented; 4 have been partially implemented; 21 are being actively progressed; 1 cannot be further progressed at present; 9 are under consideration.
Recommendations Relating to Department of Transport

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

1

Further road safety improvements.

That priority be assigned to achieving the objectives set in the Government’s Strategy for Road Safety for a wide range of reasons, which extend far beyond the cost of insurance.

2

Penalty Points system now in operation.

New strategy statement has been brought to Government.

2

Provisional Licences, Road Safety Driver Education in schools.

That the current system of unsupervised driving by provisional licence holders be reviewed and consideration be given to the introduction of a road safety and driver education syllabus in schools.

3

This has been agreed in principle, and will be introduced following completion of a review of the provisional licensing system currently underway. Driver education syllabus is for the Dept of Education and Science. The report commissioned by the NCCA on the introduction of a road safety and driver education syllabus in schools, has been completed and is with the Minister for Education and Science.

34

Insuring the Vehicle rather than the use of the Vehicle. Study needed to see if this would reduce premiums.

That detailed consideration be given to amending the Road Traffic Acts to require insurance on the vehicle, as in mainland Europe, rather than allowing claims to be declined on the basis of the driver’s use but with appropriate measures to address the rights of insurers where premiums have been underpaid.

4

Implementation would involve fundamental changes in the arrangements for motor insurance, in Ireland. The complex risk assessment, civil liability issues and potential costs and advantages of implementation will have to be evaluated before coming to a decision. Also awaiting results of UK preliminary study.

Recommendations Relating to Department of Transport — continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

35

Fourth EU directive on Harmonisation. Irish citizens’ right to sue the insurer direct.

That, when the Fourth EU Directive on Harmonisation of Motor Insurance is incorporated into national law in 2003, Irish citizens are extended rights equal to those of visiting EU citizens to sue the vehicle insurer direct for compensation entitlements arising from motor accidents occurring in Ireland.

3

Direct right of action against Irish insurers provided for in case of accidents to which the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive applies. S.I. 651 of 2003 transposed the provisions of the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive into Irish Law.

S.I. 651 of 2003 signed by Minister on 27 November 2003. An extension of this provision to all traffic accidents will be considered in the context of amending legislation.

36

Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland agreement to be amended, to ensure victims of uninsured/ defectively insured vehicles get equally favourable treatment.

That the agreement between the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government be amended to clearly ensure that victims of uninsured or defectively insured vehicles can pursue their claims on no less favourable terms than apply to insured cases as consistent with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice lest they be doubly disadvantaged by involvement in such occurrences.

3

A revised Agreement, primarily to take account of cost reduction, is being prepared for signature by the Minister and the MIBI. More detailed review to follow to reflect planned developments in EU Law.

Discussions with the MIBI are ongoing.

Recommendations Relating to Department of Transport— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

37

Road Traffic Act to be amended, in line with EU Directives on harmonisation, to protect victims of defectively insured vehicles;Better clarification on insurance certs.

That the Road Traffic Acts, and other relevant legislation, be amended to fully adopt the Articles of the various EU Directives on harmonisation of compulsory motor insurance so as to clearly uphold the rights of victims under European law in accidents involving uninsured, untraced, defectively uninsured or allegedly defectively insured vehicles or drivers and that the prescribed content of insurance certificates be reviewed for clarity of communication with the addition of wording highlighting that the rights of Third Parties are not affected by cover limitations in the policy document.

5

Legislation to deal with this may be included in draft bill to deal with the withdrawal of unlimited cover by the insurance industry, which is expected to be introduced this year.

The EU commission is preparing consolidated legislation on motor insurance, and certain aspects of this recommendation may be most effectively dealt with in that framework.

61

Access of insurers to National Driver File, after introduction of penalty points.

That following introduction of the penalty points system, and subject to the provisions of data protection legislation, insurers be permitted access to relevant information on the national driver file under provisions similar to Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994.

3

The Minister is in correspondence with the insurance industry on this issue.

Discussions are currently underway with the DOEHLG with a view to making penalty point information available to the one insurance company which has agreed to reflect “safe driving” records in reduced premia.

Recommendations relating to Department of Transport & Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

3

Higher Fines, Detaining vehicles, Earmarking of fines for Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland.

That the sanctions for flagrant breach of compulsory insurance obligations should be fines at a level more consistent with premium charges and should provide for vehicle confiscation, as applies to non-payment of road tax, with proceeds being assigned to the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland who are responsible for claims from victims of uninsured accidents.

2

Road Traffic Act 2002 increased fines, but level imposed is up to the Judiciary. Power to detain Vehicles already exists. Discussions with the Garda in progress about activating secondary legislation. The parent department needs to seek Department of Finance approval for the earmarking of fines.

The Department is in discussion with the Garda authorities to address the logistics of the transport and storage of impounded vehicles.

Recommendations relating to Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

38.

Constitutional balance between rights of defendants and genuine injured parties.

That Court procedures for personal injury litigation be radically reviewed in the interests of both genuine injured parties and premium paying policyholders, the majority of whom have not been involved in any culpable motor accident.

3

Committee on Court Practice & Procedures has sought public comment on court procedures.

40.

Improved access to justice.Independent mechanism for assessing disputes on legal costs.Transparency.Promotion of competition.

That the current Court based system for assessing legal fees be reviewed as to its cost effectiveness in satisfactorily resolving disputes on litigation costs and that consideration be given to a framework which the public might regard as more independent of the legal establishment and from which more transparent information might be available to litigants on the allowable levels of fees.

5

Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform is considering an alternative system. This issue also forms part of the Competition Authority's study on the Legal Profession

42.

Abuse of legal loophole.Cost of legal fees.

That the legislation on accrual of 8% interest on legal costs from date of trial should be revised in a manner consistent with the Prompt Payments of Accounts Act 1997 with a significantly reduced rate of interest and a reasonable period allowed from the date of bill presentation for payment or the resolution of legitimate queries.

3

This is included in the General Scheme of the Civil Liability & Courts Bill published on the 11th February 2004.

Recommendations relating to Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

46.

Public interest.Constitutional balance.Macro-economic consequences.

That consideration be given to the concept of amicus “curiae” for representations from the Office of the Attorney General and/or IFSRA if an issue before the Courts has radical implications for the cost of insurance with consequent effects on the Irish economy particularly where the effect is retrospective.

3

As for Rec. No. 42

47.

Public policy.Claims costs reduction.Consumer protection.

That stringent measures be introduced to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims with loss of all compensation entitlements and appropriate criminal sanctions.

3

Addressed in the Civil liability and Courts Bill

48.

Public policy.Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.Claims costs reduction.

That all claims which include allegations of earnings losses be supported by proof of declared earnings history from the Revenue Commissioners and records of benefits sought under social insurance with any earnings from “the black economy” to be excluded from claim assessments or negotiations.

3

As for Rec. No. 47

49.

Restoration of constitutional balance when wrongly sued people have been vindicated.

That awards on costs to defendants are made automatic upon successful defences either on liability or on the extent of loss, to restore equity between litigants while acknowledging that methods of payment enforcement will always be a matter for judicial discretion under Examination Orders.

3

The Dept/ Justice, Equality & Law Reform has asked the Courts Service to consider changes in Circuit Court Rules to bring them into line with Rules of the Superior Courts in relation to costs.

Recommendations relating to Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

50.

Enhancement of justice and protection for victims.Avoidance of need for victims to rely on the state.

That the system of lump sum compensation payments be reviewed on the basis that the long term needs of the seriously injured may be better served by guaranteed annual payments.

5

This is not being actively progressed at present. The impact on insurance costs is neutral.

51.

Improved compensation delivery for victims.

That a system be introduced to facilitate pre-trial interim payments to the seriously injured in cases where liability is not a substantial issue but there is a financial need to replace lost earnings or seek medical treatment.

5

See R. 50.

52.

Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.

That a system be introduced to facilitate the award of provisional damages where there is a substantial risk that the injured party’s medical condition may deteriorate in the future.

5

See R. 50.

54.

Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.Better consistency between judgements.Speedier disposal of non-complex cases.Reduction in legal costs.

A system of case management be adopted by the Courts, with a panel of judges specialising in injury claims, to secure early hearings of non-complex cases which could be disposed of by a short trial and that the Small Claims Court system be extended to deal with property claims up to £5,000 arising from motor accidents.

3

The Civil Liability and Courts Bill will provide for pre-trial hearings to determine the issues on which the parties differ. The Committee on Court Practice and Procedure is reviewing practice and procedure in relation to personal injuries litigation and will make such recommendations as it thinks appropriate for improvement.

Recommendations relating to Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

55.

Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.Facilitation of earlier settlement.Reduction in legal costs.

That claimants be obliged to state their minimum settlement terms in litigation, supplementary to the current procedure which permits a defendant to tender their maximum offer whereby they secure protection from liability for further litigation costs.

3

See Rec. No. 42.

56.

Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.Better consistency between judgements.Reduction in legal costs.Transparency.

That information on Irish compensation levels for various injuries be collated, such as a book of quantum or guidelines as produced by the Judicial Studies Board in England, and that this data be published to assist earlier settlements between defendants and plaintiffs.

3

Chair of Interim PIAB currently obtaining and examining data from the courts.

Book of Quantum will be available early 2004.

57.

Prevention of further increases in claims costs and in legal fees.

That the Court Bill 2001, entering the second stage in the Dáil, be amended so as NOT to increase current financial limits of the Courts beyond expressing the existing figures in convenient Euro amounts.

1

In effect, by not commencing the relevant provision in the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002, this recommendation is being implemented, to the extent that the financial limits of the courts are not being increased. Experience gained when PIAB has been in operation for some time will be considered for future action in this matter.

Recommendations relating to Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform & the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

43.

Consumer protection.Legal costs.Promotion of competition among the legal profession.

That the draft 1998 legislation on advertising by Solicitors be progressed, with the additional requirement that all advertisements quote a revised rule by the Law Society summarising Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 which prevents a percentage being deducted by lawyers from the compensation awarded to claimants. If an entitlement to advertise for personal injury claims is secured under competition law, that sufficient information be displayed to enable consumers to make price comparisons between professionals.

1

Implemented. Changes in the Law Society’s rules regarding advertising by solicitors have been in effect since 1 Feb 2003

44.

Consumer protection.Linked to Recommendation No. 43 concerning advertising by solicitors.

That, aside from legislation, the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland as a service to the public should require all advertisements by their members to state that a lawyer is not permitted to seek a percentage of a claimant’s compensation and that such action is regarded as misconduct under Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994.

1

Implemented — see 43

Recommendations relating to Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

13.

Promotion of competition.Consumer protection.

That a regulation be introduced requiring a minimum period of notice, of not less than 15 working days, to policyholders of the terms upon which renewal is offered to allow sufficient time for consumers to “shop around”.

1

Implemented.

May be reviewed — brokers issue

14.

Linked to Recommendation No. 13.

That a regulation be introduced to prescribe the issuing of “No Claims Bonus” documents with renewal notices to enable clients to market their business elsewhere for comparative quotes.

1

Implemented

As above. CONP to monitor the situation and refer to RED if necessary

39.

Promotion of enhanced quality of justice.Cost-effective, speedy redress.Claims costs reduction.

That an alternative to adversarial litigation be made available to parties where liability for a motor accident is not disputed but independent assessment of compensation is required. The MIAB endorses the model of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board proposed for employer’s liability claims which might be extended to motor claims at an early opportunity.

2

Interim PIAB established. PIAB Bill was enacted on December 28th 2003.

PIAB will begin dealing with cases in mid 2004.

62.

Promotion of coherent and cohesive policy formulation and implementation.

That a forum be established drawn from the various Government Agencies whose actions affect the cost of compulsory motor insurance so that the full financial consequences of proposed legislation or administrative action are understood and factored into decisions.

1

Implemented in the context of the Ministerial Committee.

64.

Promotion of competition.

That, in the context of the Competition Bill 2001, consideration be given to incorporating the principle of “acting against the public interest”.

1

Implemented in the Competition Act 2002.

Recommendations relating to IFSRA from 1st May 2003, formerly relating to Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

29.

Transparency.Public Information.Informing Policy.

That the format and content, as published in the “Blue Book”, of insurers’ annual Statutory Returns be amended to show clearly the accrual for the current accident year separately from movements in prior years’ reserves.

3

‘Best Practice’ exercise ongoing to compare Irish supervisory regime with those of a number of other states, focusing on the nature and frequency of information submitted.

Best Practice review to be completed by end June 2004. Consultation process to take place in the second half of 2004. Revised returns expected by the Annual Report 2004, due for publication in mid 2005.

30.

Linked to Recommendation No. 29.

That all relevant information in Statutory Returns be shown separately for private car, commercial motor, motorcycles and other main classes of motor business by coverage types.

3

As in Rec. 29. Discussion opened with Industry regarding detail of Recs. 29 & 30

As in Rec. 29

31.

Linked to Recommendation No. 29.

That the format and content of Statutory Returns be reviewed in line with practice elsewhere in Europe to improve the quality and quantity of public information.

3

As in Recs. 29 & 30. Is being addressed as part of’ the Best Practice’ review.

As in Rec. 29

32.

Transparency.Enhanced prudential supervision.Comparison of data between insurance companies.Informing policy.

That the new insurance regulator issue revised guidelines to insurers to ensure more consistent completion of existing Statutory Returns in a manner which facilitates consistent comparisons and eliminates the current variations in practice between companies.

1

Implemented — Guidelines revised: INREG system allowing electronic submission of returns is now in place and provides for the cross-checking of data in returns.

33.

Transparency.Provision of clear record of the cost of uninsured driving.Public information.Informing policy.

That the preparation and publication of Statutory Returns be amended to clearly reflect the cost of uninsured driving recording numbers of cases, amounts of payments and provisions for outstanding claims with other relevant information as deemed appropriate.

2

Discussions initiated with MIBI and relevant Form 8 info to be published in 2003 Annual Report

Recommendations relating to IFSRA from 1st May 2003, formerly relating to Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

59.

Achievement of the Single Market.Balance between supervision and consumer interests.

That a Motor Policyholders’ Protection Fund be established to pay claimants in the event of the insolvency of an insurer regulated in Ireland.

5

The Insurance Compensation Fund comprising €24.13m of the PMPA levy is available for use in the event of an Irish Insurance Company failing, subject to the approval of the High Court. Meetings at EU level on the question of possible EU-wide policyholder protection arrangements have been attended. Further meetings are planned during 2004.

Department of Finance ultimately have the final word on the establishment of a PPF. The No. 2 Bill opens up the possibility of a PPF.

60.

Linked to Recommendation No. 59.

That a Policyholders’ Protection Fund be allocated an opening balance, estimated at £19m, from the motor insurance levy collected up to 1993 from which sufficient allocation has been made to satisfy administration of the liabilities of the old PMPA.

5

See R. 59.

See Rec. 59

Recommendation relating to Department of Finance

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

58.

Level of premium charges.Adequate funding for enforcement issues.

That the stamp duty (formerly levy) on motor insurance, if not abolished as repeatedly recommended by the Board, should be ring fenced for related matters which include road safety initiatives, such as funding of the National Safety Council and the maintenance of a Policyholders’ Protection Fund to safeguard claimants’ interests in the event of an insolvency of an insurer regulated in Ireland.

5

This was considered but not implemented in the 2003 budget.

Recommendations relating to Department of Finance in relation to IFSRA Legislation

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

4.

Balance between prudential supervision and consumer protection.

That the unique position of compulsory motor insurance should be adequately reflected in the responsibilities of the new Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) as the Board are of the view that there is currently no effective regulatory mechanism to balance the legitimate concerns of consumers with requirements for effective solvency supervision.

1

IFSRA now established; CBFSAI Act sets out responsibilities

27.

Enforcement/ redress.Consumer satisfaction.Level of premium charges.

That a Statutory Office of Insurance Ombudsman be established with an extended brief including issues of quotation refusals and denials of policy indemnity for compulsory cover (IIF dissent) and allowing provision for moderate compensation to successful complainants.

3

2nd CBFSAI Bill is before the Houses of the Oireachtas

Recommendations relating to IFSRA

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

5.

Transparency.Accountability.Consumer protection.Gathering a consistent set of data over an adequate period of time to assess equitable charging.

That central gathering of statistics on motor insurance premium and claims costs by driver profile be formalised by IFSRA, including monitoring by the new insurance regulator of data quality, to ensure that reliable information is available to inform public policy in future years and to improve market intelligence as provided for in EU Regulation No. 3932/92.

3

In progress

Data as captured end 2002 has been received from the Industry and work is expected to commence on this in mid-March.

6.

Discriminatory action.Linked to Recommendation No. 5.

That IFSRA supply regular marketwide statistics on motor premium differentials to the Equality Authority to assist in assessing insurers’ compliance with the Equal Status Act 2000 and subsequently its proposed extension.

3

In progress

As above

7.

Public information.Promotion of competition.

That IFSRA publish regular surveys of motor insurance quotations to engender price competition and to educate the public on premium variances within the market and that IFSRA liaise with the Central Statistics Office on assessment of motor insurance inflation.

1

Implemented

Comparative tables released December 2003.

8.

Public information.Promotion of competition.e-Government.

That IFSRA pursue the concept of a “one stop website” to provide consumers with across market information on the motor premiums available for specific risks — the placing of an obligation on insurers to notify their rates does not appear to offend EU law on freedom of services.

1

Implemented

Website live since 26th November 2003.

Recommendations relating to IFSRA— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

21.

Transparency.Independent monitoring of insurance industry behaviour.

That the Declined Cases Committee, currently consisting solely of insurer representatives, should include external representatives to report to IFSRA on the operation of the scheme.

1

Implemented

A representative from Consumer Association of Ireland attends and reports to IFSRA.

22.

Independent standard — setting for insurance industry behaviour.Consumer protection.

That IFSRA agree standards of business practice with insurers governing dealings with private consumers and small businesses.

1

Implemented

Code distributed December 2003.

23.

Consumer protection.Level of premium charges.

That IFSRA set rules for insurers to implement in concrete terms the duty of utmost good faith as it applies to insurers, as a corollary to the consumer’s duty of utmost good faith, to redress the imbalance in bargaining power between insured and insurer. The objectives of these rules should include ensuring that direct clients do not pay for unnecessary or inappropriate cover offered by insurers and to require an appropriate duty of consultation with policyholders before liability payments are made on their behalf.

1

Implemented

Code distributed December 2003.

24.

Consumer protection.Enforcement of Insurance Act 2000.

That regulation by IFSRA of insurance intermediaries should encompass the principle of “good faith dealing” to achieve the objectives as set out in Recommendation no. 23 (on rules — setting for insurers).

1

Implemented

Included in the “Brokers Handbook”. Also included in Code distributed December 2003.

Recommendations relating to IFSRA— continued

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

25.

Public information.Level of insurance costs.Law enforcement.

That IFSRA issue clarification of the Consumer Credit Act 1995, or if necessary introduce alternate legislation, to control premium instalment plans.

1

Implemented

Included in IFSRA Code covering letter.

63.

Public information.Consumer protection.

That IFSRA should be pro-active in responding to media statements by insurers on trends in premium charges and related matters.

1

Implemented

Comparative tables published December 2003

66.

Promotion of: Consumer protection Competition.Social inclusion.

That the proposed Consumer Director in IFSRA would have a duty to highlight at EU level the unacceptable consequences for [segments of] the Irish market of further mergers in the interests of social inclusion, given our island location at the far west of the EU with a small, although rapidly growing, market which may be unattractive to many players.

1

Implemented

IFSRA through the Consumer Director, will fully implement its obligations to monitor competition, but does not have a duty to highlight at EU level, the consequences of mergers.(new section 33S in Principal Act)

Recommendation relating to Department of Health and Children

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

45.

Claims costs reduction.Equal status as regards Irish and other EU nationals.

That the Health (Amendment) Act 1986 be reviewed to the extent that it represents a discriminatory charge levied only on those involved in motor accidents at multiples of the rate charged to providers of health insurance and inconsistent with rates charged to visiting EU nationals in a manner that may offend the Equal Status Act 2000 given that victims of motor accidents represent less than 1% of users of hospital services.

5

Further discussions to be held with the Dept/Health & Children

Recommendations relating to the Irish Insurance Federation

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

9.

Discriminatory action.Accountability.Transparency.Consumer protection.Promotion of competition.

That a regulation be introduced to require insurers who refuse to quote for any particular risk to state their reasons in writing upon request, acknowledging the fact that insurers cannot be required under EU law to provide cover for any particular risk but equally subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equal Status Act 2000.

