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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005

Vol. 605 No. 3

Written Answers

Questions Nos. 1 to 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 23, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 24 to 29, inclusive, answered orally.

EU Directives.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

30 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the nature of the Government’s input to the evaluation of the EU air quality draft directives on particulate matter (details supplied) and NOx; his views on the inclusion of natural sources, such as Sahara sand and sea salt in the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22226/05]

The 1999 air quality daughter directive relates to limit values for various air pollutants in ambient air, including particulate matter, PM, and oxides of nitrogen, NOx. In accordance with Article 10, the directive was reviewed by the European Commission and a review report was issued in January 2005.

The criterion for defining particulate matter in the 1999 directive is aerodynamic diameter. The origin of the particulate matter does not affect this definition and particles from natural sources, such as Sahara sand and sea salt, are therefore included in the scope of the directive. However, the directive allows individual member states to apply for derogations from any requirement to address exceedances where elevated levels of particulates arise as a result of certain specified circumstances, such as high wind events or transport of natural particles from dry regions. In its report on the review of the directive, the European Commission has stated that it is not considering changing or extending the existing derogation provisions.

In Ireland's case, there is no necessity to seek a derogation. The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority for implementing the air quality framework directive in Ireland and annually publishes an overview of ambient air quality. The most recent air quality and emissions to air report 2003, shows that Ireland's air quality remains good, without any breach of national and EU standards in force. Specifically, the ambient levels of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, including whatever contribution there may be from Saharan sand and sea salt, are in compliance with the standards. The report is available in the Library.

Under the sixth environmental action programme, the Commission will later this year adopt a thematic strategy on air pollution as an outcome of the EU CAFE programme. The objective of this is to develop a comprehensive, integrated and coherent framework for all air legislation and related policy initiatives. The Commission's review report on the 1999 daughter directive will inform the development of the thematic strategy. Ireland, along with all member states, participates in the CAFE steering group at which the work of the working group on implementation was assessed and evaluated.

Departmental Websites.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

31 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether concerns expressed regarding the usability of his Department’s website have been fully addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22300/05]

I have already indicated that I believe my Department's website, www.environ.ie, is in need of some improvement in terms of content architecture and presentation. Design and development of a major reworking of the site is under way and an entirely new layout is planned. The Department is aiming to have the new site in place before the end of the year. In the meantime, interim revisions mentioned in an earlier reply to a parliamentary question have been implemented. These substantially address concerns about the site’s usability and improve the performance, accessibility, look and feel of the site.

In addition to www.environ.ie, my Department operates some 13 special interest websites dealing with particular aspects of the Department’s activities. In recent years extensive changes have been made to reflect the changed structure of the Department and to provide direct access from the main Department site to newly developed sites such as “Motor Tax Online” and “Buildings of Ireland”, as well as the specialist websites relating to Met Éireann and heritage areas.

The award winning www.motortax.ie, which enables customers to pay their motor tax over the Internet, is recognised as an effective e-government measure. In its first year, this site has handled over 470,000 transactions representing over €100 million in revenue. Almost 24% of eligible motor tax business nationally is now transacted on-line, including over 43% of eligible business in the Dublin area. This is a welcome success and one that we intend to build on in the years to come.

The website of the national inventory of architectural heritage is www.buildingsofireland.ie. The NIAH involves identifying, surveying and recording the architectural heritage of Ireland and this site presents information and images of the surveyed buildings and structures in an attractive and readily accessible way.

The website www.raceagainstwaste.ie is an integral part of the award winning public awareness campaign. It provides practical advice and action points on better waste management for citizens and businesses as well as acting as a portal to a wide range of on-line resources dealing with responsible waste management.

The Met Éireann website effectively blends daily weather forecasts with educational information on climate, satellite imagery and targeted information for the agricultural and marine sectors.

The Department, through these and other sites, has developed a web presence which provides a comprehensive suite of on-line services and information.

Nuclear Plants.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

32 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he continues to have confidence in the capacity of the British Nuclear Inspectorate to be fully briefed by BNFL on possible future incidents at Sellafield in view of the prolonged delay by BNFL in issuing a full public statement on the recent serious incident at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22290/05]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

52 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the recent serious incident at Sellafield and the implications arising for the long-term future of reprocessing as a result. [22289/05]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

103 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether BNFL can be trusted to run the Sellafield plant in Cumbria; if the recent leak at the plant has reduced that confidence further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22287/05]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

108 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the latest information available to his Department on the origins and extent of the leak at the THORP reprocessing plant on 19 April 2005; if he has satisfied himself that the information supplied adequately reflected the seriousness of the leak; the steps he took to verify the information supplied to his Department; if his attention has been drawn to media reports suggesting that the leak was so serious that the THORP plant may have to close indefinitely; the action he has taken or intends to take arising from this incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22197/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 52, 103 and 108 together.

The recent leakage at the THORP reprocessing plant in the Sellafield complex has underscored the legitimacy of Government policy that Sellafield should be closed in a safe and orderly manner because of the threat it poses to Ireland. While the leak was contained and did not constitute an immediate hazard to the local population or region or to Ireland, the fact of its occurrence and subsequent revelations concerning its origin, quantity and the period it remained undetected do not promote confidence in the management and operation of the site.

A discrepancy in the amounts of uranium and plutonium in the THORP process was first noticed on 18 April and, following camera inspections, the process was shut down on 21 April. Further investigation showed that 83,000 litres or 83 cubic metres of liquid, which contains uranium, plutonium and fission products, was spilt but was contained on the floor of a sealed cell with walls several feet thick.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland was advised of the leak by the UK's Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency on the same day the process was shut down, 21 April 2005. Officials of my Department were advised on 22 April. The institute deals directly with the UK regulatory authorities, not BNFL, in accessing information and has kept in touch with its counterparts in the UK on the issues arising from the incident. The institute has been satisfied with the quality and timing of the information flow from the UK authorities and has no reason to doubt the integrity or accuracy of the information received to date.

On 27 May 2005, British Nuclear Group, formerly BNFL, issued the findings of an internal investigation of the THORP incident. The findings do not have any implications for Ireland and confirmed that the leak which had occurred had been contained in the secondary containment area designed for this purpose. However, the investigation also found that the pipe may have started to fail in August 2004 and that actual failure of the pipe may have occurred in January 2005 and, although the failure itself could not have been prevented, the quantity of liquid released would have been significantly less if opportunities had not been missed in the monitoring of the process.

I understand that an independent investigation is currently underway by the UK regulatory authority. I have requested the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and departmental officials to liaise closely with their counterparts in the UK on this investigation and any other issues of concern arising from the incident.

The THORP incident is an extremely serious one, as is reflected in the class 3 rating applied to the incident under the international nuclear event scale. Accordingly, I have raised the issue directly in writing with the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and have sought an early meeting. Furthermore, I have also drawn the THORP incident to the attention of the European Commissioner for Energy.

I understand that, at a minimum, it will take several months before it will be possible for the THORP plant to resume operation. While there is wide speculation that this incident may precipitate a further evaluation of the reprocessing operations at THORP, resulting in an earlier closure date than 2010 as is currently proposed, I am not aware of any decisions on this issue by the UK. However, the recent incident offers the opportunity to the UK to decide on the termination of reprocessing operations at Sellafield as soon as possible. Obviously, this will be among the issues I will pursue with my UK ministerial counterparts when we meet.

International Conferences.

Damien English

Ceist:

33 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Ireland will have any representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s uranium symposium to be held in June 2005; his Department’s policy on the issues raised at the symposium, including exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22274/05]

The International Symposium on Uranium Production and Raw Materials for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, took place in Vienna last week. My Department, in consultation with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and based on an evaluation of priorities, decided not to nominate an official representative to the uranium symposium.

The purpose of the symposium was to analyse uranium supply and demand relationships and to present and discuss new developments in uranium geology and exploration, mining, processing and environmental requirements for uranium operations and site decommissioning. The symposium followed on from an international conference Uranium Geochemistry 2003 in Nancy in 2003 and an earlier symposium Uranium Production Cycle and the Environment in Vienna in 2000, both of which were also organised by the agency. Although Ireland was not represented at the symposium, we will, of course, have access to the outcomes of the symposium when these are available.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, comprising some 136 member states is an independent, intergovernmental agency of the United Nations. The agency is inter alia responsible for the establishment and administration of safeguards and verification, the maintenance of a global event notification system, the promotion of research and development into the application of atomic energy, the establishment of safety standards and the assistance of member states in planning for and using nuclear science and technology for various peaceful purposes.

To this end, the agency organises numerous conferences and symposia in any given year. Furthermore, the policy-making organs — board of governors, programme and budget committee and so forth — typically meet ten to 12 times a year and the annual general conference takes place each September. My Department or the institute does not have the resources to attend all of these meetings and conferences and, consequently, has to be selective in terms of accepting invitations that will most directly assist and promote Ireland's nuclear policy and provide necessary technical advice and assistance.

Government policy is opposed to the use of nuclear energy, as it believes the environmental, health and safety risks and impacts outweigh the benefits arising from the industry. Ireland remains opposed to any expansion of the nuclear industry, which potentially impacts negatively on uranium exploration, production and related issues. Based on an analysis of the content and relevance of international meetings, Ireland is represented at as many as possible and seeks to influence processes in accordance with Government policy.

Question No. 34 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Local Government Policy.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

35 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the phenomenal growth in population in the Drogheda — south Louth — east Meath area (details supplied), he will grant Drogheda and district city status and thus allow this area to have full responsibility and control over its own future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22311/05]

The Local Government Act 2001 modernises the legislative framework, supports community involvement with local authorities in a more participative local democracy and underpins generally the programme of local government renewal, including the position of county and city councils as the primary units of local government. Under the Act, there are five city councils and also five borough councils, including Drogheda, each of which is responsible for a significant range of legal and administrative functions in their respective areas as well as contributing to local development in co-operation with their respective county council.

The Act takes account of the recommendations of the 1996 report of the reorganisation commission, Towards Cohesive Local Government — Town and County, regarding improved accessibility, interaction and linkages for all boroughs and towns with their local county council areas as the way forward. A modernised legal framework and structures at both regional and local level are now in place which provide the necessary powers and flexibility to local authorities to work in partnership at local and regional level to co-ordinate the provision of integrated public services. In these circumstances, I have no proposals for amending legislation, which would be necessary to establish a new city council.

Election Management System.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

36 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of significant population changes, he will examine as a matter of urgency the local electoral boundaries for local elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22307/05]

Unlike the situation regarding Dáil constituencies, there are no constitutional or statutory requirements regarding the frequency of local electoral area reviews. The last review of local electoral areas was carried out in 1998. The June 2004 local elections took place on the basis of the existing local electoral areas and there are currently no proposals for examination of these areas.

The next census is due to take place in 2006, with the next local elections in 2009. Consideration can be given to reviewing the local electoral areas in the light of the census results when they become available and other relevant factors.

Housing Policy.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

37 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has plans to widen home ownership among those on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22283/05]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

136 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the recommendations contained in the NESC report, Housing in Ireland, which he will be implementing in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22345/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 136 together.

The NESC housing report endorses the Government's general approach to housing policy while highlighting important policy challenges ahead. These include ensuring a high quality sustainable development in both urban and rural areas, assisting the market to maintain a high level of supply and providing an effective range of supports to those households who fall below the affordability threshold.

We have being making substantial progress in addressing these concerns, with record overall housing output and increased investment in social and affordable housing. The new affordable homes partnership announced last week provides new impetus and additionality to the existing measures. The partnership will drive and co-ordinate the delivery of affordable housing in the greater Dublin area, GDA. It is also intended that the partnership take responsibility, as far as practicable, for affordable housing initiative projects on State lands in the GDA. This will include use of the land swap option, similar to that piloted on the Harcourt Terrace Lane site.

Initially, the partnership will work via the existing planning/development framework but additional legislative powers will be made available should they prove necessary. In addition, consideration is to be given to approaches dealing with land options and a "use it or lose it" scheme. As part of the broader delivery of housing nationally, all local authorities will review their land management strategies to maximise the availability of land for their own housing programmes, voluntary and co-operative housing, housing partnerships with the private sector and to secure more active use of brown field land and derelict sites.

These measures are designed to provide a practical response, focused on delivery on the policy challenges identified by the NESC. The NESC also highlighted a number of issues, particularly in the social housing area, for further consideration. The Government intends to address these more medium-term issues for the provision of social and affordable housing in the early autumn. This process will be informed by the outcome of the statutory housing needs assessment currently under way and the work under way by the housing forum in reviewing the effectiveness of the existing social and affordable housing schemes in the context of the Sustaining Progress agreement.

Waste Disposal.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

38 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to make funding available to local authorities for the remediation of older illegal dump sites or of closed sites in the ownership of local authorities following the results of the office of environmental enforcement audit of dump sites used between 1977 and 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22216/05]

The policy direction which I have recently issued under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996 directs the local authorities to ensure that the requirements of section 22 of that Act are fully met in the current review of their waste management plans.

Section 22 states that a waste management plan shall include information on: the identification of sites at which waste disposal or recovery activities have been carried on; the assessment of any risk of environmental pollution arising as a result of such activities; measures proposed to be taken or, where such an assessment has already been made, measures taken, to prevent or limit any such environmental pollution; and the identification of necessary remedial measures in respect of such sites and measures proposed to be taken or, where such measures have already been identified, measures taken, to achieve such remediation, having regard to the cost effectiveness of available remediation techniques. This exercise will be completed as part of the process of replacing the current waste management plans over the coming months.

As regards remediation costs related to illegal dumping, the regulatory authorities have been directed to pursue illegal holders of waste, looking to the maximum potential sanctions available in law. In that regard, prosecutions should be taken in all cases using the powers available under the Waste Management Act, as amended, or other relevant legislation to maximise the deterrent factor. The Garda Síochána should be asked to become involved in regard to more serious offences and the prosecution of offences should be at the highest available judicial level.

In addition, a landfill levy shall be applied in all circumstances of disposal of waste by means of an unauthorised landfill activity after 1 June 2002, when the landfill levy regulations came into effect, and local authorities should, where practicable, pursue civil remedies against illegal operators under the provisions of sections 55 to 58 of the Act, for example, to seek to recover the costs of measures taken to prevent or limit environmental pollution caused by the waste.

Clearly there may also be cost implications related to the remediation of older sites, which may not be amenable to recovery in the courts from those concerned. There may also be cost implications for closed sites which are or were in the ownership of local authorities. Pending the outcome of the section 22 process it is not possible to quantify the extent of future costs in this regard.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

39 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he has recently issued policy directions on the movement of waste; the impact such directions are expected to have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22291/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

44 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the names of the private sector stakeholders, including waste firms, which have been in contact with him about the relaxation of the planning guidelines for waste facilities such as landfills and incinerators; the principal arguments, technical and otherwise, put forward by these stakeholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22224/05]

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

45 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the meeting between a company (details supplied) and his Department regarding changes they were proposing to Government policy on the regional movement of waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22292/05]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

116 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on meetings and submissions made to his Department by a company (details supplied) regarding decisions of An Bord Pleanála relating to waste. [22306/05]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

127 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received legal advice regarding the decision of An Bord Pleanála to limit the origin of waste to the proposed Carronstown incinerator to the north-east regional area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22305/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 44, 45, 116 and 127 together.

The most recent waste management policy statement, Taking Stock and Moving Forward, April 2004, recognised that the prohibition on all inter-regional movements of waste could be unduly restrictive in terms of securing the development of waste infrastructure and the objectives of waste management plans. It is the case that most waste facilities currently in place are not subject to conditions which limit the geographic area from which they can take waste. In fact, the absence of such restrictions has traditionally allowed local authorities to manage capacity constraints by providing for inter-regional movement of waste. Accordingly, the policy statement provided for an examination of the issues arising in terms of the inter-relationship between regional boundaries and waste facilities.

Concerns about the implications of such planning conditions were expressed to my Department by stakeholders from both the public and private sectors and, in particular, by the Irish Waste Management Association. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency in its 2001 waste database report recommended that the inter-regional movement and treatment of waste should be provided for in appropriate circumstances.

Following legal advice, I recently issued guidance under section 60 of the Waste Management Act to clarify that the application of the proximity principle in the context of waste management does not entail interpreting administrative waste boundaries in such a manner as to inhibit the development of infrastructure which will support the attainment of national waste policy objectives. This guidance is intended to provide greater clarity in regard to the appropriate application of the proximity principle so as to facilitate the provision of environmentally sustainable and economically viable waste infrastructure in accordance with national policy. I am advised that this guidance has been well received by both the public and private stakeholders.

EU Directives.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

40 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date in meeting obligations under the wild birds directive to protect the habitats of rare and endangered wild bird species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22278/05]

Action to protect the habitats of rare and endangered wild bird species is most directly addressed by designation of sites as special protection areas, SPAs. To date, Ireland has designated 128 SPAs, covering an area equivalent to almost 3% of our land area and statutory orders are in preparation to designate some further sites. Designation of habitats under other provisions, for example, as candidate special areas of conservation can also support the preservation of wild bird species.

However, the EU Commission is taking a case against Ireland in the European Court of Justice, alleging inadequate implementation of the directive. A major element of the Commission's case relates to sites for relatively dispersed rare species, such as hen harrier, chough and corncrake. An additional element of the Commission's case requires Ireland to ensure that all SPAs, including those designated under the system which applied pre-habitats directive, should now be subject to the procedures under the habitats directive.

Proposals for SPAs for hen harriers are being finalised within my Department, taking account of up to date information on the extent of recent afforestation provided by the forest service of the Department of Agriculture and Food. My Department is committed, when this information has been assessed, to further consultation with stakeholder interests about the implications of such designations before the details of the sites are published and notified to landowners. Proposals for SPAs for chough, mainly in coastal cliff areas of Kerry, west Cork and west Donegal are also being finalised. The implications of these proposals will also be discussed with landowners' representatives. With regard to both these species, it is envisaged that sites will be statutorily proposed later this year.

A number of existing SPAs provide protection for corncrake, along with other species. The question of designation of further sites for corncrake remains under consideration. Certain other dispersed species also require designation of sites. For species such as merlin and golden plover this can largely be achieved by designation as SPAs of lands already protected as candidate special areas of conservation, SACs, under the habitats directive.

Planning Issues.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

41 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his role in renewing the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22322/05]

The statutory provisions for the making of regional planning guidelines are contained in the Planning and Development Act 2000. Under these provisions, I have issued directions to regional authorities and published regulations on the making of regional planning guidelines. My Department has also issued guidance notes to regional authorities to assist them in this process.

In accordance with my direction, the Dublin regional authority and the mid-east regional authority, in May 2004, jointly made regional planning guidelines for the whole of the area of their two regions, that is, the area known as the greater Dublin area. These guidelines replaced the non-statutory strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area 1999 and incorporated the aims and policies of the national spatial strategy.

My Department was represented on a steering committee which assisted in the preparation of the regional planning guidelines and also on the technical working group which supported this work.

Water Conservation.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

42 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will assess the initial impact of his Department’s campaign to reduce domestic water wastage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22302/05]

Local authorities are responsible for publicity measures associated with the national water conservation scheme being funded by my Department under the water services investment programme 2004-06. The objective of the conservation scheme is to identify and substantially reduce unaccounted for water levels in public water supply networks. Over €276 million has been allocated to city and county councils by my Department for this purpose.

I recently launched a water wastage reduction campaign by seven local authorities in the greater Dublin region, that is, Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Meath, South Dublin and Wicklow county councils and Bray Town Council. Further information about the results of the ongoing campaign, which is aimed at both residential and business consumers, may appropriately be sought from the local authorities concerned.

Nuclear Plants.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

43 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the international legal action taken by the Government with a view to securing the closure of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22230/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

90 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Government’s efforts to bring about the closure of Sellafield. [22330/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 90 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 180 and 184 of 18 May 2005. Ireland and the United Kingdom submitted their latest progress report to the UNCLOS tribunal on 31 May 2005. Otherwise, the position is unchanged.

Questions Nos. 44 and 45 answered with Question No. 39.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

46 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the functioning of Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2004 to determine whether this provision is delivering its potential in terms of the number of social and affordable housing units delivered to date. [22328/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 25 of 28 June 2005.

I am satisfied that Part V is contributing significantly to the provision of social and affordable housing. Its operation has been kept under continuous review and this will be monitored.

Waste Disposal.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

47 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and percentage of gardeners and landscapers in the Dublin area who hold permits for the disposal of green waste; the amount of green waste being produced by such operators in the Dublin area; if he has plans to establish green waste disposal facilities for use by commercial operators such as gardeners and landscapers in the Dublin area in view of the imminent closure of the Lucan recycling depot to such operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22198/05]

My Department does not have detailed information on the number of waste collection permits held by landscape gardeners nor on the origin of green waste deposited at facilities for recycling.

Identification of needs for waste management facilities is a matter for local authorities under the relevant regional waste management plans, which are currently being reviewed by the local authorities. In this regard my Department, at a recent meeting with landscapers' representatives, recommended that the landscape contractors liaise directly with the local authorities concerned.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

48 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date by the task force set up in his Department to establish strategies to address the range of environmental complaints against Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22217/05]

The task force set up in my Department to establish strategies to address the range of environmental complaints against Ireland in a more comprehensive way is fully operational. In addressing its work, the task force has been building on an intensified engagement by my Department with Commission officials and with the implementing agencies in Ireland that has been developed over recent months.

The task force has undertaken a systematic analysis of each individual case that is the subject of infringement proceedings by the EU Commission and for which my Department is responsible. This analysis has facilitated accelerated responses by Ireland to Commission concerns in a number of cases. It should also help to improve our response to infringement complaints in future and to provide full information about excellent ongoing work being undertaken towards fulfilling our compliance with our EU obligations.

