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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 7 Jul 2004

Vol. 588 No. 6

Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 13, 14, 18, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 32 resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 34 to 42, inclusive, and Questions Nos. 50, 52, 60, 54, 77 and 131 answered orally.

Decentralisation Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

15 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the details of the proposal he announced on 7 June 2004 for a second application stream for Dublin-based posts in the Civil Service in the context of decentralisation as it affects his Department; if posts in his Department will be offered as part of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17603/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

16 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he has proposals to decentralise any sections of his Department or any public bodies for which his Department has overall responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18312/04]

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

17 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the impact of the decentralisation programme on his Department and the bodies for which his Department is responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18991/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

19 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if the proposed centralisation application system for Dublin based civil servants, announced by him on 7 June 2004 will be available to civil servants in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20261/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

20 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants in his Department who have applied for posts in other Departments based outside of Dublin as part of the Government’s decentralisation programme; the number of persons in his Department who have applied to transfer to other Departments in Dublin under the proposals for a centralised applications system announced by him on 7 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20262/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, 19 and 20 together.

There are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the agencies or bodies under its aegis. Since 12 May this year, all staff wishing to decentralise must use the central application facility, CAF, regardless as to whether their name is already on any other existing transfer list, departmental or external.

The CAF will remain open throughout the duration of the decentralisation programme. Those who apply prior to 7 September 2004 will be given priority in the case of locations that are over-subscribed. Information gathered through the CAF will be analysed by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission, which will inform Departments of the numbers of their staff applying for transfer to other organisations. Once I have this information, I will be in a position to respond to requests for information on the numbers of officials from my Department who have applied to relocate.

The report of the decentralisation implementation group, chaired by Mr. Phil Flynn — March 2004 — recommends that a system similar to CAF be developed to facilitate the reassignment of staff remaining in Dublin to other organisations. As information becomes available from the CAF, it will be possible to identify vacancies which will arise in organisations remaining in Dublin, as a result of individuals from those organisations applying for decentralised posts. The Dublin CAF will allow staff being reassigned within Dublin to apply for these vacancies. The modalities of this will be discussed between public service management and staff interests.

Question No. 18 resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 19 and 20 answered with Question No. 15.
Question No. 21 resubmitted.

Departmental Appointments.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

22 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the names of the persons appointed by him to State boards and agencies since June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20250/04]

The information sought by the Deputy concerning the names of the persons appointed by me to State boards and agencies under my aegis since June 2002 is set out in a schedule, which I am circulating with the official report for the information of the House.

The Boards and Agencies under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach are:

— The Information Society Commission;

— The National Statistics Board;

— The Law Reform Commission;

— The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF);

— The National Economic and Social Council (NESC);

— The National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP).

National Statistics Board Membership.

Name

Organisation

Appointed

Mr. Frank Cunneen

Health & Safety Authority

Feb 2004

Mr. Ciaran Dolan

ICMSA

Feb 2004

Ms. Paula Carey

ICTU

Feb 2004

Ms. Mary Doyle

Department of Taoiseach

Feb 2004

Professor Brendan Walsh

University College Dublin

Feb 2004

Dr. Pat O’Hara

Western Development Commission

Feb 2004

Mr. Derek Moran

Department of Finance

July 2003 Feb 2004

The National Economic and Social Forum
National Economic and Social Forum: Independent Appointments Jan/ Feb 2004.
Of the 62 NESF members, 50 are appointed by nominating bodies, 5 members areex-officio and 5 independent members are appointed by the Government. The 5 NESF independent appointments are: Dr Mary P Corcoran (Senior Lecturer, NUI, Maynooth) Cáit Keane (South Dublin Co Council) Dr Colm Harmon (Director, Institute for the Study of Social Change, UCD) Dr Brian Nolan (Research Professor, ESRI) Mr PaulTansey (Economist) The Government also appoints the Chair and Deputy Chair.
Full Membership of the National Economic and Social Forum 2004
Independent Chairperson: Maureen Gaffney
Deputy Chairperson: Mary Doyle, Dept of Taoiseach
Strand (i) Oireachtas
Fianna Fáil:
Michael Woods T.D.
John Curran TD.
Senator Mary O' Rourke
Senator Paschal Mooney
Senator Brendan Daly
Senator Geraldine Feeney
Pat Carey T.D.
Fine Gael:
Senator Paul Coghlan
Damien English TD.
Paul Kehoe TD.
Labour:
Joan Burton T.D.
Willie Penrose T.D.
Progressive Democrats:
Senator Kate Walsh
Independents:
Senator Feargal Quinn
Technical Group:
Jerry Cowley T.D.
Strand (ii) Employer/Trade Unions
Employer/Business Organisations:
IBEC:
Jackie Harrison
Heidi Lougheed
Small Firms Association:
Patricia Callan
Construction Industry Federation:
Kevin Gilna
Chambers of Commerce/Tourist Industry/ExportersAssociation:
Carmel Mulroy
Trade Unions:
Technical Engineering & Electrical Union
Eamon Devoy
Civil & Public Service Union
Blair Horan
AMICUS
Jerry Shanahan
SIPTU
Manus O'Riordan
ITCU
Paula Carey
Agricultural/Farming Organisations:
Irish Farmers Association:
Mary McGreal
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association:
Michael Doody
Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society:
Mary Johnson
Macra na Feirme:
Carmel Brennan
Irish Country Women's Association:
Anne Murray
Strand (iii) Community and Voluntary Sector
Women's Organisations:
National Women's Council of Ireland
Frances Byrne
Joanna McMinn
Unemployed:
INOU
June Tinsley
ICTU Centres for the Unemployed
Patricia Short
Disadvantaged:
CORI
Sr. Brigid Reynolds
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
John-Mark McCafferty
Pavee Point
Bríd O'Brien
Anti-Poverty Networks
Sharon Keane
Youth/Children:
NYCI
Malcolm Byrne
Children's Rights Alliance
Raymond Dooley
Older People:
National Council for Ageing and Older People/SeniorCitizen’s Parliament/Age Action
Robin Webster
Disability:
Disability Federation of Ireland
Aisling Walsh
Others:
The Carers Association
Seán Gallagher
Irish Rural Link
Seamus Boland
The Wheel
Fergus O'Ferrall
Strand (iv) Central Government, Local Government andIndependents
Central Government:
Tom Considine, Secretary-General, Department of Finance
Paul Haran, Secretary-General, Department of Enterprise,Trade and Employment
John Hynes, Secretary-General, Department of Social andFamily Affairs
Gerry Kearney, Secretary-General, Department ofCommunity, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Niall Callan, Secretary-General, Department of theEnvironment, Heritage and Local Government
Local Government:
General Council of County Councils:
Councillor John Egan
Councillor Patsy Treanor
Councillor Constance Hanniffy
Association of Municipal Authorities:
Councillor Patricia McCarthy
County and City Managers Association:
Donal O'Donoghue
Independents:
Institute for the Study of Social Change, UCD
Dr. Colm Harmon
Department of Sociology, NUI Maynooth
Dr. Mary P. Corcoran
ESRI
Dr. Brian Nolan
Tansey, Webster, Stewart & Company Ltd.
Paul Tansey
Cáit Keane
The National Economic and Social Council (NESC)

Name

Occupation

Date of Appointment

Jack O’Connor

SIPTU

Sep 2003

Business and Employer or Organisation Pillar Nominees

Aileen O’Donoghue

IBEC

Sep 2003

Agricultural and Farming Organisation Pillar Nominees

Deirdre Garvey

The Wheel

Sep 2003

John Mark McCafferty

Saint Vincent de Paul

Sep 2003

John Dolan

Disability Federation of Ireland

Sep 2003

Government Department Nominees

Niall Callan

Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Sep 2003

Independent Nominees

Colin Hunt

Goodbody Stockbrokers

Sep 2003

Brigid Laffan

UCD

Sep 2003

Eithne McLaughlin

Queens University

Sep 2003

Peter Bacon

Economic Consultant

Sep 2003

National Centre for Partnership and Performance

Name

Occupation

Date of Appointment

Government Departments

Mr. John Walsh, Asst. Secretary

Dept. of Enterprise, Trade & Employment

June 2002

Employers

Mr. Morgan Nolan

Industrial Relations Executive, CIF

January 2004

Trade Unions

Mr. Fergus Whelan

Industrial Officer, ICTU

October 2003

Question Nos. 23 and 24 resubmitted.

All-Party Committee on the Constitution.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

25 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18992/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

26 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution; if referenda are planned during the term of the current Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20251/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 26 together.

The Government has acted on most of the key recommendations which have emanated from the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. In all, this and the previous Government have brought forward 10 referenda. The Government will avail of appropriate opportunities to take forward further recommendations of the all-party committee. The complexities involved in holding a referendum require that careful consideration be given to the frequency with which referenda can realistically be held and the significance of the issues in question. The all-party committee published its ninth progress report on private property on 7 April 2004. All relevant Departments are considering its recommendations, with a view to further consideration by Government in due course. There are no plans at present to hold any referenda during the term of the current Dáil but this matter will be kept under review.

Questions Nos. 27 to 29, inclusive, resubmitted.

Social Partnership.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

30 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his role in the conclusion of the agreement to succeed Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19282/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

31 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the main features of the new national pay agreement recently concluded with the main social partners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19544/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 31 together.

Agreement was reached on the terms of the core pay element of the review on Friday, 18 June, while the text recording agreement on a number of workplace related issues was finalised early in the following week. The agreement provides for a general round of pay increases in the private sector, totalling 5.5%, over 18 months with an additional half per cent increase for workers earning less than €9 per hour or €351 per week. The same increases will apply to the public service commencing on 1 June 2005. There is also a commitment to review the national minimum wage and provision for an increase in the weekly ceiling for the calculation of redundancy payments of nearly €100 to €600 with effect from 1 January 2005. At all times during the negotiation process, I remained in contact with my officials and was available, as required, for discussions with the social partners.

Among the workplace related elements covered in the agreement are: an increase in maternity benefit from its current level of 70% of earnings to 80%, over the lifetime of the agreement; co-operation between the parties to the agreement, to address concerns relating to pensions provision, in particular, the need to increase the take-up of pensions across the economy; a recognition of the importance of a balanced approach to public procurement, based on clear and consistent guidelines; the principles governing our approach to policy in relation to public enterprise; the further development of partnership and learning in the workplace; recognition of the objectives of the Lisbon strategy; a continuing focus on inflation and excessive prices; ongoing consultation on the development of workplace legislation and codes; the appointment of four additional labour inspectors; and policies on the training and employment of people with disabilities.

This agreement represents a fair deal for all concerned and I am hopeful that it will be ratified by the parties' respective memberships. If it is ratified, the agreement will serve to underpin our model of social cohesion, facilitate economic growth and maintain the industrial relations stability of recent years.

In reaching this agreement on pay and related matters, both the employer bodies and the trade unions had to overcome the difficulty of reconciling the needs of their members with the needs of our society and an uncertain economy. Such a task is only possible through a willingness on all sides to compromise in search of an agreement.

I believe that the parties have demonstrated this willingness and struck the right balance with regard to our national prosperity. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the positive contributions made by those on all sides who worked tirelessly to bring this agreement about. I would also like to take this opportunity to emphasise, with my colleagues, the Government's continued commitment to pursuing our nation's well-being and prosperity, through the process of social dialogue and I look forward to this ongoing dialogue on items of mutual interest.

This completed review of pay and related matters in part two of Sustaining Progress complements the mid-term assessment of the ten special initiatives contained in part one, which is due to be addressed at the next quarterly plenary meeting with the social partners on 13 July 2004. As has been the case in previous years, it is my intention to attend that meeting along with the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance.

Formal meetings such as these complement the meetings which I hold with representatives of the social partners on a regular basis. I will continue to meet with the social partners regularly, and as required, over the remainder of the lifetime of Sustaining Progress.

Question No. 32 resubmitted.

Cattle Numbers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

33 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of cattle in the country; the extent to which this represents an increase or decrease on previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20244/04]

Statistics on the number of cattle are collected by the CSO twice per year in June and December. The figures for December 2003 showed an estimated total of 6,223,400 cattle in the State, a decrease of 1.7% on the figure for December 2002. The figures for June 2004 are currently being collected by the CSO and will be published in September. In June 2003, there were 6,966,800 cattle, which was 0.4% lower than in June 2002.

Questions Nos. 34 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Aer Rianta Break-up.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

43 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the future of the Great Southern Hotel group in the context of proposed new arrangements for Aer Rianta; if he has had consultation with tourism interests on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20406/04]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

53 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the property or land owned and details of its ownership in the Shannon free zone it is proposed to transfer to the new Shannon Airport Authority; the estimate of the value of the property or land to be transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20401/04]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

74 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the reason he believes the proposed break-up of Aer Rianta carries with it significant financial costs. [18711/04]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

95 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he intends putting any board member from Shannon or Cork on the new Dublin Airport Authority. [20276/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

104 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a new business plan from the board of Aer Rianta for the development of the company and its three airports; his views on the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20404/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

106 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport the stage of development that has been reached with respect to the various business plans relating to the Aer Rianta break-up. [20519/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

128 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the range and approximate value of Aer Rianta assets. [20521/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

129 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is inappropriate that Aer Rianta be renamed in an Anglicised form; and if the Irish version of the re-named company will be prioritised over the Anglicised version. [20520/04]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

132 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether passenger charges are likely to increase at Dublin Airport if plans for the splitting up of Aer Rianta proceed; the extent to which they are likely to increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20405/04]

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

264 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of the Great Southern Hotel group post the break-up of Aer Rianta; and the assurances that can be given to the staff at Great Southern Hotel Rosslare harbour regarding their future. [20711/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

269 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the business plan, if it exists, for the running of the country’s main airports with a view to illustrating the continued viability and operation of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20836/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

270 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which he sees Dublin, Shannon, Cork and the other regional airports operating on a profit making basis independently in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20837/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

271 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his preferred options in respect of the running of national and regional airports in the future after the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20838/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

272 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has examined the potential profitability of each of the airports in the aftermath of the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20839/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 53, 74, 95, 104, 106, 128, 129, 132, 264, 269, 270, 271 and 272 together.

The work which has been done by my Department's advisers in co-operation with Aer Rianta management and their advisers has underscored the fact that there are some major challenges facing the State airports and these challenges need to be addressed.

In the context of the proposed amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring of Aer Rianta currently before the Dáil, I have had numerous Government discussions informing my Cabinet colleagues on the background issues relating to the restructuring as well as the broad financial projections for each of the airports which were compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. I have in the last week received a ten year business plan prepared by Aer Rianta. While there are some differences between the plan and the PricewaterhouseCoopers projections the broad thrust is consistent and it confirms that there are significant pre-existing financial challenges facing the State airports.

My view is that the restructuring offers the best means of addressing these challenges. Under the State Airports Bill, it will be a matter for the new authorities, when established, to prepare and submit for approval detailed business plans for approval by myself and the Minister for Finance. These plans will be a basis for assessing the operational and financial readiness of each airport before any transfer of assets. Issues relating to Aer Rianta's main subsidiaries such as Great Southern Hotels group will be carefully considered in the course of the restructuring process.

The restructuring is designed to strengthen and expand each of three airports and to give both Shannon and Cork a fresh start. Through more focused commercial operation, all three airports can perform better and each can play a greater role in stimulating and supporting regional and national economic activity to the benefit of their customers, both airlines and passengers, and of Irish tourism, trade and industry. It is general policy that the three State airports should be in a position to provide cost competitive and appropriate infrastructure and to operate on a sustainable commercial basis in meeting the current and future needs of users.

I have already announced the board-designate for the Dublin Airport Authority which brings together people of the highest calibre who, in combination, possess considerable international and national aviation expertise and proven financial and business acumen. The Dublin Airport Authority will include worker directors and as such will represent all employees, including those at Cork and Shannon airports in advance of asset and staff transfers.

In the case of Dublin Airport, passenger traffic is forecast to grow to 30 million passengers per annum by around 2020. The Dublin Airport Authority must ensure the provision of adequate and cost effective infrastructure capacity to cater for this growth and make the appropriate case to the independent aviation regulator for the financing of this investment in the context of the next determination of airport charges.

Shannon Development is the State agency charged with regional and economic development in the mid-west region. My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has been in discussions with the chairman and board members of Shannon Development to explore how best Shannon Development and the proposed Shannon Airport Authority can contribute to furthering the interests of the mid-west region. One of the options under consideration is the transfer of the assets of the Shannon Free Zone to the new airport authority. I understand that other options have emerged in the course of the Tánaiste's discussions with the board and that these are also being considered. Accordingly, a final decision on the most appropriate option has not been made as yet. In reaching a decision on this issue, it is the intention to put in place the most sensible and efficient structures and to manage the region's most valuable and strategic assets so as to optimise their benefits to the entire region.

As regards the naming of the new airport authorities, the State Airports Bill names the airport authorities in Irish and English and there is no intention to give the English titles undue priority over the Irish. In practical terms, it is reasonable to expect that the new airport authorities will market themselves internationally using the English title. As I indicated in the Dáil yesterday evening on Report Stage of the State Airports Bill 2004, I will ask the new boards to adopt a bilingual policy when using their respective titles particularly in the vicinity of each airport.

The assets of Aer Rianta comprise the three State airports and its subsidiaries such as Great Southern Hotels and Aer Rianta International. At end 2003, the Aer Rianta annual accounts indicate that the net book value of Aer Rianta's tangible fixed assets amounted to €706.9 million and the value of financial fixed assets was €175.9 million.

As regards the future operation of the State and regional airports, it is the policy of the Government to encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive air services to and from Ireland. The central tenet of this policy is the belief that a strong, competitive and efficient network of air links are vitally important for developing our trade and tourism sectors, particularly having regard to our island status and peripheral location.

Traffic Corps.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

44 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the introduction of the dedicated traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20303/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

144 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport further to the commitment in the programme for Government to establish a dedicated traffic corps with a ring-fenced budget, the progress which has been made towards implementing this promise; if he will give a firm commitment with respect to when this promise will be delivered on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20593/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 144 together.

The programme for Government contains a commitment relating to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps. As I have already indicated in this House, I support the implementation of this proposal through the formation of a corps that will be separately identifiable and visible. A consultation process involving my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána in relation to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps is being progressed.

Discussions to date have included the question of the relationship that a dedicated traffic corps will have with the gardaí and in particular whether it will be under the overall control of the commissioner. This issue is central to the development of this proposal. The establishment of a dedicated traffic corps which is independent of the gardaí, would require the introduction of legislation, in particular to establish powers and functions of the corps and its accountability.

In addition, the establishment of a corps that is wholly independent of the gardaí would face formidable hurdles. The powers available to members of such an independent force would need very careful consideration and there is the overriding issue of the capacity of such individuals to engage in more general police work. The need for consideration of this issue has also been central to the discussions in relation to this proposal.

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

Bus Services.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

45 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the agencies which will be involved in a review of bus services (details supplied) in the south Dublin area as a result of the introduction of Luas; and the person who has final authority on confirming changes to such routes. [20546/04]

Any review of the services mentioned, as a result of the introduction of Luas, would be carried out in the first instance by Dublin Bus. Proposals for alterations to existing services or the introduction of new services must be approved by my Department prior to their commencement. However, I have asked Dublin Bus not to amend its existing services for three months, when the impact of Luas can be better assessed.

Dublin Port Tunnel.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

46 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20316/04]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

71 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when a final decision will be made on the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; the reason for the long delay in finalising this matter; when he expects that the tunnel will be completed and functioning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20436/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 71 together.

The position in relation to the height of the tunnel is that my Department appointed consultants to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

Having reviewed the findings of the report, further information was sought from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions in particular in relation to the costs should the tunnel height be increased. As a result the contractors were requested to provide a fixed price cost for the work involved. A quotation has been received from the contractors and is currently under consideration with a view to making a final decision as soon as possible. I will bring this matter to a conclusion by the end of this month and place the relevant documentation in the public arena. I understand from Dublin City Council that the Dublin Port tunnel is expected to be completed in third quarter 2005.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

47 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to address current access to Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20290/04]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

118 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with Dublin Port regarding access to Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20289/04]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

122 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to improve access to Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20287/04]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

124 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with Dublin Port regarding improved access to Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20288/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 118, 122, and 124 together.

The Dublin Port tunnel, which I understand from the NRA and Dublin City Council is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2005, will significantly improve access to Dublin Port in addition to providing relief to the city centre, environmental and safety benefits and relief from congestion for freight distributors and other port-related traffic.

A key mechanism to ensure that the tunnel meets its primary objective of providing easy access to Dublin Port for HGV traffic will be the implementation of a differentiated tolling system applicable to private cars. This tolling regime, under which HGVs will not be liable for tolls, and implementation of a HGV management strategy was always envisaged as part of the overall transport strategy underpinning the construction of the port tunnel in order to ensure that port freight traffic utilises the tunnel to the maximum extent.

Traffic management, including HGV traffic management, in the city centre and in the vicinity of the port is a matter primarily for Dublin City Council. I understand that Dublin City Council propose to address this in a HGV management plan currently being prepared, which will also address non-port related HGV traffic movements. Currently, all truck journeys in and out of Dublin Port pass through the city centre streets and adjacent residential areas.

I understand from Dublin City Council that this plan will have three objectives: to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the port tunnel; to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city; and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions, for example, through permit systems.

Dublin City Council has published a report on HGV management as a basis for a widespread public consultation exercise. The public consultation period is now concluded and the responses received are being evaluated within Dublin City Council. I am informed by Dublin City Council that the HGV management plan, revised to take account of the submissions received, will be published in the autumn.

In addition, a regional freight of goods distribution study, commissioned by the DTO to determine the origin and destination patterns of HGVs in the greater Dublin area and to forecast future demand, is due to be completed shortly. I understand that it will identify obstacles to general goods distribution and for freight trips to and from Dublin Port, Dún Laoghaire Port and Dublin Airport. It will also review the scope for improved goods distribution strategies. I have not been directly involved in discussions with Dublin Port regarding improved access to the port.

Integrated Ticketing.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

48 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward integrated ticketing and smart card technologies; if money has been allocated for this purpose in his Department’s Estimates for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20310/04]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

51 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he expects to see the introduction of an integrated ticketing system to allow a common ticket to be used on the DART, the Luas and on buses in Dublin. [20553/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 51 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has statutory responsibility for the implementation of an integrated ticketing system, based on smartcard technologies, for initial deployment in the Dublin area. The contactless smartcard-based integrated ticketing system will enable a passenger to use a single ticket on one or more public transport services, by road and/or by rail, irrespective of the transport operator involved.

The RPA has set a target date of end 2005 for the launch of the full smartcard-based integrated ticketing system in Dublin. It is currently engaged in an open and competitive procurement process with a view to selecting a supplier and operator of the fully integrated ticketing system. The RPA continues to examine options to expedite the delivery of integrated ticketing with a view to bringing forward the proposed launch date. A first step was the launch in April of this year, in conjunction with the RPA, of a smartcard ticketing system by a private operator, Morton's, on its services. Another important step will be the launch later this year of smartcards on Luas services, followed by Dublin Bus in 2005.

In the meantime, integrated tickets, based on magnet strip technology, are available for travel on Dublin Bus and Irish Rail services, and I understand that the RPA has concluded a similar arrangement with Dublin Bus in respect of Luas services. The allocation for integrated ticketing in the 2004 Estimates for my Department is €9.5 million.

Driving Tests.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

49 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the average pass rate at each driving test centre; the action he is taking to address this variation; the action he has taken to date to implement the Comptroller and Auditor General’s recommendations following a review of the driving test system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20313/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

138 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the average pass rate at each driving test centre; the action he is taking to address this variation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20312/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 138 together.

The content of the driving test is set out in accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU directives. As in other EU countries, there are variations in the pass rate among test centres. The pass rate may be influenced by a number of factors, including the number of lessons taken by the candidate, the standard of instruction available and demographic factors.

In relation to consistency in the standard of the driving test, my Department undertook a comprehensive training programme for all driver testers in 2002 covering procedures for carrying out the test, guidelines to assess faults and training to enhance customer service in the delivery of the driving test. The work of each individual tester is monitored on an ongoing basis by his or her supervisor and remedial action is taken where this is required.

Following the Comptroller and Auditor General's report a review of the driver testing service was carried out by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers whose recommendation was that a separate public sector agency be established to deliver the driver testing service. Such an agency would have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill which will establish such an agency was published on 6 July 2004.

The pass rate for 2003 for each driving test centre is set out in the following table.

Test Centre

Pass rate 2003 %

Test Centre

Pass rate 2003 %

North Leinster

South East

Finglas

48.8

Carlow

49.2

Dundalk

51.6

Clonmel

51.3

Mullingar

57.0

Dungarvan

57.3

Navan

54.4

Kilkenny

55.4

Raheny

49.7

Nenagh

49.8

South Leinster

Port Laoise

50.0

Churchtown-Rathgar

48.3

Thurles

56.3

Gorey

52.6

Tipperary

47.9

Naas

53.6

Waterford

54.8

Tullamore

54.2

Wexford

51.5

Wicklow

47.3

South West

Tallaght

50.9

Cork

55.5

West

Killarney

60.0

Athlone

57.0

Kilrush

62.3

Birr

65.1

Limerick

62.3

Castlebar

62.1

Mallow

57.8

Clifden

56.0

Newcastle West

60.5

Ennis

65.5

Shannon

66.4

Galway

61.2

Skibbereen

59.5

Loughrea

58.5

Tralee

59.7

Roscommon

60.0

Tuam

64.2

North West

Ballina

61.2

Buncrana

65.6

Carrick-on-Shannon

54.4

Cavan

50.2

Donegal

57.1

Letterkenny

60.4

Longford

55.9

Monaghan

50.8

Sligo

63.5

Note: The pass rate is derived having regard to the outcome of all tests conducted at each driving test centre in 2003.

Question No. 50 answered with QuestionNo. 39.
Question No. 51 answered with QuestionNo. 48.
Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 42.
Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Road Network.

Damien English

Ceist:

54 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to reduce the outturn cost of road projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20284/04]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

79 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to reduce the out turn cost of road projects under the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20285/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 79 together.

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the outturn costs of individual road projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the local authorities concerned.

I am informed by the NRA that since the 1999-2000 period, it has strengthened its cost estimation, control and procurement procedures so as to have more accurate cost estimates from the earliest stages of a project and to ensure greater certainty of outturn costs between tender stage and completion date.

Measures taken include: greater use of design and build lump sum fixed price contracts offering cost efficiencies, greater certainty of outturn costs and reduced scope for claims; standardisation of economic designs for high cost items such as bridges and other structures; securing greater involvement by foreign contractors; buyout of price variation clause and risk — traditional procurement — where this gives good value; and further attention to improving quality of site investigations and acceptance of such investigations by contractors as agreed basis for pricing. These measures are bearing fruit in more accurate initial estimates and less divergence between final outturn costs and costs at tender stage.

Light Rail Project.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

55 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport the provisions that will be put in place to address the needs of commuters living beyond the Square in Tallaght in order to facilitate their access to the Luas. [20514/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

78 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport if the bus service in Tallaght will be increased or decreased in the aftermath of the launch of the Luas. [20516/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 78 together.

Bus Átha Cliath currently operates the majority of its Tallaght services beyond the Square to such areas as City West, Jobstown and Blessington. I have been informed by the company that there will be no immediate increase or decrease in their bus services in the area as a result of the introduction of the Luas. However, it will be monitoring the impact of Luas on its services and a detailed analysis will be carried out at that stage including the need to introduce or enhance services to complement Luas. My Department will, of course, have to approve any proposed alterations to the existing services being provided by the company or any new services proposed.