1

Implementation of Recs. 9, 15, 16 & 19 will be on administrative basis via incorporation into the Code of Practice. Also being addressed in Code of Business Conduct drawn up by IFSRA.

Codes distributed December 2003.

10.

Enforcement of Equal Status Act.Promotion of competition.

That insurers undertake to comply with the provisions of the Equal Status Act 2000 in respect of drivers aged 65 and over including advising them of their rights to freedom of contract and to improve procedures for retirees who have a record on employers’ fleet policies but are now seeking private motor insurance.

1

Introductory NCD for retired fleet drivers implemented. 1/08/02 — IIF’s Code of practice. (Also decision of Equality Tribunal in Ross v Royal Sun Alliance.)

11.

Public policy.Discriminatory action.

That insurers undertake to desist from applying policy terms, limitations or loadings that may be encountered by policyholders with disability issues relating to drivers or passengers unless there is evidence of additional risk.

1

Additional limits on cover restrictions & loadings 1/08/02 — IIF Code of practice.

Recommendations relating to the Irish Insurance Federation

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

12.

Achievement of the Single Market.Discriminatory action.

That insurers operating in Ireland undertake to recognise EU driving experience and “No Claims Bonus” certification presented by other European citizens.

1

Implemented 1/09/02 IIF Code of Practice.

15.

Transparency (cost unbundling).Promotion of competition.Consumer protection.

That a regulation be introduced to standardise renewal notices — detailing the calculation of premium from compulsory cover to the full coverage offered with elective elements clearly indicated and showing any loadings or discounts applied in both monetary and percentage terms.

3

See Rec. 9

See Rec. 9

16.

Transparency.Consumer protection.Promotion of competition.

That a regulation be introduced to tackle potential “confusion of illusion of choice” by requiring insurers who offer motor quotations under a number of business names and product images or through any direct outlets to state the identity of the insurance group of which they are part and that equally brokers should be obliged to provide each client with a list of the motor insurers for which they hold an appointment consistent with the provisions of the Investment Intermediaries Act 1995.

1

Discussions on implementation have taken place between the DETE and IIF in the context of the Tánaiste’s Reform Programme. Also being addressed in Code of Business Conduct drawn up by IFSRA.

Codes distributed December 2003.

17.

Age-related discriminatory action.Promotion of competition.

That insurers adopt rating practices that allow sufficient credit for accident free driving experience rather than filtering out risks solely on the basis of age.

1

Insurers committed to fair rating based on objective assessment of relevant risk factors. Underpinned by Equal Status Act and Declined Cases Agreement provisions on age-related declinatures. Also see case law as in Ross v Royal Sun Alliance

Recommendations relating to the Irish Insurance Federation

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

18.

Promotion of competition.

That insurers desist from any practice of requiring collateral business to be placed with the company before a motor quotation is supplied and that this practice be reviewed by the Competition Authority should it persist.

1

Included in IIF Code of Practice- effective 1/08/02 and IFSRA Interim Code of Practice

19.

Transparency.Consumer information.Promotion of Competition.

That the existing Declined Cases Agreement between the Minister and insurers operating in Ireland, under which a quotation cannot be refused on the grounds of age alone, should be formalised by legislation.

1

See Rec. 9

Codes distributed December 2003.

20.

Linked to Recommendation No. 19

That the number of refusals required under the existing Declined Cases Agreement be reduced from 5 to 3 in light of the market consolidation resulting from mergers

1

Implemented 24/07/02. Observers added to Declined Cases Committee from Insurance Ombudsman’s Office (July 2002) and CAI (invitation July 2003)

28.

Promotion of competition.

That IIF agree a code of conduct with its member companies on anti-competitive behaviour subject to any more formalised measures, which may ultimately be required by IFSRA under competition law.

1

Revised draft prepared for adoption by IIF Autumn 2003.

53.

Prioritisation of genuine victims.

That insurers pursue a policy of seeking to assist in the rehabilitation of injured parties where such action is appropriate.

1 (Subject also to development of legal and medical infrastructure.)

See R. 10 (subject also to development of legal and medical infrastructure).

Recommendation relating to the Irish Insurance Federation & IBEC

No.

Issued Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

26.

Unwarranted nuisance value settlements.Claims costs reduction.Constitutional balance.

That IIF agree with IBEC and other business associations on a set of guidelines for the handling of Third Party claims incorporating appropriate referral to commercial policyholders before compensation payments are made on their behalf.

111

IIF/IBEC Communication Guidelines for insurers and policyholders produced. In effect from 1/05/03

Similar codes are available for business associations.

Recommendations relating to the Competition Authority

No.

Issues Addressed

Recommendation

Status

Progress to date

Future plans/target date for implementation

41.

Promotion of competition.Consumer protection.

That the Competition Authority’s investigations of the professions should assign priority to the fees which impact on the cost of motor insurance given its compulsory nature and the recent high inflation rate recorded for insurance and that, on completion of those investigations, their findings be taken into account in a review of the effectiveness of self-regulation by the legal profession.

3

The Indecon report to the Authority on the professions was published on 20 March 2003. This will be used as a basis for individual papers on all the professions, (including the legal profession) which are expected by the Middle of 2004.

65.

Promotion of competition.

That the Competition Authority would have a duty to review all further insurance mergers in the interests of the Irish economy with appropriate reference to IFSRA and that the process of consultation seek to protect the interests of specific policyholder groups since the effects of mergers may warrant consideration below issues of the market as a whole.

1

The Competition Authority has taken on this responsibility from 1 January 2003, but to date no mergers requiring review have occurred.

67.

Promotion of competition.

That when the Competition Authority assumes the new roles proposed under the Competition Bill 2001 it should review the area of compulsory motor insurance.

2

The Competition Authority published its ‘Preliminary Report and Consultation Document’ in February 2004

Totals
1. Implemented 32
2. Partially implemented and being further implemented 4
3. In progress 21
4. Cannot be further progressed at present1
5. Under consideration 9

Brendan Howlin

Question:

33 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the recent report of the Competition Authority on the insurance market, particularly its recommendation for reform of the broker market which is stated could reduce by tens of millions of euro the amount that consumers and businesses are paying for insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8056/04]

View answer

I welcome the publication of the Competition Authority preliminary report and consultation document on competition issues in the non-life insurance market. The Competition Authority undertook this study jointly with my Department. This study is only one of a number of measures in the insurance reform programme that I announced on 25 October 2002 designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market.

Based on the information that the Competition Authority has received through its own research and from its various consultancy projects, the authority identifies a number of issues that caused competition concerns including the concerns relating to insurance brokers mentioned by Deputy Howlin. These issues are currently the basis of a public consultation process with a request for views by 18 April 2004. Following the two month consultation period, a final report will be published which will contain recommendations based on its findings. I fully intend that the recommendations made will be implemented.

Departmental Inquiries.

Questions (36, 37)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

34 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the current position in regard to each of the inquiries being carried out by or on behalf of her Department; if she will give a projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the DPP; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8065/04]

View answer

Emmet Stagg

Question:

43 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the total costs incurred by the State at the latest date for which figures are available, arising from the various inquiries instigated by or on behalf of her Department; the element of these costs that have been recovered from any of the other parties involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8066/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 43 together.

Sixteen investigations into company law matters have been initiated by me since I first came into office as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. In respect of three of these, the High Court appointed, on an application by me, inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990. The inspectors appointed to Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited presented their report to the High Court on 10 June 2002. The report was subsequently published. The report has been passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Section 8 inquiries into the affairs of National Irish Bank Ltd. and National Irish Bank Financial Services Ltd. are continuing. I understand the inspectors made a submission to the court in February 2004 to inform the court of the latest position with the inquiries.

One investigation under section 14 of the Companies Act 1990 was completed in 1998. The report on this has been passed to the DPP. Eleven investigations were initiated by me under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990. Six of these have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, two of the reports were passed to the DPP.

A number of summary prosecutions have since been successfully concluded in one case. One report provided an input into the successful application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors under section 8 while the fourth report was passed to the relevant High Court inspectors. One report was completed in September 2002 and a further report was completed in March 2003. Both reports have been referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Three investigations under section 19 are ongoing and the authorised officer is working towards completing reports of these investigations by mid-2004. Two investigations were held up in legal appeals. These inquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. One investigation was undertaken under section 59 of the Insurance Act 1989. The report on this has been referred to the DPP as well as to the inspectors undertaking the section 8 investigation into that company.

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by or on behalf of my Department currently amount to approximately €10.3 million. This amount does not include the salary costs of Civil Service staff working on a number of these investigations or the legal costs which are primarily being borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor. Most of this €10.3 million derives from the costs to date of the High Court inspectors appointed under section 8: €5.3 million in the case of National Irish Bank Limited/National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited and €3.5 million in the case of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited.

The question of recovering costs from the section 8 investigations does not arise until such time as the inspectors complete their investigations. In the case of the Ansbacher inquiry, the High Court proceedings taken by the State to recover the costs of the inquiry were settled out of court for the sum of €1.25 million in favour of the State. Section 19 as originally enacted did not provide for the recoupment of costs. This has now changed with the enactment of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001.

Question No. 35 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Questions (38)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

36 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to her consultation with the social partners on proposals to increase penalties for breaches of the health and safety legislation, especially in view of the ongoing level of death and injury being caused to workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8078/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Currently proposals to repeal and amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 have been developed at departmental level and are at present the subject of legal drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. These proposals are largely the result of a review carried out by the tripartite board, representing the social partners, of the Health and Safety Authority which had been requested to carry out a fundamental review of the Act with a view to identifying where changes and improvements could be made to the existing principal legislation. The new Bill will have provision for increased fines following conviction in the courts and will also provide for on-the-spot fines. I expect to be in a position to introduce a Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill after Easter and I intend to consult the social partners before publication of the Bill.

Question No. 37 answered orally with QuestionNo. 9

Company Law Enforcement.

Questions (39, 40)

Joan Burton

Question:

38 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the very significant increase in company law crime reported in the review of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement for 2003; if she has satisfied herself that there are sufficient procedures in place to ensure compliance with company law and to detect offences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8059/04]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

48 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she intends to take arising from the warning in the review of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement for 2003 that there is an ongoing problem with insolvent companies that are continuing to trade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8058/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 48 together.

Section 12(5) of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 provides that the director shall be independent in the performance of his functions. As such it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the day to day activities of the director. While the 2003 end of year statement issued by the Director of Corporate Enforcement indicates that there was a very significant increase in the number of reports and complaints of suspected corporate misconduct reported to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in 2003 over 2002, it would not be correct to draw any inference from this that there has been an increase in corporate misconduct.

The year 2003 was only the second full year of operation of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. As the existence of the office becomes better known and the reporting obligations under the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 are fully acted upon, there is likely to be an increase in the level of reporting of misconduct in the short term. It will take another couple of years of operation by the office to get a valid benchmark against which increases or decreases in the levels of corporate misconduct can be measured. The results available from the Companies Registration Office, which has a much longer track record, show a continuing and very significant improvement in the level of compliance by companies with their reporting obligations under the Companies Acts.

In regard to the comments in the director's end of year statement concerning insolvent companies continuing to trade, the Deputy will have noted that the director goes on to explain how he is addressing this issue. While it is too early to assess the full impact of the regime introduced by the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001, I am satisfied at this stage that the increased activity and detection of offences by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement show that the law and the office is working well.

The director has a range of powers available to him to oversee and act against errant companies, company directors and others. His office is well resourced with professional, administrative and Garda staff. If it emerges over time that there are shortcomings in the existing regime in identifying and pursuing wrongdoing, I have no doubt that the director will bring these to my attention so that they can be addressed.

Economic Competitiveness.

Questions (41, 42)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

39 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on whether there will be a flow of jobs out of this State as multinationals relocate to the EU accession states following enlargement; if the Government has a strategy to deal with this eventuality; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8024/04]

View answer

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

74 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she intends to take to counter the growing trend of jobs being transferred to lower cost countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8094/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 74 together.

It has been obvious for some time that our economy is undergoing fundamental change, which has affected both the manufacturing and service sectors. It is fair to say that our strengths and competitive advantages, especially compared with low wage economies, have changed fundamentally. Ireland's economy is now one typified by high output and productivity together with high returns to labour in the form of wages, salaries and better living standards. Ireland has become a more prosperous and wealthy economy, converging with the broad income and prosperity levels of other member states of the EU. I doubt anybody would have it any other way.

Naturally a more attractive cost environment abroad will inevitably attract some firms that are unable to generate the return from the modern enterprise economy into which we have transformed ourselves. The change taking place across our enterprise base will continue and is inevitable. With this, some plant transfers and other adjustments are bound to come, but where relocation has occurred to date, it has largely been limited to relatively low technology, labour intensive activities. In a borderless Europe that places no restrictions on where people can work or where investors can do business there will always be competition for investment.

One of my key objectives is to develop a competitive economy that will be resilient to the toughest competitive pressures, either from within the EU or elsewhere. At the end of the day, however, it is entrepreneurs that decide where to invest. Consequently, I am committed to making sure that when companies decide to invest, Ireland has the reputation as a secure world class investment location to meet the most demanding business requirements and our citizens have the skills to blend creativity and adaptability with the resourcefulness that knowledge businesses need. To a large extent, our destiny is in our own hands.

Government policy is focused on ensuring this happens. Arising from the most recent work of the National Competitiveness Council, the Government has decided that it will assess our competitive status every six months. My Department's focus on helping generate sustainable employment growth complements work that I am pursuing at a European level. As President of the competitiveness council I am acutely aware that we have to work together with other member states to reinforce our national objectives.

We are working to accelerate the Lisbon agenda in the many areas that are essential to making Europe the enterprise region of the world. Items on our agenda that we must progress include entrepreneurship, strengthening the internal market and putting in place EU framework conditions to deliver greater and more effective research, development and innovation.

Last July, I set up the enterprise strategy group to be the architect of new enterprise policies for the coming decade. I asked its chairman, Eoin O'Driscoll, to specifically look at what we need to do to be a competitive, knowledge based enterprise economy and asked that the group specifically take account of international trends in globalisation and EU enlargement. I expect to receive this report around the middle of the year.

Insurance Industry.

Questions (43)

Phil Hogan

Question:

40 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the need for greater transparency in the setting of insurance premiums following the recent posting of high profits by a number of insurance companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8017/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The pricing and underwriting of insurance is a matter for individual insurance companies and EU law prevents governments from intervening in the matter of premium levels. Insurers make decisions on provision of cover based on their assessment of that risk in the market. Governments are free, however, to take action to improve the functioning of the insurance market.

As part of the insurance reform programme, a joint study on insurance is being undertaken by the Competition Authority and my Department. The bulk of the study was completed in 2003 and a preliminary report and consultation document on competition issues in the non-life insurance market was published on 18 February 2004. In its preliminary and consultation report one of the findings of the Competition Authority on brokers' fees is that there is a lack of transparency in that buyers do not necessarily know what incentives and commissions the broker might receive, nor which insurers the broker has contacted on their behalf. Following a two month consultation period, a final report will be published by the Competition Authority which will contain recommendations based on its findings. I fully intend that the recommendations made should be implemented.

The insurance reform programme that I launched on 25 October 2002 contains many recommendations that relate to transparency as follows: requiring brokers to provide each client with a list of the motor insurers for which they hold an appointment consistent with the provisions of the Investment Intermediaries Act 1995 — implemented in IFSRA's code of business conduct; introducing regulations to tackle the confusion of illusion of choice by requiring insurers who offer motor quotations under a number of business names and product images or through any direct sales outlets to state the identity of the insurance group of which they are a part — implemented in IFSRA's code of business conduct; amending the format and content of the insurance annual report, the Blue Book, to show clearly the accrual for the current accident year separately from movements in prior years reserves — in progress; that the preparation and publication of statutory returns be amended to clearly reflect the cost of uninsured driving, recording number of cases, amounts of payments and provisions for outstanding claims with other relevant information as deemed appropriate — in progress; that the gathering of statistics on motor insurance premium and claims costs by driver profile be formalised by IFSRA — in progress; that the declined cases committee should include external representatives to report to IFSRA on the operation of the scheme — implemented; that a regulation be introduced to require insurers who refuse to quote for any particular risk to state their reasons in writing upon request — implemented in IFSRA's code of business conduct; and that a regulation be introduced to standardise renewal notices — partially implemented, further standardisation desired by regulators.

Work Permits.

Questions (44)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

41 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the promised legislation to put the employment permit regime on a comprehensive and sound statutory footing will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8057/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

While drafting of the Employment Permits (No. 2) Bill 2003 has been completed by my Department and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, I have asked for further work to be done on a number of legal issues arising. In the meantime, work on examining the draft Bill is continuing within my Department. I am most anxious that this Bill, which seeks to put the instruments of economic migration on a sound statutory basis, be published before the end of this session and that the outstanding issues be resolved as expeditiously as possible.

Social Inclusion.

Questions (45)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

42 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the nature of the relationship her Department has with other Departments, such as the Department of Social and Family Affairs; the way in which she envisages co-operation between Departments to develop to ensure that those without a job and those looking for employees can be matched more effectively than currently seems to be occurring; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8086/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

My Department has an ongoing close relationship with several Government Departments, in particular the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In this connection, an official has recently been nominated to act specifically as a liaison person with the Department of Social and Family Affairs on matters of social inclusion, from a labour market perspective. In addition, there has traditionally existed between FÁS and the Department of Social and Family Affairs a relationship of close liaison and co-operation at central, regional and local levels in the provision of a range of services and supports to the unemployed, to employers and to the public generally.

FÁS and the Department through its executive agency, social welfare services, have recently acknowledged and copper-fastened the specifically close nature of this relationship by agreeing a new memorandum of understanding and framework for co-operation. This document commits the two organisations to harmonising their endeavours to increase the effectiveness of their services for unemployed people and other socially excluded groups and includes engaging with unemployed clients through the national employment service to ensure how their needs and the needs of employers in relation to guidance, referral and job match are best met. The level of co-operation between FÁS and DSFA can be seen most explicitly in the operation of activation measures under the national employment action plan, supports for persons with a disability who wish to avail of training interventions, efficient exchange of data to promote effective service delivery and the development of compatible IT systems.

The high support process is a particular example of co-operation. In January 2003 FÁS introduced a new high support process, HSP, for jobseekers who are suffering personal barriers to employment. A budget of €1.2 million was assigned for the piloting of the HSP in seven regions. Service providers including the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science, participate in and drive flexible local networks of relevant service providers to deliver progression routes to customers under the HSP. The objective of the HSP is to deliver progression routes to clients identified as having extreme barriers to employment. With the agreement of the participant, the identified employability barriers will be presented to a multi-agency case conferencing group. Participants identified for inclusion include long-term participants on the job initiative programme as well as job seekers referred to FÁS under the national employment action plan.

There are many other instances where FÁS is involved in co-operation on issues of general social inclusion. For example, FÁS works, in conjunction with the Department of Social and Family Affairs, to assist and provide employment supports to people with disabilities and lone parents in accessing employment. Additionally, Government collaboration includes working with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in meeting the needs of ex-prisoners and ex-offenders and in promoting child care initiatives to assist women returnees into the labour market.

FÁS also works with the Department of Health and Children to bridge the transition from rehabilitative training to vocational training for disabled people as part of their progression pathway into employment. Furthermore, early school leaver initiatives are developed and initiated jointly with FÁS and the Department of Education and Science.

Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 34.

Economic Competitiveness.

Questions (46)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

44 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made by the monitoring process established to consider and track progress in implementing the recommendations of the National Competitiveness Council’s annual report for 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8090/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

At its meeting on 20 November 2003, the Government noted two documents prepared by the National Competitiveness Council, namely, the council's annual report for 2003 and its competitiveness challenge 2003. The Government also agreed at that meeting that Ireland's competitiveness status would be considered by the Government every six months.