Election Management System.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

49 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total all-in costs of the Government’s e-voting proposals to date; if he intends to take any steps to prevent a reoccurrence of this scale of expenditure and waste; if such proposals in future will undergo a value for money examination before the appointment of consultants or service providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22324/05]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

61 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the estimated total cost to the State of scrapping the electronic voting project; if there is resale value for the machines (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22286/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

832 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if any contact has been made with other jurisdictions with a view to off-loading or finding alternative use for the now redundant electronic voting equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22778/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

833 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the alternative use to which he proposes to put the expensively stored electronic voting equipment; if it is possible to return the equipment and obtain a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22779/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 61, 832 and 833 together.

The Government decision in February 2000 to move to electronic voting and counting aimed to secure a range of identified benefits compared to the current manual arrangements, including: more democratic outcomes through the minimisation of invalid votes and the more accurate counting of votes; provision of a higher level of service to the public; greater flexibility and speed in the voting and counting processes; and greater use of modern information and communication technologies. The decision followed extensive research on electronic voting systems and experiences in other countries and input from a range of sources on legislative, financial and practical considerations.

As part of a programme of further assessment, testing and validation of the electronic voting and counting system, tenders have been sought, and are now being assessed, from suitably qualified consultants to undertake a security and risk assessment of all aspects of the system and to devise a programme of additional testing. This work is intended to address issues raised by the Commission on Electronic Voting and demonstrate that the system operates reliably, securely and accurately.

The total cost to date of the electronic voting and counting project is some €52 million. My Department is not considering, or quantifying the cost of, the approaches to the project set out in the questions, nor have we had contact with other jurisdictions in the matter.

Departmental Websites.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

50 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of unique visitors to his Department’s website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22299/05]

The number of unique visitors to www.environ.ie from 1 January to 31 May 2005 was 279,024.

Water Quality.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

51 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the Environmental Protection Agency’s report, Water Quality in Ireland 2001-2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22273/05]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

138 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he intends to take to reduce water pollution from municipal discharges following the EPA water quality report 2001-03 attributing most of the serious pollution in rivers and streams to such sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22209/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 138 together.

The Environmental Protection Agency's report, Water Quality in Ireland 2001-2003, stated that the overall condition of Irish waters remains satisfactory and compares favourably with the position in other European countries. The report indicates that there is a further decline in the extent of serious pollution in rivers, a decline in the level of bacteriological contamination of ground water and that water quality is generally high in estuaries and coastal areas.

I welcome these positive findings of the report. Other findings of the report, however, are more mixed, such as the slight increase in the extent of river channel affected by pollution, the decrease in the number of bathing areas which comply with guideline values and the widespread intermittent contamination of ground waters with faecal coliforms. The report also confirms that eutrophication is extensive in surface waters and emphasises the need for control of nutrient losses from all sources.

It is right that all sources of pollution should be addressed, whether arising in agriculture, urban waste water, industry or any other activity. A wide range of measures is being progressed for this purpose, including a national nitrates action programme, to protect waters against pollution from agriculture, the comprehensive strengthening of river basin management in the context of implementation of the water framework directive and under the water services investment programme, which incorporates the rural water programme, regarding the treatment of waste water discharges and the provision of drinking water supplies.

In so far as waste water discharges are concerned, the EPA report points to the need for continued investment in the upgrading of our waste water treatment plants and makes reference to specific areas that merit ongoing attention, such as nutrient removal from waste water discharges and the need to address point source pollution from sewage treatment plants. In the region of €1.7 billion was invested in new waste water infrastructure under the national development plan in the four year period up to the end of 2004. As a result, enormous strides have been made in meeting our targets under the EU urban waste water treatment directive and in improving the quality of the receiving waters.

Compliance with the December 2005 deadline of the directive, which requires secondary treatment for discharges from agglomerations to a population equivalent of 2000 or more in the case of fresh or estuarial waters, stood at 25% at the start of the NDP. That has now risen to some 90%. All remaining schemes needed to achieve full compliance with the directive are included in my Department's water services investment programme, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The increase in waste water treatment capacity in the 2001-04 period is equivalent to the needs of a population of some 2.9 million — seven times more than the increase achieved over the entire duration of the previous NDP from 1994 to 1999. The commitment in the programme for government for secondary waste water treatment facilities to be put in place for every location with a population of more than 1,000 is also now being implemented under the water services investment programme.

My Department is currently examining the EPA report with a view to identifying any municipal waste water discharges where investment in new or upgraded waste water infrastructure is required that has not already been provided for in the current phase of the water services investment programme. It should also be borne in mind that the EPA's water quality in Ireland report covers the period up to 2003 and does not take account of the many new waste water treatment plants that have been commissioned in the meantime.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

EU Directives.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

53 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the draft action plan on the implementation of the nitrates directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22294/05]

Discussions involving officials of my Department, the Department of Agriculture and Food, and the EU Commission are ongoing on Ireland's nitrates action programme and I expect to be in a position to submit a final version of the programme to the Commission shortly.

Waste Disposal.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

54 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the communication he has had with Northern Ireland Office officials and Ministers regarding cross-Border transportation of waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22298/05]

Since the establishment in 2004 by the Office of Environmental Enforcement of a national enforcement network, there has been regular contact between relevant officials from the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland and our own enforcement authorities.

The function of the enforcement network is to harness the collective resources, expertise and investigative capacity of all the players engaged in dealing with environmental crime in Ireland. The participants include all the local authorities, the Office of Environmental Enforcement, the Garda Síochána, including its national bureau of criminal investigations, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Environment and Heritage Service and Police Service of Northern Ireland.

A priority initial focus of the network is to deal with unauthorised waste activity in Ireland and, in particular, the issue of illegal cross-Border movement of waste from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. The network is bringing a level of consistency and focus to waste enforcement in Ireland that did not exist prior to its establishment and targeted roadblocks and inspections of suspect premises have occurred. Senior officials from my Department will meet their Northern Ireland counterparts on 30 June to exchange views on a range of waste management issues, including criminal activity. I intend as soon as practicable to arrange a corresponding meeting at ministerial level.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

55 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his policy regarding genetically modified crops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22297/05]

Ireland's positive but precautionary policy on modern biotechnology is based on the work of the interdepartmental group on modern biotechnology, October 2000, whose report was endorsed by the Government. The report concluded that we should acknowledge the potential benefits of genetic engineering while maintaining a fundamental commitment to safety and environmental sustainability, based on scientific risk assessment and management.

With regard to crops and foodstuffs, the authorisation of genetically modified products takes place at EU level and each member state has an input to the process. Each individual proposal is considered on its own merits, taking particular account of the advice of the relevant advisory agencies. Ireland, on the basis of its stated policy, has supported the authorisation of some but not all products, following careful case by case assessment involving the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food Safety Authority, Teagasc and the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Health and Children and Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Building Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

56 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that the minimum building standards in apartments regarding heat and noise insulation are satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22266/05]

The amended part L — conservation of fuel and energy — of the building regulations 2002 and the related technical guidance document E, 2002 edition, came into effect on 1 January 2003 and set significantly higher insulation levels and thermal performance standards for new dwellings, including apartments, subject to the transitional exemption of new dwellings for which planning permission had been applied for on or before 31 December 2002. This transitional provision will expire on 31 December 2005. In accordance with Article 4 of the EU energy performance of buildings directive, 2002/91/EC, part L standards will again be reviewed by 2008.

Part E — sound — of the building regulations 1997 and the related technical guidance document E, 1997 edition, sets out requirements for sound insulation in buildings. HomeBond is carrying out a major study of sound insulation standards in Ireland and selected other EU member states, which is due to be completed by the end of this year. I intend to initiate a review of part E and the related technical guidance document E in 2006, in the light of the results of the HomeBond study and in consultation with the building regulations advisory body, BRAB.

The Building Control Act 1990 assigns responsibility for complying with the building regulations, including parts L and E, primarily to the owners, designers and builders of the buildings involved. Under the 1990 Act, local building control authorities are empowered to monitor buildings for compliance with the building regulations and to take enforcement action where necessary.

Local Authority Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

57 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authorities which have constructed new headquarters or made substantial improvements to existing headquarters in the past five years; the amount spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22318/05]

The provision of office accommodation for a local authority is primarily a matter for the local authority concerned. Section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001 requires local authorities to obtain sanction to borrow money. Under this provision, 19 local authorities received sanction, in the period 2000 to 2004, to borrow a total of €252 million for the provision, extension or refurbishment of local authority headquarter offices. In each case, the decision to borrow for these purposes is a reserved function and requires a formal resolution of the council.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

58 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the consultants’ report advising on EU Regulation 2037/2000 (details supplied) which was commissioned in 2003 by the EPA at the request of his Department, and which has been received by the EPA, will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22215/05]

The report, Gap Analysis for the Implementation of EC Regulation 2037/2000 on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency and prepared by the consultants URS Ireland Limited, will be posted on the EPA's website, www.epa.ie, shortly. I will also arrange for copies to be placed in the Oireachtas Library.

Waste Disposal.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

59 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on his recent policy directions on action against illegal waste activity. [22288/05]

Waste enforcement activities in individual cases are primarily a matter for the local authorities concerned and/or the office of environmental enforcement. However, section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996 authorises the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to give general directions to the Environmental Protection Agency and/or local authorities on waste management plans, waste licensing, the movement of waste and other matters. The powers conferred by section 60 do not extend to individual cases. The legislation precludes the Minister from exercising any power or control regarding the performance in particular circumstances by the agency or a local authority of their waste management functions.

On 3 May 2005, I gave policy directions under section 60 which addressed both action against illegal waste activity and movement of waste. With regard to the former, the stated purpose of the direction was to encourage an intensification of action against illegal waste activity, which includes unauthorised disposal of waste, such as the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste, and enhance the response of local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency in ensuring the protection of the environment and human health and the prosecution of offenders. In determining the nature of such prosecutions regard is to be had to the elimination of the economic benefit deriving from the illegal activity.

Key features of the policy direction include: enhancing the response of local authorities in ensuring the protection of the environment and the health of local communities, including appropriate respect for the property rights of individual householders; a recognition that law abiding waste operators are being put at a disadvantage by the illegal operators; ensuring that local authorities are directed to draw up an inventory of all sites where illegal waste recovery or disposal has taken place; adequate management and monitoring to ensure that immediate and longer term impacts are assessed and addressed at the affected sites; and removal of all hazardous waste. The direction specifically requires that particular consideration be given to certain sites: lands near to existing or planned residential development or educational facilities; wetlands; natural heritage areas, candidate special areas of conservation or special protection areas; and places of special interest such as high amenity areas.

The proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency to reinforce this general policy direction with a detailed code of practice using its powers under the Environmental Protection Act is also welcome. The recent direction has clarified the policy framework while the agency, as primary regulator and supervisor of local authorities in regard to the environment, will supplement this with the necessary supporting technical detail.

Radon Gas Levels.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

60 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of the funding allocated for radon barriers which has been spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22270/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

65 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to restore the radon remediation grant to enable persons to take adequate prevention measures to protect their homes from the major public health threat posed by radon gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22008/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 65 together.

Over the years, the Government, largely through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon and public health. While the provision of Exchequer grant assistance for remediation works is not envisaged, efforts will continue to be directed at improving information to householders so as to enable and encourage them to address monitoring or remedial requirements effectively and economically.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Archaeological Sites.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

62 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the legal basis for contesting the ownership and other issues relating to the Lusitania; and the estimated legal bills to cover the run up of all parties over the years about the matter. [22325/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

115 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the stance taken by Dúchas underwater heritage on the Lusitania; if it related to an effort to safeguard the alleged existence of priceless paintings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22326/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 115 together.

My Department has not contested the ownership of the Lusitania. In 1995, following reports of divers, concerns were raised regarding the integrity of the Lusitania wreck and an underwater heritage order was placed on it. The effect of the order was to extend to the wreck of the Lusitania the same protection under the National Monuments Acts as would automatically apply to historic wrecks over 100 years old in Irish territorial waters. Archaeologists from my Department applied the same procedures to the wreck site as operate for other wrecks protected under the legislation.

The owner of the Lusitania sought a judicial review of the Minister’s decision to refuse a licence under section 3(5) of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987. The High Court judgment, which was delivered on 17 June 2005, is currently under consideration in my Department in consultation with the Chief State Solicitor’s office. The judgment is complex but inter alia the High Court found that the provisions of section 3(5) of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987 applied to the wreck. However, in the particular circumstances the refusal of the section 3(5) licence in 2001 was deemed ultra vires the power of the Minister. Legal costs in respect of this action have not yet been determined.

Register of Electors.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

63 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he met with two persons (details supplied) regarding the future of Thom’s Directory, arising from changes to section 4 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001; if his attention was subsequently drawn to a newspaper report of the meeting; if his office was the source of the information in the newspaper article; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22227/05]

On 4 April 2005, together with officials of my Department, I met representatives of Thom's Directories who are seeking changes to electoral law in so far as it relates to use of the register of electors for other than electoral or other statutory purposes. On 18 May 2005, I received from one of the representatives concerned correspondence about a newspaper article on the issue. Neither I, my office, nor the departmental officials concerned provided or arranged for briefing for this article.

Housing Policy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

64 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of any discussion he has held with the Department of Finance regarding the impact of tax incentives and exemptions on the housing market. [22329/05]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

135 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has discussed with the Department of Finance the impact on the housing market of tax incentives such as section 23 and section 50 tax relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22327/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 135 together.

Taxation policy is a matter for the Minister for Finance. However, there is ongoing liaison between my Department and the Department of Finance regarding the impact of taxation measures on the housing market. The Department of Finance and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners have initiated a detailed review of certain tax incentive schemes and tax exemptions, in advance of budget 2006.

Two consultancy studies are currently under way, which involve consultation with relevant Departments. One, a review of four area based renewal schemes, is required, inter alia, to consider the impact that the schemes have had on the housing market and their interaction with other policy objectives in this regard. The second study is a review of 11 property based tax incentive schemes, including the scheme of relief for third level student accommodation, and in this regard it is required to consider the contribution that this scheme has made to an increase in the supply of residential accommodation for third level students and any consequent effects on the wider housing market.

Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Local Authority Briefings.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

66 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all city and county managers have met with their respective Oireachtas Members as required by law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22312/05]

There is a requirement under the Local Government Act 2001 (Section 237A) Regulations 2003, for each county or city manager to arrange to meet with local parliamentary representatives as a group at least annually. It is understood from informal inquiries made with local authorities that since the regulations came into force, all managers have met with some or all of their relevant parliamentary representatives. These meetings have generally been held in the specific manner envisaged by the regulations, although some have also been on an individual basis with Oireachtas Members.

As indicated in earlier replies to questions on this topic, I intend this year to obtain more detailed information from local authorities on the practical application of the scheme to date. Arising from this I will, if necessary, issue supplementary guidance to local authorities taking account of the responses on the matter and the need to ensure that the regulations are being adhered to by all local authorities.

Homeless Persons.

David Stanton

Ceist:

67 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the LINK system; the length of time this system has been in operation; if this system has been extended to any local authorities outside the Dublin area; if not, the reason therefor; the success of this system in improving data collection, service delivery and services for homeless persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22373/05]

It is recognised that a comprehensive data system is essential to monitor progress in addressing homelessness. In response to this, the Homeless Agency, in conjunction with homeless service providers in Dublin, developed the LINK system in 2001 with funding provided by my Department. The purpose of the system is to improve and develop services and service delivery to homeless persons to ensure they receive a continuum of care based on an accurate and up to date assessment of their needs.

The LINK system is intended to help the local authorities to formulate appropriate responses to the accommodation needs of homeless households and individuals. It also facilitates the identification of their non-accommodation requirements and provides a basis for appropriate responses to their case and support needs by the statutory and voluntary agencies involved. Currently, 23 different services in eight different organisations use the system. These include emergency accommodation providers, advice and information services, outreach teams and settlement services. It is intended to extend the usage of LINK to all services in Dublin as soon as possible.

With regard to its development in other local authority areas, it is considered appropriate to finalise its installation in the Dublin area before any future extension of the system.

Planning Issues.

John Perry

Ceist:

68 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action to be taken in the immediate future on foot of the publication of the South East Agenda 2020 report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22276/05]

The South East Agenda 2020 report was prepared by a south east agenda task force on behalf of the south east chambers of commerce. At the invitation of the sponsors I was pleased to launch the report last week.

South East Agenda 2020 takes account of the Government's national spatial strategy, which sets out a 20 year planning framework designed to enable every part of the country to achieve its potential. A significant milestone in the implementation of the national spatial strategy was reached with the adoption by all regional authorities of regional planning guidelines to create a strategic context for local planning. I look forward to the South East Agenda 2020 report feeding into the implementation arrangements for the regional planning guidelines in the south east region and I have asked the implementation group which has been put in place for the regional planning guidelines to take account of the report as it takes its work forward. I have also urged the south east chambers of commerce and regional and local authorities to work closely together in achieving the many common and complementary aims set out in this report and in the regional planning guidelines.

Radon Gas Levels.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

69 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the statement by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland that the only proper precaution for homes against the dangers of radon gas is to ensure that they are tested for radon after they have been occupied, he will introduce a Statewide programme under the auspices of the RPII to test the radon levels in all homes in the State. [22334/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

85 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to amend the building regulations to take account of the threat to public health from dangerously high concentrations of radon gas occurring in 10% of new homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22009/05]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

106 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of deaths his Department estimates are attributable to exposure to radon in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22282/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

124 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the RPII’s anti-radon programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22229/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

790 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland survey which indicated that dangerously high levels of naturally occurring radon gas were detected in 10% of new homes fitted with radon barriers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22032/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 85, 106, 124 and 790 together.

It is not possible to ascribe any individual death directly to exposure to radon, particularly as a recent European study published in the British Medical Journal on 21 December 2004 shows that the risk of contracting lung cancer from radon is 25 times greater for smokers. However, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland estimates that about 10% to 15% of all lung cancer deaths in Ireland may be linked to radon. This equates to about 150 to 200 lung cancer deaths annually.

The Government has in recent years, largely through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon. In addition, my Department, in June 1997, introduced upgraded building regulations which required all new houses which commenced construction on or after 1 July 1998 to incorporate radon protection measures at the time of construction. In October 2004, my Department published an updated edition of technical guidance document C on part C of the building regulations — site preparation and resistance to moisture — incorporating enhanced radon prevention measures for new buildings commencing on or after 1 April 2005. This new guidance document is aimed at ensuring that the 1997 radon protection measures are carried out more effectively.

The updated technical guidance document also recommends, but does not require, that radon levels be measured after completion and occupation of new buildings to verify that the radon levels are below the national reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, Bq/m3. I do not, however, propose to make such measurements mandatory and my Department is not aware of any equivalent mandatory requirement in building regulations within the EU or elsewhere.

I am aware that the institute has published the results of radon surveys undertaken by it of a number of houses in Kilkenny built before and after July 1998 when the updated 1997 regulations standards came into effect. The most recent survey, in Kilkenny, showed that of the 33 post-July 1998 built houses surveyed, three, or 10%, had radon concentrations above the national reference level, including one which had radon concentrations of over seven times the reference level. However, the survey results also showed a reduction of some 33% in the average radon concentrations in the post-July 1998 built houses compared with the average concentration for houses surveyed by the institute under its national radon survey in the earlier part of that decade.

While the recent survey results from the institute demonstrate the positive impact of the radon preventative measures required under the 1997 building regulations, they also demonstrate that the building regulations alone are not a guarantee that houses are completely protected against radon. The enhanced radon prevention measures for new houses, which I announced last October and which call for radon sump outlets to be clearly identified, should help to further raise awareness among householders and the building industry.

There are no plans to introduce a countrywide programme to test the radon levels in all homes in the State. A major nationwide radon survey was undertaken by the institute in the 1990s. In all, over 11,000 houses were measured. Of these, about 9% had radon concentration above the national reference level. On the basis of this survey, the RPII has estimated that about 91,000 houses or 7% of the national housing stock would have radon concentration above the reference level.

The institute is concerned that only a little over 3,000 of the 91,000 houses in the country estimated to have radon concentration above the reference level have been identified. Therefore, within the past 12 months, the institute has been intensifying its campaign to further heighten public awareness of radon. The institute's new initiatives have included publishing a booklet entitled Understanding Radon — A Householder's Guide and the production of an information poster for display in public places such as libraries, medical centres and so forth. In addition, the institute has recently embarked on a series of nationwide public information seminars which will be targeted at selected high radon areas. These seminars have received widespread media coverage and have generated a large number of inquiries from the public.

There are positive indications that the institute's radon awareness programmes are impacting on the public. I understand that in 2004 the number of requests for radon measurements received by the institute from householders was almost 3,000, which was more than the combined total for the previous three years. Testing of domestic dwellings for radon is straightforward and inexpensive, approximately €40 per home. I urge householders, particular those in high radon areas, to check their house for radon concentrations and carry out remediation work if recommended to do so.

Both my Department and the institute will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness on the dangers of radon and every effort will continue to be directed at improving information to householders so as to enable them to address monitoring or remedial requirements effectively and economically.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

70 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there is evidence of widespread abuses in the rent allowance system; the number of cases of alleged abuse that have been brought to his attention; the amount of rent allowance being wrongly claimed in respect of each alleged abuse; if his attention has been drawn to any tenants in receipt of the rent allowance not living in the dwelling concerned and subletting it; the number of such cases to which his attention has been drawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22212/05]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

139 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of alleged abuses of the rent allowance system which have been brought to his attention in his capacity as a public representative; when his attention was drawn to each such case; the action taken in respect of each case; if he will specify the type and scope of information he has requested from the Department of Social and Family affairs in respect of alleged abuses of the rent allowance system; when he expects to receive a report from that Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22213/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 139 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 137 and 170 of 18 May 2005 in which I indicated that the Department of Social and Family Affairs had been asked to look into this matter and to take such actions as it considered appropriate.