Taxi Regulation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

56 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the report of the taxi advisory council on new regulations to be introduced to the taxi industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20427/04]

By letter dated 24 February 2004 the advisory council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation provided advice to me on a number of matters relevant to small public service vehicles and their drivers. The council recommended the removal of the exemption on the wearing of seat belts by the drivers of small public service vehicles, the early commencement of section 37 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 which requires small public service vehicle and driving licence holders and applicants to hold a current tax clearance certificate, and the introduction of a new identification badge for all drivers of small public service vehicles to replace the existing metal badge. I advised the council on 31 March 2004 that I had accepted its advice on these matters and had asked my Department to proceed with the consideration of the proposals in consultation with the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

On 22 May 2004, I made regulations to remove, with effect from 1 July 2004, the exemption whereby the driver of a taxi, hackney or limousine is not required to wear a seat belt while driving such a vehicle. I also signed an order on 1 June 2004 to commence section 37(1) of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 with effect from 2 August 2004. From that date a taxi, wheelchair accessible taxi, hackney or limousine licence will not be granted or renewed unless the applicant produces to the licensing authority, that is, the local authority or the gardaí as appropriate, a tax clearance certificate issued by the Revenue Commissioners under section 1095 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

The proposals in relation to driver identification have been the subject of correspondence with the Garda authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The question of colour coding according to whether a taxi, hackney or limousine service is being provided, however, raises some wider issues as the present driver licensing system does not differentiate between drivers of different vehicle categories. I have suggested to the council that this aspect merits further consideration by it and, ultimately, by the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Bus Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

57 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport his plans to allow bus lanes on the hard shoulders of motorways; the precise time scale proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20432/04]

I am anxious to ensure that as many practical measures as possible are taken to improve the movement of buses on the road network and thereby reduce journey times and congestion. In that regard, my Department is engaged in discussions with Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Dublin Transportation Office, the quality bus network project office and the National Roads Authority regarding the use of the hard shoulder on roads for bus lanes, particularly in and around the Dublin area. This will include the introduction of bus lanes on motorways in that area. Necessary changes to traffic signs and parking regulations to support this initiative are being prepared at present.

Separately, the application of a separate speed limit to vehicles using a reserved hard shoulder may be required in certain circumstances and this is not currently provided for in primary legislation. To deal with this, the Road Traffic Bill 2004, published on 11 June, proposes to provide a legal basis for the introduction of a separate special speed limit on a hard shoulder in lieu of the speed limit that normally applies to that road. The Bill is currently awaiting a timetable for its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas. Pending the enactment of the necessary legislation, the NRA and the quality bus network project office are identifying locations and making the necessary preparations at those locations where buses will be permitted to use the hard shoulder. Details will be announced in due course.

Airline Privatisation.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

58 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport if he is still considering the privatisation of Aer Lingus in view of the fact that the company is expected to record a profit of up to €95 million in 2004; the consultation he has had with the board or unions representing staff regarding the future of the airline; if his attention has been drawn to plans from Aer Lingus to cut staff numbers further to reduce costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20417/04]

I have previously indicated to the House that last March I advised my Cabinet colleagues of the state of my deliberations concerning the future of Aer Lingus. I also advised that I would be reverting to Government on specific options for the company in the near future. Those deliberations involved consideration of the reports from the chairman of Aer Lingus and an independent corporate finance consultant whom I commissioned to look at the sale options for the company.

However, the House will be aware of recent developments concerning a request from Aer Lingus senior management for permission to develop an investment proposal for the Company. In response to that request, my Department immediately requested that no further activity take place in relation to any proposal until the matter had been considered from a corporate governance, process and policy perspective. Appropriate legal and financial advice was then sought.

My primary concern since then has been to protect the shareholders' interest and to guard against conflicts of interest. In that context, on 3 July last, I announced the appointment of Mr. John Sharman, an existing director, as acting chairman pending the appointment of a replacement for the previous chairman. The acting chairman and company secretary have since sought legal advice on the appropriateness of the current corporate governance arrangements and are acting on that advice. I have also been advised that a board meeting has been arranged for Thursday, 8 July 2004.

The acting chairman and board are, of course, charged with ensuring the ongoing orderly management of the business, particularly in relation to the finalising of the business plan which is critical to the successful implementation of the strategy adopted for the airline. My Department and the Department of Finance, which met the chairman, company secretary and their legal advisors on 5 July 2004, are liaising closely with the chairman so as to ensure that the governance arrangements put in place by the board are robust.

The Government considered the matter at its meeting yesterday and decided: to establish a Cabinet sub-committee, consisting of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers for Finance, Transport and Arts, Sport and Tourism, to examine all of the issues involved and report back to the Government as soon as possible; to advise senior management in Aer Lingus that in the interim there was to be no further activity as regards the request for consent to develop a proposal until such time as the Government has time to consider the matter in detail; and the Government will respond in due course to the request in the context of the Government's ongoing consideration of the ownership issue which has been underway for several months.

The Government will also consider the request in the context of the need for openness and transparency, the avoidance of conflicts of interest, reduction in risk, maximisation of value and consultation with stakeholders. I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the Government's consideration in this matter. However, I assure the Deputy that if the Government decides to embark on a sale of all or part of Aer Lingus, I will be consulting with the appropriate interests, including unions.

In addition, in such an eventuality, I will set out for the House, in accordance with the provisions of the Aer Lingus Act 2004, the general principles of the proposed sale as well as the basis for the Government's decision and the arguments for and against such a sale. I will also set out how the Government proposes to deal with important strategic issues such as slots at Heathrow.

There is no doubt that under the current management, the airline has made enormous progress in the past two years. However, that work must continue in order to ensure the ongoing viability of the company. In that context, it is vital that the new business plan is finalised in the near future and considered by the Aer Lingus board. I, therefore, do not wish to speculate on its contents at this stage. I want to make it clear, however, that the plan is essential, irrespective of any decision on ownership, as the challenging and difficult external environment facing the airline remains the same.

Rail Safety.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

59 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to receive the report of the statutory inquiry established by him on 14 October 2003, into the derailment of a freight train at Cahir viaduct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20428/04]

I directed the chief railway inspecting officer of my Department on 14 October 2003 to carry out a statutory inquiry into the derailment at the Cahir viaduct earlier that month. I mentioned in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 27 May 2004, that the chief railway inspecting officer was awaiting certain technical information from Iarnród Éireann before completing his report. That information has now been received and is being examined. I understand that the chief railway inspecting officer is now finalising his draft report and will circulate it to affected persons for comment before submitting his final report to me.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 40.

Driving Tests.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

61 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the average waiting time for driving tests at each centre in the State; the steps being taken to reduce the long waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20415/04]

John Deasy

Ceist:

85 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons awaiting driving tests in each test centre; the waiting time at each centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20311/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

255 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport his plans for dealing with the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20582/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 85 and 255 together.

The average waiting times and numbers waiting for a driving test as at 5 July 2004 are set out in the table below. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and at lunchtime. I have also asked my officials to explore the possibility of recruiting additional testers. Contracts have been extended for three retired driver testers and my Department is in the process of renewing contracts with another four retired testers.

Following a comprehensive review of the driver testing service, the Government approved the establishment of a driver testing and standards authority to deliver the driver testing service in accordance with pre-set performance standards. The proposed authority will also promote improved driving standards generally. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which will provide the statutory basis for the new authority, was published on 6 July 2004.

Test Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

Number of Applicants Waiting

Test Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

Number of Applicants Waiting

North Leinster

South East

Finglas

27

8,837

Carlow

38

2,571

Dundalk

29

2,958

Clonmel

39

2,083

Mullingar

25

1,733

Dungarvan

43

1,617

Navan

35

4,424

Kilkenny

36

2,410

Raheny

44

7,641

Nenagh

37

778

South Leinster

Port Laoise

43

1,607

Churchtown-Rathgar

32

11,721

Thurles

50

1,218

Gorey

35

1,889

Tipperary

51

1,093

Naas

19

6,569

Waterford

51

3,423

Tullamore

38

1,803

Wexford

34

2,460

Wicklow

36

2,152

South West

Tallaght

38

8,484

Cork

21

6,237

West

Killarney

34

2,097

Athlone

15

1,242

Kilrush

33

507

Birr

18

1,255

Limerick

30

3,706

Castlebar

20

2,228

Mallow

27

2,079

Clifden

11

352

Newcastle West

28

1,708

Ennis

10

984

Shannon

29

1,015

Galway

22

2,689

Skibbereen

30

1,777

Loughrea

13

813

Tralee

22

1,925

Roscommon

24

1,019

Tuam

23

1,154

North West

Ballina

31

1,095

Buncrana

24

660

Carrick-on-Shannon

32

1,153

Cavan

38

1,846

Donegal

23

1,136

Letterkenny

30

1,967

Longford

27

1,006

Monaghan

28

1,335

Sligo

22

1,388

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

Light Rail Project.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

62 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a report from the Luas project team on the safety of the Luas lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20305/04]

I refer the Deputy to my response to his Parliamentary Question No. 58 of 4 May 2004.

The IRSC issued a letter of approval on 28 June 2004 for commencement of passenger services on the St. Stephen's Green to Sandyford Luas line. The letter set out certain conditions for passenger service operations, including a number of standard provisions normal for such a large and complex project.

Passenger services commenced on this line on 30 June 2004 and the system has operated satisfactorily since then. The primary duty of care from a safety perspective lies with the operator, Connex. The IRSC will continue to meet regularly with Connex to review the operation from a safety perspective.

There is also an onus on road users and pedestrians to take due care along the Luas route. The National Safety Council and I have both called on road users and pedestrians in recent days to exercise due care particularly in the early period of the operation of the Luas system.

Speed Cameras.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

63 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a UK Department of Transport report which highlights the fact that fixed speed cameras have failed to address speeding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20295/04]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

125 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a UK Department of Transport report which highlights the fact that some fixed speed cameras locations had seen an increase in fatalities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20294/04]

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

139 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a UK Department of Transport report which highlights the fact that fixed speed cameras have failed to reduce accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20293/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 125 and 139 together.

I am informed that a recently published UK Department for Transport evaluation report on its national safety camera programme has shown that the number of people killed or seriously injured at sites where safety cameras are in use has fallen by 40% which equates to over 100 fewer deaths a year. The independent report evaluates the first three years of the safety camera scheme and also shows that there was a 33% fall in injury accidents — 4,030 fewer per year; a 35% reduction in pedestrians killed or seriously injured; average speeds at new sites fell by around 7% or 2.4 mph and the number of vehicles speeding at new camera sites dropped by 71%. Other notable findings of the report state that some 79% of people asked support the use of cameras to reduce casualties and the benefit to society through casualties saved is about £221 million sterling per year.

Road Safety.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

64 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if the number of persons injured on roads has risen or decreased despite the numbers of motorists receiving penalty points. [20515/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

100 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take arising from new figures showing that the number of road deaths to date in 2004 showed a 10% increase over the same period in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20410/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

127 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to new figures from the National Roads Authority suggesting that one in six persons can now expect to be involved at some time in a traffic accident in which a person is injured; the steps he intends to take to reduce this unacceptable level of accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20408/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 100 and 127 together.

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

The road safety strategy 1998-2002 set a target of a 20% reduction in both road deaths and serious injuries by the end of 2002 based on 1997 figures. This target was achieved in the case of road deaths and significantly surpassed in the case of serious injuries. While the number of road deaths continued to decrease in 2003, figures relating to serious injuries are not yet available for that year. In the 20 month period since penalty points have been in operation, the number of road deaths is 108 fewer than the number of deaths during the preceding 20 months.

At a recent road safety conference organised by the National Safety Council, a speaker representing the National Roads Authority stated that road collisions are rare and that one in six drivers can expect to be involved in an injury accident in their life. This means that almost 85% of drivers can expect never to be involved in a collision.

The number of road deaths at 5 July 2004 is 19 higher than for the same period last year, representing a 10% increase on the number of road deaths this time last year. While the increase in road deaths so far this year is a cause of immediate concern, it should be looked at against the background of the significant progress achieved, especially over recent years.

The programme for Government states that a three year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink-driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety in order to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and following approval from Government to publish the strategy, arrangements have been put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document, including its translation into Irish. I hope to publish the new strategy shortly.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the road to safety strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that strategy and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU third road safety action plan.

The strategy, which includes a report on progress achieved during the term of the previous strategy, will outline a range of issues that it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

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

Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 39.

Vehicle Height Restrictions.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

66 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to introduce the promised regulations restricting the height of trucks using roads here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20437/04]

To facilitate and inform the public consultation process on the question of the possible reintroduction of a maximum height for vehicles, I propose to publish shortly draft regulations together with a background consultation paper which will outline the considerations of the various interests involved in this matter.

Penalty Points System.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

67 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding the computerised penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20307/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

91 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport when the full penalty points system will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20411/04]

John Deasy

Ceist:

108 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the penalty points system. [20300/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 91 and 108 together.

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

Penalty points for careless driving were introduced with effect from 4 June 2004. This measure should have a further positive influence on the driving behaviour of those who have little regard for their own safety and the safety of other road users.

The full application of the penalty points system will be achieved when the relevant IT systems being developed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda are completed. I am assured by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that the systems in question will be operational by the end of this year. The question of reviewing the system will be considered against the background of its full operation.

It is now one year and eight months since penalty points were first introduced. At 30 June 2004, more than 153,000 drivers had received penalty points since the introduction of the system in October 2002, including three drivers who have reached the 12 point threshold which leads to automatic disqualification.

National Car Test.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

68 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the pass and fail criteria of the NCT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20299/04]

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

Port Authority.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

69 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Waterford port authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20296/04]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to an issue regarding a right of way held by CIE-Irish Rail on land owned by Waterford port. This issue is a day to day matter for the CIE group and Irish Rail, and one in which I have no role. I understand that discussions on this matter are ongoing between Waterford port and CIE-Irish Rail.

Airline Security.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

70 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to grant permission for armed US sky marshals to fly on transatlantic flights into and from Ireland; if he has received any request from US carriers for sky marshals to be on board flights destined to and emanating out of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20418/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 417 of 24 February 2004 on this particular matter. I have nothing further to add to that reply.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 46.

Regional Airports.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

72 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the subsidy provided to each regional airport, per passenger, over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20306/04]

Damien English

Ceist:

84 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of the regional airports. [20301/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

140 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of Kerry Airport. [19720/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 84 and 140 together.

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of our six regional airports in Kerry, Waterford, Galway, Knock, Sligo and Donegal. My Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective, but it is important to note that the regional airports are not in receipt of state subsidies.

With regard to capital funding, grant-aid of approximately €9 million has already been paid to the regional airports under first round allocations of the regional airports measure of the NDP. The primary objective of this measure is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports. A further round of projects will be considered for funding under the measure later this year.

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

My Department provides subvention to contracted regional air carriers for the operation of essential air services under the public service obligation, PSO, regime. EU Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2408/92 allows member states to establish a PSO in respect of scheduled air services to an airport serving a peripheral or development region where such air services are considered essential for the economic development of the regions concerned and where air carriers are not prepared to provide such air services on a commercial basis. In accordance with this EU regulation, the Government has established PSOs on routes linking Dublin Airport with the airports in Kerry, Galway, Knock, Sligo, Donegal and Derry.

The total cost of air service subvention to PSO carriers amounts to over €20 million per annum. The subvention level per trip per passenger for the past five years is as follows:

PSO subvention per trip — one way — 1999 to 2003.

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Kerry

13.71

12.17

44.27

54.59

55.17

Galway

18.55

18.86

46.57

47.19

51.67

Sligo

41.60

35.75

120.10

101.78

80.49*

Donegal

90.57

77.28

119.80

110.78

80.49*

Knock

233.17

226.58

224.87

Derry

113.89

95.10

77.56

* Subvention level for Sligo-Donegal is based on the subvention and passenger levels on the combined Sligo-Donegal contract, hence it is not possible to distinguish individual levels per route.

Following a recent review of the PSO programme, I am currently exploring ways of restructuring PSO specifications and contractual arrangements to ensure that in the long-term, an appropriate level of air access to the regions can be facilitated on a cost-effective basis, within the annual Estimates provision, while also encouraging maximum commercial initiative on the part of the regional airports and air operators. I intend to bring proposals to Government later this year and to re-launch before the end of the year a revised specification for services on all six routes to commence in mid-July 2005.

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

Public Transport Safety.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

73 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the progress made with regard to the review of the location of bus stops announced by him following the serious accident at Wellington Quay, Dublin, on 21 February 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20420/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

282 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that adequate safety standards apply in respect of all rail and road public transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20849/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

283 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if public health and safety requirements are being met at all bus stops and rail stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20850/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

284 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if health and safety requirements are a prerequisite in the location and construction of all bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20851/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

285 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has issued instructions in regard to the location and construction of bus stops in the future arising from the Dublin bus stop tragedy with a view to having primary reference to health and safety requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20852/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his views in respect of the location and construction of bus stops in the wake of the Dublin bus stop tragedy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20853/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 282, 283, 284, 285 and 286 together.

The power to determine the locations for the provision of bus stops is vested in the Garda Commissioner under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under that section, the commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops in respect of any bus route. I understand that the gardaí engage in a consultation process with both the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85. The review of the location of bus stops following the Dublin Bus tragedy is ongoing by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann and any concerns in that regard are raised with the local authorities and Garda Síochána.

In regard to the safety of bus services, all bus operators are required to demonstrate to my Department that all their vehicles are taxed, insured, roadworthy and approved as public service vehicles. Safety on our railway systems is the legal responsibility of the operator. Iarnród Éireann has responsibility for safety on the heavy rail network while Connex Ireland Limited has responsibility for the Sandyford Luas line. The Railway Procurement Agency has responsibility for safety on the Tallaght Luas line while construction work continues.

Iarnród Éireann has assured me that all railway operations on its network operate to strict standards, to ensure the highest level of safety for its customers and staff. The Sandyford Luas line is being managed in accordance with the safety case approved by the interim railway safety commission. The same safety case will apply in respect of the Tallaght line once passenger operations commence.

In addition, the Railway Safety Bill, when enacted, will provide an up to date framework within which railway undertakings must demonstrate safety adequacy and provides for the establishment of a railway safety commission, which will have the necessary powers to monitor and enforce compliance. The Bill also places duties on railway undertakings, their staff and third parties and requires railway undertakings to put in place formal safety management systems and to submit a safety case to the commission for approval.

Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Bus Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

75 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to avert the threatened industrial action by members of the NBRU following his recent decision to issue two new licences for private bus services in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20402/04]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

96 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20315/04]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

136 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20320/04]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

142 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to discussions between his Department and trade unions representing workers in CIE on the future of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20421/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 96, 136 and 142 together.

I set out my policy proposals for public transport reform in statements to the Public Transport Partnership Forum in November 2002 and the Oireachtas Committee on Transport in June 2003. My objectives in proposing reform of the 70 year old legislation which regulates the public transport sector are: to use competition in the provision of bus services to stimulate better performance, improved efficiency and cost effectiveness; to ensure that the taxpayer and the public transport user get better value for money; and to show clearly how funding for public transport is being spent to deliver service, and to establish a clear link between payments and performance.

The principal elements of my proposals are: the establishment of an independent procurement and regulatory authority for transport, on a national basis; and the introduction of controlled competition into the bus market in the Dublin area in the form of franchising as the primary means of procuring bus services.

I am firmly of the view that creating genuine opportunities for other bus companies to enter the bus market in Dublin is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the customers of public transport. I am also firmly of the view that these opportunities can be created without adversely impacting on the pay and conditions of existing Dublin Bus employees.

Officials of my Department have held a number of meetings with the CIE unions since February this year. On 12 May, my Department put detailed proposals on reform of the bus market in Dublin to the CIE unions. On 18 May, the CIE unions presented a substantive response paper through the independent chair. This paper included proposals which would have significant implications for the industrial relations structure of the bus industry, and which in turn would have potentially significant ramifications for the wider economy and the general approach to industrial relations in this country. When the discussions resumed on 8 June, my officials gave an initial response to the union paper but advised the unions that, given the implications of these proposals, there was a need for detailed consultations with other Departments and for the issue to be discussed at Cabinet. Unfortunately, despite this need to consider the proposals more fully, the NBRU decided to ballot on industrial action.

I regret the recent announcement by the NBRU that it plans to go ahead with industrial action which will seriously inconvenience the travelling public, have negative impacts on business and tourism and damage the reputation of public transport as a viable alternative to private car commuting. There is no need for this industrial action. The talks, under the skilled chairmanship of Kevin Foley, have been making progress. There has been real engagement in identifying and solving the core issues. I remain personally committed to the current talks process.

As regards the bus licensing issue, my Department issued two licences in early June to enable the provision of morning and evening services for workers in the Citywest Business Park. In processing the licence applications, my Department followed its normal procedure which included an assessment of the public interest as narrowly defined by the Road Transport Act 1932. During the course of its assessment, my Department was advised by Citywest that Dublin Bus had first been requested to provide services into the business campus, but had expressed no interest in doing so. The background to this licensing decision has been fully explained to the trade unions. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Road Transport Act 1932 no longer provides a satisfactory basis for regulating the bus market and that I plan to replace it as part of my regulatory reform programme. The sooner we find a basis in the talks process for moving forward in the reform programme, the sooner the 1932 Act will be replaced.

Rail Services.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

76 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if he expects the proposed new western rail line to cover all its annual running costs from fare collection. [20547/04]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

103 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to progress the western rail corridor in view of the strategic rail review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20302/04]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

137 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to receive the report of the working group evaluating the potential for the phased reopening of the Sligo-Cork rail route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20434/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 76, 103 and 137 together.

I recently established an expert working group to carry out a through examination of the western rail corridor proposal and to examine the potential for reopening the line. The working group held its inaugural meeting on 14 June last under the chairmanship of Mr. Pat McCann, chief executive of Jurys Doyle Hotel, and it included county mangers, directors of the regional authorities and representatives of city and county development boards, the Western Development Commission, West-on-Track, the inter-county rail committee, Iarnród Éireann, the Railway Procurement Agency and my Department.

The working group will examine and evaluate all aspects of the western rail corridor proposal, including the costs and benefits of the proposal; the travel demand that gives rise to the proposal; how such a project might be funded, and where the proposal stands in the context of the findings of the national spatial strategy, the strategic rail review, the regional planning guidelines, relevant county and city development and land use plans, the submissions put forward in relation to the proposal and the current and proposed road investment programmes in the vicinity of the line.

In my address to the group in its inaugural meeting, I specifically made the point that, while I would wish it to conclude its deliberations as quickly as possible, I was not going to put a time limit on how long this might be. This is a matter for the group. As far as the cost for this proposal is concerned, this is an issue that should await the conclusions of the group.

Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 39.
Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Decentralisation Programme.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

80 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the details of any survey that has been undertaken to establish the number of persons employed in his Department and in boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget 2004 speech, in regard to proposals for decentralisation; the results of any such survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20424/04]

My Department has not carried out any survey to ascertain the number of persons willing to move to a location scheduled for decentralisation pending the results of applications under the central applications facility, CAF. At this point it is not possible to state the number of workers in my Department or its agencies who have expressed an interest in relocation through the CAF but I understand initial results are due to be made available shortly.

Harbour Ownership.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

81 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport the steps taken to date by his Department to have legislation enacted regarding the ownership of Rosslare harbour port in County Wexford; and the other steps he intends to take to ensure the future of Rosslare Harbour Port. [19011/04]

Rosslare port is currently owned by the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Company which is a UK registered statutory company, jointly owned by CIE and Stena Line. The legal status of Rosslare port is governed by various pieces of legislation which date back to 1894. My Department is currently reviewing this legislation with a view to drafting new legislation to give the port a modern legislative framework. This may require legislation in the UK in addition to a Bill to be enacted by the Oireachtas. My Department is currently in discussion with Irish Rail and Stena Line in the matter. This legislation would be designed to secure the further development of the port.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

82 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the steps he intends to take to improve the safety of cyclists using the road system; his views on the belief of the National Safety Council that children under 12 should not be allowed to cycle in any sort of traffic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20414/04]

A design manual for cycle facilities entitled, Provision of Cycle Facilities — National Manual for Urban Areas, was published in March 1998 by the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, in association with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The manual comprises a comprehensive set of guidelines for the design and provision of cycle facilities and is intended to be of assistance to local authorities in ensuring that such facilities are provided to a uniform and high standard.

The safety of cyclists was one of the principle considerations behind the development of the cycle facilities design manual and the regulations covering the use of such facilities. To this end, international practice as applied in the Netherlands and the UK was brought to bear on these developments. This 1998 manual is currently being reviewed by the DTO and the review is expected to be finalised later this year.

The National Safety Council is mandated with responsibility for road safety advertising and education. In carrying out its mandate, the council advises other road users to be aware of their responsibilities with regard to other road users such as cyclists. I understand that the most recent advise issued by the NSC to cyclists is set out in a leaflet entitled, Cycle Safety, and I will forward a copy to the Deputy.

Ultimately, parents should decide whether their child is fit to cycle on public roads. When doing so the parents should be confident that their child possesses the appropriate skills and training so that their child understands and is protected against potential hazards.

Bus Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

83 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a consultant‘s report suggesting that plans to franchise out part of the Dublin Bus network will cost approximately €27 million annually to implement but will at best save only €2 million per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20422/04]

The report referred to by the Deputy is an internal company report prepared, I understand, for the board of the Dublin Bus. The CIE bus companies are quite naturally undertaking work to respond to my reform proposals and I would expect them to present the case which they see as representing their best interests. I welcome their constructive input to this dialogue, but that does not necessarily mean that I agree with their conclusions.

As I have not seen the Dublin Bus report and as the full details of the arrangements for the introduction of franchising in Dublin have not yet been published, I do not know the basis for the figures quoted by the Deputy but I believe that they are greatly inflated. It remains my intention to proceed with legislation on public transport reform in 2004.

Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 72.
Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Light Rail Project.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

86 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport if he intends applying specific safety measures around high risk areas in which Luas trams will interface with road traffic and pedestrians. [20518/04]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 400 yesterday. The position remains the same.

Traffic Management.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

87 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to figures in the annual report of Dublin Bus suggesting that traffic congestion was now costing the company €49 million per annum; the steps he intends to take to combat traffic congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20423/04]

I am aware that consultants have estimated the cost of congestion to Dublin Bus as €49 million per annum. The plans to tackle congestion in Dublin are being dealt with at two levels: increasing the supply of public transport, strategic road construction and traffic management, and reducing the growth in travel through complementary land use and other policies which is designed to encourage a transfer of journeys, especially at peak periods, from private car to sustainable modes of transport such as public transport, cycling and walking.

Significant progress has been made in recent years in this regard. There have been major increases in the capacity of the public transport system: the capacity of the DART system has been increased by over 50% since 2000 and further increases are being implemented which will mean that by the end of next year, the capacity of the DART will have increased by over 100% since 2000; 80 new diesel railcars were introduced earlier this year on suburban commuter services and a further 36 are to be delivered next year; the capacity of Dublin Bus has been increased with over 25% increase in capacity at peak times; Bus Éireann has increased its services by around 40% from commuter towns, such as Drogheda Navan and Naas, to the city centre; to facilitate buses, my Department is funding a major programme to expand the quality bus network and improve traffic management at a cost of €40 million per annum; the Luas is now in operation on the Sandyford line and services will commence on the Tallaght line at the end of August; and major road improvements are also under way in the greater Dublin area.

In addition, the Dublin Transportation Office is also working closely with the planning authorities to influence land use policies in the greater Dublin area to favour more sustainable forms of transport at the planning stage. This is being achieved through integrated land use and transportation plans at local level and commenting on major planning applications and appeals which are of strategic transport importance. There is expected to be a sustained increase in the population of the greater Dublin area over the coming years and increasing levels of car ownership. Good progress has been made to date in that public transport-walking-cycling has increased its share of all journeys in the city centre.

I am confident that measures, such as those I have mentioned, together with the opening of the port tunnel and the completion of the M50 in 2005, will go a long way towards addressing Dublin's congestion problems.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

88 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the work to date of the taxi hardship panel. [20426/04]

The taxi hardship panel was an independent three person panel established in February 2002 to report in general terms on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by individual taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime, including an estimate of the numbers of individual licence holders involved, the likely financial implications and the recommended criteria for assessment of extreme personal financial hardship under any subsequent proposed response by Government. Some 2,000 submissions were received by the panel and the panel also met taxi representative groups and some individuals who made submissions before finalising its report.

The report of the panel recommended the establishment of a scheme to provide payments to individual taxi licence holders who fall into one of six categories that the panel assessed as having suffered extreme personal financial hardship arising from taxi liberalisation. The payments range from €3,000 to €15,000 depending on the category of hardship involved. The Government approved the implementation on a phased basis of these recommendations.

Area Development Management Limited, ADM, has been engaged to administer the taxi hardship payments scheme which is implementing the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report in accordance with the relevant Government decision.

The taxi hardship payments scheme was formally launched in November 2003 with application forms being issued to all persons who made submissions to the taxi hardship panel. In addition, newspaper advertisements were placed in the national newspapers on 6 November 2003 and 27 February 2004 inviting applications under the scheme from individual taxi licence holders at 21 November 2000 who could demonstrate that they have suffered extreme personal financial hardship following loss of income arising from the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime, who fall into one of the six categories in which payment was recommended by the taxi hardship panel report, and who are tax compliant. The closing date for receipt of applications under the scheme was 30 April 2004.