My Department will be following up, with the relevant Departments, on the recommendations and issues set out in both documents, with a view to making a report to the Government in June of this year. The recommendations set out in the competitiveness challenge 2003 focus on two different but complementary agendas: first, the short-term need to improve the cost competitiveness of the enterprise sector and, second, the medium-term challenge of putting in place the foundations for a more entrepreneurial, dynamic and innovation driven economy. Addressing issues of competitiveness at national and EU level remains a major priority of the Government and the NCC's recommendations will be taken forward in that light.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (47)

Jack Wall

Question:

45 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to bring forward the promised amendments to legislation to provide for increased penalties for breaches of industrial relations law and especially for breaching the terms of registered building agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8070/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

During the passage through the Oireachtas of the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003, I brought forward an amendment to the First Schedule of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. This amendment, which received all-party support, will increase the maximum fines that can, upon summary conviction, be imposed by the courts for breaches of registered employment agreements. Under this amendment, the maximum fine that may be imposed by the courts on a person who has failed to carry out an order of the Labour Court regarding registered employment agreements will increase from €1,269.70 to €3,000. In the case of a continuing offence, such a person shall be liable for a further fine of up to €1,000 — increasing from €253.94 — for every day during which the offence is continued. The Bill has now passed all Stages in the Oireachtas.

Departmental Programmes.

Questions (48)

Liz McManus

Question:

46 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons who have participated in the FÁS social economy working programme; if it is intended to discontinue this programme; if the decision was made by her Department or by FÁS; the options open to those who have been participating in the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8081/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The social economy programme supports the development of social economy enterprises and provides sustainable jobs for the long-term unemployed. A total allocation of €351 million is being provided in 2004 to support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, community employment, CE, job initiative. JI, and the social economy programme, SEP. Of this sum, more than €40 million is being allocated to the social economy programme. There are currently 2,412 grant supported employees on the programme.

The demands for assistance under this programme far exceed the budget available. FÁS is scheduling the support to approved projects so as to ensure as equitable a distribution of funds as possible. In the circumstances, it is not possible to satisfy all demands and some enterprises will be disappointed. FÁS will review each project with the managing agents and, in particular, will evaluate the sustainability of the projects after the third year. Where projects are considered not sustainable the possibility of supporting essential social services through community employment will be considered. In addition, special attention will be paid to needs of the participants on these projects.

A review of the social economy programme was undertaken and is being considered by FÁS and my Department. The review will inform the future direction of the programme.

Job Losses.

Questions (49)

Denis Naughten

Question:

47 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 10 February 2004, the progress she has made to address the job losses in the towns of Ballinasloe and Athlone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8014/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I have been advised by IDA Ireland that since the Square D closure announcement in January 2003, there have been nine site visits to Ballinasloe. Construction of a second advance technology building of approximately 27,000 sq. ft., on the IDA business and technology park, is expected to commence shortly. In addition, the IDA has reached an agreement with the ESB for the development of a 38 KV sub-station on its estate which will significantly enhance the electricity supply infrastructure to the site and the surrounding area. The IDA and other State agencies have actively participated in locally generated marketing initiatives and are involved in an ongoing series of meetings with members of Ballinasloe Town Council and Ballinasloe Chamber of Commerce.

Enterprise Ireland has approved a management development grant of €38,000 for the Ballinasloe area community development group towards the employment of a manager for the community owned enterprise centre in Ballinasloe and I understand that the position was advertised recently. At Loughrea, where I announced an expansion in March 2003 of the Signa facility to create an additional 220 jobs, recruitment is ongoing.

As regards Athlone, a comprehensive IDA property programme is in place on the Athlone business and technology park; two new technology buildings of approximately 25,000 sq. ft., and a further office unit of 14,000 sq. ft. which are complete are being marketed by IDA Ireland. Alienware Corporation's official opening of its European operations centre in Athlone on 17 September 2003 creating 80 jobs is a welcome development, as is the announcement on 13 October 2003 that Mapics Incorporated would establish a technical support and shared services centre in Athlone, creating 55 new jobs.

FÁS continues to help people to find suitable employment in Athlone and Ballinasloe and has enhanced the delivery of services to the unemployed in Ballinasloe through alliances with other groups in the Ballinasloe area, such as RAPID, the VEC and Ballinasloe Community Resources Ltd. The major decentralisation package announced in the budget includes 110 jobs to be relocated to Ballinasloe and 145 to Athlone. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in these areas.

The State development agencies are fully committed to ensuring an equal distribution of job creation opportunities and to encouraging the establishment of industry in the regions, in particular, the Border, midlands and west region, of which Athlone and Ballinasloe are an integral part. I assure the Deputy that the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, will continue to work closely together and with local interests in promoting Ballinasloe and Athlone for additional investment and job creation.

Question No. 48 answered with QuestionNo. 38.

Job Creation.

Questions (50)

Denis Naughten

Question:

49 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she is taking to bring green field investment to the BMW region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8013/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland. In pursuit of this objective the agency is committed to ensuring a more equal distribution of job opportunities and to encouraging the establishment of additional foreign investment in the Border, midlands and west region.

IDA Ireland is seeking to achieve 50% of all new green field jobs in the BMW region over the 2000-06 period and substantial progress is being made in this regard. Since 2000, a total of 46% of all new green field jobs have been created in the BMW region. In 1999, prior to the start of the Government's current national development programme, some 25% of all new green field jobs were locating in the region.

Strategically important investments for the BMW region announced during 2003 include Abbott in Longford, ABB in Dundalk and SAP Galway. While IDA Ireland is optimistic that further progress will be made during 2004, I stress that this is heavily dependent on short to medium term developments in the world economy, which can heavily influence overall international flows of mobile investment.

IDA Ireland is actively marketing the region to overseas investors through its project divisions and network of overseas offices. The agency's strategy includes an ongoing programme of developing a network of business and technology parks within the BMW region to ensure that the property needs of potential investors can be met. Typically, new jobs on the ground come on stream within three to five years of approval. I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of the BMW region.

Common Commercial Policy.

Questions (51)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

50 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will elaborate on her statement at the National Forum on Europe that the Government is in favour of retaining the unanimity requirement on international trade in health education and cultural-AV services; and her views on whether the necessity of maintaining a unanimity requirement on national taxation matters may require a concession on certain issues in relation to the opening up of trade in health, education and cultural-AV services. [8111/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

As stated by my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, at the National Forum on Europe on 4 March, Ireland, along with a number of partners, has proposed in the Intergovernmental Conference that unanimity be retained in regard to the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements in the fields of trade in social services and health and education services. That remains our position.

As the Tánaiste also said at the forum, from a national perspective we will take a view on the overall balance of the final IGC texts in the light of the issues and the preferences we have raised. As regards taxation, we believe that the agreement reached at Nice should remain in place. The existing arrangement on taxation is beneficial for the diversity and dynamism of the European economy. For the information of the Deputy, a copy of the Tánaiste's remarks at the forum follow.

Address by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, to the National Forum on Europe on 4 March 2004 Provisions in the draft Constitution relating to the Common Commercial Policy:

I am very pleased to be invited to address the National Forum on Europe. The Forum has proven its importance as a means of bringing the debate on the future of Europe to the wider community and in allowing full participation in that debate from all interested parties.

2004 is an important and historic year for Ireland in the European Union and for the Union as a whole. We are honoured to have the Presidency at a time when the greatest enlargement will take place, on May 1st. It is a momentous step in unifying the peoples of Europe in our common objective of peace, security and prosperity. It also marks a new era in developing our European neighbourhood, where European nations who are members of the Union and those who are not work together in a new way on common issues.

The European Parliament elections in June and the new Constitution will provide new opportunities to bring debate about the Union to the people and to underline the relevance of Union policies to our daily lives. It is important that we keep our eyes firmly on the fundamental objectives we have for common action. I believe this is as relevant to common commercial policy as it is to any other area of Union policy.

EU policies and the benefits of international trade:

At the outset today I would like to take the opportunity to put this in the overall context of international trade, open markets and the Union's basic policies. Trade benefits both sides in the transaction. All the evidence is that free trade helps poor countries become less poor. It raises standards of living. It provides resources for public services. It enables mutual understanding and exchange. One only has to compare North and South Korea — both starting from the same point, but one following the model of a closed, planned economy and the other, an open market, trading economy. Since 1970, the income per capita of South Korea has increased to 19 times that of North Korea.

This difference in living standards over 30 years could hardly be greater. It is not just about measures of economic production. It is about meeting and improving the basic needs of millions of people, like health care, food, clean water, sanitation and education. That is what trade has delivered in South Korea, and is now delivering in countries like China and India.

I don't think there is any developing country in the world that wants to trade less. All their efforts are to open up markets for more trade for their goods and services. Nelson Mandela has called for a new partnership through rules-based trade and investment, not a dismantling of trade and investment. And Kofi Annan put it well when he said, ‘The poor are not poor not because of too much globalisation, but because of too little'.

Trade is essential for raising global living standards, and most essential for those with the greatest need for higher living standards. I agree with the view that while trade is not the answer to all our economic and political concerns, meaningful solutions are inconceivable without it.

European Union policies

The European Union has been built since the start on economic policies of free trade and open markets. The present treaty provision in Article 4 and in the proposed Articles III-69 and 70 say that the Union shall adopt an economic policy ‘conducted in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition'.

In regard to our common commercial policy, the treaties' aims are: "The harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade, the lowering of customs barriers, and the achievement of uniformity in measures of liberalisation".

Again, the draft Constitution reiterates these goals. These are the long-standing, unshakeable foundation stones of the Union's economic policy. Through five referenda over 30 years they have been ratified by Irish people. And we have built a large part of our success as an open, trading economy on these foundation stones of the European Single Market. In 1973, Ireland had a trade deficit of €342 million. In 2002, our trade surplus was €38 billion. Since 1973, our total trade in goods and services has increased from 81 per cent of GDP to over 170 per cent of GDP in 2002. Our approach to questions of economic governance within the Union, such as those we are discussing today, is in the context of a continued and firm adherence to these foundation stone policies.

We affirm the value of an open market economy, of competition and of free international trade based on clear rules. In Ireland, the government has permitted private enterprise in the provision of health, transport and education services. Many people would say it matters little whether these services are purchased by the State for public use rather than provided and organised by the State. Many people would say they are less concerned about the ownership of service providers than quality of services and access to services. The European Union is neutral on these questions of ownership of social services.

The EU respects that Member States have their own history and traditions in organising public and social services. The attitude of both citizens and Member States, who together constitute the Union, suggest that they wish this to continue. Nothing in the draft Constitution would prevent that happening. It is absurd to suggest that the European Union is, deliberately or unwittingly, set upon the destruction of public social services. There is no evidence whatsoever that the European Union is hostile to public service broadcasting, that it wishes to close down public museums or that it wishes to undermine public education — the type of claims that have been made in some quarters.

For example, there was no issue arising from EU legislation for the Irish government's decision to raise the public licence fee by over 40 per cent in December 2002. There would be no issue under the new Constitution either. There is nothing in existing or proposed EU law that would require us ever to charge an entrance fee to our National Gallery. There is nothing in existing or proposed EU law that would require us to privatise any utility. These are matters of our national choice, and will remain so.

Services of General Interest

I would like to turn now to the specifics of the draft Constitution in relation to Services of General Interest and the Common Commercial Policy of the Union. This is the particular focus of today's Forum session. This debate about the regulatory regime that should apply to public utilities and services is not new. It is and will remain a constant issue for national governments and for the Union as markets and services change.

What is new in the debate is the term ‘Services of General Interest'. It refers to both public services, such as education and health, and public utilities, such as telecommunications and transport. It covers services delivered by both public and private sectors.

In addition, a new provision has been added to the draft EU Constitution relating to means of deciding common commercial policy. There is also the background of the European Commission, in a Green Paper, having prompted some debate on whether a single model for the provision of public services is appropriate for the EU. The constraints of time mean I won't address the Green Paper in these opening remarks.

The draft EU Constitution includes provisions on services of general interest in a number of Articles. While existing Treaty language is retained, Article III-6 of the Convention text gives the Union the right to adopt a European law defining the principles and conditions under which services of general interest operate.

This issue was further discussed in the IGC when the Italian Presidency proposed the inclusion of the safeguard that such European laws would be ‘without prejudice to the competence of member states in compliance with the Constitution to provide, to commission and to fund such services.'

While agreement has yet to be formally reached on this amendment, it appears to have found widespread acceptance amongst our partners. This wording reflects the actual policy and long standing approach of the Union. In my view, it should be seen more as a clarification for the avoidance of doubt than any significant change to the existing draft.

The European Convention also proposed that the Council, in line with the general use of QMV in the trade area, should no longer act unanimously in regard to the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements in the fields of trade in social services and health and educational services. Ireland, along with a number of partners has proposed in the IGC that unanimity be retained. This is because it would be more consistent with our general approach to subsidiarity and the use of QMV. The IGC is still under way, as we are all aware. Our national preference remains to keep unanimity in this area.

As Presidency we will work for a generally acceptable outcome on this as on all other matters.

From a national position, we will take a view on the overall balance of final IGC texts in the light of the issues and preferences we have raised. Over the years, Irish Governments have acted in the belief that the national interest is achieved by approaching all issues on a balance of interest basis, and not always one by one, isolated from each other.

This reflects the complex realities of living and working with 14, and soon 24, other Member States and more than 100 times our population. In any case, I wish to make it absolutely clear that, under the draft Constitutional Treaty, the common commercial policy cannot affect the delimitation of competences between the Union and its Member States. Nor can it lead to harmonisation where such harmonisation is excluded by the Constitutional Treaty.

I think we should also recall the very limited competence the Union has in the areas of health, education and social services, which are all clearly the primary responsibility of the Member States. In education, for instance, Union action is limited to incentive actions aimed at contributing to the developing of quality education. Harmonisation is excluded. Measures taken must ‘Fully respect the responsibility of Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems'.

Union competence in the area of health is similarly limited. It must ‘Fully respect the responsibilities of the Member States for the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care.' Agreements concluded under the common commercial policy cannot extend the competence of the Union in these fields.

WTO negotiations

Today's discussion also takes place in the context of the World Trade Organisation's trade talks under the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). The Doha work programme encompasses a very wide agenda with the promotion of market access and market opening across the full range of economic sectors, including services. These are being conducted on the basis of requests being made to non-EU WTO partners to open their markets to European exporters and a concomitant request from these partners to gain access to Europe's services markets. WTO members have committed themselves to further liberalisation of trade in services, governed by the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services — otherwise known as GATS negotiations.

As you are aware, following the failure of the Cancun Ministerial WTO meeting, the WTO membership is endeavouring to re-launch and restart the DDA negotiations. Having consulted with the Council and the Parliament, the European Commission last November issued a communication, which sets out the strategy designed to get the Doha talks re-started. The EU Council of Ministers endorsed this approach and urged the EU Commission to actively negotiate with the EU's trading partners with the aim of an early re-launch of the Doha Round.

Any fair examination will show that the EU's formal request, and initial offer, to our WTO trading partners, which were finalised and submitted to our WTO partners in July 2002 and April 2003 respectively, are fully in line with publicly stated objectives. That is, the EU has no intention to promote or request privatisation or the dismantling of public services in any sector in the GATS or in any country.

It is important to repeat this point in response to some of the more exaggerated claims that have been made. The EU's approach to the GATS negotiations does not threaten public services. The reality is that we in Ireland fully agree that Government must remain free to make their own choices regarding public services in the context of the current WTO Trade Round.

GATS negotiations are about opening up trade, not about deregulating services, which are regulated for very good reasons — be it to uphold quality standards or to protect consumers. Nor does it mean that we mustn't open these sectors up to competition. In the appropriate regulatory and economic framework, competition will enhance and expand the services provided to consumers without calling into question the principle of public service. The GATS negotiations are not about de-regulating public services.

Ireland's and the Union's objectives in the services negotiations, under the Doha Round, are to seek better access for European service providers in third country markets and to secure a more transparent and predictable regulatory environment for services. The formal requests submitted by the EU to our WTO partners under the current round of negotiations do not seek to dismantle public services nor to privatise state-owned companies. No requests are being made on health services or audio-visual services to any country by the EU. Only the US has received a request, limited to privately funded higher education.

On environmental services, EU requests do not touch on the issue of access to water resources and in no way undermine or reduce governments' ability to regulate pricing, availability and affordability of water supplies as they choose. Some WTO partners have requested that the EU open its services market to third country providers beyond that committed under the Uruguay Round. The European Union has made no offer to them in the areas of education, health or social services.

In all these cases, governments across the full membership of the WTO remain free to set levels of quality, safety, price or other objectives they see fit. It is inconceivable that any WTO member would agree to surrender such a right. The EU, which attaches great importance to maintaining its own right to regulate in these areas, will certainly not question the right of others to do likewise.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you and members of the Forum for the opportunity to set out the facts as I see them in regard common commercial policy of the Union and the draft Constitution and the approach the government has taken so far. I welcome the opportunity also for debate and for an exchange of views on these matters.

Job Creation.

Questions (52)

Paul McGrath

Question:

51 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action that has been taken to secure replacement jobs in County Longford following the decision by Cardinal Healthcare to defer a 1,300 job project in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8008/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I am very disappointed that Cardinal Health Inc. has decided not to proceed with its proposed investment in a new pharmaceuticals facility in Longford. According to the company, the decision was due to significant changes in its business priorities. In 2002, IDA Ireland reactivated its focus on Longford and put in place a comprehensive marketing and development programme. This marketing programme has already yielded significant results for the area. In March 2003, Abbott Laboratories announced a €70 million investment and the creation of 600 new jobs for the town. Most of these jobs will be for third level graduates. Site acquisition is completed, planning applied for and granted, and construction of the new Abbott facility is well ahead of programme. This is very real progress and a significant success for Longford and the region.

IDA Ireland is also committed to the development of a new business park in Longford town. Furthermore, the Longford County Enterprise Board is seeking planning permission for a community enterprise centre in Longford which will support start-up businesses. Enterprise Ireland continues to work with indigenous companies in County Longford. Recent positive developments by Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Longford include expansions by Green Isle Limited and Century Homes which will lead to an additional 120 jobs.

Under the Government's major decentralisation programme announced in the budget, 130 jobs are to be relocated to Longford. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in the county. I am satisfied that the combined efforts of the State development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, in co-operation with local interests, should provide an adequate framework to ensure continued job creation and investment in the Longford area.

Job Losses.

Questions (53)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

52 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to her Department during 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; the projected numbers for the remainder of 2004; the steps being taken to deal with the sharp increase in redundancies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8077/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The number of redundancies notified to my Department in the years mentioned were: 13,316 in 2000; 19,977 in 2001; 25,358 in 2002; 27,702 in 2003; and 4,640 to the end of February 2004. The increasing level of redundancies reflects slower economic activity in Ireland in line with difficult economic conditions worldwide.

The quarterly national household survey prepared by the Central Statistics Office last December, shows that employment growth continued in the third quarter of 2003, with an increase of 26,000 to bring the total number of persons in employment to 1.82 million.

The Government's focus is on improving competitiveness, which is critical to sustaining and developing both the manufacturing and international traded services sectors. Policy initiatives by the Government and the State development agencies are aimed at helping the country progress towards a knowledge and innovation driven economy. The enterprise strategy group, which I established in July 2003, has been given the task of developing strategic policy recommendations for enterprise in Ireland up to 2010.

Employment Agency Sector.

Questions (54)

David Stanton

Question:

53 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the most recent reviews of the employment agencies sector that has taken place; the actions she intends to take or has taken on regulating or monitoring the activities of employment agencies; the number of employment agencies currently licensed; the number of licences which have not been renewed in each of the past five years and the reasons for such non-renewal; the number of such licences which have been revoked in each of the past five years and the reasons for such revoking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8099/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Under the current social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, the Government gave a commitment to review the Employment Agency Act 1971, which currently regulates the activities of employment agencies. A discussion document addressing the various options that might be considered for the regulation of employment agencies and their recruitment and placement activities is being finalised by my Department. The discussion document will be circulated shortly to all interested parties for their views, to be followed by meetings aimed at seeking a consensus on the most appropriate approach to adopt.

The current number of licensed employment agencies is 420. My Department does not have figures for the number of employment agency licences which have not been renewed in each of the past five years. However, when agency licences which are issued on a yearly basis fall due for renewal, my Department issues application forms for a licence to the agency in question six weeks in advance of the expiry date of the licence.

In the main, the reason for non-renewal of licences is that the employment agencies in question have ceased to trade. No employment agency licences have been revoked in the past five years.

Company Closures.

Questions (55)

Billy Timmins

Question:

54 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position on the liquidation of IFI; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8009/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I understand that the liquidation is progressing in an orderly and efficient manner and that considerable progress has been made on the realisation of the company's assets. However, while the company's principal properties at Arklow and Marino Point have been placed on the market, I am advised that it may take some time to sell them.

I also understand that most of the company's obligations to secured creditors have now been settled, while payments to preferred creditors, which would include some amounts due to former employees, have been or are in the course of being made. Unfortunately, it is likely to be some time before any payments can be made to unsecured creditors.