Disabled Person’s Grant Scheme.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

71 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a local authority (details supplied) enforces a claw-back clause on properties that have been improved with money provided under the disabled person’s grants scheme; if he will report on the prevalence of this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22269/05]

The administration of the disabled person's grants scheme is delegated to local authorities within the framework laid down in statutory regulations; as far as practicable, this is designed to give an appropriate degree of flexibility at local level. The majority of authorities have reviewed their schemes in recent years to streamline their operation and have introduced a variety of mechanisms to ensure that the available resources are targeted to those in most need. In a number of cases, including in the local authority referred to in the question, this includes a claw-back mechanism whereby the grant advanced is secured by way of a charge on the property for a certain number of years.

In the event of the property being sold or otherwise transferred within that period, a certain proportion of the grant advanced would fall to be repaid to the local authority. This is intended to ensure that works which are grant-aided serve the needs of a disabled person for a certain specified minimum period of time. The issue of claw-backs will be considered further within the overall context of the review of the operation of the disabled person's grants scheme which has been under way in my Department.

Register of Electors.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

72 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of recent research that shows that there were between 660,000 and 800,000 surplus polling cards issued for general election 2002 and that the Irish electorate is far larger than the adult population, he plans to devote the necessary resources and develop adequate systems in order that a centrally co-ordinated, computerised and widely accessible electoral register can be established, in order that an independent body is established to oversee this development and the maintenance of the system, in order that the register can be thoroughly checked on a house-to-house basis in advance of the next poll and in order to allow for names on the electoral register to be cross-checked with a database such as the database of PPS numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22342/05]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

87 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the way in which the register of electors accurately reflects the actual electorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22267/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

98 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the serious disparity between the numbers recorded in successive censuses and the numbers on the electoral register; his views on whether inaccuracies in the electoral register might give rise to risk of electoral fraud; the steps he intends to take to ensure that the register used in the next general election is accurate; if, in particular, he intends to review the methods used for reviewing the register each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22228/05]

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

123 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans to instigate an urgent review of the register of electors following media revelations concerning its inaccuracy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22268/05]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

792 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to streamline the electoral register, eliminate duplication and so on; if he is considering a centralised computerised system based on PPS numbers as in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22059/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 87, 98, 123 and 792 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 24 and 26 on today's Order Paper.

Environmental Policy.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

73 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action his Department will be taking on foot of Met Éireann’s report, Climate Change — Regional Model Predictions for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22320/05]

The Community Climate Change Consortium for Ireland, c4i, project, established in 2003, has allowed the development of a regional climate model facility for Ireland within Met Éireann. This will increase national capacity to analyse future climate conditions in Ireland and their impacts at local level.

The results outlined in the report, Climate Change — Regional Climate Model Predictions for Ireland, represent an early contribution to the task of predicting future impacts of climate change in Ireland. This information will be used to develop appropriate adaptation strategies to deal with these impacts. Adaptation strategies focus on integrating information on impacts into the formulation and development of policy and measures in this regard will be considered in the context of the upcoming review of the national climate change strategy.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

74 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he intends to take in respect of the two thirds of local authorities which failed to spend allocated funds on the provision of social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22222/05]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

110 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reasons for the failure of certain local authorities to spend funds allocated for social housing when there are almost 50,000 families on housing lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22223/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 110 together.

Since the beginning of the national development plan, spending by local authorities on social housing has been ahead of target. My Department, in its overall responsibility for managing housing capital budgets, seeks to ensure that these are allocated in accordance with individual needs to ensure that these resources are spent as effectively as possible. Where one authority might not require its full capital allocation in a particular year, my Department makes reassignments of balances to other authorities to cater for the increased pace of construction activity on other housing schemes.

The Government is allocating record levels of funding to local authorities for their social and affordable housing programmes in 2005. The total Exchequer capital funding available for social and affordable housing in 2005, taking account of the additional resources announced in the budget, will be almost €1.18 billion, which represents an increase of 17% on the outturn in 2004.

In association with this funding, my Department initiated the development by local authorities of new five-year action plans for social and affordable housing, to ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the effective use of these resources. Given the nature of continuous housing need, the preparation of these action plans is beneficial to local authorities in identifying priority needs over the coming years and providing a coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services, including delivery of housing by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector. All of these action plans have now been approved by my Department.

Archaeological Sites.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

75 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if media reports that the decision to roll over the Woodstown Viking site in Waterford for the city’s N25 bypass on the basis that it would be the most cost effective option is accurate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22295/05]

Subsequent to the approval of the Waterford bypass road scheme by An Bord Pleanála, test archaeological investigations were carried out which revealed the existence of the Viking site at Woodstown. A proposal to preserve the site underneath the road was made to my Department. An internal working document, evaluating various options including full excavation and preservation under the road, suggested inter alia that preservation under the road could be the most cost effective option. At the same time, as the nature of the site became clearer, there were ongoing consultations with the road authority and the National Museum of Ireland on the optimum solution for this site.

In August 2004 the Minister directed that further investigations be carried out to assist assessment of the archaeological nature and potential of the site. Subsequent to the carrying out of these studies, the NRA indicated that it favoured an alternative route.

On 11 May 2005 I issued directions requiring the protection of the Viking site. I am currently setting up a working group to advise on the long-term strategy to deal with the site. The working group will include representatives of my Department, the National Museum of Ireland, Waterford City Council and the NRA.

Water Quality.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

76 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plan of action for the improvement in the quality of groundwater sources, in particular for drinking purposes, particularly with regard to the high instance of faecal coliforms and to the guide limit exceedence of nitrate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22210/05]

In general, where any person carries out an activity that involves a risk to groundwater, that person carries primary responsibility for protecting the groundwater against pollution. Among public authorities, responsibility for the protection of groundwater is assigned principally to local authorities under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and related regulations. In addition, local authorities have statutory responsibilities for the provision of drinking water supplies, for upholding the quality standards prescribed by the European Communities drinking water regulations 2000 and for protection of drinking water sources, including groundwater drinking water sources.

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, exercises general supervision of the performance by local authorities of their environmental protection functions and has responsibility for groundwater protection in the context of its own licensing, monitoring and other functions. Guidelines on the preparation of groundwater protection schemes have been developed by the EPA, the Geological Survey of Ireland and my Department and issued to local authorities.

Monitoring of the overall quality of groundwaters is undertaken by both the local authorities and the EPA in the context of its national groundwater quality monitoring programme. Data generated by the programme are included in the EPA reports, Water Quality in Ireland, copies of which are in the Oireachtas Library. The report for the period 2001-03 indicates localised pollution of groundwater in certain areas but no widespread pollution of particular aquifers.

In addition, monitoring is carried out by both local authorities and the EPA in the context of monitoring the quality of drinking water supplies. The most recent EPA report on the quality of drinking water in Ireland, 2003, a copy of which is in the Oireachtas Library, confirms that the overall quality of drinking water in Ireland remains generally high. The overall compliance rate for all supplies in 2003 was 96.1%, an improvement of 0.2% on the 2002 compliance rate. The report also confirms continued improvement in the compliance rate for faecal coliforms in both public and group water supplies. The 2003 report confirmed over 99% compliance with the nitrate standard in drinking water schemes.

The majority of problems encountered with drinking water supplies in Ireland occur in private group water schemes. While breaches in water quality standards in these schemes are generally not extreme, my Department is giving high priority to the remediation of quality problems where they occur. Under my Department's rural water programme, a record €125 million is provided in 2005 for improving the quality of rural water supplies, particularly the privately sourced group water schemes.

In addition, a national nitrates action programme is being developed to give further effect to the nitrates directive, 91/676/EEC, which is designed to protect waters against pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources. I expect to be in a position to submit a final version of the programme to the European Commission shortly. The programme is due to come into effect on 1 January 2006.

The Water Services Bill 2003 which has been passed by Seanad Éireann and is awaiting scheduling for Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann contains a number of provisions to address or facilitate source protection of water supplies. The Bill provides that it will be an offence to cause water in a waterworks, including streams, wells and reservoirs, to become polluted. The Bill also places an obligation on occupiers of premises to ensure that drains and treatment systems, including septic tanks, are maintained in such condition as to ensure that they do not cause a risk to human health or the environment.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

77 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he proposes to take to ensure that Ireland can cut greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the trend whereby carbon emissions are almost twice the level allocated under the Kyoto Protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22232/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

118 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the fact that the latest annual report from the European Environmental Agency has found that total EU emissions rose by 1.5% in 2003. [22332/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

128 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the recent report which stated that Ireland was the sixth worst performer in the EU regarding its failure to achieve set targets under the Kyoto Protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22315/05]

I propose to take Question Nos. 77, 118 and 128 together.

The European Environmental Agency, EEA, report, Annual European Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2003 and Inventory Report 2005, published on 21 June 2005, collates latest available greenhouse gas emissions figures from all EU member states. Collectively, emissions of all greenhouse gases rose by 1.5% from 2002 to 2003 across the 25 member states and by 1.3% for the EU 15. Among the EU 15, Ireland is one of only two member states to have achieved reductions in its emissions over this period.

Greenhouse gas emissions figures for Ireland are compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency and published in an annual national inventory report. The latest available figures for Ireland are for 2003 and show overall emissions to be 66.57 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. This figure is equivalent to approximately 25% above 1990 levels. According to the EEA report, this is equivalent to a year on year reduction of 2.6%, showing that progress is being made towards the 13% target. The decline in Ireland has been due to a number of factors, including the closure of the IFI fertiliser plant, increased use of cleaner fuels in electricity production and continued decreases in emissions from the agriculture sector.

The national climate change strategy identifies a range of policies and measures to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions across various sectors in the most efficient and equitable manner. In addition to the policies and measures set out in the strategy, progress towards meeting Ireland's Kyoto target will also be achieved through emissions reductions by installations participating in the EU emissions trading scheme which was not yet in place during the period covered by the EEA report and through Government purchase of allowances.

Work is in progress in my Department on a review of the national climate change strategy, taking account of developments since its publication in 2000. A key purpose of this review will be to ensure the adequacy of existing measures and the development, where appropriate, of additional measures. While my Department has overall responsibility for the strategy, it is a matter for Departments with direct responsibility for each sector identified in the strategy to implement the optimum mix of policies and measures to control and reduce Ireland's overall level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste Disposal.

John Gormley

Ceist:

78 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the latest report from the Health Research Board on the health effects of living near incinerators or landfills relied on a review of literature and was not based on original research conducted here; his views on whether such research based on evidence here will be conducted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20938/05]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

125 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason it took more than two years to publish his response to the Health Research Board study of the health effects of landfill and incineration, which was eventually published on 7 June 2005; if he will report on the Government’s proposals for incinerators and landfill sites, in view of the Health Research Board study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22225/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 125 together.

The Health Research Board report was commissioned as a literature review which is a recognised research tool. This is particularly so where original research is precluded, as in this case by the absence in Ireland of facilities for the thermal treatment of municipal waste.

My response to the report was put on hold to allow regard to be had to other and more recent research findings in detailed consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, close regard was had to a UK Government report on a review of environmental and health effects of waste Management, 2004, which extended the analysis to the impact of facilities based on the latest thermal treatment and landfill technologies, and to a discussion paper prepared by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Taken together, I am advised that the reports show that modern, properly regulated waste disposal facilities do not present a threat to human health or the environment.

Local Authority Staff.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

79 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the introduction of a students summer jobs scheme for local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22314/05]

The employment of staff is a matter for each local authority. It is open to the authorities to provide short-term summer employment for students. Such employment could meet relevant requirements of the local government sector, as well as offering work experience of benefit to the students concerned. The cost of any such summer employment would be met from the authorities' own resources and from other income received, including general purpose grants from the local government fund.

Freedom of Information.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

80 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of freedom of information requests his Department received in the first six months of 2005; the nature of these requests; and the comparable data for the first six months of 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22370/05]

The table gives the information requested by the Deputy.

Category of Requestor

2005 Jan-June

2004 Jan-June

2003 Jan-June

2002 Jan-June

Media

26

11

48

22

Business/ Interest Groups

12

16

35

31

Oireachtas/ Public Reps

6

3

20

14

Staff

1

3

1

1

General Public

24

30

105

87

Totals

69

63

209

155

Natural Heritage Areas.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

81 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date with regard to curbing recreational activities that may adversely affect sites protected under the habitats directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22279/05]

Draft amending regulations to the habitats regulations 1997 are being finalised in my Department to include greater powers to control activities that may adversely affect protected sites such as the use of quad bikes. I also understand that some local authorities have made or are in the process of making by-laws to regulate such activities in upland or other vulnerable habitats.

Local Authority Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

82 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount that has been awarded to persons in each local authority following the recent introduction of performance indicators; the areas of performance that have been rewarded and the reason therefor; the areas identified that have failed to meet the standard; the action envisaged in respect of these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21992/05]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

778 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount paid in bonus payments to staff in local authorities, on a county basis, following the introduction of performance indicators; if he will outline the indicators; the areas of performance that met the standards set and the areas that failed to meet pre-set standards; if reporting of performance by local authorities is audited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23150/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 778 together.

Following the recommendation of the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector, in its September 2000 report, a scheme of performance related awards was introduced in the local authority sector for managers, assistant managers and directors of services, commencing with the calendar year 2003. The operation of the scheme is monitored by a committee for performance awards, the specific functions of which are to: validate objectives established for managers, assistant managers and directors of services of local authorities; review self-assessments of performance by managers; decide on performance related payments for managers; approve recommendations made by managers for performance related payments to grades other than managers.

The committee's report on the operation of the scheme for 2003, including an outline of the requirements in regard to objectives and performance, is available on the website of my Department at www.environ.ie. A copy of the 2003 report has also been sent to the Oireachtas Library. The 2004 report will be available shortly.

Information naming officials and the individual amounts paid to them is deemed a personal record and, consequently, is not publicly available. However, the overall pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for the grades concerned and, within the overall limit, individuals may receive payments of up to 20% of pay. In a separate initiative introduced in 2004, performance across local government against a series of 42 service indicators will be published annually and I expect to have the first report, for 2004, from the Local Government Management Services Board within the next month.

Litter Pollution.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

83 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to extend the city neighbourhood competition to other major population centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22272/05]

The city neighbourhoods competition was established in 2003 on a two year pilot basis. The aim was to replicate the success of the national Tidy Towns competition in the five cities, by encouraging city communities, in partnership with business interests and local authorities, to actively engage in maintaining and enhancing their local environment. On completion of the pilot phase this year, I will review the situation and consider the question of extending the competition.

Planning Issues.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

84 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will publish his planning and development regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22308/05]

The Planning and Development Regulations (No. 2) 2005 are at an advanced stage of preparation and will be published as soon as possible.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 69.

EU Directives.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

86 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the exact transposition dates for the six directives in his Department’s area of responsibility which are outstanding for transposition; the progress made to date to transpose each one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22214/05]

I am fully aware of the importance of timely transposition of EU environmental legislation, some 200 items of which, including more than 140 directives, have by now been transposed in this country. There are seven directives in my Department's area of responsibility which are outstanding for transposition. These are: 2000/53/EC — end-of-life vehicles: this directive was due for transposition by 21 April 2002 with obligations imposed under the directive effective in respect of new vehicles sold after 1 July 2002 from that date and from 1 January 2007 for all other vehicles — it is anticipated that this directive will be fully transposed in 2005; 2002/49/EC — assessment and management of environmental noise: drafting of regulations to transpose this directive which was due for transposition by 18 July 2004 is well advanced and transposition is intended during this summer; 2002/88/EC — measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery and 2004/26/EC — amending directive 97/68/EC on the approximation of the laws of member states relating to emissions from internal combustion engines in non-mobile road machinery: draft regulations transposing both directives are nearing completion with a view to transposition during this summer — the first directive was due for transposition by 11 August 2004 and the second by 20 May 2005; 2002/95/EC and 2002/96/EC, with its amending directive 2003/108/EC: these two related directives deal, respectively, with restrictions on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and arrangements for dealing with waste electrical and electronic equipment and were due for transposition by 13 August 2004 — they will be fully transposed before 13 August 2005 when the take-back of electrical and electronic waste will become operable; and 2003/4/EC — public access to environmental information, repealing directive 90/313/EEC: legislative proposals for the transposition of this directive are in drafting. The directive was due for transposition by 14 February 2005. It is intended that it will be transposed by the end of the year.

Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Child Care Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

88 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 18 May 2005, if his Department will collate and make available data regarding the number of child care places that have been delivered as a result of compliance with Childcare Facilities: Guidelines for Planning Authorities; his views on whether it is impossible to assess the effectiveness of the guidelines in the absence of such data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22331/05]

As indicated in my previous reply, formal statistics on the number of child care places that have been delivered in accordance with the planning guidelines for child care facilities are not collated by my Department. However, a sample survey of a number of planning authorities was recently conducted by my Department to determine the number of child care facilities and child care places being applied for. The returns for 2003 and 2004 are shown in the table.

County/City Council

Year

No. of applications

No. of Places

Dublic City Council

2003

37

N/A

2004

36

N/A

Limerick County Council

2003

6

291

2004

6

340

Meath County Council

2003

43

1,634

2004

26

858

Cork City Council

2003

3

172

2004

2

20

Wicklow Town

2003

0

0

2004

1

20

While this is a small survey, with estimated returns, it is indicative of the substantial numbers of child care facilities and places being provided through the planning process in accordance with the guidelines.

It is regarded as good practice for ministerial guidelines to be reviewed after they have been in operation for a number of years. When that review takes place, the views of planning authorities and other stakeholders on the effectiveness of the guidelines will be sought in a more structured way. In the meantime, the possibility of collecting more complete statistics on the number of child care facilities and places for which planning permission is being granted will be examined, in consultation with the Local Government Computer Services Board.

Local Authority Functions.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

89 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has considered giving local authorities a specific role in the effort to reduce emissions output. [22336/05]

Local authorities have a role in controlling emissions to air and water. With regard to emissions to air, under the Air Pollution Act 1987, primary responsibility for monitoring air quality, as well as the nature, extent and effects of emissions, rests with local authorities. Statutory responsibility for the enforcement of the Act is vested in local authorities which are empowered to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit air pollution. They may direct a person on whom notice is served to take such measures as may be specified to prevent or limit air pollution.

With regard to emissions to water, local authorities, as statutory pollution control authorities, have a key role to play in protecting water resources. The necessary powers to fulfil these responsibilities are provided for in the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977 and 1990 — the principal legal framework for the prevention of water pollution. Local authorities which license point sources, other than those licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency, can attach specific pollution conditions in licensing effluent discharges to waters or sewers from industry.

All appropriate conditions for environmental protection, monitoring and so forth are attached to licences, including emission limit values, ELVs, and minimum standards. ELVs are set at a level which provides a high level of environmental protection and which complies with European Community legislation, where relevant.

The Water Quality (Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2001 provide that licences granted by the Environmental Protection Agency or local authorities under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977, the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 or the Waste Management Act 1996 must reflect the prescribed standards. The standards had immediate effect, as and from 1 July 2001, for new licence applications. Existing licences had to be reviewed and, where necessary, revised to meet the prescribed standards within five years of that date. The regulations place an onus on the Environmental Protection Agency and on local authorities to ensure that the standards are complied with by 31 December 2010 and that, where the existing condition of waters does not meet a particular standard, there is no disimprovement in water quality in the meantime.

The role of local authorities on climate change is set out in chapter 10 of the national climate change strategy, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Recycling Policy.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

91 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that although farmers pay to have all of their waste silage plastic collected and recycled, only 42% of this material is collected; the reason for this shortfall; if the money gathered in respect of the remaining 58% of this plastic has been accounted for; the steps he intends to take to ensure that 100% of waste silage plastic is collected and recycled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22207/05]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

111 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will identify all the local authorities which accept inorganic farming waste for recycling; the types and volumes of inorganic farming waste collected and recycled by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22206/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 111 together.

Under the Waste Management (Farm Plastics) Regulations 2001, producers — that is, manufacturers and importers — of farm plastics, silage bale wrap and sheeting are required to take steps to recover farm plastics waste which they have placed on the market or alternatively to contribute to, and participate in, compliance schemes to recover the waste in question. The farm plastics recovery scheme operated by the Irish farm films producers group, IFFPG, is the sole "approved body" in Ireland at present for the purposes of implementing a compliance scheme for farm plastics waste and has operated successfully to date, funding the collection and recycling of 9,000 tonnes of farm plastics in 2004, representing in excess of 50% of farm plastics placed on the market during that year. An estimated 55,000 farmers availed of this collection service over the course of 2004.

Under the IFFPG scheme, producers apply an environmental protection contribution, EPC, levy on the sale of farm plastics which, in turn, is transferred to the IFFPG for use in funding the collection and recovery of farm plastics waste. The IFFPG is a not-for-profit organisation and the rate of EPC levy applied is set by the company to ensure that its operational costs are covered. Manufacturers and importers who do not participate in the approved scheme, that is, self-compliers, are required under the regulations to operate a deposit and refund scheme, equating to a deposit-refund of €254 per tonne of farm plastic purchased-returned, for the collection and recovery of waste plastics, as well as comply with other onerous reporting requirements to local authorities.

The acceptance of inorganic farm waste at civic amenity sites is a matter for the individual local authorities engaged in the operation and management of these sites and for private operators also directly involved in the provision of such services. In broad terms, civic amenity sites are provided by local authorities to enable householders to bring a wide range of recyclable waste arising in the domestic sector for reception, storage and onward transfer to appropriate processing facilities. These recycling centres are not intended for general use by the commercial, industrial, construction or agricultural sectors. Responsibility for waste management in these sectors rests with the individual firms concerned and must be carried out in accordance with their legal obligations under the Waste Management Acts 1996-2003 and regulations made thereunder.

Notwithstanding the above, in light of the consistent and steady progress achieved by IFFPG since its inception, I am anxious to build on the success of the farm plastics scheme. In this context, I recently announced, in conjunction with the IFFPG, the launch of a feasibility study and pilot scheme to extend the operation of the scheme to recover other waste materials arising on farms such as fertiliser bags and used chemical containers that require environmentally sound and cost effective recovery outlets.