A total of 1,860 applications have been received by ADM under the scheme with a significant number, approximately 500, being received in the week immediately prior to the closing date. Hardship payments totalling €9,516,000 have been made to 791 qualifying persons under the scheme to date. To date, 19 applicants have not qualified for a hardship payment. The remaining applications are under consideration. The time taken to process applications and to make payments depends on the completeness of the information and supporting documentation in each individual application.

Airport Development Projects.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

89 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the establishment of a second terminal at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20407/04]

Passenger traffic through Dublin Airport is expected to grow from last year's level of almost 16 million passengers to 30 million by around 2020. New infrastructure capacity and facilities, both airside and landside, will be needed to cater for this growth including further terminal capacity. With regard to the latter, the programme for Government includes a commitment to examine proposals for a new independent terminal at the airport and to progress such proposals if the evidence suggests that such a terminal will deliver significant benefits.

As the Deputy is aware, the report of last year by the panel of experts chaired by Mr. Paddy Mullarkey concluded that an independent terminal at Dublin Airport would be operationally and technically feasible and that such a terminal is a viable strategic option for the airport. I continue to give urgent attention to the independent terminal concept and I will bring proposals in the matter to the Government in due course.

Driving Tests.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

90 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to put procedures in place for lost driving licences where there is no record of a licence having been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20308/04]

As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 188 of 16 June 2004, the issuing of driving licences is a matter for each licensing authority in accordance with the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts and regulations made thereunder. Records of licences issued are held on the national driver file which is a central record held by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Computer databases and records of licences issued were held by each licensing authority until they were transferred to the National Driver File two years ago. It remains the responsibility of the licensing authorities to ensure that the licence record is updated when new licences are issued.

A person who has lost a driving licence may apply for a duplicate licence by completing statutory form D 800 which is available at licensing authorities. Where the licensing authority are satisfied that the driving licence has been lost, destroyed or mutilated they may, on payment of a fee of €5 issue a duplicate licence.

A licensing authority may only issue a driving licence if it receives, inter alia, a certificate of competency from an individual or proof that that individual was already entitled to a driving licence. In the absence of such documentation, the law precludes the licensing authority from issuing a driving licence or a duplicate driving licence. Where a licensing authority has no record of a person having held a licence, a person may submit to the licensing authority, in support of their application for a further licence, any evidence they might have that they held a driving licence and the vehicle categories in respect of which they held the licence.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Traffic Management.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

92 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he has carried out an assessment on the appropriate traffic speeds on roads such as O’Connell Street and College Green in the centre of Dublin; and if the local authorities have the ability to apply a 30 km/h speed limit on these roads. [20549/04]

Under the Road Traffic Acts, a default maximum speed limit of 30 miles per hour applies to roads in urban areas, including Dublin city centre, unless the local authority intervenes by way of making speed limit by-laws to apply a special limit in lieu of this default built up area speed limit. Under the present speed limit structures the speed limit of 30 mph is the lowest maximum value that can be applied on a public road.

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

The working group recommended that a default speed limit of 50 km/h should apply in built up areas — this value is very similar to the current default speed limit of 30 km/h in built up areas. In addition, a particular recommendation has been made in relation to the introduction of a special low speed limit of 30 kph for residential areas that meet certain criteria, in particular where appropriate traffic calming measures are provided. The working group envisaged that the application by local authorities of this special low speed limit would be subject to guidelines to be issued by my Department. I have given very careful consideration to the working group's recommendations.

Road Network.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

93 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport when he will announce the results of the NRA review on the future management of road improvement work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20283/04]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

135 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the NRA report on the future management of road improvement work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20282/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 93 together.

I meet the National Roads Authority on a regular basis to discuss the delivery of the national roads programme. At my request, the NRA was asked to review its arrangements for the implementation of the national roads programme and to make recommendations on the optimisation of these arrangements so as to secure further efficiencies in the implementation of the programme and ensure value for money.

The NRA engaged management consultants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to carry out this review. The review has been submitted to my Department by the NRA. The contents and recommendations of the review are being given detailed consideration in mine and other relevant Departments. I expect to be in a position to submit detailed proposals in response to the NRA-PWC review to Government shortly.

Rail Services.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

94 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport his views on Iarnród Éireann’s plan to replace locomotive hauled diagrams on the Dublin-Rosslare Europort route with 2,700 railcars which have a smaller capacity and may not be suitable for journeys between Wexford and Dublin. [20325/04]

The deployment of rolling stock by Irish Rail on its network is strictly an operational matter for the company itself to deal with. I am, however, informed by Irish Rail that they propose to replace the Mark 2 loco hauled fleet on the Rosslare line, which is over 30 years old, with modern railcars which will improve service, comfort and reliability for passengers. The current seating capacity of a six carriage locomotive hauled train is 384 seats, while the railcars will have 351 seats. Irish Rail has, however, indicated that the related seating should still be sufficient to meet demand as the services in question normally have ample spare capacity.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Road Safety.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

97 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to new statistics from the National Roads Authority showing that 98% of cars were breaking 30 mph speed limits on main urban roads and that more than 90% of articulated trucks were breaking the speed limits on the same routes; if he has satisfied himself that the current penalty point regime is sufficient to counter this trend; if he intends to take new steps to ensure compliance with speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20409/04]

The National Roads Authority, NRA, has published the results of national speed surveys which have been carried out in 1997, 1999 and 2002. The most recent survey was carried out in 2003, the results of which have not yet been published. Preliminary indications are however that the proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit on urban arterial and residential roads fell sharply between summer 2002 and summer 2003. The fall in the percentage of free speeding cars exceeding the speed limit was most dramatic in urban residential areas. The percentage of cars violating posted 30 mph limits on these roads fell by 25% in 2003. These reductions coincide with the introduction of penalty points for speeding in October 2002. The free speeding — rural — survey also showed sizeable improvements in car speeding rates on dual carriageways and two lane national primary roads.

The figures to which the Deputy refers relate to the percentage of cars and articulate vehicles exceeding the 30 mph speed limit on entering a 30 mph zone. The significant improvements to which I have referred related to speeding rates within the 30 and 40 mph zones. Despite the improvements outlined in the report, the percentage of cars speeding in 30 and 40 mph zones, particularly when entering these zones, is a worrying trend and I will shortly be publishing a new three year road safety strategy which will include measures targeted at the key areas relating to road collisions, including speeding.

The effectiveness of the penalty points system can be judged primarily on the basis of the contribution it has made to road safety since its introduction. In the 20 months since October 2002, the number of deaths as a result of road collisions has fallen by 108 by comparison to the previous 20 month period. Penalty points now operate in respect of speeding, seat belt wearing, driving without insurance and careless driving. Since the introduction of the system over 153,000 drivers have incurred penalty points. In overall terms, the introduction of penalty points has had a very positive effect on road safety and I am confident that the full roll out of the system will further enhance that effect.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

98 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce new rural transport initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20314/04]

Area Development Management Limited, ADM, which administers the rural transport initiative, RTI, on behalf of my Department, is currently concluding a comprehensive appraisal of the scheme. Among other things, the appraisal will measure the effectiveness of the RTI in addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland and in providing value for money. The appraisal will be completed shortly and I will then consider its findings in relation to the future of the initiative.

Rail Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

99 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reopen a passenger train service to Navan, County Meath, and extend that service to Kingscourt in County Cavan to service the many commuters that live in the Navan area and east Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20565/04]

As I have stated in response to previous questions in regard to the rail line from Navan to Kingscourt, the strategic rail review examined the viability of a railway link to Navan and concluded that there was no economic case for re-opening the line. However, Irish Rail informs me that it is currently examining the feasibility of reopening a short spur from Clonsilla to Dunboyne which could open up park and ride opportunities for car commuters from County Meath.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Air Traffic Management System.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

101 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the safety and reliability of the new air traffic control system installed at Dublin Airport having regard to the serious problems experienced following its installation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20429/04]

The Irish Aviation Authority has statutory responsibility for regulating the technical and safety aspects of civil aviation and for the provision of air traffic services. The authority's role as safety regulator includes the approval of all new air traffic control systems and equipment in line with international standards.

I am advised by the authority that a new air traffic management system was installed at Dublin Airport as part of a national air traffic management upgrade programme. This was introduced into operational service, following extensive testing and evaluation, on 22 April 2004 and initially operated in dual operational mode, that is, with both new and old systems operating in parallel. This was in accordance with the transition plan to migrate from the old to the new system, which called for a gradual increase in the use of the new system, with the old system in standby mode.

The authority further advised that on 22 May, the new system was brought into operation in Dublin on a stand-alone basis with its predecessor held in hot standby mode. On 23 May, a software problem developed in one of the 24 main servers providing data to the system. This of itself would not have caused a major difficulty but as a precaution an operational decision was taken to revert to the old system while the server problem was being addressed, as was provided for in the transition plan.

The problem was then identified and a solution found, tested, installed and validated. Operations using the new system recommenced on 26 May and have continued satisfactorily since that date. No other problems of operational significance have occurred. The authority has assured me of its confidence in the safety and reliability of the new air traffic control system.

Traffic Management.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

102 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ban HGVs from Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20321/04]

Traffic management in Dublin is the responsibility of Dublin City Council. I am informed by the council that it is currently developing a heavy goods vehicle management strategy. A public consultation exercise has already been carried out and the council is currently examining the submissions received, in advance of finalising the strategy.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Driving Tests.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

105 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for a new driver testing and standards authority; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by trade unions representing administrative staff and driving testers who claim that a new agency is not necessary to reduce waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20416/04]

The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill was published on Tuesday, 6 July 2004. I met the staff associations on 10 March 2004 and I am aware of their concerns in relation to the authority. My Department will be consulting further with staff associations in relation to these concerns. I refer the Deputy to Question No. 61 of today in relation to my proposals to reduce numbers waiting for driving tests.

The Bill will provide a statutory basis for the establishment of a driver testing and standards authority which will be responsible for the delivery of the driver testing service to a pre-set performance standard. The authority will also be responsible for promoting improved driving standards generally. Proposals for the establishment of the authority were drawn up following detailed independent reviews of the driver testing service.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Infrastructural Projects.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

107 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the financial mechanisms in place to review infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20304/04]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 24, 71 and 86 of 27 May and Parliamentary Question No. 57 of 4 May on this subject. The position remains unchanged.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Public Transport Safety.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

109 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the status and remit of the review of security on State-owned public transport services announced by him in response to the Madrid train bombings; when the review is likely to be completed; if its findings will be made available to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20419/04]

As I have stated previously in the House, I requested the chief executives of the three CIE operating companies to arrange for a review of security procedures to be undertaken in conjunction with the relevant agencies, including the Garda Síochána, so that the boards of the companies can satisfy themselves that current arrangements are adequate. I understand that this review will be a continuing process to enable it to react to security threats as they arise. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that I will not be in a position to discuss this review in any detail.

Light Rail Project.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the Luas will be extended from Sandyford to Cherrywood; if so when a decision will be made in this regard; the length of time it will take to have such a service introduced; and the cost of construction. [20545/04]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

113 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the Luas red line will be extended to Lucan; if so, when a decision will be made in this regard; the length of time it will take to have such a service introduced; and the likely construction cost of such a project. [20552/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 113 together.

I understand from the Railway Procurement Agency that the agency, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Rathdown Light Rail Limited are engaged in discussions on a 7 km light rail extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood.

The RPA has indicated to me that, subject to agreement between the agency, DLRCC and RLRL, it would submit a business plan for the project to my Department, including a cost benefit analysis. I await such a plan and, if approved, it would be followed by a formal application to me for a railway order that would trigger the statutory procedures, including a public inquiry, provided for in the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001. In the absence of a business plan it would be premature to comment on the costings of such an extension. It is also premature to speculate on a completion date for the extension.

The Dublin Transportation Office strategy, A Platform for Change, provides for a Luas line to Lucan. The RPA, as part of its forward planning, has reviewed possible alignments, approaches to implementation and projected patronage. It also asked the local authority to make provision for such a line in its county development plan. I understand from the RPA that the planning of the line is not sufficiently advanced to provide either an estimate of cost or a timescale for implementation.

Public Service Contracts.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

111 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce public service contracts into the rail service. [20317/04]

In November 2002 I set out my proposals for public transport reform in a statement to the public transport partnership forum. As outlined in that statement, I intend to establish an independent authority to procure public transport services. I also proposed that all DART and suburban rail services in the greater Dublin area would be provided subject to a multi-annual public service contract negotiated by the independent authority with Iarnród Éireann.

In reply to recent questions I stated that I intend for the independent authority to have a national remit. In this context it is my intention that all rail services provided by Iarnród Éireann will be subject to a public service contract with the new authority.

I intend to proceed with legislation to give effect to these and other public transport reforms during 2004.

Public Transport.

John Bruton

Ceist:

112 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the status of the promise in the joint programme to establish a greater Dublin land use and transport authority. [20278/04]

In April 2001 the Government's consultation paper, New Institutional Arrangements for Land-use and Transport in the Greater Dublin Area, was published jointly by the Departments of the Environment and Local Government and Public Enterprise. It proposed the establishment of a new strategic land use and transportation planning authority for the greater Dublin area. Developments since have caused me to review its proposals.

Recently the regional authorities finalised regional planning guidelines under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000. They will provide effective regional land use strategies consistent with the national spatial strategy. The Dublin and mid-east regional authorities have collaborated to produce a single set of guidelines for the greater Dublin area that will be published on 8 July.

The DTO will continue to carry out effective strategic transport planning for the greater Dublin area. I have also concluded that the establishment of an independent national public transport procurement and regulatory body is the most effective way of implementing regulatory reform.

In the light of these developments I believe that the policy objectives of effective land use and transport planning can, for the present, be successfully addressed within existing structures. I do not believe that it is a priority to establish a strategic land use and transportation authority for the area.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Dublin Port Tunnel.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

114 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the port tunnel with particular reference to meeting safety and other requirements. [20524/04]

The issues raised by the Deputy are a matter for the contractor, Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority.

I understand from the NRA that a recent safety audit of the project confirms that the Dublin Port tunnel complies, in all respects, with the requirements of the proposed EU directive on safety on road tunnels.

I am also informed by the NRA that the operating system for the tunnel and the ventilation and safety systems have been designed with safety as a paramount parameter. A package of further safety measures includes emergency telephones, lay-bys, pedestrian and vehicular cross passages, continuous CCTV coverage of the tunnel, a 24 hour manned control room, fire detection equipment and incident detection equipment. The ventilation system, along with the safety measures, represents a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safe passage of vehicles through the port tunnel. It is in line with the best international practice.

My Department appointed consultants to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel. They had to take into account the implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project's completion date.

Having reviewed the findings of the report further information was sought from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions in particular relation to the costs should the tunnel height be increased. As a result the contractors were requested to provide a fixed price cost for the work involved. A quotation was received from the contractors and is under consideration with a view to making a final decision as soon as possible.

Public Transport.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

115 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the increase in the Dublin Bus fleet of 36 buses in 2004 will be sufficient to cater for the higher service requirements that can be expected on the new quality bus corridors being designed by the quality bus network office. [20548/04]

Dublin Bus has indicated to me that it proposes to acquire 36 new buses this year. My Department is also in discussion with the company to look at the opportunity for redeploying its existing fleet to take advantage of improved efficiencies that quality bus corridors introduce. There may also be some scope for redeployment of buses arising from the commencement of Luas services on the Sandyford and Tallaght lines.

National Car Test.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

116 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport his plans to include the inspection of tax and insurance certificates as part of the national car test. [20279/04]

I have no plans to require National Car Testing Service Limited to include the inspection of motor tax and insurance certificates as part of the national car test. Enforcement of the law in relation to these matters is the responsibility of the Garda Síochána.

Public Transport.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

117 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the basis on which he approved a €4 charge for commuters using park and ride facilities at Luas stations; the efforts he has taken to establish whether this level of charge will discourage commuters from using the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20430/04]

The RPA made proposals to me about charging for park and ride facilities adjacent to Luas stops, as provided for in the relevant railway orders. The facilities are available at three stops on the red line, Sandyford, Stillorgan and Balally, and at the Red Cow depot on the red line. A private company owns and operates the park and ride facilities at Tallaght Square.

The RPA proposed that the aim of such charges at their sites would be limited to covering the capital cost of providing barrier control and other facilities at the park and ride locations and meeting annual operation, maintenance and insurance costs. I supported the position.

The charges for park and ride facilities will be nominal for people using Luas, up to a maximum of €4 per day, depending on length of stay. The facilities will include barrier control, security, cycle stands, and messaging systems on availability of parking spaces.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Bus Fares.

John Gormley

Ceist:

119 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether fare rates should be rounded up or down in a manner that does not affect overall revenue but makes for an easier and quicker fare payment system in view of the fact that Dublin Bus holds €1million in unclaimed excess fares. [20554/04]

The company has a policy of rounding up and down fares to the nearest 5 cent to be more customer friendly. It also heavily promoted prepaid tickets that now account for over 40% of all ticket sales. Smart card tickets will be introduced next year and the company expects the volume of cash transactions to diminish further.

Road Network.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

120 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his timetable for the completion of the NDP roads programme; and the projected cost. [20286/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the outturn costs of individual road projects, is a matter for the NRA and the local authorities concerned.

The national development plan mid-term target of 30% completion of the major inter-urban routes by the end of 2003 was largely met with 29% of the programme completed on schedule. Since 2000 a total of 41 projects or over 277 km were completed. Work is in progress on 18 projects or 199 km and another 12 projects or 88 km are at tender stage. The estimated cost of delivering the programme was €16.4 billion using prices from the end of 2003.

I understand from the NRA that the current position in relation to the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard is that the M1 is expected to be complete by the end of 2006. Work is under way on the following major projects: the N7 Monasterevin bypass, which is expected to be opened later this year; the N8 Cashel bypass; the N4-N6 Kilcock-Kinnegad; the N8 Fermoy bypass; and the Dundalk western bypass. Work is expected to start this year on the Dundalk to Newry road on the M1, the Waterford City bypass and the Naas Road widening. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects for these routes will either be approved by or be lodged with An Bord Pleanála by the end of 2004.

In order to provide greater certainty about resources that facilitate a more cost effective implementation of the programme I have secured the agreement of the Minister for Finance for the introduction of a multi-annual funding framework for national road investment. It provides for a total national road development investment of €8.2 billion, of which €6.9 billion is Exchequer funding and €1.3 billion will be invested by the private sector in public private partnerships, over the period 2004-2008. I have asked the NRA to submit a five year plan to ensure that the resources being made available under the capital envelope are utilised to best effect. The envelope will be underpinned by an agreement between my Department and the Department of Finance. It will incorporate provisions relating to, inter alia, the annual funding levels, contractual commitments and reporting and monitoring arrangements.

Rail Services.

John Perry

Ceist:

121 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of Spencer Dock; and if he had discussions with Irish Rail on the issue. [20318/04]

As I have stated previously in the House, discussions between my Department and Irish Rail are taking place on the development of a new commuter rail station at Spencer Dock. The development of Spencer Dock is part of a wider project to expand the capacity and availability of rail services in and around Dublin.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

123 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the areas from which staff will be drawn, in regard to proposals to decentralise 200 Bus Éireann staff to Mitchelstown, County Cork, announced in the budget 2004 in view of the fact that there are only between 80 and 90 staff currently employed at the company’s head office in Dublin; and if he received a report from Bus Éireann warning of the serious implications for the company. [20425/04]

To date, in the transport implementation group, over 80 posts that could be transferred from Bus Éireann have been identified. The areas from which these staff will be drawn include the secretariat, business development, finance, information technology and human resources together with various technical and professional posts.

Discussions with the company are continuing. Its chairman was asked to urgently examine the options for meeting the overall target of decentralising 200 staff to Mitchelstown.

All change brings with it an element of risk. I am confident that with good planning and management risks will be reduced to the absolute minimum. It is for this reason that all organisations involved in the decentralisation programme have prepared implementation plans that will be refined and amended as the process moves forward.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 47.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Road Network.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

126 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to introduce new toll routes to fund completion of motorways linking Dublin with Cork, Galway and the M50 upgrade. [20431/04]

The NDP provides for significant private sector investment in the national roads development programme. In line with this policy, a number of major road upgrade projects throughout the country are being implemented by the NRA by means of PPPs, with the private sector being remunerated, in part, by user tolls. This will ensure earlier delivery of vital national road infrastructure. Private sector innovation will be harnessed in the areas of scheme design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance through PPPs.

The NRA's current PPP programme comprises ten projects. In selecting them the authority had regard to a number of factors including the following: a geographical spread of tolls across the network; the extent of service improvement to be provided by the improved route; the availability of sufficiently high traffic volumes to ensure commercial viability; and the setting of tolls at an affordable and acceptable level in order to reduce diversion and gain public acceptance. It is clear that there is limited capacity, over and above the projects already identified by the NRA, across the national road network to support viable tolling arrangements.

Nevertheless the increased cost of the national roads programme, combined with the demands of the other sectors that limit the capacity to allocate more Exchequer funding, require that all possibilities for generating additional funding to accelerate the implementation of the national roads programme be considered.

In this context and that of a broader review of the arrangements for the delivery of the programme, the NRA recently identified a number of options for the development of tolling policy to enable it to raise additional funding for the national roads programme. My Department is considering its proposals. Any decisions on the extension of tolling beyond the current PPP programme would be considered by the Government.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Questions Nos. 128 and 129 answered with Question No. 43.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

130 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the steps he proposes to take, as a matter of urgency, to address the inability of a radar gun to produce a record. [16301/04]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

145 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take arising from a number of cases in the District Courts in which speeding charges were dismissed because speed guns used by the Garda are not capable of producing a written record of the speed detected. [20413/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 145 together.

My Department was notified by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of an instance where Cork District Court dismissed a speeding offence case brought against a motorist where the prosecution was based on foot of a speed measurement that was detected by a member of the Garda Síochána using a speed detection radar gun.

The matter was referred for advice to the Office of the Attorney General with a view to identifying whether a change in the current road traffic law is required. If an amendment is required I will bring new legislative provisions before the Oireachtas without delay.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 39.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Rail Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

133 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the Phoenix Park tunnel; and if he discussed the matter with Irish Rail. [20309/04]

I understand that the rail connection between Heuston and Connolly stations is over 7 kms in length, part of which passes through a tunnel under the Phoenix Park.

Irish Rail is looking at the potential for making greater use of the Phoenix Park tunnel when the second phase of the DART upgrade programme is completed in 2007 and extra rail paths into Connolly Station become available.

The difficulty with the use of the tunnel at present is that Connolly Station has a limited number of train paths available through it. In order to facilitate services from Heuston trains would have to be taken off services from Maynooth, Dundalk or the DART.

By the end of August Irish Rail customers will be able to board Luas trams outside of Hueston station to take them to Dublin City centre, Busarus and Connolly Station within a matter of minutes, a distance of around 3 kms.

Road Safety Permits.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

134 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the progress in reaching consensus among concerned parties on revised guidelines for the issuing of special permits for off-road dumpers. [20558/04]

My Department is engaged in a consultative process with a view to amending the permit scheme so that it is more effective in road safety and operational terms. The draft revised guidelines are intended to address road safety for vehicles, protection of infrastructure investment, environmental concerns, public project economics and job protection.

My Department is examining the views of the principal parties concerned, including local authorities, the Garda authorities and plant owners. When the examination is finished I expect to make a decision on the content of the revised guidelines.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 93.
Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 49.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Road Network.

John Perry

Ceist:

141 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date on the delivery of the inter-urban motorways. [20322/04]

The current position in relation to the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard is that the M1 is expected to be complete by the end of 2006. Major projects are under way on the N7 Monasterevin bypass, the N8 Cashel bypass, and the N4-N6 Kilcock-Kinnegad route. Work is expected to start this year on the Dundalk western bypass and Dundalk to Newry on the M1, N8 Fermoy bypass and N7, widening of Naas Road. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects on these routes will either be approved by or be lodged with An Bord Pleanála by the end of 2004.

It should be noted that since 2000 a total of 41 projects, over 277 kms, were completed. Work is in progress on 18 projects, or 199 kms, and another 12 projects or 88 kms are at tender stage.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

National Development Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the targets set by and for his Department, in the context of the national plan, are being achieved on time and within cost estimates; and if he will outline those that are not. [20525/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

259 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount of overrun in spending by his Department that has taken place, taking into account moneys spent on the Luas project, major road improvements and the break-up of Aer Rianta; and the reason for such the overrun in expenditure. [20679/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

273 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the various projects identified by him, in the context of the NDP, are on schedule and in keeping with cost projections. [20840/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

274 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he can clear up the confusion caused by the cost overruns on projects sponsored by his Department, with particular reference to the failure of tender prices and eventual outturns to stay in line with estimates. [20841/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143, 259, 273 and 274 together.

Procurement arrangements, contracts and the delivery of capital infrastructure are primarily the responsibility of the State bodies under the aegis of my Department. They comply with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, including conformity with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in the public sector.

Good progress was made in the implementation of the overall national roads upgrade programme provided for in the NDP. To date 41 projects, a total of 278 km, including 76 km of motorway and 62 km of dual carriageway standard, have been completed. In addition, work is under way on 18 projects totalling 199 km, including 175 km to motorway-dual carriageway standard and another 12 projects, or 88 km, are at tender stage.

In relation to the five major inter-urban routes, the key NDP mid-term, end of 2003, target of 30% completion of the five MIUs was substantially met with 29% achieved and work under way on approximately another 12%.

Following publication of the NDP in 1999, at a time of high construction sector inflation due to constrained capacity in the construction industry, the cost of the national roads programme mandated in the NDP increased substantially from €6.96 million, early 1999 prices, to €15.8 billion, early 2002 prices. The increase was attributable to: exceptional items such as the additional land-archeological costs on the south eastern motorway and the Dublin Port tunnel. There were also add-ons such as a reduction in timescale, higher road standards, upgrading of routes such as the N9 — 31%; construction cost inflation and initial underestimation — 49%; and scheme refinement as design process proceeded — 18%.

Since 2001 construction cost inflation has moderated from an annual average of 12% to less than 5%. Given the lower level of construction inflation and improvements in cost estimation and control, it is likely that the overall cost of the NDP mandated programme will not have changed significantly from the 2002 figure of €15.8 billion.

In considering the national roads programme and its development and management in recent years, it is important to bear in mind the major expansion in the scale of the programme over the period since 2000. The level of activity on the programme was increased very significantly in this period. Initial costing of the programme of work proved difficult due to the limited information available from the smaller preceding programme and the preliminary scheme outlines available as a basis for costing.

The NRA made significant efforts to strengthen programming, project management systems and cost estimation and control. A number of independent evaluation reports, such as C.F. Fitzpatrick and Indecon, acknowledged that the national roads investment programme is, in general, well managed.

My Department continues to support the NRA in the strengthening of its cost estimation, control and procurement procedures. This is being done in order to have more accurate cost estimates from the earliest stages of a project and to ensure greater certainty of outturn costs between tender stage and completion date. The measures taken include: a greater use of design and build lump sum fixed price contracts offering cost efficiencies; greater certainty of outturn costs and reduced scope for claims; standardisation of economic designs for high cost items such as bridges and other structures; the buy out of price variation, clause and risk, or traditional procurement, where this gives good value; the further attention to improving the quality of site investigations; and the acceptance of such investigations by contractors as an agreed basis for pricing.

The mid-term evaluation of the economic and social infrastructure programme recognised that, as result of NDP investment since 2000, significant increases in public transport capacity were achieved in a number of areas, including the DART, suburban rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. The full impact of public transport investment will be evident over the next two years. There will be further additions to capacity with the coming into operation of the Luas lines, the upgrading of the DART system, the placing into service of additional rolling stock and the expansion of the quality bus corridor network in Dublin.

The NDP's public transport priority performed positively in terms of physical output, financial absorption and good management. As a result the Department of Finance and the European Commission have recommended that it be allocated a proportion of a performance reserve allocation from the EU Structural Funds.

There have been increases in the cost of public transport projects since the NDP was published due to the cost of inflation. There have also been improvements in cost estimation, project management and monitoring and in general projects are being completed in line with tender prices.

One of the objectives of the NDP in relation to mainline rail includes completion of the Railway Safety Programme 1999-2003 at a cost of €546 million using 1998 prices. Another objective was the reconstitution of the rail safety task force to prepare recommendations for a second five year safety programme before the end of 2003. Both objectives were met. Some individual infrastructural renewal targets were not achieved such as level crossings. However, other significant and essential renewal works, such as cuttings, embankment and coastal protection, not envisaged in the original safety programme were completed instead.

Approximately €571 million was invested under the safety programme during the course of the NDP. Over €660 million will be invested over the full five year programme. The task force completed its work and will shortly submit its recommendations to Government for a new safety programme.