I also confirm that all claims received by my Department to date under the redundancy payments scheme and the insolvency payments scheme have been processed. Similarly, all applications received from employees for payments from theex gratia fund of €24.5 million, established by ICI and the State, have been processed. Payments from the fund were made by the trustee of the fund in accordance with the basis for distribution determined by him following consultations with employee representatives. This basis for distribution was endorsed by a ballot open to all employees.

The liquidator has, based on legal advice received, admitted as unsecured creditors in the liquidation claims from the employees of the company who have entitlements to enhanced redundancy payments. It must be emphasised that the amount to be paid in due course in respect of such claims is a matter solely for the liquidator and does not imply any commitment by the State to pay enhanced statutory payments. At this stage, I do not expect that the State will receive any payment in respect of its shareholding in the company.

Competition Authority.

Questions (56)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

55 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the recent annual report of the Competition Authority; her further views on whether the authority’s target of prosecuting one cartel a year is adequate in view of the widespread public concerns regarding the extent to which consumers are being exploited by anti-competitive behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8061/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I welcome the Competition Authority's annual report for 2003, which has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am currently examining the report which demonstrates the authority's wide range of functions in the areas of competition law enforcement, controlling mergers and acquisitions, and promoting competition generally.

With regard to the authority's expectation to prosecute one cartel per year, I understand that this takes account of the authority's experience to date in investigating cartels both at national and international level. Cartels are conspiratorial by nature, making them difficult to detect and prosecute successfully. It should be borne in mind, therefore, that undertaking the prosecution of a cartel case is an arduous and time consuming process which involves the investment of significant legal and economic resources. For example, I am aware that the authority is planning to commence the prosecution of a particular cartel, the investigation of which began more than two years ago. In excess of 50 summonses have been issued in 11 different District Courts to companies and individuals. The authority does not view the number of defendants in this case, or the length of time it has taken to get the case to court, as unusual in cartel investigations.

In view of the harm caused by cartels to consumers, the authority has identified the pursuit of cartels as a priority and to this end it introduced a cartel immunity programme in December 2001 in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand the programme has been operating successfully. Furthermore, the authority's law enforcement role is not confined to cartel investigations. I note that the authority's annual report for 2003 shows a considerable increase in overall enforcement of competition law compared with previous years.

2003 was the first full year in which the authority operated with its current powers and functions under the Competition Act 2002. The report shows that the authority has made a good start and I look forward to its future success.

Price Awareness.

Questions (57)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

56 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to make an order under the Consumer Credit Act to require doctors, dentists and allied health professionals to publicly display their prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8083/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

This subject is still under examination by my Department in consultation with the medical and dental professions and I hope to be in a position to conclude matters shortly.

Employment Market.

Questions (58, 59, 60)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

57 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs created in 2003; the number of jobs lost in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8025/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

82 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs likely to be created in the next 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8205/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost in the past two years; the number of replacement jobs created in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8211/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 82 and 87 together.

The main State development agencies under my Department helped companies create more than 21,700 permanent full-time jobs during 2003, and more than 26,500 jobs in 2002, displaying both the resilience of our enterprise society and the efforts that these agencies have made to counteract the force of decelerating global growth. Nevertheless, we are not immune to the impact of world business events and 33,900 and 28,800 jobs were lost among the agencies' client base in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Last year's reduction in job losses suggests the worst of the job attrition may be over. Employment among clients of the State development agencies, however, is just a part of the job creation picture. The latest data from the Central Statistics Office's quarterly national household survey shows that employment growth across the whole economy has continued, with an increase from 1,745,000 in the December 2001 to February 2002 quarter, to 1,820,800 in the June to August quarter of 2003, an increase of more than 75,000 jobs.

There are indications that economic prospects are now improving and our propensity to capitalise on trends in global growth is likely to again stimulate business expansion and real employment growth. While it is not possible to predict any rate of employment growth in the year ahead, the economic development agencies are cautiously optimistic that employment among their clients will start to expand again. This is based on contacts they have with their clients and indications of a recovery in growth in the global economy. Recent media reports about jobs advertisements in national newspapers suggest there has been a significant rise in the number of manufacturing jobs on offer, as well as a noticeable increase in the general number of jobs being advertised. It is too early to say whether this trend will last but it does point to a more positive employment environment than for some time.

In the meantime, the Government and the economic development agencies are undertaking a number of co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote employment growth. We must capitalise on the potential that research and development, new process and product innovation and more complex services activity offers to expand higher quality and more sustainable higher paid employment. We are already making progress in this area. Forfás survey data on productivity and wage growth provides strong evidence of higher quality jobs in clients of the development agencies under my Department. This stems from an increasing focus on more skilled and knowledge intensive activities. According to the data, agency assisted firms enjoyed productivity growth of 4-5% in the period 2000-02, twice the estimated European Union performance over the same period.

Enterprise policy is being actively refocused towards creating the conditions that will make possible a sustained shift to higher skill, knowledge intensive activities in which Ireland can be a significant player and can build truly distinctive competencies. In order to sustain the transition to a more dynamic, enterprising and productive economy, it is necessary to put in place consistent policies in the areas of infrastructure, education, entrepreneurship, research and innovation, all factors required to drive the development of higher skilled, knowledge intensive activities which will be the launch pad for the future growth of enterprise in Ireland.

These issues will be addressed by the enterprise strategy group, which I have charged with developing an enterprise policy blueprint to manage the challenges of changing global and domestic economic environments. I have asked the group to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. The group will report to me in a few months.

European Council Meetings.

Questions (61)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

58 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her priorities for the two formal meetings of the competitiveness Council of Ministers which are to be held during the Irish Presidency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8092/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The programme for the EU competitiveness Council is firmly rooted in the ten year strategy for growth, economic reform and job creation agreed by the Lisbon European Council in 2000. At the start of the Presidency, I published a priorities paper for the Council. Copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library and it is also posted on the official Irish Presidency website atwww.eu2004.ie and on my own Department’s website at www.entemp.ie.

Particular stress will be laid by the Irish Presidency on the need for the competitiveness Council to focus on and develop its horizontal remit in line with the Seville European Council in June 2002 and the Presidency conclusions of the 2003 spring summit. It is important that attention is paid at the highest political level to issues affecting the competitiveness of enterprise and the role of the competitiveness Council is central to achieving this. The Council will also discuss a range of issues in areas covered by its remit.

I will chair two formal meetings of the Council in Brussels on 11 March and 17-18 May 2004. The agenda for the Council on 11 March includes the following: preparation for the spring European Council — policy debate and approval of the competitiveness Council's input to the spring European Council; stimulating entrepreneurship — the Council is expected to adopt conclusions under this heading; a proposal for a Council regulation on the Community patent — political agreement; draft directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights throughout the EU — report on the state of play; competitiveness of business related services and draft framework directive on services — adoption of Council conclusions; draft framework directive on services — presentation by the Commission and exchange of views; proposals on the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals, REACH, — progress report; Europe and basic research — Council conclusions on recent Commission communication; space policy — exchange of views on recent Commission white paper and related communication; draft consumer protection co-operation regulation which aims to create a network of national consumer protection authorities — progress report; adoption of a proposal for a Council regulation concerning a temporary defensive mechanism to shipbuilding.

The final agenda for the May Council will depend on a number of matters, including the outcome of the Council on 11 March and the level of progress achieved on various issues between now and May. In addition to finalising or further progressing items which will not be disposed of in March, the May Council is expected to deal with issues in the area of company law, innovation policy, proposals for directives on computer implemented inventions, the recognition of professional qualifications and the mobility of third country researchers. It is also anticipated that there will be additional items in the area of consumer policy such as the regulation of sales promotions in the internal market, unfair business to consumer commercial practices and a proposal concerning credit for consumers.

Industrial Development.

Questions (62)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

59 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she intends to take to support small to medium sized indigenous industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8015/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for the development of indigenous small and medium sized enterprises — SMEs — in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. Enterprise Ireland delivers a flexible set of solutions tailored to the needs of individual Irish enterprises. Each client company is assigned a development adviser who works with the company in assessing its needs and capabilities, formulating an agreed growth plan and in assisting the company access the range of services and resources it needs to execute that plan. The plan is based on the holistic principle that all aspects of a business should be addressed by a company in order for it to achieve accelerated profitable growth.

Companies will achieve success through a balanced development that builds strength across six key elements: research and development, marketing, finance, human resources, production and business strategy. Enterprise Ireland provides both financial and non-financial support to client companies in this regard.

Enterprise Ireland aims to support SMEs which wish to expand through increased export activity. In response to client demand, Enterprise Ireland has put in place a range of new initiatives geared towards clients developing export markets for the first time, for example, in-market mentors, training workshops, market visits, winning sales seminars etc. Overseas support is primarily provided through Enterprise Ireland's extensive overseas office network.

Enterprise Ireland has also put in place a range of supports aimed at specific priority areas. In May 2003, it launched the competitiveness fund, a €10 million fund established to build the competitiveness of SMEs. The final call for proposals under the fund closed on 6 February 2004 with more than €7.5 million already committed to Irish firms. In addition to supporting in-company applied research and development, a key focus for Enterprise Ireland is to increase the rate of commercialisation of research emerging from research institutes, thus leading to new product and process innovation being embedded in indigenous companies. This is being facilitated by the establishment of incubator centres and webworks being created around the third level sector.

Enterprise Ireland, in conjunction with the private sector, has also developed a range of seed and venture capital funds, in many cases dedicated to specific emerging technologies or focused on business development in the regions outside of Dublin. Enterprise Ireland will continue to address client demands and to provide a range of supports aimed at assisting client companies to expand and compete in the international marketplace.

Local Employment Service.

Questions (63)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

60 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received an assessment of the labour market needs of the Clare area following the decision of the board of the Clare local employment service to discontinue services; the steps she intends to take to ensure that the needs of the client base dealt with by the Clare LES will continue to be met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8096/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The position with regard to the closure of Clare local employment service has remained as stated in my reply to Question No. 3791 answered on Tuesday, 10 February 2004. The board of Clare LES decided on 15 December 2003 to cease operations from 30 January 2004. I subsequently requested FÁS to conduct an assessment of the labour market needs of the Clare area in the context of the closure of the local employment service.

As part of this assessment, FÁS would bring forward recommendations on the type and level of a dedicated employment service necessary to address the particular needs of marginalised client groups in the region. FÁS is conducting the assessment as requested.

EU Directives.

Questions (64)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

61 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the Government will stop blocking the EU directive on temporary agency workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8023/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The proposed draft directive on temporary agency workers has been the subject of detailed discussions between the European social partners, which broke down after 11 months of negotiations in May 2001, and subsequently at the employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs Council in December 2002, March 2003 and June 2003. Under the Italian Presidency, various high level contacts were undertaken with a view to resolving the outstanding issues in time for the Council on 1-2 December 2003. As there were no developments which would allow agreement on a common position at that stage, the point was removed from the Council's December 2003 agenda.

The key outstanding issues are a review of restrictions and prohibitions regarding the use of temporary workers — Article 4 — and the duration of the exemption or "qualifying period" with regard to the principle of equal treatment — Article 5(4). On Article 4, Ireland has consistently maintained that it is one sided and unwarranted to disrupt an otherwise smooth functioning aspect of our labour market while other member states continue to maintain unjustified national restrictions on agency work, which include: restrictions on types of employment contracts, limitations to the use of agency work and unjustified discrimination of agencies compared to other employers.

On Article 5(4), Ireland, along with the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark, has been pointing out that temporary agency workers enjoy all workplace rights, while there is a difference of approach as between the European Parliament, on the one hand, which argues that temporary agency workers should receive pay parity immediately on placement, and the Commission and 11 member states, on the other, which can accept parity after six weeks. Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark argue that pay parity should only take place after a considerably longer waiting period, for example, 12 months.

The draft directive on temporary agency workers should also be seen in the context of a number of proposals for legislation and negotiations between the social partners aimed at promoting more flexible forms of work organisation and reforming the regulatory, contractual and legal environment so as to better reconcile flexibility and job security and create more and better jobs, as required by the Lisbon strategy, whereby all available instruments to stimulate the creation of quality jobs, diversify forms of employment and reconcile flexibility and security should be used.

Ireland attaches great importance to the success of the Lisbon strategy and as current EU President we will reflect on how the draft directive on temporary agency workers can be finalised. The Council has constantly given a firm commitment to reaching the Lisbon goals of increasing employment and providing better jobs and intends to work for a fair and practical solution which takes into account all the legitimate concerns. To this end, Ireland, during of its Presidency, intends to reflect on the different possible tracks to be followed in this dossier and will remain alert to any new developments which could help in resolving the outstanding areas of difficulty.

I point out, however, that the recent report of the employment task force chaired by Wim Kok, a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, raises key questions about EU employment policy, notably the continued existence of unjustified restrictions on employment in some EU countries. The task force report calls on member states "to remove obstacles to the setting up and development of temporary work agencies as effective and attractive intermediaries in the labour market, offering improved job opportunities and high employment standards" and to remove "obstacles to temporary agency work could significantly support job opportunities and job matching." Ireland fully endorses the calls made in the Kok report about the scope for advancing the Lisbon goals through progressive developments in the temporary agency work sector.

Press Council.

Questions (65)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

62 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when responsibility for the establishment of a press council or press ombudsman was handed over by her to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7999/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The programme for Government, An Agreed Programme for Government, contains a commitment relating to the reform of the libel laws in the context of a statutory press council. Official responsibility for action to implement that commitment is a matter for my colleague, the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and that has been the position since the formation of the Government.

Job Creation.

Questions (66)

Willie Penrose

Question:

63 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to a recently published paper by the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed on long-term unemployment, highlighting the different barriers facing unemployed people; if her attention has further been drawn to the major policy improvements the paper advocates in regard to active labour market programmes and job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3882/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I have noted with interest the document referred to by the Deputy. Many of the issues and challenges raised in the paper from the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed are being addressed in the context of the current national employment action plan and through the extension of the preventative strategy on a country wide basis to all those in danger of becoming long-term unemployed.

The long-term unemployment rate currently stands at 1.4% which remains low in historical terms and compares very favourably with our EU partners. At present there are some 26,700 persons who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. We are continuing to engage with all those who remain marginalised and in long-term unemployment through a wide range of labour market measures and activities.

The preventative strategy under the national employment action plan is being rolled out to all persons on the live register, involving a systematic engagement with the unemployed before they cross a threshold of six months unemployment. The high supports process launched last year is a flexible process to assist employment service officers in implementing a range of responses for clients who are experiencing barriers in progressing from unemployment to the workforce. The gateway for women initiative is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work.

FÁS also provides assistance and training for low skilled people through a number of programmes such as skills training, community training, bridging foundation and traineeships. In addition, the total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, namely, community employment, job initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. This allocation of €351 million is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003. Accordingly, there will be no reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004.

The commitment to fund a continuing pool of up to 25,000 places across the three schemes brings clarity not only to the levels of activity which will be supported but will enable FÁS to give a clear commitment to the support of local community services.

World Trade Negotiations.

Questions (67)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

64 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will make a statement on the recently published report by Comhlámh, Beyond Cancún EU Agricultural Trade and Policy and the Majority World; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4258/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I welcome the recently published report by Comhlámh, Beyond Cancún EU Agricultural Trade Policy and the Majority World. It will contribute to the broadening of the debate on agricultural trade policy and the impact of these policies on the development dimensions of the current trade round.

The EU commenced an internal reflection period with key stakeholders, including the EU member states, the Commission and the European Parliament, to review the DDA negotiations in the aftermath of the failed Cancun conference. The European Commission communication which issued following the conclusion of this period of reflection, in November 2003, notified the approach to reviving the DDA negotiations from the EU perspective. In it, there is clear emphasis on the need for the re-integration of developing countries into the world economy as a necessary condition for development, and that such integration will be deeper and fairer if anchored in the multilateral trading system.

The strategy and approach notified in the Commission communication across the full spectrum of DDA negotiating issues was endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers in December 2003. The Council encouraged the Commission, on its behalf, to actively engage with our WTO trading partners aimed at the immediate re-launch of the DDA negotiations and stated that the "Union give priority to the achievement of real benefits in the short term to the poorest countries through rapid progress on issues of importance to them".

The EU is, therefore, committed to work hard to secure genuinely pro-development outcomes in all areas of the Doha work programme, in line with the stress placed on this in earlier Council conclusions. Action to achieve these outcomes are those identified in the September 2002 communication on trade and development, endorsed by the Council, including in the areas of market access, multilateral trade rules, trade related assistance and capacity building, including the mainstreaming of trade related assistance into poverty reduction strategy papers, and similar strategies.

Again, I welcome the Comhlámh report and its contribution to the debate which will be considered in the context of the strategies and approach to achieve the desired objectives across the full spectrum of DDA sectors, including agricultural trade policy. In that context, I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, as President of the Agriculture Council, intends to hold a debate at the informal Ministers meeting in Ireland in May on how the impact of CAP reform on international trade, as well as opportunities arising from existing and future international arrangements, can best be communicated to the European Union's trading partners and, in particular, developing countries.

EU trade policy is a community competence. As such, a common EU approach is developed and formulated in the evolution of the common commercial policy of the Union.

Community Employment Schemes.

Questions (68, 69)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

65 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to the various reviews or studies of community employment commissioned or undertaken by her Department; the main findings of each; if she intends to publish the reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8079/04]

View answer

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

72 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of places available on community employment schemes at January 2000, January 2001, January 2002, January 2003 and January 2004; the number that will be available at the end of 2004; if her attention has been drawn to the continuing difficulties being created for community and voluntary organisations by the reduction in community employment places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8080/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 72 together.

The review of active labour market programmes, including community employment, job initiative, education and training and back to work programmes, which was mandated by the PPF and outlined in the programme for Government, has concluded without reaching a group consensus on the various elements of the review.

The standing committee on the labour market, chaired by my Department, undertook this review. The standing committee was unable to produce a final report in the absence of efficient consensus on the various elements of the review. As part of the review process Indecon international economic consultants were commissioned by my Department on behalf of the standing committee to facilitate a rigorous assessment of the overall effectiveness of existing programmes, and to help inform the deliberations of the standing committee. The Indecon report may now be viewed on my Department's website atwww.entemp.ie.

FÁS has also undertaken a review of community employment and job initiative and has indicated that this report will be published in due course. The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, community employment, job initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market, while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. This allocation, €351 million, is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003.

The number of places available on CE since January 2000 is as follows:

Year

Places

Year

Places

January, 2000

36,579

January 2003

24,991

January 2001

33,549

January 2004

19,848

January 2002

30,809

December 2004 (estimate)

20,000

The future structure of the community employment programme 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.

Grocery Industry.

Questions (70)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

66 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to publish the results of her review of the 1987 groceries order which forbids below cost selling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8098/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

My review of the groceries order is ongoing and I hope to conclude my consideration of the matter in the near future.

Job Creation.

Questions (71)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

67 Mr. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action that has been taken to secure replacement employment in Macroom, County Cork, now that the jobs announced by the Taoiseach on 18 April 2002 for the former general semi-conductor plant, due to be created by Elan, are not due to come on stream; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8012/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Since becoming available for sale in September 2002, IDA Ireland has, through its national and overseas network of offices, actively marketed the Macroom facility to a range of target sectors and existing client companies, including the pharmaceutical, medical technologies, ICT and international services areas. I am informed by IDA Ireland that the facility has now been sold to a private developer, who proposes to construct a business park there. IDA plans to meet with the developer shortly to discuss the future strategy for the facility.

The major decentralisation package announced in the budget includes 70 jobs to be relocated to Macroom. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in the area. I assure the Deputy that the State development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, will continue to actively promote Macroom for investment and job creation.

Dental Services.

Questions (72)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

68 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to a recent survey published by a newspaper (details supplied) which showed that consumers here are paying some of the highest prices in Europe for medical and dental work; if she intends to take action to prevent the exploitation of consumers in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8089/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

My attention has been drawn to the newspaper article concerned. While there are many factors involved in drawing comparisons between the charges for medical and dental services in Ireland and in other countries, the article confirms that it is appropriate for our competition and consumer protection agencies to be paying increased attention to the professions concerned.

In that connection, I look forward to receiving the report of the study by the Competition Authority into the medical practitioner, dentist and optometrist professions later this year. I also welcome the work which is being carried out by the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs to stimulate greater price awareness among consumers in relation to medical services generally.

Consumer Protection.