Water Services.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

92 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will identify the local authorities in which progress has been made to date in preparing for the metering of non-domestic water supplies; the progress which has been made in each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22199/05]

The Government's water services pricing policy framework requires the metering of all non-domestic customers by December 2006. The metering of the non-domestic sector is essential to ensure a transparent and equitable process for the full recovery of non-domestic water services costs.

All relevant local authorities have indicated that metering of non-domestic customers will be achieved within the 2006 deadline. In this regard, 13 authorities commenced their meter installation programmes in 2004 with the remaining authorities scheduled to commence installation work in 2005.

Planning Issues.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

93 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will publish his draft development management guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22309/05]

I expect to issue the draft development management guidelines for public consultation shortly.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

94 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the evaluation which is in place in his Department regarding the evaluation considerations contained on page 103 of the national spatial strategy; the additional resources available from his Department to ensure these considerations can be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21993/05]

Under the provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities must prepare housing strategies which take account of existing and likely future needs for housing. Any development plan made by a planning authority must include a housing strategy for the area of the development plan.

In exercising these functions it is a matter for each planning authority to ensure that provision is made in its area for an adequate supply of land for residential development in line with the assessment of needs in the housing strategy. Ensuring such supply requires, inter alia, the strategic reservation of land by planning authorities through the development plan process, coupled with ensuring timely and sequential release of land.

The evaluation considerations set out on page 103 of the national spatial strategy which was prepared by my Department relate to housing location in urban areas. These considerations were incorporated in the national spatial strategy for the purposes of assisting planning authorities in exercising their function of identifying the most appropriate locations for land for residential development in and adjacent to urban areas. The identification of these locations is a matter for the relevant planning authority and my Department has no function in the matter.

When a development plan has been prepared, the relevant planning authority is required to send my Department notification of this and a copy of the draft development plan. On examining the draft plan my Department may furnish comments, as appropriate, for consideration by the planning authority. In my Department's consideration of any development plan the matters considered are necessarily of a broad strategic nature such as whether the plan is consistent with the national spatial strategy and relevant regional planning guidelines and whether the statutory requirements with regard to the preparation and making of such plans have been complied with.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

95 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to have discussions with local authorities with regard to the implementation of the rural planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22321/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 311 of 22 June 2005.

Rental Accommodation Scheme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

96 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the progress to date of the rental accommodation scheme; if the first eligible recipients have been housed under this scheme; if not, the reason therefor; when they will be housed; if his Department will meet the target of 5,000 rent supplement recipients to be housed under this scheme by the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22372/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1078 of 12 April 2005 on general progress on the rental accommodation scheme.

To date no households have transferred to the scheme. The lead authorities, Dublin, Limerick and Galway City Councils, South Dublin, Offaly, Westmeath and Donegal County Councils and Drogheda Borough Council, are scheduled to commence the transfer of households from July. All other authorities are due to commence operation of the scheme before the end of the year. The transfer of 5,000 households remains the target for 2005 but the achievement of this target depends on the response from landlords and the voluntary-co-operative housing sector to the scheme. First indications are that the response is generally positive. My Department will closely monitor progress in the scheme in the coming months.

Planning Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

97 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on allowing a golf course development at Inch, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22374/05]

Outline proposals for the development of a links golf course at Inch, County Kerry, were presented to my Department in 2003. Having regard to the Department's responsibilities under the EU habitats directive, the implications for the conservation of the site were thoroughly assessed. After careful consideration of the matter, my Department's response was that the development of a golf course at this site would not be compatible with the conservation requirements of the site.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Water Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

99 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22303/05]

The Government's water services pricing policy framework provides for the full recovery of water services costs from all non-domestic customers on the basis of average operational and marginal capital costs and, to this end, the metering of the non-domestic sector by December 2006. The policy framework also reaffirms the prohibition on charging for domestic water services provided under the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1997. In the absence of water charges for domestic consumers, the costs of domestic water services are met from public funds, with capital costs met through my Department's water services investment programme and operational costs funded through the local government fund.

Waste Management.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

100 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the significant variations between local authorities in their responses to waste management complaints during 2004, particularly the variations in legal and enforcement action in the form of prosecutions and legal orders taken under the Waste Management Acts 1996-2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22219/05]

It is a matter for the relevant individual local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement to investigate any instances or reports of illegal disposal of waste and consider appropriate action in such cases. While I have no direct function in regard to these matters, I have recently issued a policy direction under section 60 of the Waste Management Act which inter alia seeks to bring a greater focus to local authority enforcement activity. I intend that the policy direction will facilitate a more uniform and consistent approach to waste enforcement and that this will be reflected in increased and more effective enforcement actions.

The Office of Environmental Enforcement supervises the environmental protection activities of the local authorities, through auditing their performance, providing advice and guidance and, in appropriate cases, giving binding directions. In this regard, the office is a resource for members of the public who have exhausted other avenues of complaint. The office has also commissioned a study which will benchmark enforcement activities and its results will be delivered in 2006.

Local Government Modernisation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

101 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to review and increase the powers and responsibilities of local government elected representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22313/05]

The local government modernisation programme provides an enhanced role for elected members in policy formulation and review, in partnership with representatives of the social partners and sectoral interests through the establishment of strategic policy committees. The role of the elected member is further strengthened through the operation of the corporate policy group which comprises the cathaoirleach and the chairs of the strategic policy committees acting as a mini-cabinet for the council. Additionally, local authorities have a lead role and wider sphere of influence in the county-city development board, CDB, system. The CDBs allow elected members a direct input into the services provided by other public bodies at local level.

The role of the locally elected representative has also been enhanced by the creation of the single mandate, the improved financial support framework for members and better training-information opportunities. I am determined to intensify and consolidate the gains being made through the modernisation programme and, in particular, to promote improvements in performance and in service delivery by local authorities to their communities. Elected members will continue to have a key role in ensuring that their local authorities deliver on this change agenda.

Public Private Partnerships.

Damien English

Ceist:

102 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will assess the success of the various public private partnerships undertaken by his Department in recent years, in areas in which he views a need for improvement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22275/05]

Public private partnerships, PPPs, represent an important additional procurement option for local authorities in providing important infrastructure in areas such as water, wastewater, waste and housing. To date, more than 100 PPP projects, with an estimated capital cost of €2.1 billion, have been completed or are at various stages of progress in the local government sector. Most of these projects are in the water and wastewater sector and are being provided with funding from my Department on the basis of design, build and operate contracts.

This type of PPP has made a significant contribution to meeting the requirements of the urban wastewater and drinking water directives as well as meeting the needs of an expanding population and economy. Dublin Bay wastewater and Cork, Limerick and Wexford main drainage projects are among the major projects which have been completed. Other significant PPP projects which are at various stages of the process include major housing regeneration projects at Fatima Mansions and O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin city, affordable housing initiative projects at Infirmary Road and Jamestown Road in Dublin city and the Dublin thermal treatment-waste to energy project. More than 70 further potential PPP projects are being investigated.

A second measure of success for my Department's PPP programme is the amount of private finance which is coming forward which, depending on the results of tendering processes still under way, is estimated to fall within a range of €550 million to €700 million. Both the progress illustrated above across a diverse range of projects, together with the significant level of private financing being harnessed, indicate that my Department's PPP programme is performing effectively.

My Department which is represented on the interdepartmental and informal advisory PPP groups chaired by the Department of Finance is working in these fora to improve the PPP process. In particular, it is hoped to reduce the complexity and costs of the process, with a view to increasing the number of projects and enhancing the speed and efficiency with which they can be delivered.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Local Authority Funding.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

104 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has researched the possibility of improving financing for local government by replacing commercial rates with site value taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22344/05]

While the concept of site value taxation has been raised in other contexts, it has not previously been considered as a viable alternative to commercial rates. Independent consultants were engaged by my Department last year to carry out a wide ranging review of local government financing. The consultants are assessing, inter alia, the totality of local authorities’ current funding requirements to 2010, the extent to which improved or alternative funding options may be required and, if so, they are to carry out an in depth examination of these options. I will consider the consultancy recommendations when the report is submitted to me shortly.

Local Authority Housing.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

105 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the housing needs assessment should be conducted annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22284/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

779 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress on the report, Housing Need Assessment 2005; the local authorities which have submitted their returns for the report; the local authorities which still have returns outstanding; when the completion of the report is expected; and when the report will be published. [23368/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 779 together.

The most recent triennial statutory assessment of need took place in March 2005. This assessment is intended to be the most rigorous to date as it requires local authorities to collect detailed data on all households on the waiting lists. For the first time, an IT framework has been developed which will enable my Department to analyse data in respect of all households in much greater depth. The procedure involves each local authority transmitting its assessment results in an IT format to the Local Government Computer Services Board. Following a detailed validation process, the results are then collated centrally in a database.

The Department is maintaining continuous contact with local authorities to ensure that their returns are submitted as soon as possible. To date, approximately 20% of local authorities have already submitted their returns and the remainder are currently in the process of finalising them. It is anticipated that the results will be published in September this year.

The frequency with which needs assessments are conducted will be kept under review following the outcome of the current assessment.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 69.

Election Management System.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

107 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the timeframe envisaged for the completion of the new round of tests planned for the electronic voting machines; the intended date for the publication of the resulting report; the estimated cost of this round of tests; the tests which will be used; the nature of the tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22205/05]

As part of a programme of further assessment, testing and validation of the electronic voting and counting system, tenders have been sought from suitably qualified consultants to undertake a security and risk assessment of all aspects of the system and to devise a programme of additional testing. This work is intended to address issues raised by the commission on electronic voting and demonstrate that the system operates reliably, securely and accurately. The test programme will include both functional testing and technical analysis of the system components.

The closing date for receipt of tenders was 21 June 2005. The tenders received are being assessed and a decision in this regard will be made as soon as possible. In these circumstances, it is not yet possible to specify the cost involved. While it is my intention that the overall work programme on the electronic voting system will be advanced as rapidly as possible, I am not in a position to specify the precise duration of the planned consultancy work at this stage.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

John Deasy

Ceist:

109 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding his Department’s statement of strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22281/05]

The Department's Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 was presented to the Government on 24 May 2005. The printed bilingual version of the strategy statement will be available within days and will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 91.
Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

113 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent on the local authority house building programme, excluding the voluntary sector, in the past five years; the steps he intends to take to address the increasingly serious issue of the housing crisis; if he has sought information from or given instructions to the various local authorities with a view to making an early and positive impact on the scale of the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22323/05]

Details of expenditure incurred on the main local authority housing construction-acquisition programme in the years 2000 to 2004, which is funded by a combination of Exchequer capital grants and local authority internal capital receipts, are set out in the following table.

Local authority housing construction-acquisition programme: Expenditure 2000-2004.

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

419,895

670,958

789,719

695,476

703,566

The Government has responded actively to increased levels of social housing need by expanding social and affordable housing output. In the current year, the Government is allocating record levels of funding to local authorities for their social and affordable housing programmes. The total Exchequer capital and current funding available for social and affordable housing in 2005 will amount to €1.3 billion, which represents an increase of 20% on 2004. Total capital spending on social and affordable housing output in 2005, inclusive of non-Exchequer financing, will amount to almost €2 billion.

To ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the use of these resources, local authorities have, at my Department's request, developed new five-year action plans for social and affordable housing. The preparation of these plans will sharpen the identification of priority needs, and help to ensure a more coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services, including those to be provided by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector. My Department is giving strong encouragement to local authorities to press ahead with the implementation of these action plans which are being underpinned by very substantial levels of Government funding. To underpin the multi-annual approach in the action plans, I have secured financial envelopes for the next five years.

The capital allocation of €841 million, which has been provided for the construction of local authority housing in 2005, an increase of €100 million on last year's allocation, will support the commencement of the construction of 6,000 new units by local authorities and the achievement of some 5,500 completions. In addition, house completions by the voluntary and co-operative sector is expected to be some 1,800 units this year.

Since 2000, the needs of almost 59,000 households have been met, taking account of local authority housing, vacancies arising in existing houses and output under both social and affordable housing measures. Overall, in 2005 it is anticipated that the needs of in excess of 13,000 households will be met through the same measures. In addition, it is anticipated that a number of households currently in private rented accommodation will transfer to the new rental accommodation scheme now being introduced. These households will continue to be mainly accommodated within the private rented sector.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 29.
Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 39.

EU Directives.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

117 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the possibility that Ireland may be in breach of the habitats directive unless a comprehensive national hare survey is undertaken; and if, in the meantime, he will cease licensing the capture of wild hares for any purpose, including coursing. [17399/05]

The Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus) is listed on Annex V of the EU habitats directive in addition to being protected under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000. The directive provides that if member states deem it necessary, in the light of surveillance of Annex V species, they shall take measures to ensure the taking in the wild of specimens of such species as well as their exploitation is compatible with their being maintained at a favourable conservation status.

A steering group drawn from my Department and from the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has drafted an all-Ireland species action plan for the Irish hare. The draft plan was made available in March 2005 for public consultation, which has now been completed. The plan is expected to be finalised by autumn 2005. A scientific survey to estimate hare populations in Ireland is one of the strategies proposed in the draft action plan and a tendering process for the carrying out of a national survey for this purpose is already in progress. The licensing provisions of the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 are designed to regulate the taking of wildlife at sustainable levels. In the case of hares, the principal factor determining population levels in the Republic of Ireland, is believed by ecologists to be land management practice, weather conditions and the availability of suitable habitat. The annual capture under licence of some 5,000-6,000 hares for coursing, the great majority of which are subsequently released, is not considered to be a significant factor in the overall conservation status of the Irish hare.

If it is concluded, in the light of results of the planned national survey of hares, that further measures are necessary for the protection of the species, they will be taken, in accordance with regulation 24 of the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997, which transposes the relevant provision of the habitats directive. My Department is at present carrying out its yearly review of the conditions applying to the licence under section 34(3) (b) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, for the netting of hares for coursing.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Road Network.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

119 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the EU directive on environmental impact assessment is being applied properly in the case of road plans, particularly the requirement to consider alternatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22202/05]

The improvement and maintenance of non-national roads in its area is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Under section 50 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended, road authorities are responsible for the preparation of environmental impact statements in respect of any relevant road development. Section 51 of the Act, as amended, sets out the position with regard to environmental impact assessments. Section 215 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 transferred responsibility for environmental impact assessments to an Bord Pleanála.

I have no function in the matter.

Animal Welfare.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

120 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether there is an urgent need to undertake a national feral cat neutering programme. [17400/05]

My Department is not aware of any reliable data on the number of domesticated or wild cats.

Funds are not available to my Department to resource a national feral cat neutering programme. However, where a local authority considers it appropriate, it may assist a body which is endeavouring to reduce, in a humane manner, the problems caused by feral cats. A number of local authorities have provided assistance to such bodies in recent years.

National Spatial Strategy.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

121 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date on the report on rural housing commissioned by his Department from the National Spatial Research Institute at NUI Maynooth; when he expects to receive the report; when it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22220/05]

The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, NIRSA, at NUI Maynooth was commissioned by my Department in late 2004 to prepare a study on spatial trends and related issues in rural areas. NIRSA has an extensive database which, inter alia, contains data on house numbers and their locations, farm numbers and their locations and construction statistics. The data will allow for comparisons between different time periods. NIRSA is now preparing a series of maps with supporting text and tables. They will produce electoral district level maps showing the density of one-off houses, the numbers constructed during different periods, the ratio of farm to non-farm one-offs, and some supporting explanatory maps on population density, population change, etc.

The study is expected to be complete by the autumn. The outcomes of this project and the various other research projects currently under way will constitute a significant advance in the knowledge base available in support of the ongoing implementation of the national spatial strategy, and regional local planning.

European Council Meeting.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

122 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the EU Council of Environment Ministers meeting held in Brussels. [22296/05]

John Gormley

Ceist:

126 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the Environment Council of 24 June 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22369/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 126 together.

A full report of the Environment Council meeting of 24 June 2005, held in Luxembourg, is available on the Council website http://europa.eu.int/pol/env/index_en.htm. The most significant outcomes of the meeting were: agreement on a draft directive on the protection of groundwater against pollution; agreement on a draft directive establishing an infrastructure for spatial information in the Community; the adoption of Council conclusions on a Community strategy concerning mercury; the adoption of Council conclusions concerning the dismantling of ships, underlining the need to ensure the safe and environmentally sound management of ships dismantling to protect human health and the environment and a qualified majority vote of Council against Commission proposals to repeal national measures in relation to certain genetically modified organisms.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 72.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 69.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 78.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 39.
Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Fire Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

129 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects the fire services change programme, as announced on 17 February 2005, to be complete; if the strategy will include establishing a national fire safety authority which was recommended as a key recommendation in the 2002 Government commissioned report on the fire service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22211/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 127 of 18 May 2005.

The fire services change programme involves a series of measures designed to bring about direct improvements in key areas of the fire services. I expect to see significant progress in community fire safety in particular in a relatively short time but other measures are likely to be developed on a phased basis over a longer period.

Official Languages Act 2003.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

130 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost to his Department and agencies under the aegis of his Department of implementing the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22371/05]

My Department has been included in the first tranche of public bodies required to produce an Irish language scheme under the Official Languages Act 2003. Our scheme, which has been recently approved by the Minister for Community, Rural andGaeltacht Affairs, will take effect from August 2005.

Specific costs incurred by my Department in the implementation of the Act to date amount to €11,277 in respect of the publication of notices under section 13 of the Act. My Department's Estimates for 2005 do not separately identify a cost for implementing the provisions of the Act. Any additional costs arising with translation of material, publication of documents, or advertising, etc. as set out in the Department's scheme will be met from within the overall administrative budget of the Department or the budget for individual projects and programmes.

Prior to the enactment of the legislation, my Department was already making available Irish versions of publications such as the Department's statement of strategy and annual report, and providing replies to correspondence in the language in which it was received. Accordingly, the Act in these areas involves no extra costs for my Department. Any costs incurred by agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for those agencies and accordingly details of such costs are not available in my Department.

Local Authority Housing.

John Deasy

Ceist:

131 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date on housing management initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22280/05]

The housing management initiatives grant scheme was established in 1995 to fund innovative and practical pilot projects designed to improve the performance by local authorities — and latterly, other bodies with housing functions — of their housing management functions. The grants cover 90% of staff costs and 50% of administrative costs, with the balance being met by the recipient. Some 323 projects were approved under the scheme, and grants of some €4.9 million paid, over the period 1995-2004. I recently approved further grants totalling €1.96 million in respect of 78 projects throughout the country. Details of these approvals are set out in the following table.

Local authorities

Projects approved for grants

Carlow County Council

Follow on to findings of research development officer for accommodation of elderly or disabled tenants

Carlow Town Council

Estate shared management scheme and appointment of a HMI development officer

Clare County Council

Awareness campaign to facilitate the development of improved housing management policies

Clare County Council

Developing strategic approaches to estate management

Kilrush Town Council

Resident training in estate management

Cork City Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer — northwest area

Cork North County Council

Re-appointment of tenant liaison officer

Cork South County Council

Establishment of anti-social behaviour policy unit

Cork South County Council

Publication of a tenant handbook and subsequent provision of tenant seminars for same

Mallow Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer — Mallow

Youghal Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer — Youghal

Donegal County Council

Employment of tenant liaison officers

Dublin City Council

North inner city training — community leadership programme

Dublin City Council

Prevention programme — anti-social behaviour i.e. bullying, harassment and joyriding

Dublin City Council

Neighbour mediation service

Dublin City Council

Welcome pack and video — Dublin City Council welcomes you to your new home

Fingal County Council

Publication of tenant handbooks in four languages

South Dublin County Council

PAKT (parents and kids together) working in partnership with estate management

South Dublin County Council

Translation of housing application and rent assessment forms

South Dublin County Council

Appointment of estate management officer

Galway City Council

Appointment of a sports development officer

Galway County Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer — cullairbaun estate based management system

Kerry County Council

Preparation of tenant handbook

Tralee Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer

Tralee Town Council

Capacity building training on estate management for tenants and staff

Naas Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer

Kilkenny County Council

Appointment of estate management liaison officer for Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Borough Council

Kilkenny Borough Council

Appointment of housing liaison officer

Laois County Council

Extension of appointment of mobile caretaker for aged and disabled

Leitrim County Council

Estate management training and awards scheme

Limerick City Council

Combating anti-social behaviour project

Limerick County Council

Estate management and maintenance initiative

Limerick County Council

Development of an anti-social behaviour policy

Longford County Council

Appointment of estate manager

Louth County Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer

Louth County Council

Provision of anti-social database

Louth County Council

Appointment of housing liaison officer

Drogheda Borough Council

Community safety audit

Drogheda Borough Council

Disability survey and assessment of accommodation needs of households that have person(s) with disability

Dundalk Town Council

Toberona area joint estates initiative

Meath County Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer

Meath County Council

Appointment of community worker

Meath County Council

Publication of anti-social behaviour policy and distribution

Monaghan County Council

Extension of housing estate liaison officer post

Monaghan County Council

Publication of tenant handbook and tenant training

Monaghan Town Council

Extension of appointment of tenant liaison officer

Roscommon County Council

Estate management training and development scheme

Sligo County Council/ Sligo Borough Council

Co-ordinated approach to sustaining tenant participation, tenant handbook and guidelines to setting up residents associations

Sligo County Council/ Sligo Borough Council

Estate management integrated strategy

North Tipperary County Council

Tenant-resident training at Pairc an Chlochair estate, Borrisokane

North Tipperary County Council

Tenant-resident training at Old Road estate, Silvermines

North Tipperary County Council

Tenant/resident training at Cluain na Seimre-Fanning Park estates, Two-Mile-Borris

Nenagh Town Council

Tyone tenant liaison project

Thurles Town Council

Extend the appointment of the tenant liaison officer for a further year

Thurles Town Council

Establish residents association for new estate at Gortattagart, Thurles

South Tipperary County Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer for the council’s area

Clonmel Borough Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer for the borough council’s estates — overall goal to empower the residents to engage in the development of their communities.