On 30 June the opening ceremony of the first Sandyford Luas line took place. Passenger services on the Tallaght line will commence at the end of August.

In 2000 the Government approved the capital cost of €466 million for the Luas project. It consisted of €265 million for the Sandyford line and €201 million for the Tallaght line. The sum was based on preliminary estimates, using 1999 prices, submitted by CIE.

In February 2001 the budget was revised and increased to €675 million. As much as €480 million was allocated for the Tallaght line and €295 million was allocated for the Sandyford line. There was also a risk provision of €89 million to take account of actual competitive tender prices received. The revised allocation reflected high inflation in the construction sector, higher than anticipated property acquisition costs and changes to the scope of the project mainly related to the provision for upgrading the Sandyford line to metro status.

In December 2002 the Government noted the increase in the budget to €691 million, composed of €501 million for the Tallaght line, €290 million for the Sandyford line and a risk provision of €84 million. The reasons for the increase of €16 million is accounted for by the higher than anticipated costs associated with the demolition of the Connolly ramp and increases in the costs of utilities and enabling works. The RPA has informed me that the project is within the €691 million budget and risk provision.

Responsibility for the completion of projects within the targeted timescale rests with the regional airports. However, the first round of approved projects was completed on time and within cost estimates of approximately €9 million. A further round of projects will be considered for funding later this year.

My Department also has a contract with the consortium, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Matheson Ormsby Prentice and Steer Davies Gleave to advise on all aspects of the Aer Rianta restructuring process. To date payments are within the budgeted sum.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

146 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach when the further reports of Justice Henry Barron will be published; the incidents they will cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20927/04]

On 29 June, I received a report from Judge Barron on a number of events. These included Dublin bombings in the Film Centre cinema in November 1972, Eden Quay and Sackville Place in December 1972 and Sackville Place in January 1973. Appendices to this report, received from Judge Barron on 5 July, included the murder of Bríd Carr, the murders of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter, the bombings in Clones, Belturbet and Pettigo, along with other bombing incidents in the State between 1970 and 1974. Consideration is now underway by relevant Departments and the Attorney General. The report will then be considered by the Government. It is the intention that the report be then considered by the Oireachtas and published.

Judge Barron is expected to report on the case of Seamus Ludlow towards the end of the year. He will then report on other cases including the Dundalk bombing of 1975 and in the context of that report, he will report on a number of other bombings that took place after May 1974 including the Castleblaney bombing.

Census Results.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

147 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach the number of persons prosecuted for not responding to the 2002 census; and the estimated number of persons who failed to respond. [20607/04]

Some 4,000 enumerators were employed by the Central Statistics Office to conduct the fieldwork for the 2002 census of population. The enumerators delivered blank census forms to all households in the State in the five week period before census day, 28 April 2002. In the five weeks after census day, they collected the completed forms and subsequently returned them to CSO. A total of 1.29 million households were covered.

The majority of householders co-operated fully with the enumerators in ensuring that their completed census forms were ready for collection after census day. In a number of cases where the householder was not initially convinced of the necessity of returning their completed census form, a further visit by the enumerator or the relevant field supervisor usually resulted in the satisfactory completion of the form.

The estimated number of persons who failed to respond to the census is not precisely known. However, every attempt was made at local level to keep the number of such cases to an absolute minimum. The enumerator and her supervisor highlighted the importance of the census operation to the non-compliant householder and the obligation under law to complete the census form. Where a refusal resulted from this procedure, the enumerator using his or her local knowledge was normally in a position to provide the relevant details. While it would not have been practical to prosecute all of the non-repondents it was decided to take proceedings against three individuals who failed to comply. Two of these resulted in successful prosecutions.

The CSO policy is to emphasise the importance of 100% compliance with the census in order to ensure up to date and comprehensive information on the population at local, regional and national level. A public awareness campaign is mounted around the time of the census to get this message across to the public. However, through the prosecutions it has taken to date, CSO will make it clear in future censuses that it will have no hesitation in prosecuting non-respondents.

Import Statistics.

Seán Power

Ceist:

148 Mr. S. Power asked the Taoiseach the value of imported vegetables in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20672/04]

The table below shows the value and volume of vegetables imported in 2003 and distinguishes, where significant, fresh, frozen or chilled vegetables from prepared or preserved vegetables. Data for 2001 and 2002 are also included for comparison.

Vegetable imports

2001

2002

2003

Commodity type

€(000)

Tonnes

€(000)

Tonnes

€(000)

Tonnes

Potatoes, fresh, frozen or dried

20,111

68,051

20,348

67,311

17,501

55,397

Other potatoes, prepared or preserved

70,210

62,023

75,313

64,548

74,663

69,084

Tomatoes, fresh, frozen or dried

21,286

19,660

28,204

20,294

28,557

21,145

Other tomatoes, prepared or preserved

9,654

13,364

10,158

16,124

9,231

15,621

Onions, leaks, etc., fresh, frozen or dried

13,230

28,994

17,622

33,377

18,279

36,425

Other onions, leaks, etc., prepared or preserved

2,516

1,066

2,463

1,142

2,246

1,129

Cabbage, broccoli, etc., fresh, frozen or dried

10,511

12,865

13,214

16,602

11,173

14,306

Carrots, turnips, etc., fresh, frozen or dried

10,233

17,144

10,319

20,443

10,200

19,826

Lettuce, chicory, etc., fresh, frozen or dried

9,938

7,227

10,710

7,808

12,043

7,978

Peas, beans and pulses, fresh, frozen or dried

10,124

34,454

5,408

5,502

6,578

18,288

Mushrooms, fresh, frozen or dried

1,957

736

2,714

1,178

2,486

1,004

Other vegetables, fresh, chilled or frozen

78,160

64,583

76,599

66,487

81,229

74,527

Other vegetables, prepared or preserved

36,717

29,297

40,726

28,860

38,398

27,446

Total

294,647

359,464

313,798

349,676

312,584

362,176

Note: It should be noted that, overall, approximately 3% of all trade is unclassified by commodity.

Job Creation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

149 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the job creation strategy for the north-west is proving successful, particularly for north east Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20662/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

153 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to job creation and job retention in the north-west region in particular in Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20666/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

154 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the policy efforts being made to assist in attracting industry to the north-west region, in particular to Inishowen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20667/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 153 and 154 together.

In recent months, I have met with delegations from the Donegal County Development Board and from IBEC north-west to discuss employment and related issues in Donegal and the north-west region in general. As a result, I have arranged for the expert skills group in Forfas to carry out research on the labour market needs of the area. The research work began last month and I expect that a report will be available in October.

Over the last few years, IDA Ireland has secured new investment for the north-west, including Donegal from companies such as Abbott Laboratories, MBNA, Prumerica, PacifiCare and Keith Prowse in Buncrana. All of these companies are recruiting at present. Enterprise Ireland has been very active in supporting the development of enterprise space in the north-west. A total of 24 Community Enterprise Centres have been funded in the region including ten in Donegal. In addition, ten companies in the north-west region, including five in Donegal, have been approved for funding under Enterprise Ireland's competitiveness fund.

The development agencies continue to try to source new investment for Donegal and are committed to playing their part in the development of the north-west region by maintaining the maximum number of existing jobs and by attracting new investment into the region. The recently announced decentralisation programme will also facilitate economic development in the area.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

150 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date in achieving the aims within the Donegal task force report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20663/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

151 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the Donegal task force initiative report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20664/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

156 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has satisfied herself that the employment agencies are achieving the employment goals of the Donegal employment initiative task force; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20669/04]

I propose to take Questions 150, 151 and 156 together.

The monitoring and implementation of the recommendations of the Donegal task force report have been allocated to the Donegal County Development Board. The county development board completed a ten year strategy for the development of the county and this was launched in 2002. The current focus of the county development board is on progressing a number of key economic infrastructure projects in the county. The priority action areas are roads, water, telecoms including broadband, air access and energy, both electricity and gas. Progress in these areas is important in attracting further new investment into the county. All of these issues were discussed at my last meeting with the Donegal County Development Board and I am continuing to keep in touch with developments in these areas.

The industrial development agencies continue to try and secure new investment for Donegal and are committed to playing their part in the future development of the county by attracting new investment into Donegal. These agencies, together with FÁS, are all represented on the county development board. Finally, the Government and the development agencies are committed to ensuring balanced regional development particularly through the implementation of the national spatial strategy and the recently announced decentralisation programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

152 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the unemployment statistics on County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20665/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

155 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the initiatives that are underway to address the unemployment statistics in the north-west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20668/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 155 together.

According to the latest quarterly national household survey published by the Central Statistics Office on 16 June 2004, unemployment in the border area is at 5.4%. The corresponding figure this time last year was 6.2%. The live register figures for June 2004 show that in the north-west region, numbers decreased by more than 7% against a national average decrease of 5%. The Donegal live register rate decreased by 5% between June 2003 and June 2004, down from 10,680 to 10,146. Although the live register is not a true record of the level of unemployment, as it includes people who are not available for work, it is a useful indicator of current employment trends. These statistics indicate that the actions being taken by the industrial development agencies are impacting positively on Donegal and the north-west region in general.

Support for job creation is a day to day operational matter for the industrial development agencies. Job creation and job losses are a feature of economic development worldwide as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand for goods and services, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change. In the case of redundancies or lay-offs the employment services division of FÁS provides a full service to the unemployed job seeker. This service is offered by FÁS through its network of employment services offices and clinics. It consists of matching suitable people to job vacancies, providing guidance interviews and placement on suitable training courses. In addition, FÁS north-west region has two training centres in Donegal, located in Letterkenny and Gweedore, delivering apprenticeship and specific skills courses. The expert skills group in Forfas is currently engaged in carrying out research on the labour market needs of the north-west. In addition, the enterprise strategy group, which I established in July, 2003, was given the task of developing strategic policy recommendations for enterprise in Ireland.

I am satisfied that a combined agency approach, including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise boards, together with the involvement of local business communities, will address the job creation needs.

Questions Nos. 153 and 154 answered with Question No. 149.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 152.
Question No. 156 answered with questionNos. 150 and 151.

EU Funding.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

157 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of all State or European Union assistance granted to companies (details supplied) on their location here; the date payments were made; if further or subsequent payments were made in each case; if so, the amounts of such payments in each case; the agency involved in assessing and payment of the grant in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20671/04]

Enterprise Ireland has responsibility for inward investment in the food and natural resources sector as well as for indigenous manufacturing and internationally traded services companies employing more than ten people. Grants paid to the companies, referred to by the Deputy, by the State development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, were as follows:

Weyerhaeuser Europe Ltd

Year

Payment (€)

1983

2,464,527.33

1984

1,578,973.89

1985

29,330.95

1986

32,290.71

1988

54,537.79

1989

3,688.59

1990

202,797.48

1991

275,576.04

1992

167,689.24

1993

187,334.62

1994

1,018,629.60

1995

2,283,959.15

1998

83,296.09

1999

117,587.91

2000

66,794.57

2001

80,474.72

2002

1,292,978.31

2003

429,426.00

2004

27,137.25

Finsa Forest Products Ltd

Year

Payment (€)

1982

18,434.06

1984

323,026.44

1985

1,164,974.53

1986

297,871.68

1988

906,592.99

1990

116,503.00

1991

253,038.46

1992

138,353.20

1993

323,255.00

1998

1,269,738.08

1999

1,904,607.12

2002

67,584.98

SmartPly Europe Ltd

Year

Payment (€)

1995

5,985,196.13

1996

6,712,184.66

1998

111,083.04

1999

194,163.27

2001

135,622.00

2003

275,054.68

Masonite Ireland

Year

Payment (€)

1996

6,933,524.13

1997

6,823,717.19

1998

1,294,492.89

1999

1,492,465.37

2001

107,659.82

2002

513,461.71

2003

46,119.50

2004

17,619.90

The programmes under which these grants were approved were eligible for co-funding under the various operational programmes of the European Structural Funds. Any eligible amount of co-funding is incorporated into the payments listed. The establishment and success of these board mills has been a critical factor in the overall development of the forest products sector in Ireland. In 2003 these four companies generated $220 million in sales and $150 million in exports. They currently employ 755 people in mainly rural areas.

Fair Trading.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

158 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the British Office of Fair Trading code of practice on supermarkets’ dealings with suppliers; if she has examined the document for possible application in some format in this State; her views on whether this would be a useful exercise and whether such a code of practice introduced here should have the benefit of legislation. [20678/04]

I understand that the code of practice in question was recently reviewed in the UK and that the Office of Fair Trading has appointed auditors to conduct a compliance audit of the code.

The Irish retail grocery sector is already regulated by the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 and the Competition Act 2002. The Competition Act 2002 sets out general rules and prohibits all agreements which prevent, restrict or distort competition. The groceries order is more specific and contains fair trade provisions which are not specifically covered by the Competition Act 2002, such as a ban on the selling of grocery goods at below net invoice price, boycotting and hello money. This ensures that similar terms are available to all suppliers.

I am currently reviewing the 1987 order and will take into account, so far as may be appropriate, the code of practice and compliance audit concerned.

Gas Pipelines.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

159 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role the Health and Safety Authority has with regard to the assessment of the import onshore gas pipeline in the area between the proposed Bellanaboy refinery and the boundary of the lands in the control of the developers of this project; and the analysis that has been undertaken with regard to the safety of such pipelines which will carry wet gas containing several impurities at pressures of up to 340 bar in areas prone to bog movement. [20732/04]

The Health and Safety Authority is required to give advice to planning authorities in relation to the provision of establishments that come within the scope of the European Communities (Control of Major Accident Hazards Involving Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 476 of 2000) which transposes Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances. For purposes of the directive and the statutory instrument an establishment is considered to be the site within the overall landholding of an undertaking where dangerous substances are present in one or more installations.

The establishment in the case of the proposed gas terminal is considered to be the terminal footprint, which is the area within the security fence where the hazardous substances are processed and stored. Pipelines outside the establishment are outside the scope of the directive and statutory instrument and are therefore outside the remit of the Health and Safety Authority for the provision of advice pursuant to these regulations. Pipelines to and from the proposed gas terminal were subject to a permission system under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. The Health and Safety Authority has not had any role in the assessment of these pipelines outside the establishment.

An Bord Pleanála is currently considering an appeal relating to a planning application for this proposed gas terminal. The application relates to the terminal and the land between it and the boundary of the landholding within which the proposed terminal is situated.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

160 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of her Department or any agency under the aegis of her Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20757/04]

The Patents Office, which is an office of my Department, relocated to Kilkenny on the 1 September 1998. This involved the relocation of 68 posts in total. Of the staff who transferred to Kilkenny in September 1998, four staff transferred on promotion and four specialist staff were recruited directly to the patents office, Kilkenny at that time. The remainder of staff transferred in their existing grades at that time. No agency under the aegis of my Department has decentralised previously.

Company Law Compliance.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

161 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to allegations that an organisation (details supplied) filed apparently false and incomplete documentation in the companies registration office for two successive accounting years, 1998 and 1999; if her attention has also been drawn to the further allegations that this organisation is also in effective control of a linked organisation that in the 12 years to December 2000 raised a substantial sum of money, but that there is no record of the way in which this money was spent in pursuit of the objectives of the charity and that these allegations have been reported to the office of the director of corporate enforcement, although no action has been taken by that office on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20803/04]

I understand that the matters referred to by the Deputy concern compliance with company law. Since 28 November 2001, the Director of Corporate Enforcement is responsible for enforcing and for securing compliance with the Companies Acts. He is required under the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 to be independent in performing those functions. He is also obliged as a general principle to keep confidential any information obtained by him in that context. I am not in a position to say, therefore, whether or not any investigation has been or is being carried out by the office of the director of corporate enforcement in regard to these companies.

Insurance Industry.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

162 Mr. B. Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board in view of the serious problems caused by excessive insurance costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20827/04]

A key element of the insurance reform programme that I announced on 25 October 2002 is to implement the Motor Insurance Advisory Board action plan. Significant progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board and I am confident that these implementing measures will radically overhaul the functioning of the insurance market and help tackle the high cost of insurance. The key measures include the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act was signed into law on 28 December 2003. The board was established and members appointed on 13 April 2004. The PIAB commenced dealing with employer liability cases from 1 June 2004 and it is my intention that it will commence dealing with motor and public liability claims from autumn 2004 or earlier. A book of quantum, an aid for assessing the level of compensation based on the type of injury involved and which is essential for the successful operation of the PIAB, was published by PIAB on 2 June 2004.

Other measures include the undertaking by my Department and the Competition Authority of a joint study into the insurance market. The study will identify and analyse barriers to entry and limitations on rivalry in the insurance marketplace. 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. Following consultation, a final report will be published later in the year which will contain recommendations based on the findings. Significant progress has been made by the Department of Transport on the implementation of the road safety strategy. For example, the introduction of the penalty points system has already reduced the number of accidents on our roads, which has benefits far beyond the cost of insurance. The Road Traffic Bill 2004 was published on 22 June 2004.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Civil Liability and Courts Bill on 11 February 2004. It is expected that this Bill will have passed all stages of the Dáil and Seanad this week and enactment will take place at the earliest date possible. This Bill contains measures to streamline the law on personal injury claims including measures to deal with fraudulent and exaggerated claims. The MIAB recommended that the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority is charged with progressing, deal with issues relating to public information, promotion of competition, transparency and consumer protection. Recommendations implemented since it began operations on 1 May 2003 include a one stop website went live on 26 November 2003; an IFSRA code of practice published during December 2003; and comparative tables showing motor insurance quotations published on a quarterly basis since 10 December 2003.

The Irish Insurance Federation has incorporated a number of the MIAB recommendations on insurance providers in a code of practice. These recommendations deal with issues such as equality, transparency and information issues for consumers. While EU law prohibits the imposition of price control on insurance, I have made it clear that I consider there to be an onus on the insurance industry to ensure that the reforms to be taken will have the effect of significantly reducing the cost of premia to consumers and businesses. Indications to date are that the insurance 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 12.9 index points, or 12.1%, in motor car insurance between the months of October 2002, when the programme was launched and April 2004, which is the latest figure available. Reductions are also beginning to occur in the cost of employers' liability and public liability insurance premia, which represent a significant burden for businesses. As implementation of the reform programme continues, I expect further reductions to occur. 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 leading to further downward pressure on premia.

Industrial Development.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

163 Mr. B. Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals by the industrial development agencies to attract inward investment or to assist in the creation of jobs throughout County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20828/04]

IDA Ireland is actively marketing Cavan for potential foreign inward investment. The IDA has recently completed a €1 million upgrading of Cavan business park to raise its profile and increase its attractiveness for inward investment. The former Teradyne building on the park is currently available for occupation by investors. In addition, IDA Ireland received planning permission for two further 25,000 square feet advance technology buildings on Cavan business park at the end of 2002. IDA is also cognisant of the range of smaller buildings provided through private developers in Cavan and through bodies associated with Cavan County Enterprise Board.

Construction of the new Abbott Laboratories facility at Cootehill, which was announced by the healthcare company as part of an €88 million investment plan in December 2002 and was supported by Enterprise Ireland, is nearing completion. Currently approximately 50 of the proposed 100 new jobs have been created with recruitment for the remaining jobs ongoing. Enterprise Ireland provides preferential funding for companies, with detailed export plans, who are expanding or establishing a business in the County. In 2004 to date, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding of €611,426 to eight companies in County Cavan. Enterprise Ireland's strategy is to further develop the building and construction materials sector in County Cavan, as well as a number of food companies. Enterprise Ireland has also approved funding for community enterprise centres in Cavan, Kingscourt, Bailieboro, Cootehill, and Killeshandra. Enterprise Ireland also works with companies to assist them in improving competitiveness. Enterprise Ireland's €10 million competitiveness fund, which I announced in May 2003, was set up to help small and medium enterprises overcome distinctive competitiveness difficulties. Under this fund three applications in County Cavan were successful in competing for funding to the amount of €448,380.

I am confident that the efforts of the industrial development agencies in partnership with other local organisations as well as the continuing commitment of the Government to regional development, which will see some 380 further civil servants transferred to Cavan under the decentralisation programme, will bring positive results to Cavan.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

164 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if he intends to approve the military implementation plan for the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force; and the time-frame for completion of this plan. [20597/04]

On 15 January 2003 I approved, in principle, the report of the Reserve Defence Force review implementation board for the implementation of the recommendations of the special steering group on the reserve, which had reported to me in September 1999.

The Permanent Defence Force is now organised in a three-brigade structure and a Defence Forces training centre. The Reserve Defence Force will be similarly reorganised and restructured and it is envisaged that the implementation of these changes in the Reserve Defence Force will take place over a period of approximately six years. The White Paper on Defence recognised that a notable and important feature of the existing FCA organisation is its countrywide, geographical spread. This particular aspect will, in general terms, be retained in the future. The full organisational and establishment details of the new reserve will be determined in the course of the ongoing detailed implementation process which is being carried forward by the military authorities.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

165 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if the FCA may legally be deployed with the Permanent Defence Force on aid to the civil power operations in the situation where he has not exercised his power under the Defence Act to call out reservists. [20598/04]

Defence Forces regulations do not provide for the performance of duties in aid of the civil power by members of the Reserve Defence Force who are rendering service on a voluntary basis.

Defence Forces Training.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

166 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Defence if paragraph four of Training instruction 17/87 implementation of safety precautions — weapon handling and firing, which requires periodic seminars to be conducted at sub-unit level, were carried out for those involved in the training exercise at the Glen of Imaal on 27 November 2001 prior to that date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20740/04]

The Deputy will recall my answer to Questions Nos. 264, 265 and 266 on 27 January 2004 in which I stated, inter alia, that where an incident involves injury to a member of the Defence Forces, a formal court of inquiry is convened to take evidence and to make recommendations on the matters referred to it. In this case, the court of inquiry has not been convened as the incident is currently the subject of a civil action in the courts. I am advised that once the matter has been disposed of by the courts, a court of inquiry will be convened. As the matter is the subject of an action by the individual involved and as the matter is still before the courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

167 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20758/04]

The finance branch of my Department was decentralised to Galway in 1989, comprising of a total of 176 staff. The percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion was 4.3% and the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade was 90.3%. Ten staff were directly recruited in the services areas, that is, the remaining 5.4%.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

168 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the number of soldiers, and the details of equipment, vehicles and machinery which were deployed in respect of the recent visit of President Bush; and the estimate, followed by final figures giving a detailed breakdown, of the costs incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20790/04]

The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power which means in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, whose duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts and so on.

The gardaí requested the support of the Defence Forces for the recent visit of the US President. Approximately 2,262 members of the Permanent Defence Force were deployed on security duties in connection with the visit. The equipment, vehicles and machinery deployed by the Defence Forces in connection with the visit are shown on the attached schedule.

With regard to the question of the costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of assistance to the Garda Síochána for the visit, I am advised that such costs are not readily available due to the extent of the Defence Forces commitment to the operation. However, these costs are currently being compiled and will be available before the end of the month. I will arrange to have them forwarded to the Deputy when they are available.

Schedule of Defence Forces Vehicles and Equipment Deployed in Connection with Visit of US President

Air Corps

Naval Service

5

Alouette Helicopter

2

Off Shore Patrol Vessel (OPV)

2

Dauphin Helicopter

1

Coastal Patrol Vessel (CPV)

2

Casa aircraft

1

Long Range Patrol Vessel (LPV)

1

Beechcraft

1

PC 9

1

Marchetti

12

Total

4

Total

Brigade Assets

Assorted Vehicles

12

Field Kitchen

92

Truck

3

Freezer Unit

26

Transit

75

Portaloo

68

Landrover plus 29 trailers

10

Chemical Toilet

15

Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers

10

Waste Skip

7

Scorpion Tank

8

Generator

1

SISU Armoured Personnel Carrier

11

Portacabin

5

Drops Vehicle

13

Firefighting Hose

4

Coach

60

Fire Extinguisher

1

Low Loader plus Artic

44

Troop Carrying Truck

3

Recovery Vehicle

2

Ration Van

Air Defence Regiment

10

Motor Bike

6

RBS Missile Post

1

Fire Engine

1

Giraffe Radar

7

Saloon/Vanette

1

Flycatcher Radar

2

Tipper Truck

6

Ambulance

250

Total Assorted Vehicles

Defence Forces Strength.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

169 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the number of soldiers which were deployed in respect of the May Day weekend in 2004; and the estimate, followed by final figures giving a detailed breakdown, of the costs incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20791/04]

The roles of the Defence Forces as assigned by Government are set out in the White Paper on Defence, which was published in February 2000. To aid the civil power, which means in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána which has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State, is among the assigned roles. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power, assisted the gardaí as required in duties, which included the security operation surrounding the ceremonies marking the accession of new member states to the EU on 1 May 2004.

I am advised that over 2,500 personnel were deployed in various roles in connection with the security operation. In addition, the Naval Service was on patrol in the Irish Sea and the Air Corps provided air traffic control capability and support to operations both at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel and in the Phoenix Park. The additional costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of assistance to the Garda Síochána on 1 May amounted to approximately €872,650. A breakdown of these costs is shown on the attached schedule.

Schedule of Costings of Operation Mayfly

Cost

Security Duty Allowance and Overtime

506,780

Rations

62,120

Fuel

44,350

Tech Stores Supplies and Equipment Hire*

259,400

Total

872,650

*This item includes engineer and communications equipment supplies together with ancillary support equipment, including generators, toilets, water supply services and catering.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a REP scheme payment will be approved for a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20704/04]

In the course of a routine audit of this participant's REPS plan in my Department, an issue arose in relation to land title and eligibility for REPS. My Department has requested legal documentation, and when this is received a final decision on eligibility will be taken. No further payment can be processed until the matter is resolved.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

171 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary is being penalised in their application for bull premium; and if he will take action in this case. [20705/04]

The person named lodged three applications under the 2003 EU special beef premium scheme; on 06 March 2003, in respect of four animals, one on 12 September 2003, in respect of five animals and on 8 October 2003, in respect of one animal. It is a basic requirement of the special beef premium scheme that all animals are held for the regulatory two month retention period and applicants are advised, in writing, in respect of each application lodged when the particular retention period expires and the first date on which animals may be sold. In this case the first dates on which he could see these animals were 7 May 2003 for the first application, 13 November 2003 for the second application and 9 December 2003 for the third application.

Following computer validation it transpired that the six animals applied on under the second and third applications were sold on 1 November before expiry of the regulatory two month retention period. Accordingly, the animals in question were rejected for special beef premium, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

172 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20759/04]

Table 1 shows the existing staff of my Department's decentralised HQ offices in Johnstown Castle, Castlebar, Cavan and Portlaoise. The table also shows the years when the original decentralisation to these locations took place. Table 2 shows the previous career history of the staff involved in the most recent decentralisation to Johnstown Castle, other than forest service staff, along the lines requested by the Deputy. No specific promotion competition was held for this decentralisation. Similar data is not readily available for the earlier decentralisation.

TABLE 1

Staff currently in decentralised HQ Offices

Location

Number of Staff

Date of Decentralisation

Castlebar

100

1976

Cavan

162

1989

Port Laoise

156

1993

Johnstown Castle

300

1998

TABLE 2

Analysis of staff involved in Decentralisation to Johnstown Castle in 1998

Relocated

Transferred in

Recruited

17.41%

40.61%

41.98%

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

173 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the 2003 suckler cow grant will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20781/04]

The person named applied for premium on 25 cows and 13 heifers under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. The application is being processed and payment in full will issue shortly.

Excise Duties.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

174 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his position on ending the exemption from excise duties for aviation fuel in order that the environmental cost of flying food across the world is included in the price. [20676/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

177 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the consideration which has been given to including aviation fuel for the purposes of excise duties. [20674/04]

Under Article 14 of Directive 2003/96/EC governing the taxation of energy products and electricity, fuel used for the purpose of air navigation other than in pleasure flying is compulsorily exempt from excise duties. This is in line with international practice with respect to aviation fuel. As long as the long-standing existing international agreements in this area remain in place, the taxation of such fuel is not a practicable proposition in any event.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

175 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the reason no allowance is made for a person suffering from a disability (details supplied) under the current criteria for the primary medical certificate, first schedule, when this is as much a disability as the listed criteria but not in the same order; the assistance now available for this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20782/04]

It is a fundamental requirement for relief, under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme, that the applicant must meet the medical criteria specified in the regulations and be in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, who is an official of the relevant health board. Where the issue of the required certificate is refused this can be appealed to the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, an independent body whose decision is final.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concession under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are the following. Persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one of their legs and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that they are severely restricted as to movement of their lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

My Department has no involvement in the operation of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal. Although the details of the person seeking access to the scheme is not clear, there are a number of tax reliefs which may be of benefit. These include incapacitated child tax credit, dependent relative tax credit, employment of a carer allowance, medical expenses relief, VAT relief for a certain range of medical equipment and covenants. More detailed information on the above relief is available by contacting Revenue forms and leaflets service at 01 878 0100 or from the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie.