Questions (73)

Phil Hogan

Question:

69 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she intends to review the operation of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs to ensure it is given the necessary additional powers to investigate complaints about the public and private sector by consumers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8016/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The current level of investigatory and other powers which are available to the Director of Consumer Affairs are, I believe, generally adequate for the purposes of consumer protection enforcement purposes. There are some instances where there may be some enforcement difficulties and these are under examination by my Department at present.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Job Creation.

Questions (74)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts she has made to find alternative employment for the 300 former employees of Schneider Electric, Celbridge, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8030/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The State agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, which have responsibility for enterprise development, have been marketing the Celbridge facility for some months. An updated profile of the facility was circulated to IDA's network of overseas offices but efforts to attract a replacement project have not been successful to date. However, interest has been expressed in acquiring the facility for non-manufacturing purposes but agreement has not yet been reached on this issue.

FÁS has and will continue to meet staff who are being made redundant, offering them its full range of support services, including career guidance, access to labour market information and training courses, where appropriate, to enhance employability. To date, with the co-operation of the company, FÁS has interviewed more than 100 workers for this purpose. Outplacement consultants are also working closely with the company in seeking other employment opportunities. Furthermore, Enterprise Ireland and the Kildare County Enterprise Board have provided advice to a number of Schneider employees interested in starting small businesses.

I assure the Deputy that the State development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, will continue to promote Celbridge in the attraction of inward investment and will make every effort to secure alternative employment for the workers affected.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Migrant Workers.

Questions (75)

Seán Crowe

Question:

73 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures which have been taken by the Government to ensure that migrant workers, particularly those working as domestics and in caring roles, are not exploited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8020/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Where employers seek work permits in order to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires the statement of the main functions of the job, salary-wages, deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. Applications for renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid; P60 and other sources are used. Work permits are not granted for sectors such as domestic employment where it is believed that such employment can be met from the Irish-EEA labour market.

In the area of pay and conditions, it is primarily the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 that apply to employees who are employed as domestics or in caring roles, whether such employees are nationals or non-nationals. The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to emigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers.

Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual(s) concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. In the pursuit of this remit the inspectors are empowered to enter premises, that is, the place of business usually, at all reasonable times and to demand access to the relevant records that employers are obliged to maintain. Such records, together with other substantiating evidence, for example, a statement from an employee, provide the essentials of a basis for legal proceedings.

It should be noted also that, in many cases, employment rights legislation has provisions whereby workers who believe that they have been denied their entitlements, or otherwise unfairly treated, can, as an alternative to dealing with the Labour Inspectorate, take the matter before a commissioner in the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission.

Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 39.

Work Permits.

Questions (76)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

75 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if consideration has been given to the issue of work permits to employees rather than employers, in view of complaints that the present system is a type of indentured bondage. [8000/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I am aware of the comments in question. However, the speaker appears not to have been aware of existing policy and practice in this area. At present, the work permit facility grants the permit to an employer to recruit a specific employee to fill a specific vacancy, where the employer has been unable to find a suitable employee within Ireland or the wider European economic area. This arrangement does have the safeguard that the non-EEA employee in question is coming to fill a specific vacancy, an important factor when most of the personnel in question are at the lower end of the skills spectrum.

Despite assertions to the contrary, in recent years, work permit personnel have being readily facilitated in changing employers and in such circumstances a new work permit is issued to a new, eligible, employer. This flexibility has been possible and warranted by the relatively high number of vacancies arising in recent years.

In 2002 some 3,888 work permit employees changed employer, while in 2003 this number was 3,512, or an average of 68 per week. This reality does not support accusations that the work permit facility resembles "bonded servitude".

If we were to move to a situation where a work permit was given to the individual employee, we would, in effect, be giving an authorisation to such individuals to come to Ireland in search of an employer. Such a system is not impossible but it gives rise to a number of serious policy questions and raises a significant resource issue. Any informed decision to move to a new system should take these into account.

My Department is confident that after 1 May 2004 we should be able to meet the great bulk of our overseas labour needs from within the enlarged EU and such persons will not require work permits.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Questions (77)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

76 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures the Government is taking to combat the unacceptably high rate of work related deaths and injuries in the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8150/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, the Health and Safety Authority has overall responsibility for the administration, enforcement and promotion of occupational health and safety. The day to day function of the authority is to deal with matters arising from this responsibility.

While any workplace fatality is one too many, worker fatality rates have been steadily falling to the extent that the rate per 100,000 workers is now 45% lower than in 1995. Over the same period, there has been a reduction of 26% in the rate of claims for occupational injury benefit.

The authority's work programme for 2004 includes a wide range of actions to improve safety performance in the high risk sectors of construction, agriculture, mining and quarrying. The authority will be working closely with other bodies in these sectors such as the IFA, Teagasc, CIF, ICTU and IBEC to fulfil its role of encouraging and enabling best practice in occupational safety and health and, where necessary, enforcing compliance with the relevant legislation.

There is still a major challenge to reduce workplace accidents that lead to injuries and death. There are also responsibilities on the main participants in the workplace — the workers and employers. All parties must work together to make the workplace safer.

Professional Services.

Questions (78)

Liam Twomey

Question:

77 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will report on progress to date on the investigation into the competitiveness of professional fees; and when she expects this investigation to be completed. [8153/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The study by the Competition Authority of the professional services market is progressing and is expected to be completed by end 2004. The issue of fees is one element of the study, which has the overall aim of analysing any practice or method affecting competition in the provision of certain professional services.

To date, consultation documents on engineers and architects have been published, and the final reports will issue shortly. A consultation document on veterinarians will issue in late March. Consultation documents containing draft recommendations for the professions of solicitors and barristers should issue in the early summer of 2004. Draft recommendations for medical practitioners and dentists, plus the final reports on the legal professions, should issue in autumn 2004. I look forward to receiving the final reports of the authority in each sector.

Work Permits.

Questions (79)

Jack Wall

Question:

78 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a work permit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8180/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I am informed that a work permit application was received on 4 February 2004 for the individual concerned. Assuming the application is complete and is otherwise in order, it will take between four and six weeks to process.

Industrial Competitiveness.

Questions (80, 81, 82)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

79 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in terms of our competitiveness on European or other export markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8202/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the price increases that have contributed most to a lack of competitiveness in the economy; the action or actions she has taken or intends to take to address the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8209/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she has taken to combat the ever increasing problem of costs to industry which is causing a lack of competitiveness in the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8210/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 85 and 86 together.

The International Institute for Management Development, IMD, in its World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2003 ranks Ireland as the eleventh most competitive country in the world with a population of fewer than 20 million. Ireland performs particularly well in regard to our exports of commercial services, our real GDP growth and our level of high tech exports. With respect to our positionvis-à-vis our European partners, the EU Commission’s spring report, Delivering Lisbon — Reforms for the enlarged Union, includes a comparative study on the performance of EU member states in the various areas of the Lisbon agenda. The report echoes the findings of the IMD competitiveness yearbook and notes that Ireland scores well on productivity levels, on productivity levels per person employed and on educational attainments. The EU Commission’s report also notes the significant decrease in long-term unemployment in Ireland and the introduction of more competition in telecoms and new competition rules for both the electricity and the gas markets.

The Government recognises the importance of ensuring that Ireland remains competitive, as a guarantee of our future economic success. We are committed to providing a pro-business environment, which will enhance the competitiveness of the Irish economy. A pro-business environment with low inflation will stabilise firms' costs and provide them with a solid competitive business environment from which they can successfully compete on both domestic and international markets. The most recent inflation figures from the consumer price index, CPI, show an inflation rate of 1.8% in January 2004. This is the lowest level in more than four years.

The present partnership programme, Sustaining Progress, has at its core the need to underpin Ireland's competitiveness. The goal of Sustaining Progress is to create a virtuous circle of low inflation, moderate wage growth and higher productivity, thereby providing a firm competitive business environment for Irish industry. A key element of Sustaining Progress was the establishment of an anti-inflation initiative. As part of this initiative, a group was created to examine ways of addressing domestic inflationary pressures. The group published its first progress report in November 2003 and in response to its recommendations, the Government has, among other things, agreed new management and control arrangements designed to keep public expenditure on target.

Arising from the work of the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, in its Annual Competitiveness Challenge 2003 report and the Competitiveness Challenge 2003, the Government has decided that it will assess Ireland's competitive status every six months. My Department is currently examining the recommendations and issues set out in both NCC reports, with a view to making a report to Government in June of this year.

I have stated on several occasions that the principal method for reducing costs and maintaining them at an acceptable level is to increase competition in all sectors of the economy. We cannot afford to have sheltered sectors of the Irish economy immune from price competition. It should be noted in this context, that the resources of the Competition Authority have been substantially increased to combat anti-competitive practice in the economy. Competition in all sectors must be encouraged to ensure goods and services are provided at an efficient and affordable price.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Questions (83)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

80 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has awarded adequate funding to FÁS to facilitate the operation of all training and work experience schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8203/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

A total of €837 million has been provided by my Department to FÁS in 2004. Of this, €366 million is allocated to employment programmes, €307 million to training and integration supports and €22.7 million for capital expenditure.

The allocation to employment programmes includes an amount of €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three major employment schemes, that is, community employment, job initiative and the social economy programme. This allocation is similar to that provided in 2003. Accordingly, participation levels over the three schemes in 2004 are being maintained at 2003 levels.

The allocation of €307 million to training and integration schemes in 2004 represents a 3% increase on the 2003 provision. FÁS, through the prioritisation and efficient use of resources, will endeavour to maintain activity levels at 2003 levels. The €22.7 million capital allocation to FÁS this year for the maintenance and refurbishment of certain training centres will enhance the delivery of training by FÁS.

Work Permits.

Questions (84)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

81 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications for work permits received in the past 12 months; the number granted, refused or pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8204/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The numbers in respect of work permit applications in the 12 months up to the end of February 2004 are as follows: 47,985 received, 47,846 granted, 1,917 refused and 4,847 outstanding. It should be noted that at the commencement of the period in question approximately 4,000 applications were on hand awaiting decision. Detailed statistics on work permits are available on the work permits page of my Department's website.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Commodity Exports.

Questions (85)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

83 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which the profiles of Irish exports have changed in the past five years, having particular regard to Ireland’s shift from a low wage economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8207/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The table below sets out, on a year by year basis and ranked in order of magnitude, the top ten commodities exported since 1998. As can be seen from the table, the main commodities exported were computers, organic chemicals, medical and pharmaceutical products, electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances and miscellaneous manufactured articles. These commodities have consistently remained at the top of the list until end November 2003 — the latest date for which figures are available.

Commodity

Nov-03

Dec-02

Dec-01

Dec-00

Dec-99

Nov-98

Grand Total

Computers

13,222,386

17,309,439

21,034,504

19,616,838

15,152,683

12,940,209

99,276,059

Organic Chemicals

14,247,984

17,378,629

17,117,880

16,897,510

11,394,108

9,946,284

86,982,395

Medical & Pharmaceuticals

12,407,620

15,669,893

8,975,122

5,311,737

4,815,062

4,212,398

51,391,832

Electric Machinery

4,711,307

10,564,768

10,164,508

7,915,992

5,135,803

4,212,243

42,704,621

Misc Manufactured articles

4,420,248

5,034,547

6,002,668

6,121,857

5,208,985

4,231,431

31,019,736

Telecommunications & Sound Equipment

1,196,699

2,635,456

3,657,621

3,736,537

3,582,147

2,150,442

16,958,902

Essential Oils; Perfume materials

3,754,560

3,160,548

3,140,935

2,355,172

2,448,689

2,012,418

16,872,322

Non-specified

2,594,085

2,588,485

2,782,972

2,561,689

2,110,931

1,930,355

14,568,517

Chemical Materials & other

2,201,766

2,223,569

2,295,192

1,940,869

1,862,762

1,414,117

11,938,275

Professional, Scientific & Controlling Apparatus

3,004,398

2,061,756

1,881,810

1,703,241

1,387,281

1,394,954

11,433,440

Grand Total

61,761,053

78,627,090

77,053,212

68,161,442

53,098,451

44,444,851

383,146,099

The above data refers to all exports, that is, commodities exported by foreign direct investment companies and indigenous Irish companies.

The Government's policy has for long been to assist indigenous companies to move up the value chain towards the higher value, higher wage end of the market. The policy with regard to the attraction of foreign direct investment into Ireland has also been to target companies engaged in higher value activities and with a higher wage structure. Enterprise Ireland is actively involved in assisting Irish companies to make the transition to the high end of the market in recognition of the fact that, ultimately, the future security of Irish companies depends on their ability to expand export volumes into international markets.

Insurance Industry.

Questions (86)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which insurance costs here are out of line with such costs in other European and non-European countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8208/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The latest comparative figures available in Ireland are in respect of motor insurance, and are shown in the motor insurance advisory board, MIAB, report published in April 2002. The next MIAB report is due to be published in the middle of this year.

In Table 1 below from the McAuley report — Second Report of the Special Working Group on Personal Injury Compensation 2001 — it can be seen that in 1997 motor premiums in Ireland, as a proportion of GDP, were higher than in all other countries except the United States.

In Table 2 below "1998 Claims and Premiums per Vehicle — Europe" which is taken from the MIAB report, Ireland reflects the highest claims cost and premium per vehicle. It may be noted that the insurance cost reflected for a particular jurisdiction bears no direct relationship to a country's safety record as examined in the chapter on accidents in the MIAB report. The figures in Table 2 are based on figures obtained from the CEA, Comité Européen des Assurances, 2001 report. CEA is the Association of Insurance Federations.

Caution must be exercised in making comparisons with other countries because there are considerable variances between countries on the extent to which losses arising from accidents are paid by the state rather than through personal insurance policies.

The Deputy will be aware that one of the main aims of the insurance reform programme is to tackle the area of high claims costs in Ireland.

Table 1

1997 Motor Insurance Premium as % of GDP

Country

%

USA

1.8

Ireland

1.6

France

1.1

Germany

1.1

Netherlands

1.0

Canada

0.9

Denmark

0.8

New Zealand

1.0%*incl tax & fuel levy

Sweden

0.6

Table 2

1998 Claims and Premiums per Vehicle — Europe

Country

No. 000’s vehicles

Claims incurred €m

Claims Inc./Veh€

Motor GWP€m

GWP/Vehicle€

B

5,454

2,039

373.85

2,395

439.13

CH

4,085

1791

438.43

2,436

596.33

D

48,502

19,933

410.97

20,032

413.01

DK

2,175

946

434.94

1,124

516.78

E

21,306

4637

217.64

5,307

249.08

SF

2,402

607

252.71

665

276.85

F

34,211

10,828

316.51

13,923

406.97

GB

27,538

11,602

421.31

11,880

431.40

GR

4,323

576

133.24

630

145.73

IRL

1,472

978

664.40

1,097

745.24

I

41,835

13,545

323.77

14,306

341.96

NL

7,055

2,570

364.28

3,279

464.78

P

5,000

1,012

202.40

1,376

275.20

S

4,198

1,234

293.95

1179

280.85

Total

209,556

72,298

79,629

Average

14,968

5,164

346.31

5,688

398.81

Question Nos. 85 and 86 answered with Question No. 79.
Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Company Licences.

Questions (87)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

88 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the legal basis for the requirement that an applicant for a licence to operate an employment agency obtain Garda clearance; the reason this requirement relates only to the applicant and not to the other directors of a limited company; if she has satisfied herself that the current system is sufficient to ensure adequate standards in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8242/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The legal basis for the requirement that Garda clearance be obtained in respect of an applicant for an employment agency licence is Regulation 8 of the Employment Agency Regulations 1972 — S.I. No. 255 of 1972 — as substituted by Regulation 3 of the Employment Agency Regulations 1978 — S.I. No. 288 of 1978 — which requires, inter alia, that an applicant for an employment agency licence shall, in the opinion of the Minister, “be a person of good character and repute.”

The rationale for seeking this clearance in respect of an applicant for an employment agency licence — rather than in respect of a director of the company in question — is that the applicant is, most usually, the person operating the agency. However, where directors apply for employment agency licences Garda clearance is sought in those circumstances in respect of such directors. Garda clearance is obtained with the consent of the applicant in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Data Protection Act 1988.

In addition, an applicant for a licence must supply two independent references as to his or her character. I am satisfied that the current vetting procedure carried out by the Garda Síochána and the practice of obtaining two independent references ensures adequate standards in this area.

The Employment Agency Act 1971 currently regulates the activities of employment agencies and is the subject of a review under a commitment made by the Government under the current social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress.

A discussion document addressing the various options that might be considered for the regulation of employment agencies and their recruitment and placement activities in this country is at present being finalised by my Department. The discussion document will be circulated shortly to all interested parties for their views, to be followed by meetings aimed at seeking a consensus on the most appropriate approach to adopt.

Overseas Missions.

Questions (88, 89)

Jack Wall

Question:

89 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding serving soldiers in Liberia in regard to holiday release; the position regarding costs in regard to flights back to Ireland; if his Department will meet the costs of such flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8161/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

Defence personnel serving in the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, are entitled to 21 days annual leave for the duration of their tour of duty — six months.

I am advised that the average cost of a return commercial scheduled flight ticket Dublin-Monrovia is €2,200. However, the position is that members of the Irish contingent in UNMIL will have the opportunity to avail of a subsidised leave flight to Ireland during their tour of duty in UNMIL. I have agreed to allow personnel serving in UNMIL to avail of aircraft chartered for the deployment, consignment and-or repatriation of personnel, stores and equipment to and from the mission area. Access to these flights may be made available, space permitting, to personnel who are availing of leave, travelling to or from the mission area on duty or being repatriated or repatriating from the mission area.

In the case of personnel who are availing of the flights for leave purposes, a contribution of €500 has to be provided by each individual and a mechanism to have the sum deducted at source from the individual's overseas allowance has been agreed with the Department's financial accounts section.

Two re-supply flights have already taken place on 17 and 18 February and 9 and 10 March. The planned dates for the remaining re-supply flights are as follows: 30-31 March, 20-21 April, 31 May-01 June, 7-8 June, 10-11 August, 30-31 August, 22-23 September, 11-12 October, 22-23 November and 29-30 November.

I hope the provision of this type of facility will go some way towards providing a means to enable personnel to avail of leave in Ireland with their families.

Enda Kenny

Question:

90 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence if he will amend legislation and regulations which will allow for the grant of a death benefit in respect of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas with OSCE, EU and NATO on peace missions not mandated by the United Nations; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Army Pensions Act regulations do not allow for this; the number of Army personnel of the Defence Force personnel servicing on such missions currently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8221/04]

View answer

There are currently 798 members of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, serving overseas, 755 of whom are deployed on international UN mandated or authorised peace-support operations, including 696 personnel with UNMIL, the United Nations Mission in Liberia, and KFOR, international security presence in Kosovo. The other 43 personnel are deployed overseas in an administrative, staff, observer or advisory capacity on other missions, none of which are armed operations. These include the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, OSCE, the European Union Monitor Mission, EUMM, to the former Yugoslavia and other military appointments in Europe and New York. A full breakdown of the numbers of personnel on the various overseas missions is given below.

As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply to his Question No. 183 on 3 March 2004, where a member of the PDF is killed in the course of duty or dies from a wound received in the course of duty, whether on duty at home or overseas, enhanced spouse's and children's allowances are payable under the Army Pensions Acts. In addition, the standard death gratuity under the Defence Forces pensions schemes and any widow/er's entitlements under the Social Welfare Acts are payable.

As I also indicated, additional lump sum death benefits would be payable under my Department's special extra-statutory compensation scheme where a member of the PDF was killed in the course of duty while serving overseas with an international United Nations force. The question of extending this special scheme to personnel serving with the OSCE and other such overseas missions is under consideration in my Department.

Permanent Defence Force — breakdown of numbers serving on overseas duty

No.

1.

UN Missions

vii(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)

7

vi(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

14

v(iii) UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus)

6

ii(iv) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

4

iii(v) UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

3

ii(vi) UNMISET (United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor)

1

i(vii) MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(viii) MINUCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

ii(ix) UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia)

435

TOTAL

475

UN Mandated Missions

iii(x) SFOR (Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina SFOR HQ Sarajevo)

12

ii(xi) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo)

261

i(xii) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

755

2.

EU Mission

European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia

11

3.