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer for the town councils area

Tipperary Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer for the town council’s area

Waterford City Council

Creation of a dedicated anti-social behaviour Unit

Wexford Borough Council

Extend the appointment of tenant liaison officer for a further year.

Wexford County Council

Creation of a estate management and anti-social behaviour unit

New Ross Town Council

Appointment of tenant participation officer

Wicklow County Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer

Wicklow County Council

Provision of pre-tenancy courses for new tenants

Wicklow County Council

Community and estates development project scheme for tenants associations in local authority estates

Wicklow County Council

Publication of tenant handbook — updated version

Wicklow County Council

Residents summer programme

Arklow Town Council

Appointment of tenant liaison officer for the town council’s area

Wicklow Town Council

Appointment of estate liaison officer

Other bodies

Projects approved for grants

Brothers of Charity, Clare Housing Association Ltd.

Appointment of development officer

Catholic Housing Aid Society

Appointment of management officer

Clar I.C.H.

Development of South Mayo voluntary housing associations network

Clúid Housing Association

Best practice procedural manual for management of apartment blocks

I.C.S.H.

Study on establishing a housing assoc. Performance Management Framework (HAPM)

Irish Traveller Movement

Training for travellers and travellers representatives

North and East Housing Association

Estate management development in association housing estates in County Meath

Slí Eile Housing Association Limited

Appointment of strategic development co-ordinator to oversee staff training and implementation of innovative social housing initiative.

Waste Disposal.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

132 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to receive a report from the interdepartmental high level group established to study the judgment of 26 April 2005 by the European Court of Justice in relation to waste disposal here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22218/05]

I expect that the high-level group will complete its work within the timeframe designated for response to the European Commission, which is 1 September 2005, or within any further period which may be agreed with the Commission.

Radon Gas Levels.

John Perry

Ceist:

133 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the proposed World Health Organisation international radon project; and if Ireland will participate in this project. [22277/05]

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has recently announced the launch of an international radon project which it will coordinate and which is aimed at helping countries reduce the health risks associated with radon gas.

The project, which is initially expected to run for three years, 2005-07, will seek to identify effective strategies for reducing the health impact of radon, promote sound policy options for radon prevention and radon mitigation programmes for national authorities, and increase public and political awareness about the consequences of exposure to radon. Under the project, a global network of radon scientists, regulators and policy makers will be established to collaborate in the project. The first meeting of the project was held in Geneva in January 2005 to develop the strategy for the project.

Ireland, through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, will actively participate in this project. The institute, which participated in the January 2005 meeting, has been highlighting public awareness of radon in Ireland for many years and has been actively encouraging householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes measured for radon and to carry out radon remediation works where concentrations above the national reference level are found.

I regard this project as a very welcome and positive initiative and look forward to the recommendations arising from it in due course.

Public Relations Contracts.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

134 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent by his Department on employing the services of modelling agencies which provide models for press launches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22271/05]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

789 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent by his Department or agencies under the authority of his Department, on the services of models for use in departmental promotional activities, during policy launches or other departmental events since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21983/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 789 together.

My Department does not employ the services of modelling agencies. A number of consultancy firms are utilised from time to time to promote awareness of issues relating to my Department's functions. Invitations to tender would require the successful firms to implement high-impact awareness campaigns, including a national campaign launch, information leaflets, design, printing and dissemination of posters, instructional videos, local and national advertising or general media briefing. Subject only to general guidance from my Department, the format of public information campaigns and the manner in which they are conducted are matters for the selected firms. Any costs incurred by agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for those agencies and accordingly details of such costs are not available in my Department.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 37.

Litter Pollution.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

137 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he intends to take in relation to littering in urban areas following the classification of almost half the towns in the Irish business against litter survey as either having a serious litter problem or as being a litter black spot; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22204/05]

Primary responsibility for developing and implementing responses to the litter problem lies with local authorities. My Department provides financial support for a programme of anti-litter initiatives to support action against litter including the national spring clean campaign, the Irish business against litter, IBAL, national litter league and the development of the national litter pollution monitoring system.

Identification of areas with litter difficulties is an important first step in addressing the problem. The IBAL league is a valuable initiative in this context. In addition, under the national litter pollution monitoring system local authorities carry out surveys to determine the extent and composition of litter pollution in their functional areas. The data provided from the surveys enable each local authority to assess the effectiveness of its litter management strategies on an ongoing basis and ensure the optimum allocation of its resources to tackle litter.

Existing anti-litter actions by local authorities, together with my Department's support for the above initiatives, provide an effective and appropriate basis for tackling litter pollution generally, including problems associated with litter blackspots.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 51.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Departmental Expenditure.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

140 Ms Enright asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department or agencies under the authority of his Department, on the services of models for use in Departmental promotional activities, during policy launches or other Departmental events since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21969/05]

No funds have been spent by my Department or agencies under the authority of this Department on the services of models for any Departmental event.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

141 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the cost to his Department related to the two Nice Treaty referenda. [22024/05]

My Department did not incur any expenditure in relation the two Nice Treaty referenda.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

142 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number, title and purpose of the EU directives not yet incorporated into law relating to his Department’s work; and when it is envisaged that these outstanding directives will be incorporated into Irish law in each case. [22025/05]

There are no EU directives that come within my Department's area of responsibility which are not incorporated into law.

National Household Survey.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

143 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of children under five years of age in the State; the number of such children in families with two parents both working; the number of children in lone parent families in which the parent is working; the number of children in families in which one parent is working and the other parent does not work; and the number of children in lone parent families in which the parent is not working. [22026/05]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

144 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of children aged five to 12 years in the State; the number of such children in families with two parents both working; the number of children in lone parent families in which the parent is working; the number of children in families in which one parent is working and the other parent does not work; and the number of children in lone parent families in which the parent is not working. [22027/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 144 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Number of children aged

Family type

Less than 5 years

5 to 12 years

Total aged less than 12

Two parent family

Both working

131,537

187,083

318,620

One working

95,638

156,231

251,869

None working

17,904

22,138

40,042

One parent family

Working

18,663

34,596

53,259

Not Working

32,506

36,924

69,430

Total families

296,248

436,972

733,220

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2005.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

145 Mr. Connolly asked the Taoiseach if it is proposed to refer the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights for its lack of co-operation with the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22057/05]

The report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings recommended that, in the first instance, the British Government should be pursued bilaterally on issues that are still outstanding. As Deputies know, I have been pressing the British Government for a response. As recently as yesterday, it was raised at the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, BIIGC, where I met Prime Minister Blair. I reiterated the call by the Oireachtas Committee for a "Cory" type inquiry and I indicated that, in the absence of progress, the Irish Government would examine the possibility of pursuing a case before the European Court of Human Rights, as recommended by the Oireachtas committee. The British side contend that they can find no evidence on collusion in the bombings but undertook to take another look at any information available. I indicated that, in the meantime, I would be raising the matter on a preliminary basis with the Attorney General.

Patents of Precedence.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

146 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will identify the first five persons granted patents of precedence at the Irish Bar by the Government and give the date of each grant. [22194/05]

The 26th Government granted its first patents of precedence on 26 July 2002 in alphabetical order to:

(1) Mr. Paul Coffey

(2) Mr. Mark Connaughton

(3) Mr. Niall Durnin

(4) Mr. Gerard Kelly

(5) Mr. David Kennedy

(6) Mr. Éanna Mulloy

(7) Mr. Brian Murray

(8) Mr. John McDonagh

(9) Mr. Lewis O'Brien

(10) Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin

(11) Mr. Roderick O'Hanlon

(12) Mr. Terence O'Sullivan

(13) Ms. Mary Ellen Ring

(14) Mr. Roger Sweetman

entitling them to admission to the Inner Bar.

Legal Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

147 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the total cost, number and nature of legal services sought by his Department from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22428/05]

In the main, my Department seeks legal services directly through the Attorney General's office. However, the following costs were incurred for legal services sought outside of the Attorney General's office:

Nature of Service

Cost €

Year

Legal Advice — re Irish Airlines (General Employees) Superannuation Scheme

5,397

2002

Legal Advice — re Legal developments in the European Union

32,885

2003

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

148 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the total cost, number and nature of reports, consultancies or other advisory or public relations commissions awarded by his Department from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005 to persons other than established civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22469/05]

The information sought by the Deputy is outlined in the following schedule:

Name of Consultancy

Description

Overall Cost

Year

Carr Communications

Public relations consultancy relating to the publication of National Disability Strategy

€12,100

2004

Price Waterhouse Cooper

*eCabinet Feasibility Study: The contract was awarded to PwC in 2001 following a public tender competition. The assignment entailed international research, business process analysis of the cabinet process, formulation of a proposed model, engagement with key stakeholders to modify the proposed model and culminated in the production of a 2 volume report, which, following its presentation to Government, resulted in the approval for the development of the eCabinet initiative which is now operational.

€152,094 (including VAT)

January 2002

Hosca Management Consultants

Employee Opinion Survey, 2001

€12,076.80 (inclusive of VAT)

2002

Watson Wyatt

Employee Opinion Survey, 2003

€46,040.50 (inclusive of VAT)

2003-2004

Bearing Point Consultants

Implementation of the Human Resource Management System

€97,315.76 (inclusive of VAT)

2002-2003

Mr. Des Geraghty

Advise Contact Group on Affordable Housing Initiative, work with the Dept of EHLG to promote the initiative, assist with communication; Mr. Geraghty has produced 3 progress reports

€3,395 to date for services, based on €350 per diem; €445 to date for travel and subsistence

2004-Present

Lloyds of Dublin

Designing / Printing of Reducing Red Tape: An Action Programme on Regulatory Reform

€3,369.88

1999

Dr. Tom McCarthy, NUI Maynooth

Research for Consultation Document: Towards Better Regulation

€6,692

2001

E.G.M. Design Ltd.

Designing / Printing of Consultation Document: Towards Better Regulation

€18,081.46

2002

David Linehan

Translation into Irish of Consultation Document: Towards Better Regulation

€735

2002

Prof. Philip Lane, Trinity College Dublin

Analysis of submissions re Towards Better Regulation

€4,000

2002

E.G.M. Design Ltd.

Designing / Printing of reports on submissions received arising from public consultation on Towards Better Regulation

€7,790

2002

Jacobs and Associates

Consultancy for White Paper on Better Regulation Regulating Better

€12,479

2003

Professor Martin Cave Warwick Business School

Consultancy for White Paper on Better Regulation Regulating Better

€575

2003

Red Dog Design Consultants

Designing of Regulating Better: A Government White Paper setting out six principles of Better Regulation

€6,192.78

2004

Hudson Killeen Printers

Printing of Regulating Better: A Government White Paper setting out six principles of Better Regulation

€11,225

2004

DCU Language Services

Translation into Irish of Executive Summary of White Paper on Better Regulation Regulating Better

€1,213.01

2004

Grayling Ltd.

Editing of White Paper on Better Regulation Regulating Better

€4,840

2004

Name of Consultancy

Description

Overall Cost

Year

Jacobs and Associates

Preparation of report for EU Conference on Better Regulation

€18,876

2004

Dr. Patrick Paul Walsh, Trinity College Dublin

Preparation of report for EU Conference on Better Regulation

€5,250

2004

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Economic assistance to Departments / Offices piloting Regulatory Impact Analysis

€21,054

2004-2005

Grayling Ltd.

Editing of Reaching Out: Guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies

€3,630

2005

Institute of Public Administration

Research in relation to mapping of regulatory framework

€21,780 (Estimated cost)

2005

First Impression

Designing of Reaching Out: Guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies

€10,200 (Estimated cost)

2005

Ebrook

Printing of Reaching Out: Guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies

€8,000 (Estimated cost)

2005

DCU Language Services

Translation into Irish of Reaching Out: Guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies

€1,584 (Estimated cost)

2005

First Impression

Designing of Report on the Introduction of Regulatory Impact Analysis

€8,200 (Estimated cost)

2005

Ebrook

Printing of Report on the Introduction of Regulatory Impact Analysis

€7,694 (Estimated cost)

2005

Cumarsaid Creative

Translation into Irish of Report on the Introduction of Regulatory Impact Analysis

€4,000 (Estimated cost)

2005

William M. Mercer

Consultancy service on Performance Management

€26,621

1998-1999

Farrell Grant Sparks

Business Planning Templates

€4,897

1999

Professors Rory O’ Donnell and Paul Teague

To evaluate partnership at work in Ireland

€50,789

1999-2000

Hay Management Consultants

Effective systems of feedback on the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS)

€45,774

2001

PA Consulting Group

Evaluation of the Strategic Management Initiative (SMI)

€491,992

2001-2002

Mr. Alex Matheson, OECD

Participation on Steering Group for the Evaluation of the Strategic Management Initiative (SMI)

€14,014

2001-2002

Institute of Public Administration

Preparation of HR Strategy Guidelines Document

€18,284

2001

HCM International

Research on the integration of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) with HR policies and processes

€33,525

2004

Mercer Human Resource Consulting

Review of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) Evaluation results for Technical and Professional staff

€15,125

2004-2005

Drury Communications

Consultancy/PR services in respect of the development of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) pack and supply of promotional material for launch

€37,745

2000

Name of Consultancy

Description

Overall Cost

Year

BFK Design

Development and design of elements of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) packs

€16,912

2000

Burex Manufacturing Ltd.

Supply of promotional material for the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) launch event

€16,190

2000

McDonald & Glennon

Printing of promotional material for the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) launch

€55,830

2000

National Council for the Blind

Supply of Braille material for the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) launch

€996

2000

Dr. Jane Pillinger Independent Researcher and Policy Advisor

Rersearch report on Equality/Diversity and Quality Customer Service

€38,700

2001

Dr. Patrick Butler School of Business Studies — Trinity College Dublin

Evaluation of Customer Action Plans

€32,000

2002

Corporate Graphics

Production of Customer Action Plans Evaluation report

€3,055

2002

Language Communications

Design and layout of Equality/Diversity report

€870

2002

Colorprint

Printing of Equality/Diversity report

€890

2002

Peter G. White Ltd. Communications Consultant

Consultancy services in respect of the development of Communications Strategy

€850

2002

Lansdowne Market Research

Irish Civil Service — Customer Satisfaction Survey report

€36,000

2003

NGM Market Research

Change and Modernisation in the Civil Service report

€15,000

2003

Design ID

Design layout and typesetting of the Customer Charter Guielines

€11,250

2003

Watermans Printing

Printing of Customer Charter Guidelines

€13,590

2003

Vision Print

Production of covers for Customer Charter Guidelines

€1,160

2003

Parallel Information Technology

Loading of Customer Charter Guidelines to bettergov.ie website

€220

2003

Langley Freeman Design Group

Design layout and production of PDF of Internal Customer Service booklet —‘Our commitments to our Colleagues’

€5,617

2004

Colorprint

Printing of Internal Customer Service booklet

€5,280

2004

Parallel Information Technology

Production of HTML of Internal Customer Service booklet

€163

2004

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

Research on International systems of Redress

€76,894

2004

Boyd Freeman Design

Design and print of report on Redress

€5,049

2004

Dermot Quigley

An Inquiry into certain matters in relation to procurement as requested by the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D.

Not applicable — no payments were made

Not applicable

Departmental Expenditure.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

149 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Taoiseach the amount of money spent on the renting, leasing or purchasing of demountable, temporary accommodation over the past five years; if his Department arranges this through the Department of Finance; the tendering process which is in operation and the frequency in which it is reviewed; the length of time the arrangement lasts; the average period of renting or leasing; and the number of units which have been rented and leased over five, eight and ten years. [22484/05]

My Department does not spend money on the renting, leasing or purchasing of demountable, temporary accommodation.

Ministerial Staff.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

150 Mr. Hogan asked the Taoiseach the names, titles, dates of appointment, total annual salary, including pension contributions, of each of the special or political advisers, personal assistants or personal secretaries appointed by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22540/05]

The names, titles, dates of appointment and total annual salary including pension contributions, of each of the special advisers, personal assistants and personal secretaries appointed by me are detailed in the following table.

Names

Titles

Dates of Appointment

Annual Salary including pension contributions

Gerry Hickey

Programme Manager and Special Adviser

27/06/1997

195,676

Gerard Howlin

Special Adviser

08/06/1999

115,775*

Una Claffey

Special Adviser

13/11/2000

115,775*

Brian Murphy

Special Adviser

01/03/1999

87,422

Joe Lennon

Special Adviser

27/06/1997

115,775

Katherine Bulbulia

Programme Manager to Tánaiste

21/07/1997

136,972

John Lahart

Special Adviser to Minister of State and Chief Whip

29/09/2004

75,036*

Padraig Slyne

Special Adviser (with responsibility for co-ordination between all Ministers of State)

01/10/2004

57,630*

Sarah McLoughlin

Personal Assistant

02/04/2001

45,457

Denise Kavanagh

Personal Assistant

28/06/1997

53,191

Olive Melvin

Personal Assistant

27/06/1997

53,191

Yvonne Graham

Personal Assistant

02/05/2000

46,691

Sean Nolan

Personal Assistant

27/06/1997

47,921

Harry Murphy

Personal Assistant to Minister of State and Government Chief Whip

27/10/2004

40,543

Perpetua Brady

Personal Secretary

14/08/2000

33,271

Tracey Young

Personal Secretary to Minister of State and Government Chief Whip

29/09/2004

41,280

*These members of staff, who are not members of a Civil Service pension scheme, receive a contribution towards their pension fund which they arrange separately. All other staff are members of Civil Service pension schemes, for which separate superannuation arrangements are in place.

The 16 staff listed above, of which five are civil servants, are support staff to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Government Chief Whip. This compares with 15 staff at similar grades working to the Taoiseach and Ministers of State at this Department prior to June 1997. A further four political staff were employed in the Office of the Tánaiste in Government Buildings at that time also, that is pre-June 1997.

Live Register.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

151 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the population figures corresponding to health board areas for those aged 65 and over and for those aged 65 and under. [22847/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table in regard to the former health board areas. As the three constituent area health boards of the former Eastern Regional Health Authority are not defined in terms of complete electoral divisions, it is not possible to provide separate details for them. The information provided is taken from the 2002 census.

Health Board

Persons

Total

Under 65 years

65 years and over

Eastern Health Board

1,265,112

136,329

1,401,441

Midland Health Board

199,162

26,201

225,363

North Eastern Health Board

308,494

36,471

344,965

South Eastern Health Board

373,841

49,775

423,616

Mid Western Health Board

300,098

39,493

339,591

Southern Health Board

510,965

69,391

580,356

Western Health Board

331,075

49,222

380,297

North Western Health Board

192,455

29,119

221,574

State

3,481,202

436,001

3,917,203

Departmental Revenue.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

152 Mr. O’Connor asked the Taoiseach the value of the increases in charges and appropriations in aid in the financial years 1995-96 and 1997-98. [23501/05]

This Department does not apply any charges other than those provided for in respect of FOI. Details of appropriations in aid for requested years are listed in the following table:

Year

Amount of Appropriations in Aid*

Value of Increase

1995

211,743

1996

143,102

68,641 decrease in 1996 compared to 1995

1997

1,011,124

1998

68,066

943,058 decrease in 1998 compared to 1997

*In addition to normal departmental receipts which mostly relate to salary recoupment, the above figures also include receipts received from the European Social Fund which increase the total appropriations in aid for the particular years in question.

1995

137,567

1996

102,718

1997

947,340

1998

0

Food Safety Authority.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

153 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the reason the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has not yet published its completed audit of the labelling and traceability structures as currently operate across Ireland’s food industry; the date when this research will be published; if her attention has further been drawn to the main findings of this audit and its recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21886/05]

Food businesses are required to manage food safety proactively and a traceability system is an essential element of a food safety management system as it provides a means by which a food company can track and trace any foodstuff that is suspect or unsafe.

In July 2002, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland produced a detailed guidance note on recall and traceability which was developed by the authority in collaboration with the enforcement agencies, the food industry and the food and drinks federation of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC. This note aimed to clarify and standardise procedures for the identification and removal of unsafe foodstuffs from the food chain.

Under recent EU legislation, food operators must have a traceability system in place. This requirement is contained in Article 18 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 of 28 January 2002. This regulation, which is applicable from 1 January 2005, requires that food and feed business operators shall be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food, a feed, a food producing animal or any substance intended to be, expected to be incorporated into a food or feed — to achieve this operators shall have in place systems and procedures which allow for this information to be made available to the competent authorities on demand — and shall have in place systems and procedures to identify the other businesses to which their products have been supplied, this information shall be made available to the competent authorities on demand.

In 2004, the FSAI undertook an audit intended to establish if operators in the fish, beef and poultry industries had in place a system of product traceability and recall. The audit also examined compliance with general labelling requirements — with particular reference to country of origin declarations.

In the course of the audit some 90 businesses, including some in the service and retail sectors, were visited. The findings indicated that traceability systems need improvement. Each proprietor was furnished with an inspector's report, which was also made available to the official agencies.

Given the small scale of the 2004 audit, it was not the intention of the FSAI to publish a report. However, the FSAI intends conducting a wider audit in conjunction with the official agencies, now that traceability is a legal requirement and will publish a comprehensive report in due course.