Tax Incentives.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

176 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if consideration has been given to the introduction of grants of tax breaks to encourage local food markets and the production, distribution and sale of food under the Fairtrade mark. [20673/04]

I am taking it that the Deputy is referring in the first instance to farmers' markets that have become increasingly popular venues for local producers of foodstuffs to promote and sell their produce. I have been informed by the Minister for Agriculture and Food that Bord Bia, the food State agency, is active in promoting and encouraging this route to market for small producers. In 2002, Bord Bia was instrumental in promoting this concept when it staged Ireland's largest ever outdoor foodmarket on the farmers market style for 110 small food producers at its international food symposium in Kinsale. Since then and in partnership with the OPW, Bord Bia has run a farmers' market in Farmleigh for nine weeks from September to October 2003 attracting more than 35,000 visitors who bought produce direct from stallholders. I have been informed that Bord Bia is planning a further Farmleigh market later this year and is in discussion with the OPW about appropriate expansion of farmers markets on OPW sites. Bord Bia has also dedicated a section of its website to the promotion of the farmers markets concept which includes a list of farmers markets in Ireland and a online leaflet offering practical advice on setting up such markets. It is my view that this approach, which involves the promotion of farmers' markets through the dissemination of information and practical advice rather than the introduction of tax incentives, is a more appropriate and effective measure in promoting the development of this route to market for such producers.

With regard to the request for tax incentives to encourage the production, distribution and sale of food certified under the Fairtrade mark it should be pointed out that the sale of such food like all food attracts a zero rate of VAT. While the Deputy has not made it clear what type of tax incentives he is seeking, it should be borne in mind that foodstuffs certified under the Fairtrade mark are increasingly sold and distributed by a wide range of enterprises rather than speciality shops and enterprises that deal exclusively in Fairtrade mark products. The introduction of a separate tax treatment on the profits accruing from the sale and distribution of such goods would introduce an inordinate level of complexity into the tax code for the taxation of profits of retail and food distribution undertakings and inevitably lead to calls for similar treatment from other sectors. In addition, this would amount to a lower rate of tax on such profits and would thus not be allowed under EU State aid rules. For all these reasons there are no plans to change the tax treatment of profits accruing from the production, distribution or sale of such goods.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 174.

Vehicle Registration.

Seán Power

Ceist:

178 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Finance the number of new motor vehicles registered here for the six months of 2004; the way in which this compares with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20712/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of new motor vehicles registered for VRT purposes in the first six months of the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive are set out in the table below.

Year

Motor Cars

Car Derived Vans

Commercial Vehicles

Motor Cycles

Total Registrations

2000

179,611

2,194

32,481

4,786

219,072

2001

129,499

2,093

31,843

5,213

168,648

2002

119,859

2,107

27,701

3,906

153,573

2003

111,900

1,690

28,184

3,281

145,055

2004

121,828

2,195

25,804

2,489

152,316

The figures include registrations of vehicles that are exempt from VRT.

OPW Property.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

179 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the number of OPW properties used for non-Government organised events in 2004; the names of these properties; the arrangements made for the use of the properties; if negotiations are entered into with local communities if the events have an impact on them; the insurance arrangements made; if a fee is charged for the use of the properties; the criteria followed to decide if an event is suitable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20713/04]

The following 26 OPW managed properties have been used for non-Government organised events in 2004: Dublin Castle; Royal Hospital Kilmainham; Farmleigh; 51-52 St. Stephen's Green; the Atrium Altamont Gardens, County Carlow; Donegal Castle, County Donegal; Phoenix Park, Dublin 8; Garden of Remembrance, Dublin 1; St. Stephen's Green Park, Dublin 2; Iveagh Gardens, Dublin 2; National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin 8; Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin 14; St. Enda's Park, Dublin 16; National Botanic Gardens, Dublin 9; Athenry Castle, County Galway; Castletown, County Kildare; Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny; Emo Court, County Laois; Desmond Hall, County Limerick; Bru na Boinne, County Meath; Hill of Tara, County Meath; Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon; Mainguard, Clonmel, County Tipperary; Roscrea Castle, County Tipperary; Dungarvan Castle, County Waterford; Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The arrangements made for the use of the properties may vary depending on the property concerned and the nature of the event.

Dublin Castle is the main OPW property in which non-Government events are held. For the first six months of 2004, Dublin Castle was not available for private hire because it was being used exclusively for meetings and events of the Irish EU Presidency. To date in 2004 only two non-Government organised events have been held there. Application to use Dublin Castle is made through local management and, if agreed, is subject to a standard hiring contract. The majority of such events would be conferences, seminars, exhibitions or receptions and would have no impact on local communities. However, for the past number of years outdoor public concerts have been held in Dublin Castle on the May bank holiday weekend. These concerts were held under planning permission granted by Dublin City Council to the organisers and this permission contained conditions designed to minimise impact on the surrounding community. In 2004 these concerts were held on the June bank holiday weekend and were subject to recent regulations governing the holding of certain outdoor events. These regulations require that certain outdoor events must have an event plan drawn up by the organisers and agreed with the statutory authorities such the gardaí, emergency services, planning authority and so on. Apart from ensuring the health and safety of attendees the purpose of this agreed plan is to minimise disruption to local communities.

The hiring contract to which I referred provides that the person organising the event must provide evidence of adequate public and employer liability insurance. Fees are charged for the use of the properties within Dublin Castle. There is a number of different event venues within the Dublin Castle complex and each has different capacities. Hire charges range from €1,460 to €12,700 per day depending on the venue chosen. There is no formal set of criteria drawn up to assess the suitability of events. In deciding whether to allow use of the property local management has regard to the nature of the event, its appropriateness in terms of form and content and its potential impact on both the image and fabric of Dublin Castle.

The OPW manages the north range of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham as an event venue on behalf of the Irish Museum of Modern Art which is a tenant of that property. As with Dublin Castle, the RHK was not available for private hire in the first six months of 2004 due to the EU Presidency. Only two non-Government events have been held in this property to date in 2004. The same provisions governing the use of Dublin Castle apply at this property also.

Farmleigh is not available for non-Government organised use. However, from 24 July 2004 to 30 July 2004, as part of the Farmleigh public access events programme, RTE, in conjunction with OPW, will present the RTE Farmleigh proms- a week long series of concerts free to the public. The proms were held in 2003 also. RTE will be required to produce evidence of insurance for this event. There is no charge for use of Farmleigh for this event. Planning permission has been granted for use of Farmleigh for public events such as the proms. A detailed traffic management plan formed part of the planning application.

Most of the events held at the other 23 properties on the above list, with the exception of the recent large concert in the Phoenix Park and the national country fair at Emo Court, have been on a small scale ranging from poetry and musical recitals, launches and receptions to sporting events. They were predominantly organised by local community groups or charitable and sporting organisations, and local communities were consulted as appropriate. All such events organised at heritage properties are covered by public liability insurance.

Each application to stage an event is examined on its merits with reference to the nature and purpose of the event, to the social and cultural benefits obtaining, the infrastructure and conservation needs of the site and the integrity of the property in question. I refer the Deputy to the replies given to Questions No. 502 of 7 October 2003, No. 53 of 16 October 2003 and No. 146 of 1 June 2004 on events held in the Phoenix Park.

A fee was charged for the holding of the national country fair in Emo Court. The site and facilities were particularly appropriate for such an event but the main consideration was to raise the profile of and to publicise, and disseminate information about this magnificent but relatively unknown property nationally.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

180 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20760/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is as follows: a total of 1050 posts decentralised in the previous decentralisation's; 40% of these were transferred on promotion, the remaining 60% transferred at their existing grade. I am advised by the Office of Public Works that the information requested by the Deputy is as follows: a total of 27 posts were decentralised in the previous decentralisation — 11% of these were transferred on promotion, the remaining 89% transferred at the grade in which they were serving at that time.

Legal Fees.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

181 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the details of each of the increases in the fees paid to solicitors and barristers which have been sanctioned or approved by him since 1997; his views on whether the proposal from Fine Gael to introduce a competitive tendering process for lawyers will have a beneficial effect in reducing the costs; if he has proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20775/04]

Fees payable to legal personnel acting on behalf of the State in tribunals of inquiry are subject to my sanction after obtaining the advice of the Attorney General and the views of the sponsoring Department of the respective tribunal. There have been no increases in per diem rates for counsel in ongoing tribunals of inquiry since July 2002. The increase in 2002 was the only increase since the establishment of the Flood and Moriarty tribunals — see table below.

I have a number of proposals under consideration aimed at reducing the legal costs of tribunals and other forms of inquiry. I am liaising with the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this regard. These proposals will require the approval of Government and I am not therefore at liberty at this juncture to go into individual detail of these proposals but broadly they are aimed at addressing a number of issues including the following; review of basis of payment for legal representatives; tightening and better focusing of the terms of reference of future tribunals with a view to minimising duration and costs and, streamlining the operation of tribunals.

I understand that recent legislation introduced by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform provides for competitive tendering in this area.

The original 1997 per diem rates were:

Fee

Counsel

Brief Fee

Senior Counsel

31,743

Junior Counsel

20,951

Refresher — 1*

Senior Counsel

1,841

Junior Counsel

1,206

Refresher — 2**

Senior Counsel

1,778

Junior Counsel

1,175

Refresher — 3***

Senior Counsel

1,714

Junior Counsel

1,143

Non-Sitting Days

Senior Counsel

1,714

Junior Counsel

1,143

In 2002 these rates increased to:

Refresher (per diem)

Senior Counsel

2,500

Junior Counsel

2,000

Non-Sitting Days

Senior Counsel

2,500

Junior Counsel

2,000

Refresher fees categorised as follows:

*** first 30 days

*** Next 20 days

*** Remainder.

EU Directives.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

182 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the reason complex new rules are required for the simple task of purchasing a few prize bonds, for example, for children or grandchildren; his views on whether this is bureaucracy gone mad; if he will consider easing these regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20777/04]

The Deputy is presumably referring to the impact of the new rules arising from the introduction of the recent EU savings directive on new prize bonds. This directive was implemented in Irish law by section 90 of, and Schedule 4 to, the Finance Act 2004.

The directive provides for most EU member states to exchange information on the cross-Border payment of interest to individuals resident in another member state. Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg will instead impose a withholding tax on such interest payments. The directive applies only to the savings income of individuals. For the purposes of the directive interest payment includes prizes attaching to a security. Prize bonds are defined in Irish legislation as non-interest-bearing securities in relation to which chance may be used to select particular securities for prizes. Prize bond prizes, therefore, come within the scope of the directive.

The directive prescribes the rules to be applied to establish the identity and country of residence of beneficial owners of an interest payment — more stringent rules apply where prize bonds are purchased by an individual for the first time from 1 January last. Where these rules show that an individual is resident in another EU member state, the directive requires that information as regards the prize and the winner be reported to the authorities of that member state. As recently agreed at EU level, the obligation to exchange information comes into operation as respects an interest payment made on or after 1 July 2005. On the application of the rules to give effect to this provision, my Department and the Revenue Commissioners are already in discussion with the National Treasury Management Agency and the prize bond operator with a view to minimising the paperwork concerned in the purchase of prize bonds.

Charities Provisions.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

183 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance if it would be a breach of the obligations set out in chapter 14 of the charities manual published by the Revenue Commissioners in July 2001, if a charity (details supplied) were to pay salaries to staff employed by a linked charity with the consequence that the salaries concerned were not accounted for in the accounts of the properly employing charity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20802/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the charitiesmanual referred to is an internal procedures manual used by charities section staff in relation to charitable tax exempt bodies. The manual is published as part of Revenue Commissioners freedom of information records under the terms of section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997.

It is not the practice of the Revenue Commissioners to comment on specific charities. However, on the matter of accounts and accounting practices, all tax exempted charities are required to maintain proper books of account and records as this is a condition attaching to their exemption. Bodies which are granted charitable exemption are subject to periodic review with a view to ensuring their continued compliance with the terms of the exemption. The failure to keep proper financial records by a tax exempted charity would be considered a breach of the obligations associated with the exemption.

If the Deputy has any further information relevant to the issues raised, I would suggest she advise the Revenue Commissioners, who are the appropriate authorities to deal with such matters.

Cross-Border Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

184 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to Cannings Lane Coney Road, Muff, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20746/04]

I am aware that the closure of the section of Cannings Lane, off Coney Road, which lies in Northern Ireland, continues to be a matter of concern to the residents of Muff, County Donegal.

As the Deputy is aware from previous response on the matter, my Department has raised this issue on numerous occasions with the relevant Northern Ireland authorities and with the British Government through the British Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat. I understand that a way forward on the impasse between the relevant authorities, Derry City Council and the Northern Ireland Department of Regional Development, and the landowner has not yet been found.

Following the Deputy's further inquiry on this matter, my Department again raised the issue with the British Government. A response to the request is awaited. As soon as a response is received, I will make it immediately available to the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

185 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20761/04]

The Department of Foreign Affairs established a passport sub-office in Cork city in 1987. Two of the original three posts were filled from within the Department. The third officer came from another Department. Filling the three posts did not necessitate any officer being promoted.

Garda Investigations.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

186 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on reports that a number of hired cars used during the course of the Irish Presidency were lacking full compliance with insurance, tax and safety certification; and if his Department is carrying out an inquiry into the matter. [20771/04]

I understand that a complaint was received by the Carriage Office of the Garda Síochána concerning the use of certain vehicles during the course of the Irish Presidency. The complaint is being investigated by the Carriage Office and it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter until this investigation has been completed, and the complainant notified of the outcome.

EU Membership.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

187 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a recent article (details supplied) which reported that the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to pass a key education law that would have brought Bosnia millions of dollars in World Bank funding; and if he will make a statement on this matter in its greater EU context as outgoing chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers. [20772/04]

An efficient, modern and inclusive education system is one of the key elements in the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a fully functioning European state.

In November 2002, the OSCE, in co-operation with the Bosnian education authorities, published a comprehensive education reform strategy which included proposals for the reform of higher education. On the basis of the strategy, a draft framework law on higher education was prepared by a team of experts, including representatives of the education ministries of the Bosnian Federation and of the Republika Srpska, the mainly ethnic-Serb entity.

The aim of the draft framework law is to increase significantly the number of students with access to higher education and to enable the recognition of Bosnian qualifications in other European countries. It would enable the universities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in the European higher education area under the Bologna process and the Lisbon recognition convention and encourage greater mobility of students and academics within Bosnia and throughout Europe. Implementation of the law would also meet an important condition of Bosnia's membership of the Council of Europe.

I regret that the state parliament was unable to pass the framework law on higher education on 7 May as a result of the invoking by a number of deputies of the vital national interest protection procedure. The matter has now been referred to the constitutional court of Bosnia and Herzegovina for a ruling on the invoking of the protection procedure. In a statement on 11 May, the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia, Lord Ashdown, and the OSCE Mission in Bosnia noted that continued failure to pass the law would contribute to an increase in the numbers of ambitious young people leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina for countries in the EU and elsewhere, where the standards proposed in the framework law are already in force. The adoption of the law had been a condition for the release of a World Bank loan, in part for investment in the education sector. The World Bank has now restructured its direct budget support for Bosnia and Herzegovina and has specifically linked the release of $24 million in structural adjustment credits to the successful completion of key reforms, including adoption of a satisfactory framework law.

Bosnia faces enormous challenges in overcoming the legacy of violence and division from the 1990s and working towards the goal of eventual integration into EU structures on the basis of the shared agenda agreed at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003. In November 2003, the Commission completed a feasibility study on the opening of negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It identified 16 major areas of reform and concluded that if significant progress were made in each of them, the Commission would hope to recommend to the Council by the end of this year that negotiations could begin. The Government has worked closely with the Commission, with the High Representative for Bosnia and with the Bosnian authorities over the past six months of Ireland's EU Presidency. There have been some very positive developments. I would like to pay tribute to the determination of the Bosnian authorities to pursue an ambitious reform agenda and to legislate for reform. The EU is encouraging them strongly to continue this progress and to focus in particular on the implementation of reforms over the coming months.

The European Union will continue to work closely with the Bosnian authorities, and with the High Representative for Bosnia, Lord Ashdown, in the task of consolidating peace and democracy and implementing the reforms required for Bosnia's progress towards a closer institutional relationship with the EU. Last month, the Council adopted European partnerships for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other countries of the Western Balkans. The partnerships draw on the experience of the current enlargement process and set out specific areas of reform in which progress is required for further movement in the integration process. The June European Council also adopted a comprehensive policy on Bosnia and Herzegovina outlining the practical arrangements to strengthen the coherence and effectiveness of the EU's involvement with Bosnia. This involvement will develop significantly by the end of 2004 with the transition from the UN-mandated, NATO-led peacekeeping force, SFOR, and the launch of an EU mission, including a military component.

Higher Education Grants.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

188 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who received grant support for third level education on a county by county basis over the past five years; if he has satisfied himself that assets should be taken into account in any future means test towards third level grants; his views on the possibility of property owners selling off sites in rural Ireland to provide education for their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20599/04]

The information requested by the Deputy in the first part of his question is not readily available in my Department. However, the information will be compiled from the records maintained in my Department and in so far as it is available, it will be issued directly to the Deputy in due course.

On the other matters raised by the Deputy in relation to means-testing arrangements for third level grants, the position is that in accordance with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, it is my intention to introduce a unified scheme on a statutory basis. I also propose to put in place a more coherent administration system which will, I believe, facilitate the introduction of more sophisticated means testing arrangements and ensure consistency of application and client accessibility.

The Deputy will be aware that the report, Supporting Equity in Higher Education in 2003, identified the fairness of the means assessment on which student support is based as being a vitally important issue in promoting equity. It noted that the current system is widely regarded as being inequitable and, in line with earlier reports, concluded that the introduction of a capital test would remove a significant perceived inequity in the system. The report also concluded, in this context, that the administration of the student support schemes needs to be reformed. In this connection, the Deputy will be aware that my Department has commenced discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners to establish the extent to which these Departments can assist in the streamlining of the administration of the single unified scheme.

It is my intention that there will be full consultation with all interested parties and that no irrevocable decisions will be taken in relation to any future arrangements prior to such consultation taking place. My Department has and will be meeting with the representative groups. When these discussions are concluded, I will be in a position to make a final determination as to the most efficient and effective arrangements for the future administration of the schemes. Any review of means-testing would not target any specific sector but would aim to ensure that the grants system is fair and equitable and that the resources are allocated accordingly in a fair manner to achieve the Government's objective of supporting and facilitating greater participation in further and higher education from hitherto under-represented socio-economic groups.

Schools Building Projects.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

189 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the restructuring and extension to Ballybay community college; his views on the fact that the failure to carry out these vital and necessary works long promised and long overdue is putting the actual future of this school at risk; his further views on the fact that in spite of all its structural problems this VEC College produced the best results in County Monaghan in the year 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20600/04]

A large scale building project for Ballybay Community College is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at stage 3, detailed plans-costs, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

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

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

190 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Shea den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an aontaíonn sé go bhfuil ag teip ar an gcóras oideachais maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge (sonraí tugtha) agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [20608/04]

Déanann an Stát infheistíocht shuntasach i dteagasc na Gaeilge ag gach leibhéal. Féachtar chuige go bhfaigheann na hoidí oiliúint cheart réamhsheirbhíse agus inseirbhíse i múineadh na teanga. Féachann na cigirí chuige go múintear an Ghaeilge do na daltaí uile sa chóras ach amháin iad sin go bhfuil díolúine oifigiúil acu. Leagann an Chomhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta amach an curaclam agus bíonn na comhpháirtithe san oideachas páirteach san obair sin. Tá curaclam nua, nua-aoiseach i bhfeidhm sna bunscoileanna ó 1999 i leith.

I nDaonáireamh na bliana 2002 fuarthas go raibh cumas Gaeilge ag 1, 570, 894 duine sa tír, líon nár bheag agus fás de 140, 689 ón Daonáireamh roimhe sin. Is don chóras oideachais atá an chuid is mó den chreidiúint ag dul as an méid sin.

Admhaíonn gach éinne an dul chun cinn atá déanta ag Gaelscoileanna le blianta anuas agus tugann an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cúnamh ar leith dóibh sin. Maoiníonn an córas stáit foilseacháin Ghaeilge tríd an nGúm chun cur le teagasc na Gaeilge. Ar leibhéal níos neamhfhoirmiúla cuidíonnna coláistí samhraidh le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ag lucht scoile. Is tríd an gcóras oideachais a mhaoinítear iad sin.

Déanaim tagairt ar leith don obair atá déanta ag an gClár Tacaíochta don gCuraclam Bunscoile agus go háirithe don éifeacht atá ag na cuiditheoirí teanga maidir leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn. Aithním go bhfuil fadhbanna ann fós. Caithfear tuilleadh infheistíochta a dhéanamh i gcumasú múinteoirí sna modhanna múinte is fearr. Caithfear féachaint chuige go bhfaigheann na mic léinn sna coláistí oideachais an réamhoiliúint is fearr ní hamháin le haghaidh teagaisc i ngnáthscoileanna ach i scoileanna lánGhaeilge agus scoileanna Gaeltachta chomh maith. Táim sásta leis an dul chun cinn atá déanta ag an gcóras oideachais ó thaobh forbairt na Gaeilge.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

191 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Crowe den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cé atá freagrach as na téacsleabhair a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge le freastal a dhéanamh ar an gcuraclam úr atá anois i bhfeidhm sna Bunscoileanna Gaeltachta. [20609/04]

Faoi fhorálacha Alt 31 den Acht Oideachais (1998), bunaíodh An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta i Mí Márta 2002.

I measc feidhmeanna na Comhairle deirtear: Alt 31 — (1) (a) (i) "Bunóidh an tAire comhlacht daoine chun soláthar téacsleabhar agus áiseanna d'fhoghlaim agus do mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge a phleanáil agus a chomheagrú".

Forbraíodh Plean Straitéiseach don Chomhairle i 2003 agus tá sé mar sprioc ag an gComhairle plean soláthar comhordaithe a fhorbairt. Tá iniúchadh déanta ar an soláthar atá ar fáil agus sainiú déanta ar na riachtanais. Tá comhchoiste le teacht le chéile go luath ar a mbeidh ionadaithe ón Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta; An Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta; Foras na Gaeilge/An Gúm; Údarás na Gaeltachta; An tÁisaonad agus an Chomhairle le tús a chur le plean soláthar.

Is iad Foras na Gaeilge (an ghníomhaireacht teanga) agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise (Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch) an dá chuid den Fhoras Teanga, an comhlacht teanga Thuaidh/Theas, ceann de na comhlachtaí forfheidhmithe a bunaíodh faoi théarmaí Chomhaontú Bhéal Feirste. Is foras trasteorainn é Foras na Gaeilge a bhfuil forbairt na Gaeilge, an ghaelscolaíocht ar oileán na hÉireann san áireamh, mar chúram aige. I measc na freagrachtaí i leith an oideachais atá air tá: Measúnú a dhéanamh ar na hacmhainní atá ann d'oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge agus múineadh na Gaeilge, ina measc sin, soláthar sásúil téacsleabhar, ábhar agus acmhainní teagaisc: Ról na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta maidir leis an nGúm Bunaíodh An Gúm i 1926. Ba chuid den Roinn Oideachais é go dtí gur bunaíodh na forais thrasteorann i mí na Nollag 1999 agus is cuid d'Fhoras na Gaeilge ó shin é. Sa lá atá inniu ann is ag plé leis an bhfoclóireacht, le foilsiú téacsleabhar agus áiseanna scoile agus le hábhar léitheoireachta don aos óg is mó a bhíonn An Gúm.

Departmental Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

192 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath was not accepted for a third year VTOS course by Westmeath VEC; the criteria which was used to make the selection for participation in the third year of the VTOS scheme; the person who is responsible for making the decision; the basis for so doing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20636/04]

The vocational training opportunities scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Vocational Education Committees, VECs. VTOS programmes are for a maximum of two years' duration. The VECs have delegated sanction to allow a third year on VTOS in exceptional circumstances to students who fulfil certain criteria. They are not obliged to inform the Department or seek its approval in individual cases. Accordingly, I have no information on the case referred to in the question.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

193 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria which was used by Westmeath VEC which resulted in a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath not being allowed to proceed to a third year VTOS programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20637/04]

The vocational training opportunities scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Vocational Education Committees, VECs. VTOS programmes are for a maximum of two years' duration. The VECs have delegated sanction to allow a third year on VTOS in exceptional circumstances to students who fulfil certain criteria. They are not obliged to inform the Department or seek its approval in individual cases. Accordingly, I have no information on the case referred to in the question.

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

194 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) is operating from two different premises in the town, one of which is unable to accommodate the entrance of a fire brigade or ambulance; the status of its application for a new building; when he expects it to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20638/04]

The boys' and girls' national schools in Rathdowney amalgamated in 1998 and continue to operate from two different premises. Since the girls' school site is confined, it is proposed to address the long term accommodation needs of the amalgamated school by extending the former boys' school.

Officials in my Department's planning section are currently conducting a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of multi-annual school building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later this year. The school to which the Deputy refers will be included in this review.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

195 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application to convert rooms in a school (details supplied) to make them suitable for children attending the school with special needs has not been approved; when it is expected that it will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20639/04]

The management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers prioritised a folding partition in the GP room to make room for resource teaching and secretarial work in its application for capital funding under the summer works scheme. The application was not approved because the works are deemed to be within category D, curricular requirements. It was only possible to fund projects in categories A, B and C this year. It is open to the school's management authority to re-apply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

196 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when an application will be approved for an extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20640/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 schools building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 onwards and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

Special Educational Needs.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

197 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding has been made available for the purchase of a centre (details supplied) in County Armagh for the high support of children with autism. [20651/04]

The centre in question is the former St. Joseph's Adolescent Centre owned by the St. Louis Order. It will be operated on a joint North-South basis to serve the needs of children and young persons with autism in both jurisdictions. The costs involved will be shared on an equal basis. The purchase cost is £3 million sterling.

The property acquisition was completed in the in the past few days and my Department has provided its share of the cost. Proposals for the centre envisage the following: a learning support service; an educational assessment service; a training and advisory service and, an autism research, dissemination and information service.

Disadvantaged Status.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

198 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be designated a disadvantaged school in view of the fact that the three feeder schools in the are have all be recognised as being within an educational disadvantaged area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20652/04]

I am currently finalising a detailed review of all education disadvantage schemes with a view to the adoption of a fully integrated and cohesive strategy in this area for the future. Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of this review, the outcome of which I hope to announce shortly.

School Transport.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

199 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will provide a school bus service for persons (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20681/04]

A report on this case has been requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed.

Schools Recognition.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

200 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the status in relation to permanent recognition of a school (details supplied); and the factors which his Department will take into account when deciding on this. [20682/04]

An application for permanent recognition from the school referred to has been received and is being considered in the school planning section of my Department. Amongst the factors to be considered are the long-term viability of the school, current and projected enrolments, suitability of accommodation and whether the school is operating in accordance with the rules for national schools. Officials from my Department will contact the school authority when the application has been examined and a decision made.

Schools Building Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

201 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to expand the number of schools into the devolved grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20754/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects that were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 onwards. Schools that satisfy the criteria for inclusion in the devolved permanent accommodation initiative will be identified as part of this process. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements in this matter in the course of the year.

School Security.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

202 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will respond to issues concerning a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and the assistance his Department can give to the school to take measures to improve security at the school. [20769/04]

I appreciate the concerns of the school to which the Deputy refers at the wanton vandalism of school property. The local Garda Síochána is best placed to provide practical advice and support and to make recommendations as to how best to mitigate the potential risk to the school. I understand that most Garda stations have a crime prevention officer who will work with the management authorities in this matter.

If the Garda recommend equipment that cannot be procured from normal funding sources, an application for contingency funding can be made to the school building section of my Department. In the long-term, the advice of the Garda Síochána should be procured in regard to all security issues presenting at the campus. It is open to the school's management authorities to apply under the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year, for funding for long term security measures required at the school as recommended by the Garda.

State Examinations.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

203 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who have been given the status of persons doing exams orally, have had this status changed for the 2004 leaving certificate examinations; and the areas of the country in which such changes in status has occurred. [20805/04]

On foot of a Government decision, I formally established the State Examinations Commission on 6 March 2003. The commission now has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. Accordingly I have passed the Deputy's query to the chief executive officer of the commission for direct reply.