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

vii(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

vi(ii) OSCE Mission in Croatia

1

v(iii) OSCE Mission in Kosovo

1

ii(iv) OSCE Presence in Albania

1

iii(v) OSCE Mission in Former Republic of Yugoslavia

1

ii(vi) OSCE Mission in Macedonia

1

i(vii) OSCE Mission in Georgia

4

(viii) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

11

4.

Head of Military Staff (Brussels)

1

5.

EU Military Staff (Brussels)

6

6.

Liaison Office of Ireland, PfP (Brussels)

2

7.

Permanent Representative to EU (Brussels)

6

8.

Military Representatives/ Advisers

vii(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

vi(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

v(iii) Military Representative to Partnership Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers v(iii) Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

ii(iv) Military Adviser to EU Special Representative in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedoniaii(iv) (FYROM)

1

9.

Appointments — UN HQ (New York)

Officers seconded to DPKO (Department of Peace Keeping Operations)

2

TOTAL NUMBER SERVING OVERSEAS

798

Land Access.

Questions (90)

Billy Timmins

Question:

91 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will offer incentives to farmers to encourage them to open up their lands to facilitate hill walking. [8124/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The first rural environment protection scheme included a supplementary measure under which participants could receive payment for granting public access to their lands.

My Department proposed to include a similar provision in the current scheme. However, this scheme is governed by a different EU regulation from its predecessor, and the current regulation does not provide for co-funded payment, under an agri-environment measure, for the use of land for public access and leisure facilities. Recognising this fact, my Department proposed to include the public access supplementary measure as a state aid, fully funded by the Exchequer. The European Commission held, however, that the governing regulation precluded the inclusion of a public access measure in REPS even as a state aid.

There is no other provision under which my Department can offer incentives to encourage use of land for hill walking. I understand that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is currently reviewing the situation in regard to public access to land.

Milk Quota.

Questions (91)

Dan Neville

Question:

92 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the provision of extra milk quota to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [8125/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the milk quota appeals tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The tribunal considered an application for additional quota from the person in question at its meeting on 8 December 2003 and an allocation was recommended. The person named was notified of the outcome of his application.

Collection of Levies.

Questions (92)

Enda Kenny

Question:

93 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the range of levies and the extent of such levies paid by farmers covering disease control, promotion of Bord Bainne and other activities; the extent of levy collection for each of the past three years; the extent of usage of amounts collected for the purposes intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8165/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The An Bord Bia Act 1994 provides for payment to the board of a levy per head on slaughtered or exported livestock. The rates of levy are currently set at €1.90 per head on cattle, 25 cent per head for sheep and 25 cent per head for pigs. The income generated from these levies is used for promotional and marketing activities for the sectors concerned and is matched in equal measure by Exchequer funding.

The Bovine Diseases (Levies) Acts 1979 to 1996 form the statutory basis for the collection of levies under the bovine TB and brucellosis diseases eradication schemes. The moneys which my Department receive through the diseases levies partly fund the schemes for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.

The information requested by the Deputy regarding the amount of levies collected is contained in the table set out below.

Year

*Bord Bia Levies

Bovine Diseases Levies

€ million

€ million

2001

5.78

10.36

2002

5.30

11.01

2003

5.59

19.77

*The bovine disease levies have been reduced by 25% with effect from 1 January 2004.

Departmental Staff.

Questions (93)

Billy Timmins

Question:

94 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of supervisory agricultural officers in the potato group who were upgraded to district superintendent, in regard to the restructuring agreement 1/97 for agricultural officer grades, under clause 2(3)A of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work; the headquarters of the upgraded officers; the number of supervisory agricultural officers in the seed production group who were upgraded to district superintendent; the headquarters of the upgraded officers; the number of upgraded officers in both groups who subsequently transferred to other duties in his Department; the number of upgraded officers in both groups who were eligible to transfer to other duties in his Department; the number of officers in the potato group who had less than two years’ experience at supervisory agricultural officer level before being upgraded; if supervisory agricultural officers outside groups (details supplied) were upgraded to district superintendent level under the agreement; the number of supervisory agricultural officers on seed production who retired between 1 September 1996 and 1 May 1998; the number of supervisory agricultural officers on potato duties who retired between 1 September 1996 and 1 May 1998; and if an audit was conducted by an independent source on the implementation of the provisions of clause 2 (iii) A of the 1/97 agreement for agricultural officer grades within his Department. [8169/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out below. The number of supervisory agricultural officers in the potato group who were upgraded under 1/97 was eight. The headquarters of these officers were: Donegal, five officers; Galway, one officer; Carlow, one officer; and Meath, one officer. The number of supervisory agricultural officers in the seed production group who were upgraded under 1/97 was five. The headquarters of these officers were: Meath, one officer; Wexford, one officer; Cork, one officer; Waterford, one officer; and Dublin, one officer.

The number of upgraded officers in both groups who subsequently transferred to other duties is three. All the upgraded officers in both groups were eligible to transfer to other duties.

The number of officers in the potato group who had less than two years' service at supervisory agricultural officer level was three. The supervisory agricultural officers in the groups mentioned by the Deputy were upgraded to district superintendent under 1/97. There were no retirements at supervisory agricultural officer level in the potato group during the period 1 September 1996 and 1 May 1998.

The agreement provided for a monitoring group comprising union and management representatives to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

Animal Diseases.

Questions (94)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

95 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the very serious outbreak of salmonella and BVD on the farm of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; the measures he intends to take to come to terms with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8183/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Bovine virus diarrhoea, known as BVD, is not a notifiable disease under the Diseases of Animals Acts, nor is the particular strain of salmonella found in the cattle in the herd in question. Where individual problems occur, whether with notifiable or non-notifiable diseases, as they do from time to time on farms, the veterinary laboratory service, VLS, of my Department is available to support local veterinary practitioners and their clients. In this context, samples from animals may be submitted for testing to my Department's central veterinary laboratory or regional veterinary laboratories at the discretion of a private veterinary practitioner or upon request by a herdowner through his or her private veterinary practitioner, PVP.

I understand that samples from the herd in question were submitted to the VLS by the herdowner's private veterinary practitioner for testing and that the VLS has advised the PVP of the results of all tests available to date. The investigation continues in regard to the disease situation in the herd and I understand that contact is being maintained between the VLS and the herdowner's PVP in regard to advice. Decisions regarding further treatment or vaccination regimes are in the first instance matters for discussion between the herdowner and his or her private veterinary practitioner.

Installation Aid Scheme.

Questions (95)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

96 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the installation aid application for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and the stage the application is at. [8184/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person submitted an application for payment, IAS 2, under the installation aid scheme on 22 September 2003 which was found to be incomplete. On receipt of the additional documentation on 29 October 2003 the application was examined. During the course of this examination, a query arose and additional information was requested from the person. Despite the issue of a reminder to the person concerned on 3 March 2004, no reply has been received to date. On receipt of the information requested the application will be re-examined and the outcome will be notified to the applicant in due course.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Questions (96)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

97 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the substantial delays in the processing and making of REP scheme payments due to understaffing in both the Tuam and Loughrea farm development offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8185/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The processing of REPS payments in both offices is meeting the targets set out in the protocol on direct payments to farmers. The staffing situation is under constant review by senior management and additional resources are made available on a temporary basis as required.

Afforestation Programme.

Questions (97)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

98 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of acres of land that has been planted for forestry on each of the last ten years; the number of acres that he can fund in 2004; if he has satisfied himself with the progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8228/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The number of hectares of afforestation grant-aided in each of the last ten years is as follows: 2003 — 10,000 ha (estimated); 2002 — 15,054 ha; 2001 — 15,464 ha; 2000 — 15,695 ha; 1999 — 12,668 ha; 1998 — 12,928 ha; 1997 — 11,403 ha; 1996 — 20,981 ha; 1995 — 23,710 ha; 1994 — 19,355 ha.

These figures for the area grant aided would closely represent the acreage planted in each year. I am confident that planting levels of at least 10,000 hectares can be achieved in 2004 and funding for this planting has been made available in the estimates for 2004.

State Property.

Questions (98)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

99 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance when the information to be supplied in response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 376 of 30 September 2003 and 166 of 2 December 2003, with respect to State land holdings, will be provided as promised in his replies to these parliamentary questions. [8250/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As mentioned in previous replies, the information requested by the Deputy comprises a significant volume of work and necessitates a significant staff resource to compile it. It is still being compiled. I expect that it will be completed by the end of April.

Passport Applications.

Questions (99)

Pat Carey

Question:

100 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason the Italian authorities have introduced a requirement that Irish citizens visiting Italy have to hold an Irish passport which is valid for a period of six months after the expiry of the period spent in Italy; if this requirement breaches provisions in the treaties governing the free movement of persons within the European Community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8168/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I am not aware of any requirement on the part of the Italian authorities that Irish visitors entering Italy must have a passport valid for six months after the date of their departure. I understand, however, that in the case of persons applying for a residence permit to stay in Italy, some local authorities may insist that their passport be valid for at least six months after the date of their application. This is to ensure that they will have a valid identity document throughout the period before their local residence permit is issued, a process which can take up to six months in some instances.

My Department is not aware of any complaints from Irish citizens in Italy about this type of requirement. Irish citizens in Italy can renew their passport at the Irish Embassy in Rome during their stay in that country.

Youth Services.

Questions (100)

Seán Crowe

Question:

101 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the Government’s plan for implementing the Youth Work Act 2001; and the time scale for its full implementation. [8126/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The Youth Work Act 2001 was enacted on 1 December 2001 and provides a statutory basis for the development of youth work in Ireland. The Act followed on a widespread consultation process and provides a legal framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services to be organised by the Minister for Education and Science, the vocational education committees and national and regional youth work organisations.

It was never the intention that the Act would be implemented fully at once. Section 1 of the Act provides for sections to be commenced at different stages. To date, sections 2-17, 18 and 24 have been commenced. A sub-committee of the national youth work advisory committee was established to make recommendations on the requirements necessary for the implementation of the various sections of the Act. This sub-committee comprises representatives of both statutory and voluntary sectors, as well as my Department. The work of this sub-committee is ongoing and preparatory work is taking place in respect of the requirements under sections 19, 20 and 25 of the Act. It will also be necessary for my Department to have further discussions with the IVEA/CEOs' association and the National Youth Council of Ireland on various aspects of the Act. I am not, therefore, in a position at this stage to indicate when the full implementation of the Act will take place.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (101)

Pat Breen

Question:

102 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will proceed with public private partnership for Ennis national school; if the situation with regard to EUROSTAT has been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8128/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Consideration of any new PPP projects will be based on an evaluation of the completed pilot PPP schools project together with a thorough assessment of affordability of any new projects in the context of the competing demands on the capital funding envelopes. EUROSTAT recently announced changes to the accounting treatment of PPPs and these changes will also be taken into account in the consideration of any new projects.

Bullying in Schools.

Questions (102, 103)

David Stanton

Question:

103 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding his Department is making available to establish and support anti-bullying programmes in primary and second level schools in the State; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8129/04]

View answer

David Stanton

Question:

104 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he intends to take to assist former students of day schools here who suffered from bullying while attending school; if he has any indication of the number of students involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8130/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 104 together. I am aware of the issue of bullying in schools and my Department has moved to tackle the issue on a number of fronts. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in regard to anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the social, personal and health education, SPHE, curriculum.

At post-primary level, the implementation of the SPHE curriculum at junior cycle has been supported by the post primary SPHE Support service since September 2000. The support service is being jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Health and Children, together with the health boards. To date the support service has received funding in excess of €1.5 million. An SPHE syllabus for use at senior cycle level is being prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

At primary level, the issue of bullying is addressed in the SPHE curriculum in the strand "Myself and Others" from infant classes onwards. The primary curriculum support programme, PCSP, has organised, on a phased basis, in-career development programmes for all teachers in SPHE and since 2002 the PCSP estimates that it has allocated approximately €2.7 million to this work.

My Department's in-career development unit, ICDU, has also provided support for the cool school anti-bullying programme for second level schools in the North Eastern Health Board region. This programme involves teacher training, curriculum development, a support service for schools, group therapy for persistent victims and interventions with persistent bullies. To date, ICDU has provided funding of €76,200 in support of this programme and has committed further financial support of €25,400 in respect of the 2004/05 academic year.

Individual school management authorities are responsible for implementing effective policies to counter bullying in schools. In 1993 my Department issued guidelines on countering bullying behaviour to all primary and post-primary schools. The purpose of the guidelines was to assist schools in devising school based measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness of the problem among school management authorities, staff, pupils and parents. A further circular in 1994 reminded school authorities of their responsibility in formulating a written code of behaviour and discipline, which should include specific measures to counter bullying behaviour.

The National Educational Psychological Service is also available as a support service to schools in respect of individual students who encounter difficulties. My Department has not been contacted by or received any representations from former students of day schools who suffered bullying while attending school. Accordingly, my Department has no plans to put in place assistance for former day students who may have experienced bullying while in school.

Disadvantaged Status.

Questions (104)

Bernard Allen

Question:

105 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Cork does not have disadvantaged status in view of the fact that most of the feeder schools at primary level enjoy disadvantaged status but the students lose the status once they transfer to this school. [8131/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

At present, more than 200 post primary schools are designated as disadvantaged and as such are in receipt of additional staffing and funding supports. There are no proposals at present to designate further schools as disadvantaged. In the event of disadvantaged status being extended to additional schools, the needs of the school to which the Deputy refers will be taken into account.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (105)

Bernard Allen

Question:

106 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason stage 2 development for a school (details supplied) in County Cork, promised before the general election in 2002 has not been sanctioned. [8132/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The school referred to by the Deputy applied for capital funding for an extension. Following an assessment of the application, it was agreed to initiate architectural planning for the extension based on a projected long term pupil enrolment of 350 pupils. There has been considerable decline in enrolments at the school in recent years and, having regard to the need for prudent investment of capital resources, a decision was taken not to progress the building project to the next stage of architectural planning, pending a review of the long-term viability of the school.

The views of the school authorities on the decline in enrolments and the future viability of the school have been received recently and my officials will be engaging with the school authorities in regard to determining the way forward for the school.

Resource Teachers.

Questions (106)

Michael Ring

Question:

107 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when the draft circular pertaining to post primary resource teachers will become available. [8172/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The drafting of the circular is at an advanced stage and it will be issued when discussions with the representative bodies of teachers and schools authorities are completed.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Questions (107)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

108 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if solicitors acting for abuse victims appearing before the Residential Institutions Redress Board are paid in full by the State. [8191/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The issue of costs relating to an application to the Residential Institutions Redress Board is dealt with in section 27 (1) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. The redress board's newsletter dated 24 October 2003 posted on its websitewww.rirb.ie also addresses the issue of costs.

Section 27 (1) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides that the board will pay to an applicant to whom an award has been made, either by the board or on review, a reasonable amount for expenses incurred by the applicant in the preparation and presentation of the application to the board. This section further provides that the said expenses/costs should be agreed between the board and the applicant, or the applicant's solicitors or other representative. However, if the costs cannot be agreed between the board and the applicant, then the costs will be taxed before a taxing master of the High Court.

Once the costs have been referred to the taxing master, submissions will be made to the taxing master on behalf of the board and the applicant and the taxing master will ultimately decide what costs will be paid by the board to the applicant and or his or her solicitors or representatives. It should be noted that the costs will not be paid until an application has been finally determined and an award has been made.

Schools Refurbishment.

Questions (108)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

109 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received an application from Dalkey School Project, Glenageary, County Dublin, for the summer works scheme; the consideration he has given to the application; if he intends to provide funding for the works concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8192/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

All summer works scheme applicants will receive a letter from my Department confirming whether they have been allocated funding under the scheme. Unsuccessful applicants will be provided with a reason as to why funding is not being allocated. These letters will issue to schools as quickly as possible.

Scientific and Technological Fund.

Questions (109)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the balance of grants awarded to various second level schools to encourage participation in the sciences will be made; if all schools to which such awards were made are likely to receive payments in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8218/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department is currently examining the applications received and upon completion will issue payments to relevant schools.

Therefore, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to indicate how many schools or the level of funding likely to be provided until the evaluation is completed. It is, however, the intention of my Department's school building unit to have finalised this examination by mid-April 2004 at the latest and to proceed at that time with the issuing of further grant aid in this regard.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Questions (110)

Richard Bruton

Question:

111 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science his policy on making work sharing arrangements available to teachers on temporary contracts; and the way in which this policy is consistent with the approach adopted by Government that atypical workers should have equal access to entitlements which are made available to traditional full-time workers as part of a policy of encouraging flexibility in the work force and equality of workers rights. [8222/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The terms and conditions of service of teachers generally are matters for consideration by the teachers' conciliation council. Any proposal on behalf of temporary teachers for work sharing arrangements would be considered by the council within the context of the provisions of the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act and the requirement to deliver a quality based education service to all students.

Company Closures.

Questions (111)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

112 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if remaining issues relating to the liquidation of a company (details supplied) will be brought to a final closure and specifically the issue of bills for legal fees which have been demanded from former workers of this company. [8198/04]

View answer

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

At the request of the Department of Finance, the question of whether the State should pay the legal fees incurred by former employees of Irish Shipping Limited, in its action against the State, has now been referred to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. The advice of the Attorney General's office is awaited.

Certain other issues recently raised by former employees of Irish Shipping Limited are being examined by my Department.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Questions (112)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

113 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the recent Dublin Castle conference on broadcasting and on the progress he views as having been made with regard to his stated policy on broadcasting across frontiers in the EU; and if his key objectives can be progressed before the end of June 2004. [8199/04]

View answer

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

The informal ministerial conference on broadcasting, held from 1 to 3 March at Dublin Castle and the Boyne Valley Hotel, Drogheda, County Louth, afforded an opportunity for EU broadcasting ministers to hold a wide ranging and informative discussion on issues of relevance to the process of review currently in train regarding the television without frontiers directive.

Commissioner Reding presented the recently published communication on the future of European audiovisual policy and outlined the Commission's proposals for a two step approach to the review process involving a number of short-term measures such as an interpretative communication on new advertising techniques, updating of the recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity, and in the longer term, examination of those areas requiring future reflection through the establishment of expert focus groups. Revision of the directive would be considered in the context of the reports by these focus groups. There was broad consensus in support of the Commission's general approach to the review process.

It was clear from the views expressed that there were specific issues that require further consideration, including the issue of regulatory jurisdiction which continues to be of concern to Ireland as well as a number of other member states. The Commission undertook to engage with this topic in the context of the review process. Copies of the documentation relating to the conference are being made available on my Department's website.

Telecommunications Services.

Questions (113, 114)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

114 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on recent media reports regarding the quality of the national communications grid now owned by Eircom; his views on whether these reports are accurate; and if his Department has made estimates of the levels of investment necessary to maintain the network at the highest levels. [8200/04]

View answer

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

I am responsible for policy in respect of the telecommunications sector. The responsibility for regulation of the sector rests with ComReg — the telecommunications regulator. Responsibility for the quality and investment in telecommunications networks is a matter in the first instance for the telecommunications operators. The detailed planning and operation of telecommunications networks is also a matter for each operator. ComReg monitors the operators' quality of service performance and periodically publishes its results.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

115 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will issue a directive to ComReg to amend the universal service obligation for telecommunications operators to define a consumer’s basic right to a reasonable level of functional Internet access to address the number of phone lines failing the quality test indicators for broadband. [8201/04]

View answer

Regulation 3(2)(c) of the universal service regulations provides for the placing of obligations on designated undertakings to provide connections that shall be capable of allowing end-users make and receive data communications at data rates that are sufficient to permit functional Internet access. Implementation of the aforementioned regulations is a matter for ComReg.

I understand that ComReg is currently in discussions with Eircom, the designated universal service provider, about ensuring that the Eircom network is capable of delivering the universal service obligations in regard to functional Internet access. Internet access at a broadband standard is not currently provided for under the USO. However, this can be reviewed by the regulator in the context of the universal service obligations, subject to the Minister's consent, as broadband becomes more widely available.

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (115, 116)

John Perry

Question:

116 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the lottery funding applications his Department has received from organisations in Counties Sligo and Leitrim; the amount of funding requested; if funding has been granted; if the applications have been reviewed; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8189/04]

View answer

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

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

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, seeking a total of €253.22 million in funding for projects estimated to cost €508.38 million. A total of 30 applications requesting funding of €6.16 million for projects estimated to cost €14.53 million were received from County Sligo and a total of 27 applications requesting funding of €4.62 million for projects estimated to cost €7.57 million were received from County Leitrim.