Health Services.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

154 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Cork, her attention has been drawn to the fact that whereas its special language class previously had the regular services of an occupational therapist and a psychologist, these services ceased with effect from Easter 2005 and that high-tech, expensive therapeutic listening equipment installed in the school cannot be used for want of appropriate qualified personnel; if she will take steps to restore the full range of supports for this special language class and to facilitate the full use of available special equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22021/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

155 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding renewal of medical cards for persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [22131/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

James Breen

Ceist:

156 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children in County Clare who are on waiting lists for speech and language therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22356/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Breen

Ceist:

157 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children in County Clare who are on waiting lists for clinical psychological assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22357/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

158 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that in the year 2005 home help and home carer’s are only allowed 19 cent per mile travelling expenses in spite of the massive increase in motoring costs; if travelling expenses are not awarded from base to the first client or from the last client back to base and even to get this meagre allowance massive form filling has to take place; if the mileage allowance should be investigated; if payment will be on the total mileage; if form filling and bureaucracy will be minimised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22704/05]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management matters in the home help service. As the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including related human resource issues, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

159 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take, and when, to improve the appalling inpatient provision for cystic fibrosis patients of St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin. [22963/05]

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

160 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take to implement the findings of a recent independent report which recommended that beds in medical institutions for cystic fibrosis patients should be in single rooms to reduce the risk of cross-infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22964/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

181 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the safety of cystic fibrosis patients is being placed at continuing risk due to inadequate staffing and facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22048/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

182 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the embargo on permanent recruitment of medical staff will be lifted, in the event of the Pollock report being endorsed by the HSE working group on cystic fibrosis service provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22049/05]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

183 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the event of the HSE working group on cystic fibrosis confirming the findings of the Pollock report, she will commit the necessary funding to address the crisis in cystic fibrosis service provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22050/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

254 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is accepted by her Department that existing cystic fibrosis services here are below basic international standard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22663/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

255 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the HSE working group confirms the findings of the Pollock report; if the funding necessary to address the immediate short and long-term requirements of cystic fibrosis sufferers will be allocated; if she will address the current situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22664/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

256 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is prepared to put forward a special case that will allow the permanent recruitment of staff, in view of the employment ceiling cap; if the HSE working group endorses the findings of the Pollock report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22665/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

257 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she is prepared to meet the Cystic Fibrosis Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22666/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

258 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the safety of cystic fibrosis patients is being compromised due to inadequate staffing and facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22667/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

259 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department is willing to consider public and private partnerships as an option to fast-track the provision of internationally acceptable services for cystic fibrosis patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22668/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

260 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way she would react if a hospital were to deny access to a cystic fibrosis sufferer to hospital care, due to overcrowding and the risk of exposure to cross-infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22669/05]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

261 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will give a commitment for adequate funding for the resourcing of services to address the needs of cystic fibrosis patients due to the fact that funding for cystic fibrosis sufferers is described as unstable and at risk from other pressures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22670/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159, 160, 181 to 183, inclusive, and 254 to 261, inclusive, together.

I have seen the report which the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland commissioned from Dr. Ronnie Pollock. The report reviewed existing hospital services for people with cystic fibrosis in the context of accepted international standards and concluded that the services available for persons with cystic fibrosis in this country are not of the standard that they should be.

The report provides an assessment of need for current and future cystic fibrosis patients. It makes recommendations with regard to the numbers and categories of staff that are appropriate for a modern, multi-disciplinary cystic fibrosis service. Following publication of the report, the Health Service Executive, HSE, at the request of the Cystic Fibrosis Association, established a working group to review the current configuration and delivery of services to persons with cystic fibrosis in Ireland, both in hospitals and in the community. The working group is also to make recommendations for the reconfiguration, improvement and development of those services.

The working group is multi-disciplinary in its composition and includes representation from the Cystic Fibrosis Association. It held its first meeting in early April and I understand it hopes to complete its work over the next few months. The Pollock report is one of a number of reports relating to cystic fibrosis services being considered by the group. The work of the group will result in an agreed proposal for the development and reconfiguration of services for cystic fibrosis patients in Ireland. The funding and implementation of the services will be a matter for the HSE.

I will be glad to meet with the Cystic Fibrosis Association and the HSE to discuss the development and reconfiguration of services for persons with cystic fibrosis when the working group has finalised its proposals.

In regard to the services for cystic fibrosis patients at St. Vincent's University Hospital, I understand the HSE has made some additional funding available to the hospital to implement short-term measures to alleviate some of the pressures, including the provision of additional staff and additional space.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

161 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a designated oncology unit will be provided to Mayo General Hospital in view of the appointment of a second oncologist at the hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that currently the oncology section at the hospital is four chairs in a temporary ward (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21873/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Expenditure.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

162 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of capital expenditure in respect of Cork University Hospital, Wilton, Cork, under the national development plan since 2000. [21874/05]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

163 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of capital expenditure in respect of Mallow General Hospital, Mallow, County Cork under the national development plan since 2000. [21875/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 163 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for collating the historic expenditure information sought by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Equipment.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

164 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the CT scanner for Mallow General Hospital, which was approved by her Department in 2004, will be installed. [21876/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to reply directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

165 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in the development of a helicopter emergency medical service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21896/05]

My Department is finalising a service level agreement with the Department of Defence to formalise arrangements for the future provision of an air ambulance service by the Air Corps. Officials from my Department met recently the Department of Defence to progress the agreement. The draft agreement has also been circulated to the Health Services Executive for comment. It is expected that the agreement will be completed shortly.

A significant helicopter fleet replacement programme has been approved and is being put in place for the Air Corps. Each of the new helicopters will have a specific air ambulance capability and the new fleet will have a far greater flying capacity which will augment the current service.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

166 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will approve the appointment of three rheumatologists to cater for patient needs in the Western Health Board region and of a paediatric rheumatologist; the additional rheumatology services to be provided in the region in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21904/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Perry

Ceist:

167 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she plans to make funding available to the HSE north west region for the provision of radiotherapy treatment for persons in the north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21919/05]

The Government is committed to making the full range of cancer services available and accessible to cancer patients throughout Ireland. To this end, we will provide considerable investment in radiation oncology facilities in the coming years.

The Government's policy on radiation oncology is based on the report on The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland. It is important to build teams of highly expert clinicians working together to deliver top quality cancer care, including radiotherapy, to cancer patients. The Government is, therefore, determined to ensure access by cancer patients throughout the country to high quality radiation oncology in line with best international standards.

The immediate developments in Cork and Galway have resulted in the provision of an additional five linear accelerators. Two additional linear accelerators are being provided at the supra-regional centre at Cork University Hospital, CUH. The first of these linear accelerators was fully commissioned in March and the second is expected to be commissioned by the autumn. Two additional consultant radiation oncologists will be appointed at CUH with sessional commitments to the south-eastern and the mid-western areas.

Patients in the north-west are being referred for radiation oncology treatment to the recently commissioned radiation oncology department at University College Hospital Galway, UCHG, and also to St. Luke's Hospital Dublin. A consultant radiation oncologist with significant sessional commitments to the north-western area has recently been appointed to UCHG.

I will meet the Minister for Health for Northern Ireland, Mr. Shaun Woodward, MP, shortly and I have asked that North-South co-operation on cancer services be put on the agenda. Discussions are on-going between the HSE and Belfast City Hospital in regard to access to radiation oncology services for patients in the North-West. My Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to advise the Deputy of progress on these discussions. The state of the art facility at Belfast City Hospital is scheduled to open in early 2006. The Government is as committed to delivering safe and effective cancer services for people of the north-west as we are for people in every region.

Health Service Reform.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

168 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the health reform process, which came into effect on 15 June 2005, concerning the management of the acute hospital in the southern area including Mallow General Hospital. [21923/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

169 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to introduce the general practitioner only medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21933/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, under the Health Act 2004. It is understood that the HSE has now made available application forms for the GP visit card. The HSE has placed advertisements providing details of the application process in the national press and intends to place further advertisements in the regional press over the coming week. Those who are eligible will be able to visit their general practitioner without charge, and receive general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme. Eligibility to GP visit cards will be determined, by the Health Service Executive, following an assessment of the income of the applicant, and spouse, if any, after tax and PRSI have been deducted. Provision for the allowance of reasonable expenses in respect of child care, rent-mortgage and commuting to work expenses has also been included.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of medical cards issued in counties Roscommon and Leitrim; the corresponding figures for 2002 and 1997; her plans to extend the coverage of medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21934/05]

The number of persons covered by a medical card in counties Roscommon and Leitrim for the dates requested are set out in the following table.

County

December 1997

December 2002

Roscommon

23,629

20,376

Leitrim

12,246

11,476

In 2005, additional funding of €60 million has been provided to allow the Health Service Executive, HSE, provide an additional 30,000 people with full medical cards and to extend free access to general practitioner services under the general medical services, GMS, scheme to up to a further 200,000 persons. The reason for this initiative was to ensure that as many people as possible, particularly those on low income and families with children, would be free from the worry of costs associated with accessing general practitioner services for themselves and their children.

It is understood that the HSE has now made available application forms for the GP visit card. The HSE has placed advertisements providing details of the application process in the national press and intend to place further advertisements in the regional press over the coming week. Those who are eligible will be able to visit their general practitioner without charge, and receive general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme. Eligibility to GP visit cards will be determined, by the Health Service Executive, following an assessment of the income of the applicant, and spouse, if any, after tax and PRSI have been deducted. Provision for the allowance of reasonable expenses in respect of child care, mortgage and commuting to work expenses has also been included.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

171 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the ongoing delay in processing registration applications for non-national EU nurses with An Bord Áltranais; if her attention has been drawn to the impact this is having on recruitment of nurses into the health service; the steps she intends to take to address this difficulty; when she last held a meeting with the board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21935/05]

The registration of nurses is the statutory responsibility of An Bord Áltranais. I am informed that the registration section of the board is processing increased volumes of applications for registration, mainly from non-EU applicants applying through nursing recruitment agencies contracted by the health services to recruit nurses.

The board is working closely with the nursing recruitment agencies and with the Health Service Executive and the nursing and midwifery recruitment and retention national project to ensure that all applications for registration are processed in an efficient and timely manner, and ensuring that each applicant meets requirements and standards for registration. Nursing agencies receive weekly reports updating on the progress of applications through the registration process and every assistance is given to agencies in regard to registration requirements to guide them in the recruitment process.

An Bord Áltranais is a regulatory body, and there is no statutory requirement for the Minister to hold a formal meeting with the board. However my Department will request regular updates from the board on this issue.

Health Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

172 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding funding for a community health centre and a mental health day care centre (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21936/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

173 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if persons presenting in public nursing homes are obliged to pay charges; and when those charges became operative. [21937/05]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

174 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the rate of charges applicable for patients in public nursing homes. [21938/05]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

175 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is appropriate for patients in public nursing homes to pay current charges when they are also owed refunds for moneys charged illegally to them. [21939/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 175, inclusive, together.

I and my colleague, the Minister for Finance, signed the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations, 2005 on 14 June 2005, and these regulations reinstate charges for inpatient services. Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where inpatient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. In this regard, charging for patients in long-term care cannot commence until the expiration of 30 days after the regulations were signed, which means that the earliest date on which charges can be levied is 14 July 2005.

These regulations provide for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of inpatient services. Section 51 of the Health Act 1970 defines inpatient services as meaning "institutional services provided for persons while maintained in a hospital, convalescent home or home for persons suffering from physical or mental disability or in accommodation ancillary thereto."

The regulations, in keeping with section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied. Class 1 — class 1 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser; and class 2 — class 2 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges for publicly funded long-term residential care. All those who were charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the CPI, since the time the person involved was charged. Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible to provide a clear legal framework for the scheme.

The practice of charging or seeking a contribution from patients-clients who have income has been a feature of the health service for a number of years. This is consistent with the principle that where individuals are in a position to contribute a modest amount to the cost of their care, it is reasonable that they do so.

Health Service Staff.

John Perry

Ceist:

176 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the consultation process that is to be set up by An Bord Áltranais regarding changes to qualifications needed for those wanting to become public health nurses will be open to the public; the person who will be leading the said consultation process; and if it will solely involve stakeholders. [21967/05]

An Bord Áltranais is the statutory body responsible for registration, control and education of nurses and midwives in Ireland. The board is responsible for the setting of requirements and standards in relation to the education programmes for registration, including registration in the public health nursing division of the register. In this regard, An Bord Áltranais is in the course of establishing the consultation process, to which the Deputy refers.

As this process is an operational matter for the board, I suggest that the Deputy contact the board directly regarding further detailed clarification.

Health Services.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

177 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has not forwarded information in relation to Brú Caoimhín, Cork Street in view of the previous parliamentary questions; and if she will make a statement confirming that this information will be forwarded within days; and if she will ensure that the objections of local residents to any reduction in the numbers catered for at Brú Caoimhín are listened to. [21968/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The Health Service Executive has informed the Department that a reply to the Deputy's previous question was issued on 19 April 2005.

Departmental Expenditure.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

178 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by her Department or agencies under the authority of her Department, on the services of models for use in departmental promotional activities, during policy launches or other departmental events since 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21970/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

M. J. Nolan

Ceist:

179 Mr. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when work will be carried out on a hospital (details supplied) in County Carlow as requested by the staff; her views on whether the physical condition of this building is unacceptable for patients and employees; the timescale envisioned for progress to be made in relation to the overall development of this facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22003/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

180 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if persons applying for a general medical card are assessed on individual income or on per income to the household; if they can opt for the most favourable position; the person who has final adjudication authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22047/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The determination of eligibility of applications for medical cards is statutorily vested in the Health Service Executive. In determining eligibility, the chief executive officer, or a delegated officer, will have regard to the financial circumstances and medical needs of the applicant, and spouse, if any. Recent changes announced by the Health Service Executive will mean that household income, after deductions in respect of PRSI and tax have been made, will be assessed when determining eligibility. Provision will also be made for reasonable expenses in respect of child care, rent-mortgage and commuting to work expenses.

Medical cards may be made available by the Health Service Executive where guidelines are exceeded in circumstances, for example, where there is particular need for medical services. A medical card may be issued to all or some members of a family. However, in all cases, the decision is a matter for the Health Service Executive. In assessing a person's eligibility, every aspect of an individual's financial means and medical expenses are carefully examined to ensure that no financial hardship is caused by the executive's refusal to grant a medical card in any particular case.

Questions Nos. 181 to 183, inclusive, answered with Question No. 159.

National Cancer Strategy.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

184 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the long delay in making the necessary funding available to pay for staff in order to open the cancer care beds in Tuam, County Galway; if the facility will be opened within the next month; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22066/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

185 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed community hospital in Tuam; the level of funding being made available to the project in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22067/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

186 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position concerning St. Bridget’s Psychiatric Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway; if property has been sold on the site; if not, if property will be sold in 2005; if such a sale takes place, the areas in which the proceeds will be invested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22068/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Charges.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

187 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of an inpatient, an outpatient and a day-care procedure in 2004. [22069/05]

The casemix adjusted base price for inpatients and day cases is the average cost of a case when all national data has been aggregated. The national base price is the national cost of treating a "standard" case with a complexity of 1.

Data in relation to the national average base price for inpatients and day cases for 2003, the latest year for which information is available, is detailed in the following table. Data for 2004 is presently being audited and will be available as part of the 2006 financial allocation.

Year of Financial Allocation

Year of Activity & Costs

National Inpatient Base Price

National Daycase Base Price

2005

2003

€3,644

€540

The 2003 national average cost per outpatient attendance (consultant led) is €138. With regard to the national costs detailed, capital costs and depreciation are not included.

Medical Cards.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

188 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons with medical card cover aged under 70 from 1998 to date; the percentage of the relevant population this represents; and the number of persons with medical card cover aged 70 and over. [22070/05]

The figures requested by the Deputy for 1998 to 2000 were not kept in this format by the Health Service Executive's primary care reimbursement service, formerly the GMS (payments) board. The number of persons with medical cards aged under 70 years from 2001 to date and the percentage of the relevant population this represents is set out in the following table:

Year ended

No. of persons with a medical card under 70 years of age

Percentage of relevant population

%

2001

876,548

24.22

2002

851,371

23.56

2003

848,813

23.48

2004

831,986

22.24

June 2005

825,544

22.07

The number of persons with medical cards aged 70 years and over, from 2001 to date is set out in the following table:

Year ended

No. of persons with a medical card aged 70 years and over

2001

322,906

2002

317,374

2003

309,330

2004

316,928

June 2005

321,463

The reduction in numbers can be explained by a number of factors including the changed economic circumstances of the population. These changed circumstances have meant that many people are no longer eligible for a medical card on means grounds. The ongoing management and review of medical card databases by the Health Service Executive has also been a factor, with normal deletions being made to databases due to death, change in eligibility status or persons moving from one area to another.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

189 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the unit cost per prescription for a medical card holder from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005; and the difference in the cost for those under and over 70. [22071/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

190 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual cost of the drug payments scheme and the long-term illness medication scheme in 2004 and to date in 2005; and the number of persons covered. [22072/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Strategy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

191 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of care assistants graduating from the health care assistants programme from 2003 to date. [22073/05]

The health care assistant or HCA grade supports the work of nurses-midwives and acts under their supervision. Health care assistants and similar grades such as nurse's aide and ward attendant have been a feature of the Irish health service for some time. In recent years there has been investment in the upskilling of these grades so that they can play a greater role in the delivery of care and allow nurses to concentrate on more high level work appropriate to their education and training.

Section 23 of Sustaining Progress includes a commitment to the implementation of improved skill mix in the health service. There is a recognition of the need to mainstream existing developments including greater use of health care assistants. The report of the Commission on Nursing, 1998, made recommendations in paragraphs 4.55 and 7.63 regarding the scope for increased use of care assistants and other non-nursing personnel in the performance of non-nursing tasks. Specifically, paragraph 7.63 recommended that a group be established to "examine opportunities for the increased use of care assistants and other non-nursing personnel in the performance of other non-nursing tasks".

A group was established to examine the effective utilisation of professional skills of nurses and midwives and issued its report in May 2001. The group recommended that the grade of health care assistant-maternity health care assistant be introduced as a member of the health care team to assist and support the nursing and midwifery function. It also made recommendations related to the education and training of health care assistants including that the health care support certificate, FETAC (NCVA, Level 2) qualification be the preparation required for employment as a health care assistant.

Health care assistants are now integrated into many health care teams. In 2003, 513 health care assistants undertook the health care support certificate. During 2004-05, more than 900 health care assistants undertook the health care support certificate. In addition, health care assistants have been introduced in eight pilot sites in the mental health services and they are undertaking the health care support certificate. The pilot programme in mental health services is currently being evaluated.

This vocational education programme has enhanced the skills and competency levels of health care assistants. As a result, health care organisations are increasingly recognising the potential of health care assistants and have requested further development of their role. It is intended that the training of health care assistants be enhanced to include the taking and reporting of vital signs. This was recently the subject of an industrial relations dispute with the Irish Nurses Organisation but following the intervention of the national implementation body it was recommended that there be immediate and full co-operation with all of the preparation and training arrangements necessary for the introduction of the programme at the earliest possible date. A process is now in place to deal with the issues in relation to implementation of this programme.

Medical Cards.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

192 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the extreme difficulty being experienced by applicants for medical card services whereby general practitioners are refusing to sign medical card applications due to their ongoing difficulties with her Department; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this is now making it impossible for persons to apply for medical cards in view of the fact that community welfare officers cannot sign applications due to the absence of a general practitioner’s signature; the way in which she proposes to solve this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22089/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department is not aware of widespread difficulty being experienced by applicants for medical cards in securing the services of GPs in order to access the general medical services scheme. If the Deputy is aware of a particular case where a person is experiencing any difficulty, he should bring the matter to the attention of the Health Service Executive which will investigate the matter.

Infectious Diseases.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

193 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to eliminate the surge of the MRSA bug in hospitals throughout the country resulting in many patients contracting the MRSA bug; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22090/05]

The Deputy will be aware that operational issues in relation to the services provided by acute hospitals now rest with the Health Service Executive.

Effective infection control measures, including environmental cleanliness and hand hygiene, are central to the control of hospital acquired Infections, including drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA. Improving the standards of cleanliness in hospitals is a priority. One of the specific actions identified in the ten-point plan to improve the delivery of accident and emergency services refers to the need to address this particular issue.

The national hospitals office has engaged external consultants to carry out an independent hygiene audit of hospitals this summer. The results of the audit will be made public and are expected to inform the national standards for infection control and cleaning. A SARI infection control sub-committee has updated the 1995 national guidelines for the control and prevention of MRSA in hospitals and in the community. The key recommendations cover such areas as environmental cleanliness, bed occupancy levels, isolation facilities, hand hygiene, appropriate antibiotic use and protocols for the screening and detection of MRSA. These guidelines are expected to be published shortly.

Nursing Homes.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

194 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the families of patients at Leas Cross nursing home were informed of alternative nursing homes; the reason these homes appeared in the media first; and the further reason for the lack of sensitivity from the HSE on this urgent matter. [22093/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

195 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons covered by medical cards in County Limerick in May 2005. [22094/05]

The number of persons covered by medical cards in County Limerick in May 2005 was 49,133, or 28.03% of the population of 175,304 (census 2002 population figure).

Hospital Re-admissions.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

196 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who were re-admitted to hospital within one week of discharge in 2004. [22095/05]

In 2004 there were 31,727 re-admissions to hospital within one week of discharge. This figure is derived from the hospital inpatient inquiry or HIPE system which gives details of activity in all publicly funded acute hospitals in the state as well as in two private hospitals. HIPE data only allows the identification of a re-admission if it is to the same hospital as the original admission. The figure given includes all inpatient re-admissions, i.e. re-admissions for the same condition, for an unrelated condition and planned re-admissions, and excludes day cases. It should be noted that the HIPE database for 2004 has not yet been finalised and hospital discharges occurring during 2004 are still being added to the system.

Health Centres.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

197 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to replace the prefabricated buildings at a day care centre (details supplied) in County Wexford; if suitable accommodation will be provided for the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22113/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

198 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to plans on the part of Beaumont Hospital to construct a kidney unit within the curtilage of the hospital; if she will provide a description of any works that are due to take place in this regard; and the timeframe for when the work is due to be started and completed. [22119/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Water Fluoridation.