School Staffing.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

204 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science his Department’s views on whether staffing levels at a school (details supplied) in County Cork are adequate in view of the fact that in the school year 2004-05 some class sizes will be upwards of 36 pupils. [20806/04]

The staffing of a primary school for a particular school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners. The enrolment of the school referred to by the Deputy at 30 September 2003 was, 374 pupils, which warrants a staffing of principal plus 13 mainstream posts for the 2004-05 school year.

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils. School authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum. To ensure transparency and openness in the system an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. Details of the appeals procedure are outlined in Department primary circular 03/04.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

205 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the inconsistency of allowing substitution for teachers who accompany school groups on educational trips. [20807/04]

A scheme for paid supervision-substitution is currently operating in schools. The scheme provides significant improvements for schools, pupils and teachers in relation to arrangements for supervision and substitution by extending the normal substitution arrangements to cover absences on uncertified sick leave and certain other approved absences and by providing funding to schools to pay teachers already employed in the school to commit to and be paid for supervision and substitution over and above their normal class contact hours where qualified substitutes from outside the school are not available.

While there is a limit on the level of funding at school level the scheme is flexible and allows discretion at local level in order to cater for individual school needs.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

206 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive compensation and final settlement from the Residential Institutions Redress Board. [20821/04]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board is independent in the performance of its functions in accordance with the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. In the circumstances, I do not have access to the details of an individual's application. However, all applicants are entitled to contact the board directly or, through their legal representatives, to inquire about the progress of their applications.

Youth Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

207 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the supports and financial assistance available to the Irish Centre for Talented Youth by his Department; if he will consider increasing the support to the centre in view of the excellent work it is carrying out; if he has visited or is planning to visit the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20825/04]

The Irish Centre for Talented Youth, CTYI, provides services for the parents of high ability children aged eight to 16 years and the children themselves. As the centre contributes to the development of the potential of individual pupils, my Department makes an annual subvention to CTYI in recognition of its ongoing work in this area. The subvention in 2004 amounts to €86,000. Due to immediate commitments I do not have any plans to visit the centre in the short term.

Gas Pipeline Project.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

208 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the details of a person (details supplied) who carried out the report on the evaluation of onshore pipeline design code use on the Corrib gas pipeline project. [20728/04]

The report on the evaluation of onshore pipeline design code was carried out by Mr. Andrew Johnston, consultant engineer, 25 Ramilles Road, Chiswick, London, W41 5W, England. Mr. Johnston is well qualified in having a B.Sc. Civil Eng., chartered engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Member of the Institute of Petroleum and Member of the Society of Underwater Technology.

Mr. Johnston is a pipeline engineer with over 25 years experience in the onshore and offshore pipeline industry, initially with engineering consultants, followed by project engineering-management in major international companies, and most recently with consultants and project finance companies. He has a proven track record of work in infrastructure studies, due diligence, feasibility studies, economic evaluations, gas transmission system analysis, project planning-scheduling, engineering design and project management. He has extensive experience of onshore pipelines work in the Middle East that ranged from six onshore pipelines totalling 250 kms to reinstatement of crude oil pipelines in Kuwait after the Gulf War and supervision of a multi disciplinary design team on a Middle East gas project that included high temperature and pressure flowlines, manifolds and export facilities. He has international experience in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, India, the Far East, the North Sea and the New Independent States.

Departmental Correspondence.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

209 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the letter from the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, from 15 April 2002 to a person (details supplied) setting out the conditions for consent to construct an onshore pipeline for the Corrib gas field development is the actual consent letter on the matter; if a separate consent letter exists will he provide a copy to this Deputy. [20729/04]

All relevant approvals-consents from the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, were issued in early 2002 in respect of the proposed development of the Corrib gas field. These approvals-consents include: plan of development approval dated 15 April 2002 under the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960; consent to construct a pipeline dated 15 April 2002 under the Gas Act 1976 as amended; consent under section 5 of the Continental Shelf Act 1968 as amended dated 15 April 2002; and, foreshore Licence approval 17 May 2002 under the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended. I can confirm that the approval-consent letters as listed are the only letters that were issued by the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey. The conditions attaching to these approval-consents were placed on the Department's website.

Corrib Gas Field.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

210 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the analysis that has been presented by the developers of the Corrib gas field with regard to the conditions set out by the Minister, Deputy Fahey, in a letter of 15 April 2002 requiring further analysis to be carried out before consent could be given for the onshore pipeline. [20730/04]

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

211 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which the petroleum affairs division in his Department intends to address concerns that have been raised regarding the safety of the construction of the Corrib gas field onshore pipeline in deep peat soil. [20731/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 211 together.

I understand that Mayo County Council has raised the issue of the construction of the Corrib gas field onshore pipeline in deep peat soil with the developers in the context of their planning application for the onshore terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge. I can inform the Deputy that up to now only a very small element of the proposed pipeline work has been commenced. No work has been completed, with the exception of some pipeline route exploration work, in relation to the onshore pipeline.

To date, approval to undertake pipeline works on the Corrib gas field development specifically for phase 1, nearshore trench construction, phase 2, landfall and, part of phase 3, onshore pipeline construction, has been issued to the developers. When the final application to install the onshore pipeline for phase 3 is received, the issue of deep peat soil will be examined along with all other matters such as design, trench depth and compliance with conditions attaching to pipeline consent of 15 April 2002.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware that my Department commissioned an evaluation of the onshore pipeline design code. The report indicated that the design code has been selected in accordance with best public safety considerations and is appropriate for the pipeline operating conditions and subject to the developers undertaking to comply with a number of conditions incorporated in the consent to construct. The pipeline design is generally in accordance with best national and international industry practice and is considered to meet public safety requirements.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

212 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to wind farm mooted for Lough Foyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20751/04]

I understand that the consortium involved with the proposals for the possible development of a wind farm in the Tunes plateau area is in the process of completing its studies and assessments, including an environmental impact statement. It will be a matter for the consortium to determine, taking account of the results of the studies and investigations they have undertaken, whether they wish to proceed with applications for the necessary statutory consents for the project.

The consortium, and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and the Crown Estates Commission, have been informed that the development of a wind farm at the location under consideration may only be carried out in accordance with the terms of a foreshore lease granted under the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2003.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

213 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20762/04]

In 1976, some 50 staff in the accounts branch of the then-named forest and wildlife service were decentralised to Castlebar, County Mayo. As a result of departmental reconfiguration over time and, in particular, the establishment of the State forestry agency, Coillte, the accounts branch of my Department based in Castlebar today consists of 18 staff. Given the number of years that have elapsed and the extent of reconfiguration of departmental boundaries since this decentralisation, my Department is not in a position to source the specific information requested by the Deputy in relation to the Castlebar decentralisation.

On the recent decentralisation of the Marine Institute, 95 staff have, to date relocated from Dublin to Galway. An additional 40 individuals have confirmed they will be moving to Galway on completion of the institute's new facility at Oranmore. It is anticipated that some 135 staff will be based in Galway by end 2005. Of the institute's staff who have relocated, 88% transferred at their current grade and 12% on foot of a promotion.

Sports Capital Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

214 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a consent to sale of a portion of lands (details supplied) in County Offaly will be signed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20737/04]

Grants totalling €76,148 were allocated to the club in question in 1997 and 1998 under the sports capital programme which is administered by my Department. Approval of grants under the programme are subject to recipients meeting its terms and conditions. Among the conditions required is the execution of a Deed of Covenant and Charge, which provides, inter alia, for a refund of grants in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated. The deed of covenant and charge is invoked by my Department’s legal advisers, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, CSSO. The deed was successfully invoked to cover both grants which were paid out in full.

As a condition of the deed, the permission of my Department rather than the CSSO is necessary in order for the organisation which holds the deed to dispose of any part of the lands covered by it. My Department had previously consented to the disposal of a portion of the land covered by the existing deed with the club in question. The CSSO recently wrote to my Department to state that the club in question was seeking my Department's consent to the sale of another portion of the land covered by the existing deed. Before being in a position to agree to this consent, my Department required further information which it recently requested from the club. That information was received from the club today by my Department which will undertake to examine the information and proceed with the request for consent as soon as possible.

Departmental Advertising.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

215 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans he has to work with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Health and Children to develop a joint initiative in relation to an advertising campaign or a co-ordinator of legislation in relation to the issue of under age drinking, particularly in view of the recent announcement by GAA task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20753/04]

I have noted the recommendations of the GAA task force on alcohol and substance abuse and I am pleased that the report has received a broad welcome. The promotion by all national sporting organisations of alcohol-free sporting environments for young people is in keeping with the provisions of the Irish Sports Council's code of ethics and good practice for children's sport in Ireland.

I will be happy to co-operate with my colleagues the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Health and Children on initiatives related to the issue of under-age drinking.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

216 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20763/04]

There are no posts which have been decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of my Department or any agency under its aegis.

Hospital Services.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

217 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will, in co-operation with the Department of Health and Children, consider the creation of a programme to train sexual assault nurse examiners. [20649/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

230 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the pilot forensic nurse examiner project at a centre (details supplied) in England; and if there are plans to set up a similar pilot project here. [20619/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

234 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to employ sexual assault nurse examiners. [20633/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

235 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans there are to address the lack of forensic medical examiners dealing with sexual assault victims. [20634/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217, 230, 234 and 235 together.

While I have no immediate plans to put into effect any of the measures referred to by the Deputy in these questions, issues relating to the appropriate level of service in the area of forensic nursing are under active joint consideration by my Department and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Health Insurance.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

218 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the escalating premium costs for VHI subscribers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20602/04]

By letter dated 22 June 2004, notification was received from VHI stating that it intends to increase premiums by 3.8% for its hospital A to E plans and 2.5% for options plans from 1 September 2004 as members renew. There is no increase proposed for its primary care Healthsteps plans. The VHI has stated that the level of increases decided by the board is less than previous years and significantly less than the rate of increase in the cost of medical care which is currently running at over 10% per annum. VHI has stated that this increase in premiums will be applied totally to finance new benefits and services for members.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

219 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the proposed extension to St Anthony’s Community Hospital, Dunmanway; the estimated cost involved; and the likely time frame. [20603/04]

The provision of health services in County Cork is a matter for the Southern Health Board, in the first instance. The board has advised that Dunmanway Community Hospital is to be enlarged from 23 beds to 45. A project group has been established and work has advanced on the preparation of a draft design brief. It is intended to complete the design brief in 2004 for submission to my Department for approval to appoint a design team.

The board has further advised that it is likely that a number of options will be considered by the design team to enlarge the hospital and at that stage the estimated cost will be established. It is not possible for the board to say with any certainty how quickly the project will progress through the selection and appointment of a design team and then on to the design and planning phase pending the outcome of the current review of the National Development Plan by my Department and the Department of Finance.

Medical Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

220 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the circumstances in which UK pensioners resident here are entitled to medical cards; if such entitlement is automatic; and if not, to specify the necessary qualifying circumstances. [20604/04]

Persons resident in Ireland who are in receipt of a social security pension from another EU member state, including the UK, and are not in receipt of a pension from the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs, or are not employed or self employed in Ireland, are eligible to receive medical cards under EU regulations.

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the delivery of health services in Ireland falls to seven regional health boards and one regional health authority. These bodies are the main providers of health services at regional level. Each health board-authority has a chief executive officer, CEO, who has responsibility for day-to-day administration of the services. Eligibility for health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means rather than payment of income tax or social insurance. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the health boards as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility — category 1, namely, medical card holders — or limited eligibility — namely category 2 — for health services. Health boards normally regard a person as ordinarily resident if she-he satisfies the health board that it is his-her intention to remain in Ireland for a minimum period of one year.

Income guidelines are drawn up by the CEOs to assist in determining a person's eligibility for a medical card and these guidelines are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. However, the guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that his-her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. All persons aged 70 or over are automatically eligible for a medical card, irrespective of their income. Persons who receive a medical card are entitled to a full range of services free of charge, including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service.

Alternatively, a person who is considered resident in Ireland may opt to take out private health insurance. The main private health insurance companies in Ireland are VHI and BUPA. Details of the health insurance schemes offered by each can be obtained by contacting the insurers directly or by contacting the Health Insurance Authority.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

221 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will address the perceived gross lack of support for the sufferers of autism and their families; the lack of rights based legislation despite promises by Government, the lack of non-means tested medical cards for specific family members suffering from autism, the passing-off of responsibility between his Department and the Department of Education and Science on supplying services to autistic children, the lack of occupational therapists and speech therapists and the lack of respite care for sufferers of autism and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20605/04]

The Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science have been working together at national level to enhance the level of educational and health-related support services available to children with special educational needs, including those with autism.

The Government has invested an additional amount of around €643 million in health funded services for people with disabilities since 1997. This includes around €388 million allocated to services for people with autism and those with an intellectual disability to provide a broad range of support services including residential, respite, day and home support services. Since 1998 approximately €16 million has been put into the system to enhance the early intervention, pre-school and multi-disciplinary support services — speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, psychology and other support services — for children with autism and those with an intellectual disability.

Several key developments were noted in the 2003 annual report from the national intellectual disability database, including the continued expansion in the availability of residential support services, in particular service-based respite services, which had grown by 314%, with an additional 520 people reported as being in receipt of these services between 2002 and 2003 alone.

Notwithstanding the additional funding described above, one of the major difficulties facing the health services in delivering support services to people with disabilities is the shortage of certain professionals such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

Significant progress has been achieved in boosting the number of training places in line with the recommendations of the report entitled, Current and Future Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists, commissioned by my Department from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates. In May 2002, the Minister for Health and Children announced, in conjunction with the Minister for Education and Science, an additional 175 therapy training places in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy to achieve the recommended increase in the number of therapists over the next decade recommended in the report. These additional places have now come on stream.

There has also been a concerted overseas recruitment drive on behalf of all health boards, the introduction of a fast-track working visa scheme for health and social care professionals and the streamlining of procedures for the validation of overseas qualifications. The success of these measures is reflected in the increases in speech and language therapists and occupational therapists employed in the public health service over the last three year period to end of 2002, with a 73% increase in occupational therapists and a 33% increase in speech and language therapists.

In relation to legislation, the Government intends, as promised in the Agreed Programme for Government, to bring forward a disability Bill which includes provisions for rights of assessment and for appeals, provision and enforcement. The Bill is being finalised and will be published as soon as the Government has completed its work.

In relation to medical cards, no person or group of persons, other than those aged 70 years and over, is automatically entitled to a medical card. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board. In determining eligibility, the CEO has regard to the applicant's financial circumstances. Health boards use income guidelines to assist in determining eligibility. However, where a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may be awarded if the CEO considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. Non-medical card holders, and people with conditions not covered under the LTI, can use the drugs payment scheme. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €78 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines.

The provision of services to people with autism and intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities is one of the limited number of areas in which additional revenue funding has been provided by the Government in any Department over 2003 and 2004. In respect of services to persons with autism and intellectual disability, this revenue funding, amounting to €43 million up to the end of 2004, was specifically provided to meet costs associated with the provision of emergency residential placements, extra day services particularly for young adults leaving school and to enhance the health-related support services for children. This is very visible evidence of the Government's commitment in this area.

HIV Infection.

Seán Power

Ceist:

222 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children his policy in reducing the incidence of HIV in view of the 10% increase in the number of cases here in 2003; the way in which this increase compares with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20610/04]

The National Disease Surveillance Centre recently published HIV figures for 2003. There were 399 newly diagnosed cases in 2003, representing a 10% increase on 2002. This brings the total number of cases of HIV infection diagnosed to the end of 2003 to 3,408.

Of the 399 newly diagnosed cases where exposure category is known, 221 were heterosexually acquired. This compares to 232 in 2002 and 173 in 2001. There were 75 new diagnoses among men who have sex with men, MSM, during 2003. This compares with 46 newly diagnosed HIV infections during 2002 and 71 in 2001. There were 47 newly diagnosed among IDUs during 2003 compared to 50 in 2002 and 38 in 2001. Of the 399 newly diagnosed cases, 202, or 50.6% were male and 196, or 49.1%, were female. Information on gender is not available for one of newly diagnosed cases.

The report of the National AIDS Strategy Committee, NASC, which was published in 2000, makes a range of recommendations for dealing with HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, STIs. My Department through the National AIDS Strategy Committee and its sub-committees on education and prevention, surveillance and care and management is working to implement these recommendations.

In relation to HIV and other STIs, our first line of defence must be education and awareness. In this regard the National Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005 acknowledges that sexuality is an integral part of being human and healthy sexual relationships can contribute to an overall sense of well-being. A strategic aim of the Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005 is "to promote safer sexual health and safer sexual practices among the population."

Education and prevention measures are co-ordinated by the health promotion unit of my Department within the context of both the National Health Promotion Strategy and the report of the National AIDS Strategy Committee 2000. In fulfilment of objectives and recommendations set out in these strategies the health promotion unit is involved in and supports a range of initiatives and interventions aimed at preventing and raising awareness of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The following are some examples of the current priorities.

In the school setting, my Department is working in partnership with the Department of Education and Science and the Health Boards to support schools in the introduction and delivery of Social Personal and Health Education, SPHE, at both primary and post primary level. Relationships and sexuality education is an integral part of this curriculum and remains a key priority for this work with schools.

In the out of school setting the health promotion unit of my Department works in partnership with the youth affairs section of the Department of Education and Science and the National Youth Council of Ireland to implement the national youth health programme. The aim of the programme is to provide a broad-based, flexible health promotion-education support and training service to youth organisations and to all those working with young people in the non-formal education sector. Within the context of this programme, a training initiative called Too Hot to Handle is offered to youth workers which addresses the issues of relationships, sexuality and sexual health with young people.

A national public awareness advertising campaign has been established to promote sexual health which is aimed at men and women in the 18 to 35 age group to increase awareness about safe sex, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The overall goal is to increase safe sex, reducing the incidence of HIV, other STI transmission and unwanted pregnancies among young people in Ireland. The campaign runs in third-level colleges, places of entertainment, such as pubs, clubs, discos and youth clubs. This national programme has been running for several years and a new and revised campaign is currently being implemented by the health promotion unit, which has greatly increased the number of venues targeted.

My Department and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency are conducting a national survey of sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of adults living in Ireland. This survey is a direct response to documented rises in HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies in Ireland and offers the prospect of increasing our understanding of the pattern of health behaviours in the area of sexual health and their relationship to both attitudes and beliefs and socio-demographic characteristics of individuals. Such a survey will: provide robust information in the area of sexual health that will feed into the planning and development of services, sexual health policies and strategies; assist with more efficient allocation of resources; and, provide quality baseline data for future surveys of sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to monitor change over time and allow for long term planning. The collection of national information on sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviour is an important first step in assisting individuals, organisations and policy makers working in the area of sexual health promotion to plan and work towards meeting the sexual health needs of people living in Ireland. The health promotion unit also produces a range of awareness-raising leaflets on HIV, STIs and safe sex practices which are available through health promotion departments in each health board.

In addition to this ongoing work within my Department, a number of other important initiatives are underway which should go a long way to improving the overall sexual health of the population. Both statutory and non-governmental bodies are working in partnership to improve sexual health and promote safer sexual practices; a number of health boards are implementing sexual health strategies, with dedicated human and financial resources allocated regionally. Also health boards and voluntary organisations have in place targeted initiatives aimed at the drug using population and MSM.

Almost €5.5 million additional funding has been provided to health boards since 1997 to address the treatment of HIV-AIDS and other STIs. This has resulted in a substantial increase in the facilities in place. At present there are seven consultants specialising in the treatment of HIV-AIDS-STIs. Five of these are in Dublin — one of whom deals with children — one in Cork and a recently appointed infectious disease consultant in Galway.

The care and management sub-committee of NASC visited hospitals and health boards involved in the provision of services to people with HIV-AIDS and STIs. The purpose of these visits was to identify gaps and make recommendations for the future direction of treatment services. The report of the sub-committee is currently being finalised. My Department will continue to closely monitor the position in relation to HIV-AIDS and other STIs.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

223 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the drafting of national standards in disability services is almost complete; if no more piloting of the standards or the monitoring tool are necessary; when he expects that the national standards in disability services project will be concluded; when the national standards will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20611/04]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department in partnership with the National Disability Authority is developing national standards for disability services. Work on the development of these standards is ongoing and is at an advanced stage. It is my hope that the advancement of the standards will reach conclusion in the autumn. There are no plans at this time to undertake further piloting of the standards or the monitoring tool. I am pleased to advise that the work to date has been both positive and progressive and I am confident that these standards, upon completion, will provide a benchmark to ensure that all services reach an agreed level of performance across the country.

Hospital Inquiry.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

224 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he proposes to take in view of the report into the death of a person (details supplied) at Cavan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20612/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

225 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the way in which responsibility for the death of a person (details supplied) will be apportioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20613/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

226 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the way in which he proposes to address the executive decisions and administrative failures that contributed to the death of a person (details supplied) at Cavan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20614/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

227 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Sheridan report fails to explain the absence of a consultant in the accident and emergency department when a person (details supplied) was admitted to Cavan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20615/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

228 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the letter from the general practitioner of a person (details supplied) explaining their medical condition presented on admission to Cavan General Hospital has been located; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20616/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

229 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the observation in the report into the death of a person (details supplied) that the Cavan General Hospital was experiencing an increase in the volume and complexity of cases presenting at its accident and emergency department; the plans he has to reduce volume; if these will include the return of on-call services in Monaghan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20617/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 to 229, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the provision of services at Cavan General Hospital rests with the North Eastern Health Board.

Following the publication of the report into the circumstances surrounding the death of the person in question, I met the chief executive officer of the board last week. The report contains 22 recommendations of which eight are classified as high priority and 14 as medium priority. The board has advised me that most of the high priority recommendations have already been put in place and that it is working to ensure compliance with all of the recommendations. I have instructed the board to take steps to implement all recommendations as a matter of urgency.

With regard to some of the specific queries raised by the Deputy, I am advised by the board that the consultant in emergency medicine was not on duty in Cavan on the day in question; however there were three non-consultant hospital doctors, four nurses and a care attendant on duty in the A & E department when the patient presented. I am further advised that the referral letter from the family's general practitioner is on the child's medical file. As the Deputy is aware, a steering group for the Cavan-Monaghan hospital group has been established. The group will determine the level of service to be provided at each site, taking into account available resources, quality of care and safe practice. In view of the ongoing Garda investigation I am not in a position to make any further comment on this case.

Question No. 230 answered with QuestionNo. 217.

Health Board Services.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

231 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no orthodontist working full-time at Millhouse, Ashtown Gate, Navan Road, (details supplied) despite a long waiting list for treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20630/04]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

232 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will urgently address the lack of a full time orthodontist at Millhouse, Ashtown Gate, Navan Road (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20631/04]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

233 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will immediately sanction funding in order that priority patients awaiting orthodontic treatment at Millhouse, Ashtown Gate, Navan Road (details supplied) can avail of the treatment purchase scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20632/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 to 233, inclusive, together.

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

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services in the Northern Area Health Board, NAHB, area of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics — including five from the ERHA. 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.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €2.044 million was provided to the ERHA in 2001 and this has enabled the authority to recruit additional staff and build additional orthodontic facilities. The authority has developed additional orthodontic facilities at Loughlinstown, Ashtown and at the regional orthodontic unit located at St. James's Hospital.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists; the ERHA received €1.815 million from this fund. My Department instructed the health boards-authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: first, treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; second, allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; third, efficiency and value for money; and fourth, equitable delivery across health board populations.

The management of orthodontic staff in the Eastern Regional Health Authority is the statutory responsibility of the regional chief executive. Therefore, my Department has asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Finally, the regional chief executive of the authority has informed my Department that at the end of the March quarter 2004, there were 3,782 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service in the ERHA.

Questions Nos. 234 and 235 answered with Question No. 217.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

236 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if has made contact with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Minister for Defence concerning a recently published feasibility report into an all-Ireland helicopter emergency medical service; the progress he has made towards establishing a secondary response-hospital retrieval helicopter emergency service, as strongly urged in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20677/04]

My Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast, DHSSPS, commissioned a feasibility study and report on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical services, HEMS, for the island of Ireland.

The decision to commission the study followed a recommendation by a cross border working group on pre-hospital emergency care, one of a number of groups established under the North-South Ministerial Council to examine areas of North-South co-operation in the health field.

The report of the consultants appointed to undertake the study was published on 30 April 2004 and is available on my Department's website. The study identifies possible roles for a helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS: primary response, which entails travelling directly to the scene of an incident to take the patient to hospital, and inter-hospital response, which entails the planned, rapid transfer between hospital of patients requiring specialist care, escorted by skilled professionals.

The study concludes that an inter-hospital transfer service would be the most appropriate in an all-island context. The study indicates that this would involve significant capital investment and annual operating costs. The estimated cost is €12 million capital and €4 million annual operating costs for a single helicopter. Additional helicopters could be added with an additional annual cost for each aircraft of over €3 million.

An air ambulance service is currently provided to the health boards by the air corps on a request and availability basis. The air corps provides this service subject to the nature of the mission, available aircraft and other operational commitments.

Air corps helicopters operate from airports and, where available and deemed safe, hospital helipads. Most transfers are airport to airport with onward transfer by land ambulance. The service is well regarded and appreciated by those in the health service who avail of it.

My Department is exploring options in relation to HEMS development in the light of the recent study. As part of this exercise, it has initiated discussions with the Department of Defence and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources — Irish Coast Guard.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

237 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to change the criteria for the motorised transport grant to enable persons with Down’s syndrome to avail of it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20725/04]

The circular for motorised transport grant states that all health boards may pay a grant towards the purchase of a car and-or adaptions to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him-her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria of eligibility may also be considered, subject to the above age limits. In cases, where application is made on the basis of obtaining or retaining employment or self employment, the board must be satisfied that the applicant is capable of holding down a job, has the physical capacity to drive the vehicle and is qualified to hold a driver's licence, full or provisional. However, qualified persons with a disability who are incapable of driving or who have been medically advised not to drive, and who have to be driven to and from his-her place of employment will only be considered eligible for a grant provided that she-he will be driven by another named person to and from his-her place of employment. The car must be purchased in the name of the person with a disability. The grant may also be considered in exceptional circumstances for a person with a severe disability, subject to the above age limits, who lives in a very remote location and whose disability impedes him-her from using public transport.

There are no specific disabilities which are excluded from eligibility for the motorised transport grant provided the person applying for the grant meets the eligibility criteria. The Deputy should be aware that the working group established to examine the feasibility of introducing a cost of disability payment proposes to examine the scope for rationalising and streamlining the various disability support measures, with a particular focus on mitigating the additional costs of disability for a greater number of people with disabilities, particularly in the case of those who wish to move from a position of total welfare dependence to one of greater economic independence.

It is expected that the first area the working group will examine will be all mobility-related schemes.

Ambulance Service.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

238 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children when the rapid response vehicle for a town (details supplied) in County Donegal is to commence operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20741/04]

Responsibility for the provision of ambulance services in County Donegal 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 her directly.

Substance Misuse.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

239 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of programmes which have taken place in relation to under age drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20742/04]

My Department is involved in a wide range of partnerships with other Government Departments and bodies in an effort to tackle the issue of under age drinking.

My Department, in partnership with the Department of Education and Science, has developed a social, personal and health education, SPHE, programme, which addresses the issue of substance misuse in the schools setting.

Education programmes have been developed so that young people may be more informed and better equipped to make informed decisions when faced with the issue of alcohol.

In accordance with action 43 of the national drugs strategy, the Department of Education and Science in partnership with the health promotion unit of my Department and the health boards, has issued guidelines for developing a school substance abuse policy to all primary and post-primary schools.

The national youth health promotion programme with support from the health promotion unit of my Department initiated a national project which provided opportunities for young people, 14-16 years, to explore their relationship with alcohol. Training is provided for youth leaders to ensure the implementation of this initiative.

The health promotion unit of my Department has recently completed a three year alcohol awareness campaign entitled Think Before You Drink — Less Is More. Some phases of the campaign focused on those who buy or supply alcohol to those under age with a poster and radio messages with the theme of keeping children safe from drink.

The responsible serving of alcohol, RSA, programme is a training initiative which was developed by the health promotion unit in association with the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland specifically for those who work in the bar trade and hospitality sector. The aim of the programme is to limit harm in the drinking environment by not serving to intoxicated customers, encouraging the use of age cards to prevent under age people from being served and promoting alternative strategies to reduce drink driving.