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:

117 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received an application for lottery funding from Cloonacool Community Park, Tubbercurry, County Sligo; if the funding will be allocated to ensure that the work can commence to complete the work on the football field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8190/04]

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 30 and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Questions (117)

Denis Naughten

Question:

118 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will be called to Sligo General Hospital; the reason for the delay in being called; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8133/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons living in County Leitrim rests with the North Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Expenses.

Questions (118)

Liz McManus

Question:

119 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the costs expended in 2002 and 2003 on expenses for elected members of health boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8134/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The information requested by the Deputy is not available in my Department. It is being sought from the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards and I will transmit it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Questions (119)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

120 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he proposes to take in response to the recommendations and conclusions of the pharmacy review group report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8135/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

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. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the report's recommendations before completion of this examination. I have made the report available on my Department's website,www.doh.ie, along with reports prepared for the group by Indecon international economic consultants.

Medical Council.

Questions (120)

Bernard Allen

Question:

121 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he proposes to introduce provisions in the new Medical Practitioners Act to resolve the issue of using transcripts at professional conduct hearings from other jurisdictions in fitness to practise hearings here. [8136/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council was established as a body with the statutory responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities in Ireland.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Supreme Court recently confirmed an earlier decision of the High Court in respect of a case where a doctor had been struck off in another jurisdiction. The Medical Council, due to the unavailability of the original witnesses, had proposed to use the transcript of the proceedings from the foreign jurisdiction in a fitness to practise inquiry to be undertaken by the Medical Council. The Supreme Court ruled that the use of the transcript, with no opportunity for the defendant to cross examine his accusers, would deprive the doctor concerned of his right to fair procedures.

The particular doctor had been registered with the Medical Council before any accusations were made in the other jurisdiction. The Supreme Court ruled that, as the witnesses who gave evidence in the foreign jurisdiction were not prepared to attend hearings in Ireland, the council, not being in a position to proceed with an inquiry into the matter, had no cause or right to remove the doctor's name from the general register of medical practitioners.

A major review of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978 is taking place in my Department. Draft heads of a Bill for significant amendments to the Act have been prepared and will shortly be brought to Cabinet for approval. The implications of the Supreme Court ruling on the use of transcripts in particular circumstances are being fully considered in that context.

Hospital Services.

Questions (121)

Bernard Allen

Question:

122 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the information his Department has about the nature and extent of clinical error in hospitals here; the research that has been carried out in the area to date; and his proposals on the issue. [8137/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

My Department does not collect information on the extent of clinical error in Irish health care institutions. As part of the introduction of the clinical indemnity scheme, agencies covered by the scheme are being provided with an electronic information system which will, among other functions, allow them to collect and analyse information on clinical incidents which occur in their services. The State Claims Agency which operates the clinical indemnity scheme will have the capacity to use the system to analyse broad trends in the pattern of clinical error. The agency will not have access to the names of patients or staff involved in such incidents other than in circumstances where the incident results in a personal injury claim.

I am not aware of any research on clinical error which has been undertaken in this country. However, officials in my Department have held exploratory discussions with the Health Research Board on commissioning research on the extent of clinical error in Ireland.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Questions (122)

Dan Neville

Question:

123 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding applications from persons who may be eligible for a refund due to a delay in putting the repayment scheme on statutory basis for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [8138/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

My Department put in place a refund scheme to process applications from people who may be eligible for a refund due to the delay in putting the drugs payment scheme on a statutory basis. The scheme was advertised in the national press on 26 June 2003 and again on 12 and 14 September for the extension of the closing date for applications to 31 October.

The GMS Payments Board is operating the scheme on behalf of the Department. I have had enquiries made in the matter and I understand that payment will issue shortly to the person referred to by the Deputy.

Organ Donation.

Questions (123)

Pat Carey

Question:

124 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department plans to discuss with the Department of Transport the issue of a new plastic card formatted driving licence; and if he will explore the option of licence holders electing to become organ donors with an opt-out provision, along the lines that currently apply in the majority of EU countries. [8166/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

There are two systems that can be used to ascertain an individual's wishes on organ donation: the opt-in system and the opt-out system. The former system, which operates in this country, requires that the specific consent to donation of each person, or their relatives, be obtained before organs or tissues are removed. The opt-out system presumes that all citizens consent to donation unless they have specifically expressed a wish to the contrary.

The practice in this country is that where a person has indicated his or her willingness to donate organs by way of carrying an organ donor card, or a driving licence marked accordingly, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought. Even where opt-out systems are in operation, the relatives of the deceased are approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high risk behaviour. Thus, the relatives will always be aware that a donation is being considered and can register an objection to the donation.

I understand that the European Commission is considering the question of legislation in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report to the Council of the European Union on its analysis as soon as possible.

In the meantime I am proposing to establish, in the near future, an expert group to examine organ donation, procurement and utilisation policy in Ireland as part of the national health strategy's commitment to develop organ transplantation services with a view to increasing donation and utilisation rates. I would be happy to have the issue raised by the Deputy considered by the group in the course of its work.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Questions (124)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if mobility or other allowance can be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to facilitate their child who is wheelchair bound; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8167/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Mobility allowance is payable by health boards, subject to a means test, to a person with a severe disability between the ages of 16 and 66. Such eligible persons can continue to receive payment after they reach their 66th birthday. The allowance provides financial support to eligible people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings.

However, I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to domiciliary care allowance. DCA is a monthly payment administered by health boards and may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16, who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. The condition must be likely to last for one year. Where medical confirmation is supplied which pre-dates the actual date of application and the health board's senior area medical officer is satisfied that the child required continual or continuous care and attention, substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age, then payment may be made from the date the senior area medical officer is satisfied that such additional care and attention was required. The current rate of payment is €204 per month.

Health Board Services.

Questions (125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the South Western Area Health Board will provide a wheelchair for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8178/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of aids and appliances, including wheelchairs, is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive officer, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when proper funding for chiropody services will be offered for practitioners in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8179/04]

View answer

Arrangements for the provision of services, including chiropody, in County Kildare are the responsibility of the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. Accordingly, the question has been referred to the authority for direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

128 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the supports and entitlements available from his Department for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8224/04]

View answer

John McGuinness

Question:

129 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 414 of 16 December 2003, the progress which has been made in this case; if the chief executive officer of the SEHB will respond as promised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8225/04]

View answer

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 128 and 129 together.

Responsibility for the provision of services for persons with an intellectual disability or autism is a matter, in the first instance, for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and reply, as a matter of urgency, directly to him.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

130 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children , further to Parliamentary Question No. 494 of 4 November 2003, if the matter has been investigated by the chief executive officer of the SEHB and if a report will be issued; the action which has been taken or will be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8226/04]

View answer

As this is a matter for the health board the Deputy's previous question was referred to the South Eastern Health Board for direct reply. I have been advised that the health board has responded to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

131 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 280 of 21 October 2003, the payments that have been made in this case by the SEHB; the steps the board have taken to assess the family relative to their request for further assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8231/04]

View answer

Responsibility for the provision of drug treatment services rests with the health boards, in this case the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

John McGuinness

Question:

132 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason home help was not granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that they were promised home help two years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8232/04]

View answer

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in Kilkenny is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Eastern 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.

Departmental Properties.

Questions (132)

John McGuinness

Question:

133 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 926 of 30 September 2003 and 281 of 21 October 2003, if he will now insist on a comprehensive response from the SEHB; the action taken to date in this case; if he has satisfied himself with the policy of the SEHB in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8233/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I presume the Deputy is referring to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 23914/03 and 20419/03.

Parliamentary Question No. 23914/03, put down by the Deputy for answer on 21 October 2003, was answered on the day in question. Parliamentary Question No. 20419/03, put down for answer on 30 September 2003, was also answered on the day in question. It dealt with issues related to the transfer of a property in Myshall from my Department to the South Eastern Health Board.

The current position on the transfer of the property in question is that on 27 January 2004 the South Eastern Health Board informed my Department that the board's solicitors were in a position to revert to the Chief State Solicitor about the finalisation of the transfer process. The board had informed my Department that it was anticipated that the group set up by the board to look at the potential uses of the lands and buildings at Myshall would be in a position to report back by the end of February 2004.

I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to write directly to the Deputy outlining the current position with this report.

Health Board Services.

Questions (133, 134)

John McGuinness

Question:

134 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 233 of 2 December 2003, if he will make the information available. [8234/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of services to people living in the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford and south Tipperary is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has already asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by him.

As the issue raised by the Deputy concerns the provision of direct assistance or home help services to persons who suffer from Parkinsons disease, my Department has been informed that the board has asked the administrators of its four local community care offices to provide information about the query raised. I understand that the SEHB will collate the information received from the four community care offices and reply directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

John McGuinness

Question:

135 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 708 of 27 January 2004, the progress that has been made in the case; if the report from the CEO is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8235/04]

View answer

The provision of health related services for 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 again been referred to the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Health Authority Contracts.

Questions (135, 136)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

136 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has satisfied himself that the basic criteria stated in the invitation to tender were met in the award of a contract by the ERHA (details supplied). [8237/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the award of contracts by the ERHA rests with that authority. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

137 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a contract for the provision of locum nurse services for the ERHA, with an estimated value of €20 million, was awarded exclusively to one company; if he has satisfied himself that a monopoly has not been created in the ERHA/DATHs by awarding a contract of this magnitude to one supplier to the exclusion of all of the existing suppliers; and his views on whether, at a time of nurse shortages, a significant percentage of the available pool of agency nurses will not now be available to the ERHA/DATHs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8241/04]

View answer

Responsibility for the award of contracts by the ERHA rests with that authority. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Health Board Services.

Questions (137, 138, 139)

Michael Ring

Question:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment. [8247/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are over 4,000 children on the assessment waiting list for orthodontic treatment in the Southern Health Board area, and a further number of over 3,000 on the treatment waiting list; his views on whether this is the worst by far in the country; and the reason therefor. [8248/04]

View answer

The provision of orthodontic services in the Southern Health Board is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of that board in the first instance.

I am aware of the unacceptable number of cases on the board's assessment and treatment waiting lists; this is due in part to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients. At the end of December 2003, the chief executive officer of the board reported the highest number of cases awaiting assessment for orthodontic treatment. However, the chief executive officer has informed my Department that at the end of the same period, there were 3,400 children getting treatment from the board. This means that almost one out of every six children getting treatment from the public orthodontic service is from the Southern Health Board area.

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

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

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The Southern Health Board was allocated an additional €0.720 million from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way.

Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards/authority have informed my Department that at the end of the December quarter 2003 there were 21,727 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and 4,432 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

John McGuinness

Question:

140 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 337 and 339 of 9 December 2003, if a comprehensive response will be issued immediately. [8249/04]

View answer

Responsibility for the provision of services for persons with intellectual disability is a matter, in the first instance, for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer in the South Eastern Health Board to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and reply, as a matter of urgency, directly to him.

Driving Tests.

Questions (140)

Jack Wall

Question:

141 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be allocated a driving test date and time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8160/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

An appointment for a driving test is being arranged for the person concerned.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Questions (141)

Seán Crowe

Question:

142 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money which has been allocated for 2004 in regard to the ADM rural transport initiative; the individual allocations by ADM to each of the 34 projects and the way in which they were calculated; and his Department’s long term plans for the initiative. [8146/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Area Development Management Limited administers the pilot rural transport initiative on behalf of my Department. Under this scheme, 34 rural community groups are being financed to operate pilot rural transport services in their areas. Specific allocations for individual RTI projects are made by ADM from funds provided for this purpose by my Department. My Department also finances ADM's administration costs arising from its management of the RTI.

Some €3 million has already been provided annually by my Department for the initiative in the two year period ending December 2003 and further funding of €3 million is being provided in 2004. This €6 million commitment so far compares with €4.4 million earmarked for the RTI in the national development plan.

While the RTI funding allocations for individual RTI projects, together with the manner in which they are calculated, are matters for ADM, I understand that the specific allocations for 2004 are as outlined in the attached table.

ADM has recently commissioned an external evaluation of the RTI to measure, among other things, the effectiveness of the scheme in addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland. The evaluation is due to be completed by the summer and I will take its conclusions into account before making any further decisions in relation to rural transport.

Area Development Management Limited

Rural Transport Initiative

Group Name

2004 Allocation

Aughrim-Kilmore Development Association Ltd.

40,000

Avondhu Area Transport Partnership

81,051

Bantry Integrated Development Group

45,436

Bealach (Connamara Local Transport Partnership)

79,360

Borrisokane Area Network Development Ltd.

40,000

Carlow, Kilkenny, Sth Tipperary Rural Transport

172,883

Comharchumann Chleire Teo (Cape Clear)

53,194

Community of Lougharrow Social Project

49,600

County Limerick / North Cork Transport Group

109,060

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Ltd.

49,594

East Clare Accessible Transport

98,696

I.R.D. Duhallow

58,900

Kerry Community Transport

274,367

Kilnaleck Community & Cooperative Soc.(Cavan)

40,000

Laois Rural Regeneration Partnership

93,117

Longford Community Resources Ltd.

58,064

Meath Accessible Transport

72,710

Meitheal Mhaigh Eo

99,372

MFG Teo

86,924

Monaghan Partnership

40,000

North Fingal Rural Transport Company

40,000

Oak Partnership (Offaly / Kildare)

124,575

Rural Lift (Co. Leitrim, Nth Cavan)

72,439

Seirbhis Iompair Tuaithe Teo

69,126

South East Galway Integrated Rural Dev.

58,910

South Kildare Rural

129,215

South Westmeath (Mount Temple)

86,797

Tipperary LEADER Group

40,000

Tumna Shannon Development Co.

43,460

Waterford Rural Transport Working Group (CDB)

90,734

West Coast Wexford Rural Transport Initiative

60,890

West Offaly Partnership

74,400

Wexford Area Partnership

49,600

Wicklow Rural (Aughrim Tidy Towns Ltd.)

86,794

Total

2,669,268

National Development Plan.

Questions (142)

Denis Naughten

Question:

143 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the amount of NDP underspend to date within the BMW region on public transport; the plans he has to address this shortfall; if he will consider part funding the western rail corridor to help address the current shortfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8220/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Under the national development plan, a total of €206 million was invested directly in public transport projects in the BMW region between 2000 and 2003. Further expenditure is underway and planned. The figure to 2003 represents 52.4% of the forecast expenditure at the start of the plan.

While financial progress specific to the BMW region in the period was slower than anticipated, significant physical progress has been, and continues to be, made on key rail infrastructure projects such as rail trackwork and associated works under the rail safety programme and the rail network re-signalling project. Key rail lines into the BMW were completely upgraded to continuous welded rail on concrete sleepers at the end of 2003. Work on the rail network re-signalling project in the BMW is proceeding satisfactorily and, in relation to the Dublin-Galway line, work was completed in June last. The Sligo line is on target for completion in 2005.

In addition, expenditure on certain projects, such as the diesel rail depot at Drogheda, the upgrading and improvements at Heuston Station and the large investment in new rolling stock, while recorded in the south and east region, has benefits common to both regions, through additional capacity, shorter journey times and improved quality of service.

In the context of the priority investment plans over the remainder of the national development plan, my Department is discussing with CIE mechanisms for progressing investment in the BMW region to increase the spend in the region.

As regards the western rail corridor, the Deputy will recall that this was not included in the recommended investment strategy in the strategic rail review primarily because, among other things, it was not supported by complementary land use and settlement strategies. The present position is that, at the request of the various groups promoting the western rail corridor, I propose to establish an expert working group to examine its potential. I will be announcing the composition and remit of the group in the coming weeks.

At the present time, the regional authorities along the route of the corridor have prepared draft regional planning guidelines as part of the implementation of the national spatial strategy at the regional level. These are currently the subject of public consultation. One of the core issues that the western rail corridor group will have to consider carefully is the extent to which the rail proposal is facilitated by the land use strategies emerging from these guidelines when they are adopted over the coming weeks.

Road Safety.

Questions (143)

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if flashing yellow beacons are illegal on agricultural tractors; if so, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8239/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Under the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 1996, amber flashing lights are permitted on patrol vehicles used by the Customs Service and on a number of categories of stationery or slow moving vehicles but not agricultural tractors. I am, however, open to amending the regulations to permit the fitting and use of amber flashing lights on agricultural tractors, subject to consultation with the Garda Síochána and farm organisations.

Residency Applications.

Questions (144)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8181/04]

View answer

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

The person in question is a 17 year old female. Her father came to the State in December 1999 and made an asylum application. He subsequently withdrew the asylum application and applied for residency based on parentage of an Irish born child and this was granted in January 2002. I understand that the 17 year old, the subject of the Deputy's question, arrived in the State on 31 December 2002 to join her father, but without his prior knowledge. She arrived illegally and has no legal status in the State.

An application was made on behalf of the minor for permission to remain in the State with her father. This is currently being processed and the immigration division of my Department has recently requested documentation in this regard. On receipt of the information requested a decision will be made on her case.

Visa Applications.

Questions (145)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a multi-entry visa will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8182/04]

View answer

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

I can inform the Deputy that the application in question was approved on 9 March 2004.

Interdepartmental Committees.

Questions (146)

Enda Kenny

Question:

147 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the interdepartmental committees on which members of his Department sit and attend; the date upon which such committees were set up; the role and remit of such interdepartmental committees; the person to whom each interdepartmental committee reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8139/04]

View answer

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

Officials from my Department are involved in a large number of committees and advisory and working groups dealing with a range of issues and including members from other Departments as well as individuals from non-governmental organisations. In the table, I have included those interdepartmental committees whose principal activities come under the remit of this Department and whose membership is in the main confined to representatives from other Departments.

Name of Interdepartmental Committee

Date Committee founded

Role and Remit of Committee

Person to Whom Each Committee Reports

Working Group on Speed Cameras

December, 2003

To examine the scope of Garda speed detection process.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Interdepartmental Committee to oversee Piloting and Maintenance of Garda Helicopter

20 November, 2001.

To contract out the piloting and maintenance of the helicopter for a trial period.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Monitoring Committee on the 3% Target for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Public Service.

March, 1999

To monitor and guide progress towards achievement of the 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities in the public service.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

National Child-care Co-ordinating Committee.

December, 1999

To oversee the development of an integrated child-care infrastructure and provide a forum for the development of child-care policy.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Programme Appraisal Committee, Equal Opportunities Child-care Programme 2000-2006

August, 2000

To assess grant applications under the Programme and make recommendations to the Minister in relation to applications for funding.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women

December, 1997

To provide a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, and cohesive response to female victims of violence.

Minister of State at Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Interdepartmental Group on Asylum and Immigration Issues

May, 2003

To enhance co-operation between Departments and gardaí on asylum and immigration matters.

To both the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Minister for Social Community and Family Affairs.

Committee to Monitor and Co-ordinate the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community.

June 1998

To co-ordinate and monitor the recommendations on the Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community and to serve as a forum for consultation on national issues concerning Travellers.

Progress report is submitted to Government periodically.

Working Group on Equality Proofing.

November, 1998

To develop administrative procedures for equality proofing.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

National Development Plan/Community Support Framework Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion Co-ordinating Committee.

14 March, 2001

To secure the maximum application of commitments on equal opportunities, particularly gender equality, and social inclusion across the National Development Plan.

The Committee reports to the National Development Plan/Community Support Framework Monitoring Committee.

Cross Departmental Group on Immigration.

April, 2001.

To give the Departments concerned with the issue an input into the development of immigration policy to identify issues requiring a cross-Departmental approach which need to be catered for in comprehensive new immigration legislation in fulfilment of the Government’s commitment in this regard and to consider how to address them.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (147)

Billy Timmins

Question:

148 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of providing additional gardaí at Ballinamore, County Leitrim, during the controversy surrounding the removal of livestock from the An Teagasc centre; the breakdown of these costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8140/04]

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 and personnel, that the total cost of providing gardaí at Ballinamore on the occasion concerned is as follows:

Expenditure Type

Amount

Ordinary Hours

4,800.00

Overtime

3,477.33

Travel & Subsistence

1,401.26

Total Cost

9,678.59

Crime Levels.