John Gormley

Ceist:

199 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the latest study from the Harvard School of Dental Health which found an increased cancer risk in children due to water fluoridation, she will review the Government’s policy of water fluoridation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22141/05]

The study referred to by the Deputy is an unpublished student dissertation and is not possible to comment on unpublished research. However, I am informed that a number of peer reviewed published studies have shown no evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer.

The Irish expert body on fluorides and health held its inaugural meeting in April 2004. The terms of reference of the expert body 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 its own initiative. Should any peer reviewed research be published which indicates any harmful effects of fluoridation, I will be happy to refer it to the Irish expert body on fluorides and health for its advice as to any necessary action.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

200 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedures for changing chemist in order to avail of the drugs repayment scheme; the threshold for this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22142/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

201 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services organised by her Department in relation to speech therapy; the way in which these services are accessed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22143/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Water Fluoridation.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

202 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a review will be taking place in respect of the appropriateness of fluoridation in water supplies as a means of reducing contamination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22144/05]

Fluoridation of public water supplies as a public health measure is accepted as being one of the most effective methods of ensuring against tooth decay. The World Health Organisation, WHO, recommends fluoridation of public water supplies and has stated that "fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay". The WHO has also stated that "people of all ages, including the elderly, benefit from community water fluoridation".

The recently completed survey of oral health, covering the island of Ireland, shows that fluoridation of public water supplies continues to be a highly effective public health measure. It has contributed significantly to a major reduction in the incidence of dental decay in the Republic.

As the Deputy is aware, a forum on fluoridation was established 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. In all, the report of the forum on fluoridation made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, policy and technical aspects of fluoridation and the establishment of an expert body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The Irish expert body on fluorides and health held its inaugural meeting in April 2004. The terms of reference of the expert body 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 its 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. The body has 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 in the future.

Child Care Services.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

203 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children in the care of the HSE for the Carlow-Kilkenny community care area who do not have an allocated social worker as per the child care regulations of 1995; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22145/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

204 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of foster care workers that do not have an allocated social worker in the Carlow-Kilkenny community care area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22146/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Staff.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

205 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Nursing; the funding necessary to effect all the recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22147/05]

Government investment and support has ensured rapid progress in implementing the recommendations of the report of the Commission on Nursing. This commitment by Government has transformed nursing in Ireland over the last decade. The commission examined and made recommendations on areas such as the evolving role of nurses and midwives, promotional opportunities and the training and educational requirements of nurses.

The change in pre-registration nurse education has been the most significant development on foot of the recommendations of the Commission on Nursing. Nurse training has moved from a three year diploma to a four year degree programme and there is now an annual intake of 1,640 students, an increase of 70% on the 1998 numbers. The Government has provided capital funding of €240 million for 13 new schools of nursing in the universities and institutes of technology. The annual revenue cost of the degree programme is in excess of €90 million. The first group of students on this programme will graduate in autumn 2006.

A major recommendation of the commission was that a clinical career pathway be developed in addition to the managerial and educational pathways already open to nurses. It also recommended that an independent statutory agency be established with responsibility for post-registration professional development of nursing and midwifery. The National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery was established in 1999. The council has responsibility for setting criteria and approving posts at clinical nurse specialist, CNS, and advanced nurse practitioner, ANP level. My Department is providing funding of €4.22 million to the council this year. To date the council has approved 1,674 CNS posts and 24 ANP posts.

The Commission on Nursing made a number of important recommendations in relation to the role of nurses and midwives in the management of services. These recommendations have been implemented. Developments in this area include the development of the post of chief nursing officer in the Department of Health and Children; the establishment of eight nursing and midwifery planning and development units; and the introduction of new nurse management structures. The number of management positions in nursing has significantly increased since the publication of the report of the Commission on Nursing. The number of assistant directors of nursing, for example, has increased by 140% between 1997 and 2004.

The Commission on Nursing made recommendations in paragraphs 4.55 and 7.63 regarding the scope for increased use of care assistants and other non-nursing personnel in the performance of non-nursing tasks. Specifically, paragraph 7.63 recommended that a group be established to "examine opportunities for the increased use of care assistants and other non-nursing personnel in the performance of other non-nursing tasks". On foot of these recommendations it has been agreed that the healthcare support certificate, FETAC (NCVA, Level 2) qualification be the preparation required for employment as a health care assistant.

Health care assistants are now integrated into many health care teams. In 2003, 513 health care assistants undertook the healthcare support certificate. During 2004/2005, over 900 health care assistants undertook the healthcare support certificate. In addition, health care assistants have been introduced in eight pilot sites in the mental health services and they are undertaking the healthcare support certificate. Healthcare organisations are increasingly recognising the potential of health care assistants and have requested further development of their role.

In the area of nursing in the community, the commission recommended that midwifery should no longer be a mandatory requirement for public health nurses. An Bord Altranais approved this rule change in November 2004 and I gave my approval as required under Section 26 of the Nurses Act 1985 in December 2004. Work is continuing in my Department of a strategy for nursing and midwifery in the community, or NAMIC.

The Commission on Nursing recommended a number of amendments to the Nurses Act 1985. My Department is currently involved in drafting new legislation which will amend that Act. The new legislation will modernise the regulatory framework operated by An Bord Altranais for nurses and midwives. Work on the draft heads of the Bill is at an advanced stage and all stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on the draft legislation.

The commission made over 100 main recommendations. Work is ongoing on some of these recommendations including the preparation of the new Nurses Bill and NAMIC. The commission also made a recommendation in relation to care of the older person. This is clearly an issue related to service provision rather than nursing per se. Care of the older person is a key service area and one about which I have particular concerns. I will be deciding how best to proceed on this front shortly.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

206 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the additional Exchequer funding that would be required for nursing home subvention grants to cover all charges to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22148/05]

The amount of subvention paid to patients in private nursing homes varies depending on the level of dependency of the individual patient and his or her means. The costs imposed by nursing homes on private residents and the Health Services Executive would of course be relevant here. Accordingly, it would be very difficult in the time available to determine the additional Exchequer funding that would be required to cover all charges to patients in private nursing homes. However, my Department will carry out an analysis of the costs requested by the Deputy and I will contact him when that information is available.

Suicide Prevention.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

207 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding being allocated by her Department for research in suicide and suicidal behaviour in 2005. [22149/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes the provision of suicide prevention and research programmes and the allocation of funding for such programmes. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

208 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on efforts by her Department to deal with the shortage of speech and language therapists; the plans in place to deal with the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22150/05]

Three new speech and language therapy courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year, one of which is a two year postgraduate course at the University of Limerick. In total, these courses provide an additional 75 training places in speech and language therapy. This expansion in training numbers has been identified in the report commissioned by my Department from Dr. Peter Bacon and associates on current and future demand conditions in the labour market for certain professional therapists as sufficient to meet the long-term requirements for speech and language therapists in Ireland. The first graduates of the new speech and language therapy course in the University of Limerick will be conferred in the near future.

Intensive efforts have been made to improve staffing levels in speech and language therapy in recent years. The success of these measures has resulted in an increase of 99 speech and language therapists, in wholetime equivalent terms, in the public health service from 399 WTEs at end-2001 to 498 WTEs at end-2004. This represents an increase of 25% in the number of speech and language therapists employed over the three year period.

Measures that have contributed to increased staffing levels in speech and language therapy include new pay scales and enhanced opportunities for professional and career development, the availability of the fast track working visa scheme and the streamlining of procedures for the validation of overseas qualifications. These measures are also designed to help sustain the improvements achieved in staffing levels.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

209 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided for an acute medical unit at Tallaght Hospital. [22151/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Practitioner Service.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

210 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding proposals for an out of hours general practitioner service at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22152/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

211 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the HSE is delaying the approval process for a joint paediatric/adolescent endocrinologist/diabetologist for 7/4 session split between Temple Street Children’s Hospital and the Mater Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22153/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

212 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the payment of a grant under the housing aid for the elderly scheme will be expedited in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [22154/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

213 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop a national strategy for carers giving full recognition to their role as an integral part of the health services with adequate supports provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22246/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, carers provide an invaluable role in supporting family members in the community and it is important to recognise their contribution to society. The role of carers in society has to some extent not been fully recognised in the past but this situation is changing with a number of initiatives being introduced to address the needs of carers.

The Department of Health and Children provided in excess of €1 million in funding in 2005 to a number of groups supporting cares such as Care Alliance, Caring for Carers and the Carers Association. The Department of Social and Family Affairs has also implemented a range of measures, since 1999, to assist carers, including increases in the carer's allowance, the introduction of an annual payment of €1,000 towards the cost of respite care and the extension of schemes such as the free electricity allowance, free telephone rental and free TV licence to those on carer's allowance.

The Carer's Leave Act 2001 allows employees in Ireland to leave their employment temporarily for a minimum period of 13 weeks up to a maximum period of 65 weeks to provide full-time care and attention. Carer's leave from employment is unpaid but the Carer's Leave Act ensures that those who propose to avail of carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them for the duration of the leave. The above mentioned initiatives demonstrate this Government's commitment to addressing the shortcomings identified by the Carers Association and other groups regarding support for carers.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

214 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 140 of 24 May 2005, if the HSE is correct in its decision to impute to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 an annual income equivalent to 5% of the estimated market value of a jointly owned principal residence; if a similar decision would be determined if the relationship of joint owners were that of husband and wife; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22247/05]

As the Deputies will be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the nursing homes regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. Under the regulations, the Health Service Executive when considering an application for subvention carries out a means test which takes into account the means of the applicant and his or her spouse-cohabiting partner, where appropriate, and the assets of the applicant. The means test is usually carried out by the local community welfare officer and involves looking at the applicant's income for the previous 12 months. Income from all sources is taken into account, including wages, salary, pension, allowances, payments for part-time and seasonal work, income from rentals, investments and savings and all contributions from all sources. Income is assessed net of PRSI, income tax and the health contribution and the income of a married or cohabiting person is taken to be half the total income of the couple. In assessing an applicant's assets the first €7,618 of such assets is disregarded.

If the value of the applicant's principal residence is in excess of €95,230 and the residence is not occupied by a spouse, a son or daughter aged less than 21 or in full-time education or a relative in receipt of the disabled person's maintenance allowance, blind person's pension, disability benefit, invalidity pension or old age non-contributory pension, then the HSE imputes an annual income equivalent to 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence. If an applicant's spouse is still resident in their home at the time of application, then that house may not be assessed for subvention purposes.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

215 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be renewed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [22251/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

216 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for refund of moneys under the national repayment scheme in relation to overcharging of residents at public nursing institutions. [22252/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges. All those who were illegally charged for publicly funded long-term residential care and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The repayment will apply to all those who were charged including those in receipt of payments other than the non-contributory old age pension.

The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the CPI, since the time the person involved was charged. Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible to provide a clear legal framework for the scheme.

The national helpline set up by the Health Service Executive to allow people to register if they believe they are due a repayment will continue to operate, but there is no need for anyone who has already registered using this facility to make contact with the HSE again to register for the scheme. Any person who considers that they or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register their interest in advance with the Health Service Executive, by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, County Offaly; or e-mail to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie; or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

Health Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

217 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the guidelines which are prescribed for the assessment of children to determine their entitlement to orthodontic treatment. [22261/05]

I have arranged for a copy of the 1985 guidelines to be sent to the Deputy under separate cover.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

218 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has carried out studies to determine the way in which standards for orthodontic treatment in the State compare with European standards; the steps she intends to take to improve these standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22262/05]

Responsibility for standards for orthodontic treatment is statutorily vested in the Dental Council under the Dentists Act, 1985, Part II, Section 6(1). The Dental Council was established to "promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists".

In recent years there have been several reviews of the orthodontic service. Formed at the invitation of the Department, a group representative of health board management and consultant orthodontists reviewed the orthodontic service and produced a report in 1998 called the Moran report. The objective of this review was to ensure equity in the provision of orthodontic treatment throughout the health boards. Furthermore, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, JOCHC, also carried out a review of orthodontic services which culminated in the publication of its report, The Orthodontic Service in Ireland, in 2002. This was followed by a further review by the health board chief executive officers of the orthodontic service to consider the JOCHC's report and assess progress with implementing the Moran report. Finally, just this month, the JOCHC published a follow up to its 2002 report on the orthodontic service in Ireland.

All these reviews have examined, in depth, the orthodontic service and none has raised the issue of standards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

219 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action which will be taken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [22263/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

220 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the death rate by suicide per 100,000 of population by health board, regional authority and county areas for 2004. [22265/05]

Data on mortality are compiled by the Central Statistics Office and published in the annual and quarterly reports on vital statistics. The latest period for which data are available is January to September 2004. These figures are provided in the table below.

Number of deaths from suicide per 100,000 population by health board-regional authority and county, January to September 2004.

Health Board/Regional Authority and County

Rate per 100,000 Population

Eastern

Dublin

6.1

Kildare

7.6

Wicklow

7.8

Total Eastern

6.4

Midland

Laois

4.4

Longford

8.5

Offaly

16.2

Westmeath

8.8

Total Midland

9.7

Mid-Western

Clare

14.9

Limerick

9.6

Tipperary NR

15.0

Total Mid-Western

12.2

North Eastern

Cavan

4.6

Louth

8.8

Meath

12.1

Monaghan

10.0

Total North-Eastern

9.6

North-Western

Donegal

8.5

Leitrim

0.0

Sligo

4.5

Total North-Western

6.5

South-Eastern

Carlow

5.6

Kilkenny

14.5

Tipperary SR

4.9

Waterford

10.2

Wexford

4.4

Total South-Eastern

7.9

Southern

Cork

13.6

Kerry

11.8

Total Southern

13.2

Western

Galway

6.1

Mayo

10.0

Roscommon

2.4

Total Western

6.8

Grand Total

8.6

Hospitals Building Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

221 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of capital funding which has been provided for hospitals at Monaghan, Cavan, Navan, Dundalk and Drogheda in her allocation of capital funding for the year 2005; if she has satisfied herself that it will be sufficient to make any marked improvement in the availability of services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22347/05]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

248 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if Mallow General Hospital is to benefit from the capital funding allocated to acute hospitals on 21 June 2005. [22556/05]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

249 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount allocated under the acute hospital funding to University Hospital, Cork on 21 June 2005. [22557/05]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

250 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount allocated to hospitals in Cork city under the capital funding scheme announced on 21 June 2005. [22558/05]

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

266 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of the capital programme of the Health Service Executive announced by the Government on 21 June 2005 in relation to hospitals (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22692/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221, 248 to 250, inclusive, and 266 together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 222 withdrawn.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Deasy

Ceist:

223 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford has still not been called for an operation; if there will be no further delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22375/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

224 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the total cost, number and nature of legal services sought by her Department from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22414/05]

My Department has sought and obtained legal advice on a wide range of issues over the period in question. Many issues require several separate legal advices. Most of the legal advice is provided on an ongoing basis by the Department's own legal adviser. In addition, legal advice is provided by the Office of the Attorney General.

Due to the confidential and privileged nature of legal advice, it would be inappropriate to provide details of the subject matter of the various advices sought. However, the information requested in relation to the cost of other legal services for the period mentioned is being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Mental Health Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

225 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents involving the swallowing of foreign objects that have taken place in psychiatric centres in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22435/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

229 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths caused by choking or related complications that have taken place in psychiatric hospitals and units in the past five years on a yearly and hospital basis since 1995; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22439/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 229 together.

According to information provided in the annual reports of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals, there were three deaths due to asphyxia from the inhalation of food or other material in psychiatric inpatient settings in 2001 and one such death in 2002. One death in 2001 was due to aspiration pneumonia following the ingestion of an article of clothing. A breakdown of these figures is not available on a hospital basis. Withe regard to serious incidents, while such incidents were reported to the Inspector of Mental Hospitals, collation of the information in the format requested by the Deputy is not available.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

226 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of reported incidents involving the swallowing of foreign objects that have taken place at St. Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22436/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

227 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of reported incidents involving the swallowing of foreign objects requiring surgery that have taken place at St. Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22437/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

228 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths caused by choking or related complications that have taken place at St. Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman on a yearly basis since 1995. [22438/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 to 228, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 229 answered with QuestionNo. 225.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

230 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details proposed by a person (details supplied) to fast track the roll-out of BreastCheck in the west referred to by her in a recent radio interview given in County Mayo. [22440/05]

New facilities for the national expansion of BreastCheck are included in the health capital investment framework 2005-09. My Department recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to work up detailed plans for the design and construction of the clinical unit at University College Hospital, Galway. The selection process for the design team is well advanced.

BreastCheck anticipates that the shortlisting, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005. Discussions on staffing requirements are taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national roll-out will be met.

Proposals for the construction of a modular unit at University College Hospital, Galway to facilitate an earlier introduction of the breast screening programme in the west are being considered by BreastCheck, University College Hospital, Galway and my Department.

Health Services.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

231 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will reopen the tendering process for contract beds on behalf of the HSE in private nursing homes in County Mayo in view of the fact that no tenderer was selected in County Mayo; and if she will reduce the requirement to have ten beds available. [22441/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

232 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if SI 478 of 2002 is the only directive prohibiting x-rays in regard to asbestos or asbestos-related illnesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22442/05]

The European Communities (Medical Ionising Radiation Protection) Regulations 2002 (SI No 478 of 2002) were introduced to give effect to Council Directive 97/43/ EURATOM on the health protection of individuals against the dangers of ionising radiation in relation to medical exposures. While the regulations include provisions in regard to exposures for occupational health surveillance, they are not limited to asbestos related conditions. The Deputy may wish to note that the Health and Safety Authority is responsible for the general control of asbestos in the workplace.

Health Services.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

233 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 is likely to receive orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22443/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

234 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the total cost, number and nature of reports, consultancies or other advisory or public relations commissions awarded by her Department from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005 to persons other than established civil servants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22470/05]

The information requested is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Accommodation.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

235 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of money which has been spent on the renting, leasing or purchasing of de-mountable, temporary accommodation over the past five years; if her Department arranges this through the Department of Finance; the tendering process which is in operation and the frequency in which it is reviewed; the length of time the arrangement lasts; the average period of renting or leasing; and the number of units which have been rented and leased over five, eight and ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22485/05]

The provision of accommodation for my Department is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works. My Department has not used any de-mountable temporary accommodation over the past five years.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

236 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will be following the recommendation of the review of 2004 (details supplied) of orthodontic services in the Mid-Western Health Board region to restore the Limerick orthodontic training programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22517/05]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the Dental Council as, in Ireland, the regulation of professional education and training in dentistry is statutorily vested by the Oireachtas in the Dental Council alone; the Dentists Act, 1985, Part II, section 6(1) refers. Furthermore, Part IV, section 37(3) of the Act provides that: "The Council shall from time to time determine, in relation to each specialty recognised by it, the body or bodies which the council shall recognise in the State for the purpose of granting evidence of satisfactory completion of specialist training". The Irish committee for specialist training in dentistry has been designated by the Dental Council as the body responsible for specialist training.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

237 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment and the number on the assessment waiting list for orthodontic treatment following referral by a dentist in the Mid-Western Health Board area for each of the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; the waiting list figures for County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22518/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

238 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of men in County Clare being treated for prostate cancer; the success rates for such treatment; the action she is taking to address the early detection of this cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22519/05]

Statistics in relation to the incidences of cancer cases are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the director of the registry to examine the issue raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

A new national cancer strategy is currently being finalised by the national cancer forum, a multi-disciplinary group of experts in oncology. As part of this work, the forum has reviewed all issues relating to screening, including examining specific diseases such as prostate and colorectal cancer. The forum has also developed criteria against which all future screening programmes will be assessed.

With regard to screening for prostate cancer, I understand that the forum will recommend that there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the introduction of a population based prostate screening programme in this country. This issue should be reassessed when the results are available from randomised control trials currently being conducted internationally. This position is consistent with the recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocate the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for healthcare resources. The proposals do not provide for specific recommendations in respect of screening for prostate cancer.

Appropriate treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is available at major hospitals throughout the country. Any man who has concerns in relation to prostate cancer should contact his GP who will, where appropriate, refer him to the appropriate services in his area.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

239 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will expand the cervical screen project to County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22520/05]

A pilot cervical screening programme commenced in October 2000 and is available to eligible women resident in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary North. Under the programme, cervical screening is being offered, free of charge, to approximately 74,000 women in these three counties in the 25 to 60 age group, at five year intervals.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

240 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be extended to County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22521/05]

New facilities for the expansion of BreastCheck nationally are included in the health capital investment framework 2005-09. My Department recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to work up detailed plans for the design and construction of the clinical unit at University College Hospital, Galway. The catchment area of that centre will include County Clare.

The selection process for the design team is well advanced. BreastCheck anticipates that the shortlisting, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005. Discussions on staffing requirements are currently taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national rollout will be met.

Infectious Diseases.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

241 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of MRSA cases in Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22522/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

242 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will classify asthma as a long-term illness in order that the range of products for the treatment of asthma, such as inhalers, are made available free of charge to all asthma sufferers if they have a medical card or not or if they can avail of the drugs payment scheme or not for this purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22528/05]

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

270 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider providing full medical card services to all those with chronic asthma; her views on whether this is a long term illness causing serious problems for the patients concerned often leading to hospitalisation if primary care and medication is not available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22705/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 270 together.

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition through the long-term illness scheme, LTI. The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness — for people under 16 only, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, Parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. Parkinsonism, acute leukaemia, muscular dystrophies and multiple sclerosis were added to the scheme in 1975. There are currently no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions.

The medical card, GMS, and drugs payment, DPS, schemes provide assistance towards the cost of approved drugs and medicines for people with significant ongoing medical expenses. 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. Non-medical card holders, and people with conditions not covered under the LTI, can use the drugs payment scheme, DPS. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. There is a range of asthma products, such as inhalers, on the common list of reimbursable drug products for the GMS and DPS.

Decisions on individual eligibility for a medical card are solely a matter for the Health Service Executive. In determining eligibility, for people other than those aged over 70, the applicant's financial circumstances are considered and income guidelines are used. However, where a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may be granted if it is considered that medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. There are currently no plans to change this position.