One of the recommendations of the strategic task force on alcohol, which I established in 2002 to make evidenced based recommendations to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm, concerns limiting the exposure of children and adolescents to alcohol advertising. The Cabinet has approved a draft general scheme for an Alcohol Products Bill for the control of advertising, sponsorship and sales promotions-marketing practices. Work is ongoing on its preparation.

The task force is currently finalising a second report which will bring forward a further set of recommendations aimed at tackling the problem of alcohol misuse.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

240 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to work with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to develop a joint initiative in relation to an advertising campaign or a co-ordinator of legislation in relation to the issue of under age drinking, particularly in view of the recent announcement by GAA task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20743/04]

I have expressed my concerns about the misuse of alcohol by young people on a number of occasions. I established a strategic task force on alcohol in January 2002, whose remit is to recommend specific, evidence-based measures to Government to reduce alcohol related harm.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism are represented on the task force. The task force has made a number of recommendations in its interim report, which include measures on legislation, advertising and education. An inter-departmental group was established to co-ordinate the responses of the various Government Departments to the recommendations. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Arts, Sport and Tourism are also represented on the inter-departmental group.

One of the recommendations of the task force concerns limiting the exposure of children and adolescents to alcohol advertising. The Cabinet has approved a draft general scheme for an Alcohol Products Bill for the control of advertising, sponsorship and sales promotions-marketing practices. Work is ongoing on its preparation.

The task force is currently finalising a second report which will bring forward a further set of recommendations aimed at tackling the problem of alcohol misuse.

Health Board Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

241 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of orthodontic consultants that are in the north west region; the efforts being made to recruit extra consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20747/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

242 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans to try and expedite current orthodontic treatment lists in each orthodontic area; if there is a role on the treatment purchase fund in relation to dealing with this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20748/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards in the first instance. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services in the North Western Health Board, NWHB, area and on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards — including one from the NWHB — 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 the 1 of December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698m was provided to the health boards-authority in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities. The NWHB was allocated an additional €273,000 in 2001 for orthodontic services of which €178,000 was for the orthodontic initiative.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the Treatment Purchase Fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists; the NWHB received €285,000 from this fund. My Department instructed the health boards-authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: first. treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; second, allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; third, efficiency and value for money; and fourth, equitable delivery across health board populations.

The management of orthodontic staff in the NWHB is the statutory responsibility of the chief executive officer. Therefore, my Department has asked the chief executive officer of the NWHB to provide the Deputy with the information requested.

Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards-authority have informed my Department that at the end of the March quarter 2004, there were 21,033 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are nearly twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and almost 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards-authority since the end of 2001.

Medical Cards.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

243 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans to bring in a tier medical card system and or review income limits for medical cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20749/04]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. For those who do not qualify for a medical card there are a number of schemes which provide assistance towards the cost of medication, including the long-term illness scheme and the drug payments scheme. Many allowances such as carers' allowance, child benefit, domiciliary care allowance, family income supplement and foster care allowance are disregarded when determining a person's eligibility. Given these factors and the discretionary powers of the CEOs, having an income that exceeds the guidelines does not mean that any person will not be eligible for a medical card, and a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that a person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.

It is open to all persons to apply to the CEO of the appropriate health board if they are unable to provide health services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

There is no short-term plan to extend medical card income guidelines other than as provided for by the annual CPI index increase. The last such increase was notified in January 2004. However, in line with the health strategy entitled Quality and Fairness — A Health System For You, the possibility of extending medical card entitlement by statute to various groups is under ongoing review in my Department in the context of the strategy's second goal which is fair access. As the Deputy is aware the health strategy includes a commitment that significant improvements will be made in the medical card income guidelines in order to increase the number of persons on low income who are eligible for a medical card and to give priority to families with children and particularly children with a disability. This should be viewed in the broader context of the strategy's emphasis on fairness and its stated objective of reducing health inequalities in our society. Due to the prevailing budgetary situation I regret that it is not possible to meet this commitment this year but the Government remains committed to the introduction of the necessary changes within the lifetime of this Government.

The health strategy includes a whole series of initiatives to clarify and expand the existing arrangements for eligibility for health services, including recommendations arising from the review of the medical card scheme carried out by the health board CEOs under the PPF which include: streamlining applications and improving the standardisation of the medical card applications process to ensure better fairness and transparency; providing clearer information to people about how and where to apply for medical cards; and, proactively seeking out those who should have medical cards to ensure they have access to the services that are available.

In addition, my Department is committed to the preparation of new legislation to update and codify the whole legal framework for eligibility and entitlements in regard to health services.

Departmental Investigations.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

244 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of reports and inquiries he has set up or instigated since he took office; the cost of same; if they were of benefit to patients and the general public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20779/04]

It is not possible in the time allowed to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Board Services.

John Gormley

Ceist:

245 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to avert the threatened closure of the Carmichael Centre in Dublin. [20783/04]

My Department has asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority to make a grant of €150,000 available to alleviate the immediate needs which have been outlined by the board of the Carmichael Centre. Representatives of the centre have now confirmed to my Department that the centre will remain open.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

John Gormley

Ceist:

246 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that between 7,200 and 10,500 polio survivors here are suffering real physical and increasing financial hardship; and if he has plans to help improve their quality of life. [20786/04]

The provision of health services to people with physical and-or sensory disabilities, including polio survivors, is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. My Department met with the post polio support group in 2002 and discussed a number of issues, including the possibility of setting up a high level committee to look into the issues surrounding this condition. While it is not deemed appropriate to establish such a committee, my Department undertook to investigate a number of issues which were raised and has been in contact with the group in this regard.

In accordance with commitment in Sustaining Progress, my Department will be conducting a strategic review of existing service provision for people with disabilities. Questions of access to aids and appliances and respite care which have been raised by the post polio support group will be examined as part of that review.

Water Fluoridation.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

247 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the regulation amending the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water from 0.8 to 1.0 p.m. to between 0.6 and 0.8 p.m. as recommended by the Forum on Fluoridation has yet been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20793/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

248 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has the intention of reducing the level of fluoride in drinking water from 0.8 to 1.0 p.m. to between 0.6 and 0.8 p.m. as recommended by the Forum on Fluoridation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20794/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

The use of fluoride technology is known to manifest a positive oral health outcome.

Local and national surveys and studies conducted since the introduction of fluoridation in this country attest to the reduced dental decay levels of children and teenagers in fluoridated areas compared to those residing in non-fluoridated areas.

Furthermore, the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation has been endorsed by a number of international and reputable bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States public health service, and the United States surgeon general.

As the Deputy is aware, I established the Forum on Fluoridation to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland; its main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

The Forum on Fluoridation made several recommendations concerning the continued use of fluoride technology in this country; re-defining the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water was one of its recommendations. This recommendation was made against a background of exposure to multiple sources of fluoride and changes in the rates of dental decay and dental fluorosis on both a population and individual level; it is part of a long-term strategy to reduce levels of mild dental fluorosis in children.

In all, the report of the fluoridation forum made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. The expert body, that was recommended by the forum, has been established; one of its terms of reference is to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation — including that referred to by the Deputy. In addition, the expert body will advise me and evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required, and report to me on matters of concern at my request or on own initiative.

The expert body has broad representation, including from the areas of public health medicine, engineering, management, environmental protection, environmental health, dentistry, and health promotion. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the body will have a strong consumer input in terms of members of the public and representatives of consumer interests, in addition to the necessary scientific, managerial and public health inputs.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

249 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the expert group on fluoridation has implemented any of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation; if so, the recommendations which have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20795/04]

As the Deputy is aware, I established the Forum on Fluoridation to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The forum report's main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. The forum also concluded that water fluoridation has been very effective in improving the oral health of the Irish population, especially of children, but also of adults and the elderly. The best available and most reliable scientific evidence indicates that at the maximum permitted level of fluoride in drinking water at 1 part per million, human health is not adversely affected. Dental fluorosis — a form of discolouration of the tooth enamel — is a well-recognised condition and an indicator of overall fluoride absorption, whether from natural sources, fluoridated water or from the inappropriate use of fluoride toothpaste at a young age. There is evidence that the prevalence of dental fluorosis is increasing in Ireland.

In all the report of the fluoridation forum made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. The expert body, that was recommended by the forum, has been established; its terms of reference are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and, to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his-her request or on own initiative.

The expert body has broad representation, including from the areas of public health medicine, engineering, management, environmental protection, environmental health, dentistry, and health promotion. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the body will have a strong consumer input in terms of members of the public and representatives of consumer interests, in addition to the necessary scientific, managerial and public health inputs. The expert body will oversee the implementation of the wide-ranging recommendations of the forum and advise me on all aspects of fluoride going forward.

Health Board Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

250 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if a financial audit into the accounts of an organisation (details supplied) commissioned by the South Western Area Health Board within the past 12 months ever took place; the outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20801/04]

A number of the health boards have been working together with the Irish Society for Autism to address various concerns, including those mentioned by the Deputy.

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the South Western Area Health Board to reply directly to the Deputy on behalf of the various boards in relation to this matter.

Nursing Home Subventions.

David Stanton

Ceist:

251 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amounts granted by way of enhanced subvention by the respective health boards in 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004 to nursing homes and other such agencies; the number currently receiving enhanced subvention in each health board area; the number of claims for enhanced subvention being processed in each health board area; the length of time it takes for such claims to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20826/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the administration of the nursing home subvention scheme is a matte for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. My Department has therefore requested the chief executive officers of the authority and the boards to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Regional Airports.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

252 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport if funding will be made available to Knock International Airport equivalent to that available to other Irish airports in view of the fact that it is now recognised and operating at international airport status and in view of the major importance of this airport to the entire BMW region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20589/04]

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

Knock Airport benefits considerably through a range of direct and indirect support mechanisms, namely, capital grant assistance towards essential infrastructural improvements under the BMW regional operational programme of the NDP, the allocation of assistance towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure incurred by the airport and scheduled flights supported by the PSO programme.

Under the NDP capital measure, my Department has provided €2.337 million in grant aid towards essential infrastructural improvements at the airport since December 2001. The primary purpose of the NDP measure is to provide grant assistance to facilitate the continued safe and viable operations at the airport. A further round of projects under the measure is currently being considered for funding by my Department.

With regard to capital investment at the three State airports, I should point out that investment in infrastructure at Dublin, Shannon and Cork is funded by Aer Rianta from its own resources and financing arrangements. Non-recourse to the Exchequer will continue following the restructuring of Aer Rianta.

Scheduled air services linking Knock Airport with Dublin are subsidised through the public service obligation, PSO, programme. Aviation and passenger handling charges applied by Knock Airport for handling PSO flights represent a significant proportion of total operating income for the airport.

The airport also receives approximately €400,000 from my Department each year towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure.

I am aware that, under the guidance of the new management team, the airport has enjoyed some success in recent years and I am encouraged to see the growth in passenger numbers, particularly on new non-subsidised services to the UK.

In recognition of the role that the airport can play in stimulating more balanced economic development for the north west, my Department will continue to assist Knock Airport as it develops into the future. However, any financial assistance would have to be carefully evaluated in line with the general scale of operations at the airport and wider transport and aviation policy.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

253 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to avert the threatened industrial action by members of the NBRU following his recent decision to issue two new licences for private bus services in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20788/04]

I set out my policy proposals for public transport reform in statements to the Public Transport Partnership Forum in November 2002 and the Oireachtas Committee on Transport in June 2003.

My objectives in proposing reform of the 70 year old legislation which regulates the public transport sector are: to use competition in the provision of bus services to stimulate better performance, improved efficiency and cost effectiveness; to ensure that the taxpayer and the public transport user get better value for money; and, to show clearly how funding for public transport is being spent to deliver service, and to establish a clear link between payments and performance.

The principal elements of my proposals are: the establishment of an independent procurement and regulatory authority for transport, on a national basis; and, the introduction of controlled competition into the bus market in the Dublin area in the form of franchising as the primary means of procuring bus services.

I am firmly of the view that creating genuine opportunities for other bus companies to enter the bus market in Dublin is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the customers of public transport. I am also firmly of the view that these opportunities can be created without adversely impacting on the pay and conditions of existing Dublin Bus employees.

Officials of my Department have held a number of meetings with the CIE unions since February this year. On 12 May my Department put detailed proposals on reform of the bus market in Dublin to the CIE unions. On 18 May the CIE unions presented a substantive response paper through the independent chair. This paper included proposals which would have significant implications for the industrial relations structure of the bus industry, and which in turn would have potentially significant ramifications for the wider economy and the general approach to industrial relations in this country. When the discussions resumed on 8 June, my officials gave an initial response to the union paper but advised the unions that, given the implications of these proposals, there was a need for detailed consultations with other Departments and for the issue to be discussed at Cabinet. Unfortunately, despite this need to consider the proposals more fully, the NBRU decided to ballot on industrial action.

I regret the recent announcement by the NBRU that it plans to go ahead with industrial action which will seriously inconvenience the travelling public, have negative impacts on business and tourism and damage the reputation of public transport as a viable alternative to private car commuting.

There is no need for this industrial action. The talks, under the skilled chairmanship of Kevin Foley, have been making progress. There has been real engagement in identifying and solving the core issues. I remain personally committed to the current talks process.

As regards the bus licensing issue, my Department issued two licences in early June to enable the provision of morning and evening services for workers in the Citywest Business Park. In processing the licence applications, my Department followed its normal procedure which included an assessment of the public interest as narrowly defined by the Road Transport Act 1932. During the course of its assessment my Department was advised by Citywest that Dublin Bus had first been requested to provide services into the business campus, but the company did not take up the request. The background to this licensing decision has been fully explained to the trade unions. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Road Transport Act 1932 no longer provides a satisfactory basis for regulating the bus market and that I plan to replace it as part of my regulatory reform programme. The sooner we find a basis in the talks process for moving forward in the reform programme, the sooner the 1932 Act will be replaced.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

254 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20822/04]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 253.

Question No. 255 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Departmental Funding.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

256 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which upgrading the Aer Lingus fleet will be subsidised by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20583/04]

Last October, I approved a proposal from Aer Lingus to upgrade and standardise its European fleet. This will see the airline transition to a single short-fleet aircraft for its European operations with the acquisition of 17 Airbus A320 aircraft.

The new aircraft will be on stream by 2005, maintaining the short-haul fleet at 27 but with increased capacity and operational flexibility arising from the larger aircraft and lower unit costs. The overall transaction involves the sale of some existing aircraft. I should point out that this investment is being funded from internal resources within the company with no recourse to the Exchequer.

In addition, the company has commenced a review of its long-haul fleet which is expected to be completed by autumn 2004. It would be unwise for me to speculate on the outcome of that review at this stage. However, early indications are that the company will need access to equity to fund the investment.

Road Safety.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

257 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport the rationale behind his decision to make the wearing of seat belts compulsory for taxi drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20584/04]

Under the Road Traffic (Removal of Exemption from Wearing Seat Belts by Taxi Drivers) Regulations 2004, S.I. No. 402 of 2004, which have recently become law, the exemption which allows drivers of taxis, hackneys and limousines not to use seat belts has been removed.

The decision to remove the exemption was made on the advice of the advisory council to the commission for taxi regulation which has a wide ranging membership including taxi, hackney and limousine representatives.

Overwhelming evidence exists of the effectiveness of the wearing of seat belts in reducing the chance of injury or death in a motor vehicle collision. On this basis I consider that the wearing of seat belts by the drivers of taxis, hackneys and limousines not only improves their own safety but that of their passengers.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

258 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the inconsistencies evident in the application of standards required to pass and fail the NCT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20585/04]

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

The contract for the operation of the national car test, NCT, requires National Car Testing Service Limited, NCTS, to meet a range of performance standards for the service. These cover customer service, premises, test equipment, staff, test arrangements, facilities management and management information technology. The performance standards are designed to ensure test integrity and consistency across the testing network together with a high level of customer service. The contract provides for penalties, including financial penalties, and for the termination of the contract in certain circumstances for failure to carry out the service in accordance with the performance standards.

My Department monitors all aspects of the operation of the NCTS to ensure that it delivers the car testing service to the required standards. To assist the Department in this function a supervision services contractor, a consortium involving the Automobile Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers with engineering, financial, legal, IT and operational expertise, has been engaged and is working to an agreed programme for the Department. This programme includes detailed monthly operational audits of the company's performance; quarterly controlled checks to ensure that consistent test results are obtained across the NCTS test centre network; each month reviewing the performance of a sample of vehicle inspectors as they carry out tests; carrying out spot checks without any advance warning on a representative sample of cars that have just undergone the NCT; carrying out detailed interviews with a representative sample of customers to assess customer satisfaction levels; and a comprehensive annual review of the company's overall performance.

The test integrity measures are in place to ensure testing is carried out to the necessary standards across the network. As a consequence customers can be confident that there are no variations in the standards of the test no matter where it is conducted on the network. Because of these safeguards, test outcomes represent the actual condition of vehicles presented for test. Results for 2003 show a pass rate of 52% for first tests and 90% on retest.

Since 2000 when car testing commenced the customer satisfaction rating for NCTS has at all times been above the contract standard and the satisfaction rating has improved year-on-year. The customer satisfaction rating was determined using proven and reliable scientific methods for such purposes and involved telephone interviews and structured interviews of representative samples of the customers. The high level of customer satisfaction is also borne out by the small number of complaints received by the company in relation to the service. In an operation involving 631,257 full tests and 303,320 retests in 2003 complaints arose in relation to 0.10% of the vehicles tested.

Question No. 259 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

Pension Provisions.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

260 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if there is a shortfall in the funding of the Irish airlines pension; if there is also a shortage in the contributions in the Aer Rianta pension; the body which will fund the shortfall; the way in which staff in the Shannon and Cork authorities and retired staff in both Cork and Shannon will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20706/04]

The Irish Airlines General Employees Superannuation Scheme, IAS scheme, is a multi-employer pension scheme which provides pensions for, inter alia, most Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta employees. Aer Rianta’s current and past employees comprise a minority of the membership of this scheme. The most recent actuarial valuation of the IAS scheme, March 2003, indicates, inter alia, that the fund is in surplus and that the actuary is able to provide the minimum funding standard certificate as required by the 1990 Pensions Act.

I should make it clear that pension entitlements for employees of commercial State bodies, including Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus, are matters primarily for the trustees, the members of the relevant scheme and the company or companies involved. The State has no involvement in the funding of these schemes.

In relation to the Irish airlines scheme, I understand that the employers, including Aer Rianta, have been meeting all of their liabilities towards the pension fund in accordance with the rules of the scheme.

The State Airports Bill 2004 which will give effect to the restructuring of Aer Rianta contains general provisions in relation to pensions and enables the new Cork and Shannon Airport authorities either to adhere to the current IAS pension scheme or establish a new scheme, subject to ministerial consent. This will enable each of the new airport authorities to join the existing pension scheme or, if they wish, to prepare a scheme for the granting of superannuation benefits to or in respect of employees of those authorities. In the latter case, each authority can establish schemes for its own employees or establish schemes in conjunction with the other airport authorities.

Parking Regulations.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

261 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the regulations available to county councils to restrict the parking of HGVs in residential areas; the number of local authorities that have such restrictions in place; and if his Department has issued guidance to local authorities on the matter. [20708/04]

The Road (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 give local authorities the power to apply a range of parking controls on vehicles, including the imposition of a prohibition on the parking of large vehicles. Article 38 of these regulations provides that where the appropriate traffic sign is provided at the entrance to a road or an area, a vehicle whose unladen weight exceeds the weight specified on the information plate that accompanied the sign, is prohibited from being parked in that area. At the end of the prohibition on such parking in an area a traffic sign accompanied by an information plate containing a symbol of a large vehicle and the word END-CRÍOCH is provided. The restriction on such parking does not apply where it is necessary to park the large vehicle while goods are being loaded in or on to it or unloaded from it for a period not exceeding 30 minutes from the commencement of the parking.

The application of prohibitions provided for in article 38 and the determination of the weight-based threshold is a matter for each local authority and my Department does not compile statistics in relation to the exercise of such functions. General guidance notes for local authorities in relation to the Road (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 were issued in May 1997.

Light Rail Project.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

262 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when the redevelopment of the old Harcourt Street rail line station will occur with particular reference to the inclusion of a disabled access lift to facilitate direct access from the Luas stop to Waldmare Terrace and Dundrum village; his views on whether the provision of such a facility and such a redevelopment was included in the line B light rail order as part of an urban design framework plan from Dundrum village; the funding that will be available for such works; and when it will be carried out. [20709/04]

I understand from the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, that the redevelopment of the old Harcourt Street Line station building at Dundrum will form part of the redevelopment of residual space created as a result of the property acquisitions for the construction of Luas and the new suspension bridge. Such development was not included in the light rail order for the line. The RPA, in conjunction with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, DLRCC, and Dublin Bus have prepared an outline brief for the development which features a new bus interchange facility and improved access to Dundrum village by lift for disabled persons.

The programme for the redevelopment of the site, including its funding, has not yet been finalised but the RPA have assured me that the redevelopment of the site is a key objective for the RPA and DLRCC and that it is being treated as high priority.

In the meantime, the Deputy may wish to note that there is access for disabled persons to Dundrum Luas stop from Taney Drive.

Public Transport.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

263 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if the motorway bus route between Dundalk, Drogheda and Dublin has been awarded to a private bus operator and Bus Éireann were not given the necessary permissions to compete on the route but instead are confined to serving the old route and its attendant villages; his views on whether this means that Bus Éireann are left with the high cost route while being deprived of the chance to recoup that cost on the potentially profitable motorway route; if this is the case, the rational behind the move; and the reason Bus Éireann cannot compete with the private operator on the motorway route. [20710/04]

I can confirm that my Department awarded an annual passenger licence on 28 April 2004 to a private operator under the Road Transport Act 1932 to provide express bus services between Dundalk, Drogheda and Dublin via the M1 motorway.

My Department is required under section 11(3)(a) of the 1932 Act to apply a public interest test to applications for licences. It must consider whether the service proposed is in the public interest having regard to the passenger road services and other forms of passenger transport available to the public on or in the neighbourhood of the route of the proposed service.

My Department concluded following a thorough examination, that it was in the public interest to grant the application. The critical considerations which led to this decision were: the large scale residential and other developments along this route over the past five years; the consequential growth in the level of commuter traffic; the absence of an express bus service from the main population centres involved; the significant overcrowding at peak commuter times observed on Iarnrod Éireann services, particularly from Drogheda; the deferral of the introduction of additional bus services between Drogheda and Dublin by Bus Éireann which were authorised by my Department on 21 October, 2003; and, the absence of any other prior proposal for an express service.

It is not correct that Bus Éireann were not given the necessary permissions to compete on the route. The company submitted a proposal to my Department for an express service along the M motorway between Dundalk and Dublin on 1 March, 2004, namely five months after the private operator submitted his application.

On 29 April 2004, the day after a licence was awarded to the private operator, my Department, in accordance with its first come, first served policy, sanctioned the introduction of approximately half the services proposed by Bus Éireann along the M1 motorway. The remaining services were judged to be in direct competition with the private licensed operator. Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 precludes the CIE companies from initiating or altering road passenger services so as to compete with a service licensed under the 1932 Act. Bus Éireann were therefore advised that it was open to them to seek my consent under section 25 so as to compete with the private operator at the times in question.

An application from Bus Éireann under section 25 was duly received by my Department on 29 June, 2004 and this application is under active consideration.

My Department operates due process and fair procedure in the administration of the bus licensing and authorisation system. Bus Éireann has the same opportunity as private operators to propose the introduction of additional or new services to meet growing customer demand from commuters into Dublin. In this particular case, a private operator identified the need for a service which would utilise the new M1 motorway and was first to apply to my Department with a proposal to operate a service. The operator was duly awarded a licence following due consideration by my Department.

Question No. 264 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Road Traffic Offences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

265 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the Stingray system which is operated in Northern Ireland to catch persons who drive without tax since January 2002; his views on whether an opportunity exists to introduce a similar system into this jurisdiction which, using the same concept, could target insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20722/04]

Detection of non-insured drivers is an operational matter for the Garda Síochána. I have no detailed information on the operation or effectiveness of the Stingray system in operation in Northern Ireland. Display of a motor insurance disc on specified vehicles has been provided for in S.I. No. 355 of 1984, Road Traffic (Insurance Disc) Regulations, 1984, and S.I. No. 227 of 1986, Road Traffic (Insurance Disc) (Amendment) Regulations, 1986.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

266 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20764/04]

The Public Enterprise (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister) Order 2002, which came into operation on 19 June 2002, altered the name of the Department of Public Enterprise to the Department of Transport. No decentralisation process has taken place in the former Department of Public Enterprise or in the Department of Transport since its establishment in June 2002.

Driving Tests.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

267 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he considers it satisfactory that driving test examiners have full and final control in respect of the passing of an applicant for a test; if he proposes to introduce any degree of transparency into driver test exams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20768/04]

Driver testers are trained to carry out an assessment of the driving competence of candidates attending for a driving test. The work of each tester is monitored on an ongoing basis by his or her supervisor.

Under Section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, a person aggrieved by the decision of a driver tester may appeal the decision to the District Court. If the court finds that the test was not properly conducted, my Department may be directed to arrange a further test, free of charge, for the person concerned. In addition, my Department has a complaints procedure in place which candidates can avail of. Details of the procedure are outlined in the customer complaints procedure leaflet, available at test centres and on the driving test website at www.drivingtest.ie. All complaints received in my Department are examined and necessary action taken as appropriate.

John Deasy

Ceist:

268 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the improvements which have been made to delays in driver testing at both the Waterford driving test centre at which the average waiting time in February 2004 was 38 weeks and at Dungarvan driving test centre at which the average waiting time was 46 weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20799/04]

The following table sets out the numbers waiting together with the average and longest waiting times at the Waterford and Dungarvan test centres during the specified period. An extra tester has been assigned to the south east region and he undertakes tests at both the Waterford and Dungarvan test centres. Numbers waiting at both centres have fallen and I expect this trend to continue for the rest of this year.

Waiting Times and Number waiting

Numbers Waiting

Weeks Waiting

Date

Average*

Longest

Waterford

Dungarvan

Waterford

Dungarvan

Waterford

Dungarvan

2 February 2004

3,533

1,744

38

46

57

57

5 July 2004

3,423

1,617

51

43

51

47

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

Questions Nos. 269 to 272, inclusive, answered with Question No. 43.
Questions Nos. 273 and 274 answered with Question No. 143.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

275 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which the road development programme outlined in the national development plan is to date in line with time and cost projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20842/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the outturn costs of individual road projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned. The NDP mid-term target of 30% completion of the major inter-urban routes by the end of 2003 was largely met with 29% of the programme completed on schedule. In relation to the national roads programme overall, it should be noted that since 2000 a total of 41 projects, over 277 kms, have been completed. Work is in progress on 18 projects, 199 kms, and another 12 projects, 88 kms, are at tender stage. The estimated cost of delivering the programme was €16.4 million at end 2003 prices.

I understand from the NRA that the current position in relation to the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard is that the M1 is expected to be fully complete by end 2006. Work is underway on major projects on the N7 — Monasterevin by-pass, which is expected to be opened later this year, on the N8 — Cashel by-pass and the Fermoy by-pass on the N4-N6 — Kilcock-Kinnegad, and the N1 Dundalk Western by-pass. Work is expected to start this year on Dundalk to Newry on the M1, the Waterford city by-pass and the Naas Road widening. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by, or be before, An Bord Pleanála by end 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

276 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the steps he proposes to take to prevent a recurrence of the Carrickmines issue whereby road works or other developments are routed in the vicinity of or through national monuments with resultant environmental damage and cost implications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20843/04]

As part of the planning and design of individual national road improvement projects the National Roads Authority and local authorities seek, in accordance with NRA project management guidelines, to identify from the earliest stages of project planning all potential environmental impacts including impacts on heritage sites or buildings. As part of this process there is extensive consultation with environmental and heritage authorities and interests in order to avoid or reduce negative impacts. Major projects are also subject to comprehensive environmental impact assessment in accordance with the Roads Act 1993, which requires environmental impact statements on major road projects to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval.

The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004, prepared by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, currently on Committee Stage in the Seanad, seeks to update the legislation on our national heritage and provide more streamlined procedures for resolving archaeological issues arising in the case of major infrastructure projects, including national road improvement projects.