Questions (148, 149, 150)

Jack Wall

Question:

149 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons arrested for illegal drug misuse or sale in the Kildare/Carlow division for each of the past three years; the number of convictions in regard to each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8156/04]

View answer

Jack Wall

Question:

150 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí attached to the Kildare/Carlow division dealing exclusively with illegal drug misuse and the sale of such illegal drugs; the number of seminars the gardaí have attended about educating persons on the danger of such substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8157/04]

View answer

Jack Wall

Question:

151 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of illegal substances apprehended by the gardaí in the Kildare/Carlow division for each of the past three years; the number of substances apprehended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8158/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151 inclusive together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Carlow/Kildare division as at the 9 March 2004 was 325. The numbers of gardaí attached to drug units in the Carlow/Kildare division is ten, all ranks. I am further informed that there were 61 seminars/talks on the dangers of illegal substances given by the Garda Síochána in the Carlow/Kildare division in 2003.

All gardaí in the Carlow/Kildare division have a responsibility,inter alia, for illegal substance detection. It has not been possible in the timeframe allowed to compile the information requested by the Deputy about the number of persons arrested for illegal drug misuse or sale and the amount of illegal substances apprehended by the gardaí in the Kildare/Carlow division. I will revert to the Deputy as soon as the information is made available to me.

Garda Strength.

Questions (151)

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in the Kildare/Carlow division; the number allocated to each station within the division; the number of vacancies by division and station; the methodology used in regard to replacements for sick leave, maternity leave or retirees from the division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8159/04]

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 and personnel, that the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Carlow/Kildare division together with the strength of each station within the division is as set out in the tables.

Station

Strength

Athy

18

Ballon

1

Ballymore Eustace

1

Ballytore

1

Baltinglass

22

Blessington

13

Carbury

2

Carlow

50

Castledermot

2

Celbridge

19

Clane

6

Donard

1

Dunlavin

1

Hacketstown

1

Hollywood

1

Kilcullen

3

Kildare

27

Kill

3

Leighlinbridge

1

Maynooth

15

Monasterevin

3

Muinebheag

7

Myshall

1

Naas

79

Newbridge

29

Rathangan

3

Rathvilly

1

Robertstown

2

Shillelagh

1

Tinahely

2

Tullow

9

Total

325

The current personnel strength, all ranks, of the Carlow/Kildare division of 325 represents an increase of 33 or 11.3% in the personnel allocated to the Carlow/Kildare division since 31 December 1997.

With regard to the question of vacancies and absences on sick and maternity leave, the assistant commissioner, human resource management, in consultation with divisional officers, arranges for the allocation of Garda personnel throughout the State. He is assisted in this regard by a model known as the Garda establishment redistribution model, GERM, which is a scientific, rational and pragmatic model and is the most effective means of distributing Garda personnel.

Visa Applications.

Questions (152)

Phil Hogan

Question:

153 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the refusal of an immigration card in November 2003 for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8193/04]

View answer

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

The person concerned entered the State in 1998 and was given permission to remain in the State on visitor's conditions. Extension of this permission was refused in December 2003 because there was insufficient documentation to enable the immigration officer to make a decision on the application. The person in question should apply in writing to the immigration division of my Department which is located at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, clearly setting out the grounds on which she seeks to have her permission to remain in the State extended. On receipt of her request the application will be fully considered.

Crime Levels.

Questions (153)

Tony Gregory

Question:

154 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a report can be provided by the Garda authorities regarding the action taken in response to the spate of repeated tyre slashing at Ostman Place, Dublin 7; if arrests have been made; if the area is being adequately patrolled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8194/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 26 February 2004 there were two reports to gardaí of criminal damage to vehicles on Ostman Place. I am also informed that on 4 March 2004 there were three further reports of criminal damage to vehicles on the same street. The damage to the vehicles consisted of vehicle tyres being slashed in each case. Technical examinations have been carried out on some of the vehicles involved and results are awaited. There is no apparent motive for these incidents and to date there have been no arrests.

The area receives regular attention from both uniform and plain clothes beats and mobile patrols. In addition, there is one community garda assigned to this area, who continually liaises with residents in the area. Finally, I am informed that every effort is being made by local Garda management to deal with this matter.

Visa Applications.

Questions (154)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) can obtain a holiday visa to visit their family here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8214/04]

View answer

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

If the person wishes to travel to the State, it is open to them to make an application for a visa for such visit and this will, of course, receive full consideration. My Department has no record of having received a visa application from the person in question.

Refugee Status.

Questions (155)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if corroborative evidence was sought from the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the case of application for refugee status in the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8215/04]

View answer

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

Under the Refugee Act 1996, two independent statutory offices have been established to consider applications for refugee status and to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. These two offices are the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, which considers applications for a declaration of refugee status at first instance, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which considers applications for a declaration at appeal stage.

While it would not be appropriate to comment on individual applications for refugee status, in order to protect the confidentiality of the asylum process and in accordance with UNHCR advice and best practice generally, authorities of an applicant's country of origin are not contacted to corroborate features of an application.

Prison Service Staff.

Questions (156)

Denis Naughten

Question:

157 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give details of a chaplain’s salary within the Irish Prison Service on certain dates (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8230/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that the detailed information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and will require a search of files dating back to the late 1960s. However, further inquiries are being made in the matter and I will forward as much information as becomes available to the Deputy as soon as the inquiries are completed.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Questions (157)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

158 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the outcome in a case (details supplied) and the number of successful prosecutions secured under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 since its enactment for sale of alcohol to minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8238/04]

View answer

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

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Garda Operations.

Questions (158)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

159 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the allegations of Garda harassment of anti-war protesters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8246/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, since February 2003, a number of protesters have been arrested at Shannon Airport for alleged breaches of the Criminal Damage Act, Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and Air Navigation and Transport Act. I am further informed that some of these protesters have made complaints against members of the Garda Síochána and that these complaints are being dealt with in accordance with established procedures, including referral to the Garda Síochána Complaints Board.

Electoral Boundaries.

Questions (159)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

160 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the changes to electoral boundaries that have been made under the Local Government Act 1994; if reasons are given for each change; and if so, if he will give the reasons. [8170/04]

View answer

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

The towns whose boundaries were altered under section 17 of the Local Government Act 1994 and associated regulations are listed in the Third Schedule to that Act. In accordance with the Act, the changes have effect for local electoral purposes only and were made on foot of proposals agreed by each of the local elected councils concerned.

A review of local electoral areas in counties, cities, boroughs and certain towns was undertaken by two independent local constituency committees prior to the 1999 local elections. The recommendations of the electoral area boundary committee report 1998 and the Dublin area boundary committee report 1998 were implemented in full by way of orders made under section 24 of the 1994 Act. Copies of these reports and of the subsequent orders made under section 24 are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Water Services.

Questions (160, 161, 162)

Marian Harkin

Question:

161 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if local authorities have a responsibility to provide piped water to every household in the country. [8173/04]

View answer

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

Sanitary authorities are obliged to ensure that all water intended for human consumption meets relevant EU and national water quality standards. However, under present legislation, sanitary authorities, while empowered to provide water supplies, are not obliged to extend water supply services to all properties in their areas. The Water Services Bill 2003 will continue this approach, while also providing for new arrangements for water supplies generally and rural water services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

162 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider adding rural waste water as a topic to the range of issues covered by the otherwise excellent environmental bulletin in order to chart progress and developments in this area. [8176/04]

View answer

The environment bulletin published by my Department provides a quarterly update on national and international developments in environmental protection. Information is routinely provided on a range of water quality, including waste water, issues and relevant developments in the area of rural wastewater will be addressed as appropriate in future issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

163 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) concerning commercial water charging policy, which encourages waste and over use of the water resources; the consideration he has given to the issues raised in the correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8195/04]

View answer

I responded last year to the correspondence received from this person and confirmed my commitment to the full and transparent implementation of the Government's water services pricing policy framework.

At present, local authority water services charges and the process used for calculating non-domestic costs vary. Local authorities are, in accordance with the Government policy, moving to a more uniform system for determining and applying water services charges. In this regard, the policy framework requires full recovery of the cost of providing water services to the non-domestic sector by means of a meter based volumetric charge. The policy is being progressively implemented in the period to 2006 and is in accordance with an appropriate application of the polluter pays principle and the requirements of Article 9 of the EU water framework directive.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (163, 164, 165, 166, 167)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the housing policy laid down by his Department and the funding provided by him to the various local authorities having regard to the provisions of the Housing Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8216/04]

View answer

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

The overall aim of the Government's housing policy is to enable every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and, as far as possible, at the tenure of its choice. In this context, 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 the measures to boost supply, such as the Government's investment in infrastructure, removing planning constraints and the increased residential densities now being achieved as a result of the residential guidelines produced by my Department, have been successful in addressing the strong demand for housing. The year 2003 was the ninth successive year of record house completions, with 68,819 units completed, an increase in output of 19.3% nationally on 2002 and an increase of 10.5% in output in the greater Dublin area during the same period.

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. It is also concerned to ensure that the broad spectrum of housing needs is met and it remains committed to continuing with measures to assist low income groups and those with social housing needs by means of a range of targeted social and affordable housing programmes. 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 enable the social and affordable housing needs of over 12,000 households to be met this year compared to almost 8,500 in 1998.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has authorised housing authorities to enlist the aid of an organisation (details supplied) when determining entitlement to housing loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8217/04]

View answer

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 has not issued any general policy instruction to housing authorities to use the services of the Irish Credit Bureau when determining entitlement to housing loans. My Department is updating guidance on the issuing of loans by local authorities during 2004 and the issue of appropriate credit rating of loan applicants will be considered as part of this work.

Denis Naughten

Question:

166 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will sanction the construction of local authority houses by Roscommon County Council at Ballyleague, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8219/04]

View answer

I understand that Roscommon County Council is developing proposals for the construction of houses in Ballyleague which will be submitted to my Department for approval in due course.

Tony Gregory

Question:

167 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the correspondence from Dublin City Council of the first week of March 2004 regarding central heating needs. [8223/04]

View answer

No recent correspondence has been received from Dublin City Council concerning this matter.

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

168 Mr. O’Flynn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Department guidelines that are in place for adoption by local authorities when they are purchasing houses in private residential estates for local authority tenants. [8236/04]

View answer

Local authorities have been advised by my Department that they may purchase private second-hand houses where the cost of the acquisition can be met from the authority's capital allocation and the acquisition represents a cost effective and economical means by which the authority can meet the housing needs of persons on their waiting lists. It is a matter for individual local authorities to decide on the circumstances and conditions under which they purchase houses, given their knowledge of local housing markets, including prices, which can vary substantially from one area to the next. The approval of the Department is not required for individual purchases.

Care of the Elderly.

Questions (168)

Mary Upton

Question:

169 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if an application for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for security lights for the front and back of their house will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8147/04]

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 improve the security and social support of vulnerable older people. This funding is provided by way of grant aid to voluntary groups and organisations that have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. Under the terms of the scheme, grant aid is available towards the once off costs of purchase and/or installation of small scale physical security equipment and socially monitored alarm systems.

It is a condition of the scheme that applications cannot be considered from groups who have failed to submit outstanding accounts and reconciliation of expenditure for previous grants. The person referred to in the Deputy's question applied through an organisation whose application under the 2003 scheme was refused for failing to meet that condition. I attach for the Deputy's information a list of organisations funded under the scheme in the Dublin south region in 2003. The person in question may wish to make an application through one of these organisations in respect of the 2004 scheme, which will be advertised later this year.

File No.

Group Name

Address

Name

Tel No.

Amount Approved

No. Approved

11

Neighbourhood Watch Greystones

Ashgrove, Kindlestown, Greystones, Co Wicklow

Mrs. Jackie Quinn

01 2876014

129,798.00

320

21

Society of St Vincent de Paul (Conference of St Cecilia)

47 Dangan Park, Kimmage Road West, Dublin 12

Mr. Brendan Dunne

01 4555637

486.00

2

40

Castletown Community Alert

Arklow, Co Wicklow

Mr. Charlie Clonough

0402 37563

630.00

2

45

Lower Kimmage Road Residents Association

4 St Martins Park, Lower Kimmage Road, Dublin 6w

Ms Una Moriarty

01 4908630

172.00

1

110

Aughrim Community Alert

The Avenue, Aughrim, Co Wicklow

Ms Kay Leeson

0404 20100 or 0402 36334

700.00

2

123

Dun Laoghaire — Neighbourhood Watch

c/o Dun Laoghaire Garda station, Corrig Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin

Ms Mary O’Keeffe

10,200.00

28

135

Templeogue and District Active Retirement Association

30 College Drive, Terenure, Dublin 6w

Mr. Vivian Rynne

01 - 4906491

4,000.00

11

148

Carnew Community Care

Gorey Road, Carnew, Wicklow

Sr. Anne Killeen

055-26371/055-26510

7,600.00

21

184

Corbawn & Area Neighbourhood Watch

10 Corbawn Court, Shankill, Dublin 18

Ms Deirdre Cox

01 - 2821817

300,000.00

935

238

Society of St Vincent de Paul St Peter’s Conference

Fred’s Fashions, Upper Main Street, Arklow, Co Wicklow

Mr. Liam Walker

0402 - 31186

4,850.00

14

309

Hollywood Community Carers Association

Hollywood, Co Wicklow

Ms Marie Tutty

045 - 864289

1,400.00

4

333

Laragh & Glendalough Community Alert

Glenmacnass, Glendalough, Co Wicklow

Ms Denise Nolan

0404 45272

8,700.00

25

336

Slievemore Road Neighbourhood Watch

68 Slievemore Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12

Ms Teresa Balfe

01- 4651166

203,521.00

531

353

Glencree & Adjoining Areas Community Alert

Cloon, Glencree, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow

Mr. John Burgess

086 2549417

430.00

1

420

Churchtown West Neighbourhood Watch

4 Oakdown Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14

Ms Mary McInerney

01 2951546 / 086 - 8329156

350.00

1

458

Avoca Community Alert

Cherrybrook, Kilmagig Upper, Avoca, Co Wicklow

Ms Bernie Ivers

0402/35179

1,600.00

4

674,437.00

1902

Community Development.

Questions (169)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

170 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the towns designated as RAPID will be funded from the €4.5 million allocation announced recently; if all towns designated as RAPID will, in fact, be funded from this source; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8196/04]

View answer

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

With regard to the €4.5 million capital funding that is provided for the RAPID programme in 2004, it is envisaged that small scale projects will be co-funded by the relevant Department or local agency across all RAPID areas. I am in the process of conducting a series of meetings with my ministerial colleagues to agree arrangements for co-funding and I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of this fund.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (170)

Seán Crowe

Question:

171 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 has been cut off from all welfare payments and rent allowance; and if the decision to do so is connected to a sum of money they received from an injury claim eight years ago. [8141/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The person in question applied to my Department for one-parent family payment and also applied to the Northern Area Health Board for a supplementary welfare allowance payment. The health board has advised that the person had been in receipt of a basic weekly allowance pending the outcome of her application for one-parent family payment. She was also awarded a rent supplement.

At the time that she claimed supplementary welfare allowance, she did not disclose the fact that she had previously received a compensation payment. Payment of the rent supplement was terminated after approximately six weeks as she failed to provide documentation relating to her rent costs. The application for one-parent family payment and subsequent appeal were refused on the grounds that she had not satisfactorily disclosed details of her means. Following the refusal of her application for one-parent family payment, she informed the health board that she had received a compensation payment.

The board has advised that the person concerned was given a number of opportunities to provide details of her financial circumstances. She failed to provide the information sought and, accordingly, payment of her basic supplementary welfare allowance was also terminated. If the person concerned wishes to be considered for payment, she will have to disclose full details of her financial circumstances.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Questions (171)

Seán Crowe

Question:

172 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the figure for her Department’s 2004 free travel allocation to the 34 rural transport initiatives; and the way in which individual allocations will be calculated. [8143/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The rural transport initiative, RTI, is being managed by Area Development Management, ADM, on behalf of the Department of Transport and funding is provided for this purpose through the national development plan. A total of 34 community groups have been selected under the initiative to receive funding to provide innovative community based transport services, on a pilot basis, in rural areas. The pilot project received just under €3 million in 2002, €3 million in 2003 and is expected to receive another €3 million in 2004.

As free travel pass holders will benefit from the rural transport initiative, I contributed €400,000 towards the cost of the initiative in 2003, thereby ensuring that free travel pass holders have access to these community based transport services. I propose to contribute up to €500,000 in 2004 towards the RTI. As with the funding from the Department of Transport, my contribution is managed and allocated to the 34 pilots by ADM. Payment to the groups is based on the number of passholders carried free of charge. The Department of Transport is now carrying out an independent review of the pilots, after which a decision will be made about rural transport nationally.

Social Welfare Code.

Questions (172, 173)

Seán Crowe

Question:

173 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the classification used by her Department for part-time work and casual labour and the criteria applied for those designated part-time or casual employees to receive benefit or assistance for days not worked. [8144/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Social welfare legislation provides that a person is regarded as being engaged in casual employment for unemployment benefit purposes where he or she is normally employed for periods of less than a week; the number of days and the days of the week on which the person is employed varies with the level of activity in the employer's business and on the termination of each period of employment, the person has no assurance of being re-employed with the same employer.

If the person's work pattern does not comply with all these requirements, he or she cannot be classified as a casual worker. Social welfare legislation also provides that a person is regarded as being engaged in systematic short-time working where his or her full-time working week is reduced by the employer and where there is a clear repetitive pattern of employment each week. The number of days of benefit payable each week to a systematic short-time worker is limited to ensure that the total number of days paid and the number of days worked do not exceed five.

For unemployment benefit purposes, part-time employment is regarded as employment where the employee is engaged to work for less than the normal full-time number of days or hours in the employment concerned. The volume of work must be of an ongoing nature but not sufficient to sustain full-time employment.

With one exception, casual, systematic, short-time and part-time workers are treated no differently from any other unemployed person. With regard to the conditions for entitlement to unemployment benefit, the exception is that casual workers are exempt from the substantial loss of employment condition. This categorisation of workers does not apply in the case of unemployment assistance where claimants are not subject to a substantial loss of employment condition. However, social welfare legislation provides that where a person works for up to three days a week either on a casual or part-time basis, earnings are assessed at 60% for unemployment assistance purposes. In addition, persons without children are allowed a €12.70 disregard for each day worked, while the balance of earnings are assessed at 60%. Casual or part-time workers are subject to the same conditions as any other unemployed person for entitlement to unemployment assistance.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

174 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has satisfied herself that fair treatment and payment is being given to contributory widows or widowers who find themselves unemployed and no longer entitled to half rate payment of unemployment, disability, maternity or injury benefit or unemployment supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8164/04]

View answer

The social welfare system is primarily a contingency based system, with entitlement based on pre-defined contingencies, such as sickness or unemployment. While it can happen that a person may experience more than one contingency at the same time, for example, an unemployed person may become sick, a general principle usually applies whereby even if a person experiences more than one of the contingencies at any one time, they only receive one of those payments. This principle is common to social security systems across the world.

Under the Irish social welfare system there have been a limited number of exceptions to this general principle. In the past these included the situation whereby a recipient of widow's/er's pension could, at the same time, receive short-term social insurance benefits such as disability benefit or unemployment benefit at half rate if the contingency arose.

In the context of preparation of the spending Estimates for 2004, this entitlement to concurrent half-rate payment of a number of benefits was discontinued for new claimants with effect from 19 January 2004. Existing recipients were not affected by this measure for the duration of their claim. The measure was introduced in response to the pressure on Government spending and to provide scope for resources to be found for general improvements in social welfare provision in the budget. Removal of social welfare entitlements is never palatable but the introduction of this measure was necessary in the circumstances which prevailed at the time.

It is my intention that the operation of this and other measures will be kept under review and any necessary adjustments will be made in the light of this.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (174, 175)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason holiday entitlements are being used to reduce unemployment benefit in cases in which employees’ work ceases though no fault of their own as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8212/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Under social welfare legislation any day on which a person either receives or has entitlement to holiday pay is not regarded as a day of unemployment and a person has no entitlement to unemployment benefit for that day.

The person concerned applied for unemployment benefit on 26 January 2004 due to a one week temporary lay off. Details of holiday pay were sought on 9 February 2004 and were obtained from her employer on 9 March 2004. Based on the information supplied by the employer, the deciding officer calculated that the person concerned had accrued five days holiday pay. Accordingly, the person concerned is not entitled to unemployment benefit for the period in question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when the rent allowance will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that they are unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8213/04]

View answer

The position is as stated in my reply to Question No. 2654/04, which I answered for the Deputy on 29 January 2004.

The South Western Area Health Board has no record of an application for rent supplement from the person in question. If he wishes to make an application for rent supplement he should contact the community welfare officer at the local health centre so an assessment of his circumstances can be carried out to determine whether he has an entitlement to a rent supplement under the terms of the supplementary allowance scheme.