I understand from the NRA that a total of 13 project archaeologists and five assistant archaeologists are on contract, overseen by an archaeologist and assistant archaeologist on its headquarters staff, who manage the archaeological aspects of road scheme, planning and construction. This expertise and the expenditure of significant resources from the national roads grant allocation seek to minimise direct impacts on archaeology to the extent feasible, and, where impacts are unavoidable, to resolve archaeological sites and features in accordance with best practice.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

277 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if the NRA or other authorities will use state-of-the-art technology in order to determine the precise location of historic monuments, earthworks or settlements with a view to ensuring the elimination of costly delays and the protection of the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20844/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including investigation of identified archaeological sites discovered during the projects, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the local authority concerned.

I understand from the NRA that its work in this area is managed to the highest recognised standards and that, where appropriate, the use of state-of-the-art technology, including both geophysical studies and aerial studies, are carried out on projects across the network as part of the planning programme.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

278 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily capacity of the rail commuter service from Monasterevin to Dublin via Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins and Hazelhatch; the extent to which it is envisaged that the capacity can be increased in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20845/04]

The issues of timetabling and allocation of rolling stock is a day to day operational matter for Irish Rail. However, Irish Rail has informed me that Monasterevin has three commuter morning services each day to Dublin at 0704, 0735, and 0800 with seating accommodation for approximately 800 passengers on each train. Return services to Monasterevin from Dublin in the evening are at 1735 and 1800 with seating accommodation for approximately 700 passengers on each train.

Irish Rail will shortly announce planning for the 2005 timetable and part of that process will be to review all commuter services to and from Dublin and implement any changes necessary. A further 36 diesel rail cars, identical to the 80 already in service since earlier this year, will be delivered in 2005. Some of these railcars will be used to provide further additional capacity on the Kildare route.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

279 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily capacity of the commuter rail service from Enfield to Dublin via Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey; the extent to which it is intended to increase these levels in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20846/04]

The scheduling and allocation of rail services is strictly an operational matter for Irish Rail to consider. However Irish Rail have informed me that the following services operate from Enfield:

Departing Enfield

Service

Origin

Capacity

07.19

Mondays Only

Longford

900

07.31

Tues — Friday

Longford

900

08.00

Mon — Friday

Longford

900

11.50

Mon — Friday

Enfield

600

13.13

Mon — Friday

Longford

600

14.15

Mon — Friday

Longford

600

The company also stated that platform extension work currently being undertaken at Enfield will enable longer trains with a capacity of 1,200 seats to operate on Longford services, which will call at the station from September 2004.
Any other service increases specifically for Enfield will be considered as more rolling stock becomes available and as part of the annual timetable review. In this regard, an additional 36 diesel railcars will be delivered to Irish Rail next year.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

280 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the Dublin Port Tunnel to be ready for use; the way in which it is intended to use this as a means to alleviate traffic congestion in Dublin city and its environs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20847/04]

I understand from the National Roads Authority and Dublin City Council that the Dublin Port tunnel is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2005 and will significantly improve access to Dublin Port, in addition to providing relief to the city centre, environmental and safety benefits and relief from congestion for freight distributors and other port related traffic.

Traffic management in the city centre and in the vicinity of Dublin Port is a matter for Dublin City Council. In parallel with the opening to traffic of the Dublin Port Tunnel, Dublin City Council will be introducing a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure that maximum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port Tunnel. This plan will have three objectives, namely, to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the port tunnel, to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions, e.g. through permit systems.

Dublin City Council has published a report on HGV management as a basis for a widespread public consultation exercise. The public consultation period is now concluded and the responses received are being evaluated within Dublin City Council. The HGV management strategy, revised to take account of submissions received, will be published in the autumn.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

281 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to a metro for Dublin and the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20848/04]

The programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro with a link to Dublin Airport. I have received the revised outline business case for line 1 of the metro from the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, which involves a line from the airport to the city centre. The total estimated direct capital cost of construction in 2002 prices is €1.2 billion. This is before allowing for risk, contingency, VAT and inflation.

The timescale, precise cost and route, number and location of stations and arrangements for connections with other elements of public transport will depend on a number of factors, including the Government decision, geo-technical surveys, negotiations with bidders and railway order process, including the public inquiry. In preparing a submission for Government on this matter, the merits of all alternative solutions and routes will be considered.

I expect the Government to consider proposals on the metro in the near future. In advance of the Government considering proposals, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matters raised in any more detail.

Questions Nos. 282 to 286, inclusive, answered with Question No. 73.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Seán Power

Ceist:

287 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the moneys that have been provided by his Department for the purchase of closed circuit television; if he has satisfied himself that the use of such technology is very helpful in the fight against crime; if it is his intention to provide extra resources for the purchase of more equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20643/04]

A total of €4.881 million, including VAT, has been spent since 1997 on the supply, installation and commissioning of CCTV systems in the following areas: Dublin North Central; Dublin South Central; Tralee, Cork City, Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Limerick. Provision has been made in the Garda Vote for 2004 for expenditure of up to €4.494 million on CCTV systems. This provision will cover existing financial commitments for the CCTV systems in Cork city, Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Limerick. Work is underway in restructuring the tender process for the next phase of Garda CCTV schemes in Athlone, Clondalkin, Tallaght and Waterford.

The value of Garda CCTV systems is principally as an aid to existing Garda resources. CCTV systems must, therefore, be viewed in the context of overall policing operations and carefully planned and integrated into Garda operational procedures. They are not, nor are they intended to be, a replacement for gardaí on patrol. The Garda Síochána is strongly of the view that CCTV has a significant role to play in detecting crime and that it is also an important factor in crime prevention, through the fear of being caught on camera. The siting and visibility of CCTV cameras can act as an overt deterrent to criminals. The systems have also been of proven assistance to gardaí in the identification of suspects, in facilitating a more efficient use of Garda resources and the better management of incidents. Anecdotally, experience both here and in other jurisdictions with CCTV as a crime prevention and detection aid has been very positive.

To date, the Irish experience is that CCTV systems have been greatly welcomed by local communities in that they help to create a safer environment in which people can go about their daily business in the knowledge that persons are less likely to commit offences in the presence of the cameras. There is still a huge demand from communities all around the country for CCTV. The Garda research unit carried out an internal evaluation of CCTV systems in Dublin and Tralee in 1999. While the evaluation identified potential benefits of CCTV, such as reduced crime and disorder, increased detections, improved public feelings of safety, more effective deployment of police resources and improved court processing — guilty pleas — the evidence was not conclusive. This was mainly due to methodological difficulties such as data limitations and difficulty in isolating CCTV effects from other influences.

The Garda research unit is currently evaluating CCTV in three locations — Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire and Galway-Salthill. The main focus of the evaluation is on crime and detection levels before and after camera installation. Crime and detection levels are also being examined in two control areas — Drogheda and Blackrock — to assess general trends and possible crime displacement. The CCTV systems were installed in Dundalk and Dún Laoghaire at the end of 2003 and early 2004. Research findings will not be available for some time, since the evaluation involves comparison of data for 12 month periods before and after camera installation.

The Garda annual policing plan 2003 provided for an assessment of the proactive use of CCTV systems as a means of gathering criminal intelligence. The Garda annual policing plan 2004 has also committed the research unit to carrying out a review of the cost and benefit of extending the CCTV system to all urban areas with over 7,000 people. Both projects are expected to be completed later this year.

Drugs in Prison.

Seán Power

Ceist:

288 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to reduce the use of drugs by inmates in prisons. [20644/04]

No level of illegal drug consumption in a prison setting is acceptable to me or to the prison authorities. It is my intention and that of the Irish Prison Service, in line with the commitments in the programme for Government, to take all necessary measures to eliminate drug misuse among prisoners. This is being pursued by way of measures to reduce both the supply and demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population. In particular, the programme for Government commits me to creating a drug-free prison service, with mandatory drug testing of prisoners. A new set of prison rules, which will make provision for such testing, is at an advanced stage of drafting in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Mandatory drug testing can play an important role in the overall strategy for tackling the scourge of heroin use among prisoners. In the meantime, a number of measures are being implemented to curtail the supply of drugs into prisons, including video surveillance, improved visiting-searching facilities and increased vigilance by staff. Netting has been installed over the recreation yards in a number of our closed prisons, to prevent contraband material, such as drugs, being propelled over exterior walls. Future prison designs will seek to locate recreation yards away from perimeter walls as part of further efforts to frustrate the supply of illegal drugs.

Other measures to counter the supply of drugs in prisons include screened visits in Cloverhill and the Midlands Prisons and new visiting arrangements at Mountjoy Prison. Each prisoner at Mountjoy Prison is now required to supply to prison authorities a list of up to six persons who they wish to visit them. Only persons on this list who have been approved by the governor are permitted to visit. In addition, each visitor, prior to being allowed to enter the prison, is now required to present photo identification confirming their identity.

Measures to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system include education, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicted offenders. These programmes and interventions are delivered on an individual and co-ordinated basis by the psychology service, Probation and Welfare Service, prison education service and prison officers. Particular initiatives put in place include drug-free areas, drug misuse awareness programmes, support programmes and appropriate health interventions, substitution therapies, vaccination programmes and treatment for viral illnesses. In addition, the Irish Prison Service provides prisoners with a range of opportunities to encourage them to aspire to a substance-free lifestyle, before and after release, thereby reducing demand for illicit substances.

I am currently considering proposals for a new prison drugs policy and examining whether it would be effective in ridding our prisons of drugs. It is my intention to publish the new policy in due course.

Ground Rents Abolition.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

289 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Government commitment in relation to ground rents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20645/04]

The position is that the Government legislation programme, which was published on 26 April 2004, makes provision for a Bill to abolish ground rents.

As I have stated previously in relation to this matter, publication of the Bill is subject to the resolution of possible constitutional and practical difficulties. The constitutional difficulties are related to the respective rights of ground rent tenants and landlords, while the practical difficulties concern land law generally and more particularly the land registration system.

Asylum Applications.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

290 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 3 June 2004 if he will now consider the appeal of a person (details supplied) to remain here with their family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20646/04]

The person concerned was informed on 23 June 2004, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, that it was proposed to make a deportation order in his case. He was given the options of making representations within 15 working days to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons why he should be allowed to remain in the State, to voluntarily leave the State or to consent to the making of a deportation order. To date, it does not appear that the person in question has made any representations in this regard, although he may do so before 15 July 2004.

Garda Stations.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

291 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a new Garda barracks will be constructed at Kilfinane, County Limerick. [20647/04]

Kilfinane is one of eight Garda stations in Counties Limerick and Tipperary selected by the Office of Public Works, in consultation with my Department, for inclusion in the pilot equity exchange programme. The aim of this programme is to replace the stations in question with better facilities which satisfy OPW specifications and modern Garda requirements.

Registration of Title.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

292 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status regarding transfer of property (details supplied) in County Limerick; if the matter will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20648/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a transfer of part which was lodged on 9 October 2003. Dealing number D2003PS00523IR refers.

I am further informed that the application was completed on 19 April 2004.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

293 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if visas will be issued to persons (details supplied). [20650/04]

I can confirm that the visa in question was approved by my Department on 1 July 2004.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

294 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the communications he has had with the Department of Health and Children to date regarding the problem of under age drinking throughout both rural and urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20744/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

296 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to work with the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to develop a joint initiative in relation to an advertising campaign or a co-ordinator of legislation in relation to the issue of under age drinking, particularly in view of the recent announcement by GAA task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20752/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 294 and 296 together.

I had consultations with the Minister for Health and Children during the preparation of proposals to reform the licensing laws, particularly those relating to under-age consumption of alcohol. Such consultations took place, for example, during the preparation and drafting of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 which contains measures aimed at combating the problem of underage drinking.

The provisions in the 2003 Act, which give effect to recommendations of the Commission on Liquor Licensing and the strategic task force on alcohol, include a strengthening of the provisions prohibiting the sale or delivery of alcohol to persons under the age of 18, restrictions on the presence of persons under the age of 18 in bars of licensed premises and a new requirement that persons aged 18 to 20 must carry an age document in order to be in the bar of licensed premises after 9 p.m.

In the course of drafting a Bill to codify the licensing Acts, I shall continue to consult with other Ministers in line with Government policy in this area and take into account the views of interested bodies, including the GAA.

Garda Stations.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

295 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in County Donegal which have each of the basic resources (details supplied) supplied by the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20745/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities responsible for the allocation of such resources that the issue of IT equipment to Garda stations in Donegal is ongoing and in line with current policies regarding the issue of such equipment. The current status in relation to County Donegal is as follows:

Non-Pulse Equipment:

61 Computers

10 Laptops

36 Printers

3 Scanners

Pulse Equipment:

44 Computers

15 Printers

6 Servers

The equipment mentioned is located at the following Garda stations: Letterkenny, Newtowncunningham, Buncrana, Milford, Glenties, Ballyshannon, Lifford, Raphoe, Burnfoot, Falcarragh, Carndonagh, Bundoran, Killybegs, Bunbeg, Moville and Donegal.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the purchase of computer hardware in the current year will allow for the issue of additional equipment. The allocation of all computer equipment within a division is at the discretion of the divisional officer. The current situation in the Donegal division is that there are now 34 fax machines issued to 27 stations and 29 photocopiers issued to 17 stations.

Question No. 296 answered with QuestionNo. 294.

Garda Deployment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

297 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when two gardaí will be replaced (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20756/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that local Garda management in Donegal division is currently in the process of selecting suitable candidates for allocation to Moville Garda station.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

298 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of posts decentralised in respect of previous decentralisation in whole or part of his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department; the percentage of staff who were transferred on promotion; the percentage of staff who transferred at their current grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20765/04]

One division and two agencies of my Department have previously decentralised. Details of these decentralisations are contained in the tabular statement below.

Name of Organisation/Office

Legal Aid Board

Land Registry

Finance Division

No. of post decentralised

39

140

100

% of staff transferred on promotion

17.95%

N/A

N/A

% of staff transferred at current grade

50%

N/A

N/A

In the case of the Legal Aid Board, the final 32.05% of staff were recruited by the Civil Service Commission.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the percentage of staff who transferred on promotion in their current grade in respect of staff who decentralised in both the Department's Finance division and in the Land Registry is not readily available and would take an inordinate amount of time to compile. I refer the Deputy to the information contained in my answers to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 533 of 16 December 2003, 466 to 468 of 24 February 2004 and 358 to 360 of 29 June 2004.

EU Presidency.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

299 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide an estimate and subsequent preliminary figures detailing the breakdown of expenditure relating to the amount provided in the 2004 Estimates in respect of the EU Presidency in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20776/04]

The budget provision in the Vote for the Office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the Irish Presidency, Vote 19, is €4.1 million. Expenditure to date for the management and operation of the business of the Irish Presidency, including pay and other costs associated with meetings during the six-month period from January to June 2004, is €2.4 million. This is in line with planned expenditure. It is not possible at this stage to give a detailed breakdown of the overall costs of the Irish Presidency in respect of Vote 19 as the maintenance of accounts is ongoing.

An additional €12.473 million was made available in the Garda Vote to take account of the increased policing and security workload associated with our hosting of the EU Presidency this year. Complete costs in relation to the involvement of the Garda Síochána in EU Presidency-related duties are not available at present. When all expenditure returns have been received and collated, a full costing of the operation will be made.

Disability Support Service.

John Gormley

Ceist:

300 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if progress has been made towards meeting the demands of the Centre for Independent Living 2003 Dáil Éireann campaign for appropriate funding levels for a countrywide programme on personal assistance services, rights-based legislation on disability, a reduction in the number of persons with disabilities being forced into residential settings, increased awareness of the needs and rights of persons with disabilities and ring-fencing 5% of disability proofing funding to provide services for persons with disabilities in developing countries. [20785/04]

My Department has responsibility for disability equality policy and legislation and has been active in promoting disability awareness. The policy of mainstreaming services for people with disabilities was introduced in June 2000. As a result, responsibility for the provision of services for people with disabilities rests with the mainstream body responsible for providing the service generally. Elements of this question relating to specific services are outside the remit of my Department and should be referred to the relevant Minister with overall responsibility for the service in question.

In relation to legislation, the Government intends, as promised in the Agreed Programme for Government, to bring forward a disability Bill which includes provisions for rights of assessment, appeals, provision and enforcement. The Bill is being finalised and will be published as soon as the Government has completed its work.

In the last number of years, in co-operation with the European Commission, my Department organised the Irish national information day on disability. Each year, a particular theme is chosen for the day. Themes to date have included: Progress Through Partnership — 24 November 1997; Progress Through Employment — 30 November 1998; Building a Future Together — 29 November 1999; Information Technology — Access for All — 27 November 2000. This took place simultaneously in three locations — Dublin, Sligo and Ennis; Design for All — 22 October 2001; "Do they take sugar?" — a television programme, aired on Network 2 on 3 December 2002 at 9 p.m.

In 2003, my Department chose to focus the national information day on the public sector. More than 200,000 brochures were distributed to public sector employees to inform and raise awareness of disability issues.

The year 2003 was European Year of People with Disabilities. Ireland and our EU partners worked together to create awareness about disability issues among the population at large and, more important, to promote awareness of the right of people with disabilities to equal opportunities and protection against discrimination. My Department designated the National Disability Authority, NDA, as the national co-ordinating body. The NDA chaired the national co-ordinating committee which co-ordinated events for the year in Ireland. The members of the committee represented disability organisations, the social partners, Departments and the media. My Department was represented on the committee which focused on four particular themes for the year — awareness raising; youth and disability; rights, partnership and responsibilities; and employment. The committee supported a wide-ranging programme of projects nation-wide to highlight the aims of the year.

My Department funded other initiatives and events to publicise the year, including the Youth — Beyond Disability seminars, organised by People with Disabilities in Ireland; a calendar, in conjunction with PwDI; and the Design for All exhibition in partnership with the Office of Public Works. My Department continues to be active in promoting disability awareness. A television programme title "Three 60" is currently airing on RTE television on Monday evenings at 7.30 p. m. which has been supported by funding from my Department.

Juvenile Offenders.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

301 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons aged 16 years or under who have multiple charges but are not in custodial care pending further court appearances, specifically in the district covered by Store Street Garda station, Dublin 1; if there is a strategy in place to deal with this small number of offenders who are repeatedly involved in crime in the Dublin 1 area; his views on whether after being charged on at least three separate occasions, they should be held in custody; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20830/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a total of seven juveniles have been identified in the Store Street area as having multiple charges who are not in custody pending further court appearances.

On the question of whether a person charged with a number of offences should be held in custody, I draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the decision to grant or refuse bail, or to hold a person in custody, in any particular case is a matter for the courts which are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.

The Garda authorities have informed me that in 2003 an arrest referral scheme was piloted in the north central division, which includes Store Street. The scheme targets young people at risk and emphasises early intervention to refer young people to the appropriate services. I understand from the Garda authorities that the policy of the Garda Síochána when dealing with juveniles who offend is to consider the offender for inclusion in the Garda juvenile diversion programme. The programme provides that in certain circumstances, a juvenile under 18 years of age who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution. The Children Act 2001 placed this programme on a statutory footing and the relevant sections of the Act were commenced in May 2002.

The programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young people away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. In more serious cases, juveniles are placed under the supervision of Garda juvenile liaison officers, who are specially trained members of the Garda Síochána responsible for administering the programme at local level. I am further informed that in 2003 the Garda national juvenile office received 19,915 referrals under the programme for 17,050 individual offenders. The Deputy should note that these figures are provisional and are subject to a validation process. The programme is delivered throughout the country by 85 garda and eight sergeant juvenile liaison officers who are employed full time working with juvenile offenders.

Part 4 of the Children Act 2001 introduced the concepts of restorative justice, specifically restorative cautioning and restorative conferencing, to the juvenile diversion programme. The restorative justice programme supports the victim by providing an opportunity in certain circumstances to attend a caution of the juvenile offender. The victim may take the opportunity to explain the harm done to him or her and receive an apology. Essentially, the provisions of the Children Act provide for the inclusion, where appropriate and possible, of the victim, the juvenile's family and the wider stakeholding community in the process of diversion.

To facilitate these innovative developments, most of the Garda juvenile liaison officers have now received training in mediation skills, with advanced training being provided to selected officers. Since the commencement of the relevant part of the Children Act in May 2002 and up to the end of December 2003, 135 restorative cautions and 12 restorative conferences have been held. Early assessments indicate a very high level of satisfaction from all those involved in the process.

Ongoing evaluation of restorative justice practice is being carried out by the Garda research unit. It is intended that as Garda juvenile liaison officers become more skilled in administering restorative justice, they will be able to focus on the more complex and high-risk offenders, with a view to further reducing the incidence of recidivism. To ensure the effective operation of the Garda juvenile diversion programme in accordance with section 44 of the Act, a committee to monitor the effectiveness of the programme, review all aspects of its operation and monitor the ongoing training needs of facilitators involved in restorative conferencing was established in June 2003.

In addition to the Garda juvenile diversion programme, there are 64 Garda youth diversion projects. These projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seeks to divert young persons from becoming involved — or further involved — in anti-social or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda-community relations. As the Deputy may be aware, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of these projects, from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a process made possible, in part, by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The locations of the new projects were decided upon according to local needs by the Garda authorities, in conjunction with my Department. Funding of €5.318 million has been allocated to these and related projects in the current year.

There are three Garda youth diversion projects currently operating in the north inner city: the NICKOL project in the Summerhill-Ballybough area, the DIME project in Hardwicke Street and the HAY project in the North Strand.

Garda Stations.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

302 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of plans to close Fitzgibbon Street Garda station, Dublin 1, for short-term refurbishment of the station or for any long-term reason; if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns in the local community at the prospect of its closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20831/04]

As I indicated previously to the House, the Office of Public Works identified health and safety issues in Fitzgibbon Street Garda station which require it to be vacated. The Office of Public Works has not yet succeeded in providing any suitable alternative accommodation to facilitate the carrying out of refurbishment works at the station. I understand, however, that the health and safety issues identified continue to be monitored by the Office of Public Works on a regular basis.

The optimum use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative programme of modernisation which looked in detail at a range of areas within the organisation. The final report of the Garda SMI implementation group, which is available on my Department's website, does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station, but rather makes recommendations to assist policy-making with regard to the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations.

Prisoner Releases.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

303 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have failed to return to custody after being out on temporary release in the district covered by the Store Street Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20832/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available. Prisoner addresses are not classified by Garda district and are also subject to change as persons being committed to prison will in some cases lose their accommodation. However, I understand the Irish Prison Service is carrying out a detailed examination of its records of persons who have failed to return to custody following a period of temporary release and I have arranged for the Deputy's query to be incorporated into that exercise. The Irish Prison Service will forward the relevant information to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Electoral Offences.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

304 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the process by which organised personation in a specific area might be further investigated in the context of the election results of June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20833/04]

Electoral offences such as personation are set out in the Electoral Acts 1997 to 2002. If an offence of the type referred to by the Deputy was reported to the Garda authorities, it would be thoroughly investigated by the gardaí in the usual way. If the Deputy has information relating the commission of such an offence he should contact the gardaí immediately.

Affordable Housing.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

305 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will raise the earnings threshold for persons applying for affordable housing. [20985/04]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

315 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will indicate when he will announce a substantial increase in the income eligibility criteria for applicants who wish to participate in the affordable housing schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20628/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 and 315 together.

A review of income eligibility and loan limits is currently being finalised and details will be announced very shortly.

Local Authority Housing.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

306 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of money his Department provided on a county by county basis for each of the past ten years to provide local authority housing and voluntary housing; if he has satisfied himself that enough houses from this sector are being made available at the present time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20601/04]

The total amount for capital expenditure on the local authority housing construction and acquisition programme for the years 1995 to 2003 and the capital allocation for 2004, which is funded by a combination of Exchequer capital grants and internal capital receipts, for each local authority is set out in the following table. Expenditure information on the voluntary housing programme is currently being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

It is estimated that the total social and affordable housing output under the local authority housing programme, taken with housing outputs from the voluntary housing sector and other social housing measures, as well as vacancies arising during the course of the year, will meet the needs of some 13,000 households this year.

Local Authority Housing Programme

Local Authority

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Provisional

Allocation

Carlow Co. Cl.

850,000

944,000

2,417,581

2,540,873

1,491,942

4,061,892

7,060,760

3,595,400

5,345,000

8,000,000

Carlow T.C.

1,560,000

910,800

1,062,136

1,389,093

745,082

1,582,474

1,691,164

8,193,708

6,735,700

2,200,000

Total

2,410,000

1,854,800

3,479,717

3,929,966

2,237,024

5,644,366

8,751,924

11,789,108

12,080,700

10,200,000

Cavan Co. Cl.

1,258,800

1,386,000

2,160,332

2,590,266

2,520,557

3,542,569

10,083,853

13,389,900

14,121,200

14,000,000

Cavan T.C.

474,700

740,800

1,062,136

1,389,093

772,082

1,582,474

1,691,164

8,193,708

3,254,700

2,500,000

Total

1,733,500

2,126,800

3,222,468

3,979,359

3,292,639

5,125,043

11,775,017

21,583,608

17,375,900

16,500,000

Clare Co. Cl.

1,233,800

1,313,800

2,932,841

3,402,644

5,099,015

5,960,532

6,897,979

11,904,343

10,411,000

12,000,000

Ennis T.C.

868,500

1,654,700

1,556,699

500,277

1,023,282

914,973

1,446,486

5,223,000

3,604,600

6,500,000

Kilrush T.C.

296,600

394,800

660,518

675,374

571,382

1,642,025

924,370

816,400

1,524,500

400,000

Total

2,398,900

3,363,300

5,150,058

4,578,295

6,693,679

8,517,530

9,268,835

17,943,743

15,540,100

18,900,000

Cork C.C.

6,486,000

8,004,100

9,820,154

10,885,972

15,790,971

25,525,671

37,367,236

35,095,280

35,653,971

27,000,000

Total

6,486,000

8,004,100

9,820,154

10,885,972

15,790,971

25,525,671

37,367,236

35,095,280

35,653,971

27,000,000

Cork (North) Co. Cl.

2,380,700

2,752,200

2,970,680

3,338,141

3,803,500

4,099,222

5,092,031

5,777,120

7,824,200

11,000,000

Fermoy T.C.

346,500

321,400

368,351

113,007

195,540

428,790

1,531,051

1,257,900

213,600

500,000

Macroom T.C.

50,000

352,600

76,184

195,666

114,276

693,658

1,434,677

2,634,900

908,300

1,200,000

Mallow T.C

709,400

652,600

894,911

1,142,764

466,883

1,175,269

1,269,738

792,700

727,000

2,500,000

Total

3,486,600

4,078,800

4,310,126

4,789,578

4,580,199

6,396,939

9,327,497

10,462,620

9,673,100

15,200,000

Cobh T.C.

437,600

167,600

1,051,978

1,632,248

1,624,630

776,191

577,985

4,751,700

1,422,700

1,000,000

Kinsale T.C.

46,200

118,000

33,013

153,384

189,572

290,262

63,487

820,200

549,000

900,000

Midleton T.C.

83,600

84,000

537,099

142,211

221,951

182,842

2,051,897

428,400

160,000

500,000

Youghal T.C.

290,000

424,500

507,898

627,250

698,355

1,436,835

2,706,065

2,070,000

1,208,700

2,800,000

Total

3,037,400

3,380,700

5,734,774

6,466,521

7,043,238

8,582,158

31,494,037

28,293,740

20,119,600

22,200,000

Cork (West) Co. Cl.

1,316,400

1,525,400

1,787,664

1,464,516

2,947,189

4,130,712

6,035,573

12,841,637

10,557,100

9,000,000

Clonakilty T.C.

30,000

337,200

561,225

937,955

221,442

491,769

315,657

1,749,837

217,800

1,300,000

Skibbereen T.C.

187,000

370,000

317,688

24,125

38,092

1,214,251

1,269,738

2,025,500

459,900

500,000

Total

1,533,400

2,232,600

2,666,577

2,426,596

3,206,723

5,836,732

7,620,968

16,616,974

11,234,800

10,800,000

Donegal Co. Cl.

4,772,400

5,010,000

6,945,468

8,037,696

10,258,087

13,739,201

35,177,585

26,565,900

21,508,000

24,100,000

Buncrana T.C.

435,000

402,700

412,919

76,184

101,579

888,817

2,611,470

3,640,200

2,071,900

1,500,000

Bundoran T.C.

77,600

124,200

312,864

463,073

76,184

403,904

348,162

1,715,800

354,700

1,500,000

Letterkenny T.C.

283,000

1,030,900

444,282

639,313

1,142,003

2,165,031

3,951,552

9,017,200

867,000

2,000,000

Total

5,568,000

6,567,800

8,115,533

9,317,845

12,365,091

18,919,606

43,117,499

37,298,900

24,801,600

29,100,000

Dublin C.C.

33,853,885

34,763,100