In November 2004, I announced revised medical card income guidelines, which increased by 7.5%, together with significant rises in respect of dependants, with a view to extending the number of medical cards by 30,000 in 2005. These guidelines have been in operation since January 2005. The introduction of the GP visit card will extend eligibility for a patient holding such a card to general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme. Such a person's income can be up to 25% in excess of the income guidelines used for the assessment of eligibility for medical cards. In addition, the basis for assessing an applicant's income has been changed to a disposable income basis, that is income after tax and PSRI, including allowance for childcare, rent or mortgage and the cost of travel to work. This will mean that more individuals and families will be eligible, the assessment process will be fairer and more user-friendly and administrative arrangements will be simplified and streamlined.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

243 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children regarding the recent report on orthodontics; and if she will give a timeframe for implementation of same. [22529/05]

The recent report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, JOCHC, is a follow up to its earlier report of 2002, The Orthodontic Service in Ireland. As the committee makes clear, the report should be read as an appendix to the 2002 report.

A number of measures have been adopted to improve orthodontic services on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the orthodontic service. My Department and the Health Service Executive, HSE, are currently funding 13 dentists from various HSE areas for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 dentists are in addition to the nine dentists who successfully completed their training and have taken up duties with the HSE. 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. My Department has given approval in principle to a proposal to further substantially improve training facilities for orthodontics at the school, which will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

My Department has been informed by the HSE that at the end of the March 2005 quarter, there were 22,818 patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many patients getting orthodontic treatment as there are waiting to be treated and more than 7,000 extra patients are getting treatment from the HSE since the end of the June 2001 quarter. My Department has written to the HSE regarding the latest JOCHC report and will meet it to discuss the recommendations made in the report.

Waste Management.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

244 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the interests of public health, she will meet with the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment to discuss its concerns regarding the threat to health posed by the proposed building of a toxic waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, County Cork. [22533/05]

In January 2005 my Department responded to the group referred to by the Deputy indicating that I was unable to meet it due to the heavy schedule of Government and departmental business at the time. At my request my Department forwarded the invitation to my colleague Deputy Roche, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who has primary responsibility for the issue of waste management.

Mental Health Services.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

245 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the mental health tribunals during the past ten months; the number of persons available to be appointed to each of the three panels for the review tribunals in the different regions of the country in which they will sit; when the legislation to implement the tribunals will be enacted or commenced; when they will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22534/05]

I am informed by the Mental Health Commission that it advertised for membership of panels for mental health tribunals, tribunal clerks and independent examining consultants in September 2004. Interviews for the tribunal chairperson and lay person member panels were held in November 2004. The Mental Health Commission is currently finalising this competition. The commission has recently readvertised the panels for the tribunal clerks, and interviews will be held in the near future.

Interviews for the panels of consultant psychiatrists were held in May and June of this year and these are currently being processed. The Irish Hospital Consultants' Association has advised its members not to apply for membership of the panels and this has led to an insufficient number of applications. The relevant sections of the Mental Health Act 2001, which provide for the operation of mental health tribunals will be commenced as soon as practicable.

Dental Profession.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

246 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she intends to take to correct the monopoly in the dental profession for which the Dental Act 1985 was drawn up and the Dental Council set up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22535/05]

The Dentists Act, 1985 provides that the Dental Council may with the consent of the Minister for Health make schemes for the establishment of classes of auxiliary dental workers. This is in line with one of two options presented in the Restrictive Practices Commission report, that the general provision on the carrying-on of dentistry by a non-dentist should not apply to the provision of dentures by a denturist. The Act does not give the Minister power to amend a scheme proposed by the Dental Council.

Over the last number of years, the Dental Council has proposed schemes to establish a denturist class of auxiliary dental worker, but the Minister has not consented to such schemes in the absence of a grandfathering clause enabling existing denturists to continue to practice. This issue has been the subject of High Court proceedings which have supported the position of the Minister for Health and which are now the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Dentists Act 1985, provides for 19 members to be appointed to the Dental Council. Of these, two are appointed by University College Cork, two are appointed by the University of Dublin, one is appointed by the Royal College of Surgeons, seven are dentists, to be elected by fully registered dentists, two are appointed by the Medical Council, one is appointed by the Minister for Education and four are appointed by the Minister for Health and Children.

The Dentists Act does not stipulate whether nominees other than the seven registered dentists specifically mentioned should or should not come from the dental profession. The four members of the current Dental Council appointed by the Minister for Health and Children are a consultant orthodontist, a consultant microbiologist, a dental technician and the Director of Consumer Affairs. While the Dental Council consists of members from backgrounds including dentistry, administration, psychology and paediatrics, it remains the case that a majority of those on the council are from the dental profession.

Departmental Staff.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

247 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the names, titles, dates of appointment, total annual salary including pension contributions of each of the special or political advisers, personal assistants or personal secretaries appointed by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22541/05]

Set out below are details of the special advisers, personal assistants and the personal secretary appointed to the Tánaiste's Office in the Department of Health and Children.

Name

Title

Date of Appointment

Annual Salary

Pension Contribution

John O’Brien

Special Advisor

30/09/2004

129,725

7,666

Oliver O’Connor

Special Advisor

30/09/2004

115,775

12,735

Patricia Ryan

Special Advisor

30/09/2004

110,883

12,197

Catherine Dardis

Personal Assistant

30/09/2004

52,020

5,722

Alan McGaughey

Personal Assistant

30/09/2004

52,921

5,821

Nuala Talbot

Personal Secretary

30/09/2004

47,561

Questions Nos. 248 to 250, inclusive, answered with Question No. 221.

Hospital Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

251 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her authorisation to the HSE to proceed with its programme of capital works, the works which are to be done at Birr community nursing unit under the completion of the works-balances heading; the cost of this work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22607/05]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

252 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her authorisation to the HSE to proceed with its programme of capital works, the works which are to be done at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, under the completion of the existing works heading at the acute psychiatric and paediatric units; the cost of this work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22608/05]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

253 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her authorisation to the HSE to proceed with its programme of capital works, the funding allocation which has been made to the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore; if this will complete the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22609/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 to 253, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 254 to 261, inclusive, answered with Question No. 159.

Hospital Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

262 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans, to establish a paediatric unit at Naas General Hospital in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22688/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

263 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the medical card issued to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a decision in the case will be expedited. [22689/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Certificates.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

264 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a primary medical certificate was not granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if their case will be re-examined; the number of certificates issued to persons with multiple sclerosis, throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22690/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

265 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [22691/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 266 answered with QuestionNo. 221.

Hospital Services.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

267 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the approved revenue funding of €500,000 for the commissioning of ten additional day beds at a hospital (details supplied) which she announced in December 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22693/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

268 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of the proposals for the refurbishment of the male medical unit at a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22694/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering existing or new capital proposals, in relation to the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

269 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider the needs of diabetics; if proper primary care through the general practitioners with early diagnosis will minimise the time spent in hospital; her views on whether they should have free doctors care as well as the medication which is already available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22695/05]

Persons who suffer from diabetes are covered under the long-term illness scheme for the provision of all approved prescribed medicines for the treatment of that disease, free of charge. I have no plans to change the conditions of the long-term illness scheme to include the provision of general practitioner services free of charge, to persons who suffer from diabetes.

There is strong evidence that early diagnosis of diabetes and proper management by a multidisciplinary team, including general practitioners, improves the health of diabetics and postpones the onset of serious eye, kidney and cardiovascular complications. These complications such as blindness, coronary artery disease, kidney failure and amputations ordinarily have to be managed in hospital.

As the Deputy is aware, in 2005, additional funding of €60 million has been provided to allow the Health Service Executive provide an additional 30,000 people with full medical cards and to extend free access to general practitioner services under the general medical services (GMS) scheme to up to a further 200,000 persons. The reason for this initiative was to ensure that as many people as possible, particularly those on low income and with children, would be free from the worry of costs associated with accessing general practitioner services for themselves and their children.

Question No. 270 answered with QuestionNo. 242.

Hospital Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

271 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the removal of the mobile day hospital service from Maynooth, County Kildare; if she will ensure that the service is retained and continues its valuable service for senior citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22713/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John Perry

Ceist:

272 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the 32 staff working at Ballymote community nursing home, County Sligo, will fall under the umbrella of the Health Service Executive; if this matter will be rectified in order that they receive parity of pay, including retrospective pay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22801/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

John Perry

Ceist:

273 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she plans to implement a nationwide breast screening service for all women of all ages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22811/05]

The national breast screening programme commenced in 2000 and covers the eastern, midland, north-eastern and parts of the south-eastern regions of the country. Screening is being offered free of charge, every two years to approximately 160,000 women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years of age. The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the roll out of breast screening to a further 130,000 women in the same age group in the remaining regions of the country.

New facilities for the national expansion of BreastCheck are included in the health capital investment framework 2005-09. My Department recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to work up detailed plans for the design and construction of the clinical unit at University College Hospital, Galway. The selection process for the design team is well advanced. BreastCheck anticipates that the shortlisting, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005. Discussions on staffing requirements are currently taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national roll-out will be met.

Following the national roll out and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit. There is no evidence of the value of population based breast screening programmes for women under 50 years of age and there are no plans to extend the programme to this age group.

This position is consistent with the recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocates the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for health care resources. The proposals do not provide specific recommendations for screening for breast disease for those under 50 years of age.

Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

274 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the statutory instrument that permits the HSE to set an age threshold, commonly 25 years, below which a person is considered a dependant when determining their medical card entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22812/05]

Statutory Instrument 381/1983 issued in December 1983 stated that the provisions of the 1970 Health Act regarding full eligibility would not extend to persons aged between 16 and 25 years who are dependants of persons who do not have full eligibility for the service under Part IV of the Health Act 1970, save where considered by the Health Service Executive in order to avoid undue hardship. These changes in eligibility arrangements affecting young people aged sixteen years and over, ensured that entitlement would take account of their families income and circumstances.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

275 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if persons who hold a medical card do not have to pay the health levy; if this concession applies equally to those who become eligible automatically on age grounds at 70 years as well as to those who qualify on a means test; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22813/05]

Section 11 of the Health Contributions Act 1979, as amended by section 24 of the Social Welfare Act 1995, lists the payments which are exempt from the payment of the health levy, and recipients of these payments together with the holders of medical cards are exempt from any liability to make a health contribution. On 1 July 2001, full eligibility was extended to all persons aged 70 or over and persons with full eligibility are exempt from the health contribution levy.

Community Care.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

276 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided for the construction of a day care centre (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22814/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

277 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the HSE will provide a new health centre on the grounds of Listowel District Hospital as the existing centre is inadequate to meet the needs of the staff and patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22815/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Curran

Ceist:

278 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a visit to the dentist has not yet taken place for children in sixth class at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 22; the details of the arrangements which are being made for such a visit before these children enter secondary school. [22816/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

279 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with respect to the nursing home subvention in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22817/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Incidence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

280 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has studied the number of incidents of the various forms of cancer throughout the country with particular reference to the areas affected by high levels of radon gas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22818/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

281 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has monitored the incidents of the various forms of cancer at locations deemed to have an unacceptably high level of radon gas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22819/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 281 together.

Statistics in relation to the incidences of cancer cases including lung cancer are collated by the national cancer registry. My Department has asked the director of the registry to examine the issue raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Perry

Ceist:

282 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will be called for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22821/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Funding.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

283 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the value of the increases in charges and appropriations in aid in the financial years 1995/1996 and 1997/1998. [23502/05]

The following table gives an analysis of appropriations-in-aid received by my Department in the years 1995 to 1998, inclusive.

1995

1996

1997

1998

€m

€m

€m

€m

Receipts from Health Contributions

271.974

272.816

290.623

360.620

Recovery of cost of health services provided under regulations of EU

65.535

74.486

88.526

114.276

Searches for copies of entries of Births, Deaths and Marriages

0.290

0.294

0.316

0.334

Recovery from Department of Health UK re their share costs of Leopardstown Park Hospital

0.000

0.327

0.340

0.216

Fees from Licences for product authorisations, manufacturing licences, free sale certs, Misuse of Drugs Act, Adoption Certs etc

1.826

0.272

0.090

0.094

Miscellaneous

0.032

0.023

0.051

0.036

Total Appropriations-in-Aid

339.657

348.218

379.946

475.576

Tax Code.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

284 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering revisiting the issue of a carbon tax policy in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22033/05]

As set out in my reply to the Deputy on this issue on 14 June, the Government decided in September 2004 not to introduce a carbon energy tax. A lot of work went into examining how a carbon energy tax could be implemented and its likely effects in environmental, economic and social terms. In this respect, the Government decided that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that, instead, it would intensify action on the non-tax measures under the national climate change strategy, for the following reasons. First, the Government concluded that the environmental benefits of such a tax would not justify the difficulties that would arise, particularly for households, from the introduction of such a tax. In this respect, the carbon energy tax would have imposed price increases on many products already suffering sharp increases.

Second, in considering the introduction of such a tax, my Department carried out an extensive consultation process in which 117 written submissions were received. Over half of those who expressed a view on the carbon tax were against it including a number of significant representative bodies. Even some of those who had no difficulty with a carbon tax in principle sought exemptions for various sectors and purposes.

Appointments to State Boards.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

285 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it is appropriate that a person who is disqualified from holding a directorship of a private company should be a member of a State board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22538/05]

Appointments to boards of State bodies are, in the first instance, subject to the relevant legislation governing the establishment of the bodies in question. Generally, appointments to the boards of State bodies are made by the relevant Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I can assure the Deputy that, as Minister for Finance, I would expect that all such appointments would meet the very highest standards of general suitability and of probity. If the Deputy is referring to a specific case, or cases, the issue should be raised with the relevant Minister, or Ministers, in the first instance.

National Monuments.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

286 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the number of historical sites in County Clare maintained by the Office of Public Works; the annual number of visitors to each site over the past five years; the investment in each of these sites in the past five years and the corresponding figure spent on promotion of these sites; the average spend differential between present day figures and the period when Dúchas had responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22629/05]

There are 36 national monument sites in the care of the Office of Public Works in County Clare. Responsibility for the management of these sites transferred to the Office of Public Works on 1 January 2004.

The primary source of funding for conservation projects at national monument sites is the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The programme of works and funding under the NDP was agreed in 2000 and work has continued in the intervening period on implementing this. The following table outlines expenditure under the NDP on conservation work at sites in County Clare from 2000 to 2004.

Total

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

Burren Monuments

599,142

60,241

185,434

88,023

224,812

40,632

Ennis Friary

234,991

0

22,722

96,955

112,775

2,539

Kilfenora Cathedral

1,037,932

238,787

408,154

342,991

48,000

0

Quin Abbey

718,105

0

115,460

274,647

264,511

63,487

Scattery Island

1,254,437

298,000

327,863

460,215

168,359

0

Poulnabrone

203,759

28,504

39,210

102,225

33,820

0

In addition to the NDP allocations for projects at Quin Abbey and Scattery Island, further sums of €124,673 and €77,236 respectively were expended at these sites in 2004. Routine maintenance of the sites is carried out by the staff from the national monuments depot in Athenry, but it is not possible to give a breakdown for individual sites.

There are only two heritage sites in County Clare with a guide service — Scattery Island and Ennis Friary. Visitor figures for the period 2000-2004 are as follows:

Scattery Island

Ennis Friary

2000

1,617

15,043

2001

1,803

14,539

2002

1,267

15,201

2003

1,524

15,226

2004

2,004

13,387

While there is no guide service at Poulnabrone Dolmen, it is estimated that the site attracts well in excess of 100,000 visitors per annum, making it the most visited of the heritage sites in County Clare in the care of the Office of Public Works.

Heritage sites managed by the Office of Public Works are not promoted individually. Such sites are promoted collectively nationally and regionally in conjunction with the regional tourism authorities and Shannon Development. National and regional versions of brochures are distributed at staffed OPW-managed heritage sites and through the tourist information offices network operated by the regional tourist authorities. The sites are, in addition, promoted through a website, www.heritageireland.ie. It is not possible, therefore, to separately quantify the expenditure on the marketing of individual heritage sites in County Clare.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

287 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the possibility of tax exemption for the food park at Lough Egish, Castleblayney, County Monaghan (details supplied); his views on whether a border region such as Monaghan is as much entitled to such benefits as the tax free status such as Shannon Airport, industries in Cork or the financial services in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22677/05]

The Government's taxation policy is designed at maximising the employment and economic benefits of industrial development by creating an attractive climate for investment throughout Ireland. In this respect Ireland offers one of the most beneficial corporate tax environments in the EU with a corporation tax rate of 12.5% applying since 1 January 2003.

This is a general measure which applies across the board to companies located in all areas and regions in the State. As such, it does not conflict with EU state aid rules. A proposal to offer tax incentives to companies in a specific region or specific towns would constitute state aid and would have to be examined and approved by the EU Commission. Recent experience of a much more rigorous examination of fiscal state aids by the Commission indicates that approval for any such scheme could not be guaranteed given in particular that the current regional aid map for Ireland expires at end of 2006.

There is no tax free status available to firms in Shannon, Cork or Dublin. However, an effective corporation tax rate of 10% does apply to certain companies in the Shannon Airport zone and the IFSC and manufacturing companies generally. State aid rules require this rate to be phased out and not re-introduced. Specific incentives as provided for in Finance Act 1997 concerning Cork Airport business park, were approved by the European Commission under state aid rules and applied to buildings where expenditure was incurred before end-December 2000.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action he proposes to take to address the ever increasing burden of taxation on first time buyers who are being penalised as never before; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22781/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that first time buyers have been ripped off by increased taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22782/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 289 together.

I do not accept the Deputy's views that first-time buyers are being penalised by an ever increasing burden of taxation nor are they been ripped off by increased taxation. The policies pursued by this Government have ensured that the income tax burden has fallen for all categories of income earner since 1997. In 1997 the entry point to taxation for a single PAYE person was under €98 per week. Today it is €274 per week — an increase of almost 180%. In 2005, a person on the average industrial wage will have seen their pay rise by over €11,000 since 1997, but their tax bill cut by over €200 per annum as compared to then. This reduction in personal taxation means that individuals retain more of what they earn to spend as they see fit.

With regard to specific tax measures in the housing area it should be borne in mind that the housing market is a complex and dynamic one and demands continuous monitoring and adjustment to address changing circumstances. To this end, a number of measures that have improved the position of first time buyers in the housing market have been introduced over the years. In budget 2003 the higher ceilings for first-time buyers on allowable interest for mortgage interest relief were increased from €3,175 to €4,000 per annum for a single person and from €6,350 to €8,000 for a married couple and the period for which these increased ceilings apply was extended from five to seven years. Most recently, in budget 2005, I introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by reducing rates for house values up to €635,000.

Government policy in the housing market has focused, among other things, on improving supply, assisting home ownership particularly for first-time buyers, facilitating the expansion of the private rented sector and promoting the regeneration of certain areas. In this context, a range of tax incentives exist in relation to the housing market in the case of first-time buyers and other owner-occupiers, for tenants and investors. The years 2003 and 2004 were the ninth and tenth successive years of record housing output with 68,819 and 76,954 completions respectively. The rate of house building is now more than double that in 1996. Our tax policy has had some success but we don't claim all the credit.

Like all other goods and services, the State finds it necessary to raise taxes from this area. However, there has been some badly informed commentary recently in relation to the tax take from new homes. Figures in excess of 40% have been attributed to the amount that the Government raises in tax from each new home. However, this figure is wrong. In fact, the cost of a new home that accrues directly to the Exchequer through taxation is more like 28%, based on both Dublin and national prices. This is broadly in line with the tax take on the overall economy.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has decided to establish, a new agency — the Affordable Homes Partnership — to drive and co-ordinate the delivery of affordable housing in the greater Dublin area. The agency will be focused on early improvements in the delivery of affordable housing. The agency's first tasks will include helping to accelerate the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative on State lands. The agency will also issue a call for proposals from third parties in order to identify further appropriate sites for affordable housing. Furthermore, the agency will provide a co-ordinated public information service on the various aspects of affordable housing, thus making it easier for people to find out what is on offer and how to avail of it.

National Monuments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the rapidly deteriorating condition of the monument known as Connolly's Folly, Maynooth, County Kildare; if his attention has furhter been drawn to the fact that the area is frequently used as an illegal dump and there have been countless indications of the intention to restore the structure; if he will take immediate action to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22799/05]

As I have indicated repeatedly in reply to previous questions on this matter, the folly is subject to continual monitoring by my office and no significant deterioration has been observed. Should any such deterioration be detected appropriate remedial action will be taken. No major works are planned for the structure currently. A clean-up of the site was recently of organised by my office and measures are being taken to examine the feasibility of improving security in order to deter casual dumping.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

291 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 231 of 30 November 2004, if he will introduce roll over relief on capital gains tax for landowners who have had their lands purchased for road construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21894/05]

As previously advised to the Deputy in a reply to a parliamentary question on 30 November 2004, capital gains tax is a tax on a capital gain arising on the disposal of assets. A 20% rate of CGT now applies on the gains arising on the disposal of assets, including land which is the subject of a compulsory purchase order.

It was announced in the 2003 budget that no roll-over relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. This relief was introduced when CGT rates were much higher than current levels. In effect, it was a deferral of tax to be paid, where the proceeds of disposal were re-invested into replacement assets. The taxation of these gains would take place following the eventual disposal of the new assets without their replacement.

The abolition of this relief was in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low. Reliefs and allowances made sense when CGT rates were 40% and above. In budget 1998, the rate was halved from 40% to 20%. Taxing capital gains when they are realised is the most logical time to do so, and this change brought CGT into line with other areas.

Freedom of Information.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

292 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 186 of 10 May 2005, when he envisages that the organisation will come under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21895/05]

Proposals for further extension of the FOI Act are still under consideration. I have nothing to add to the previous reply referred to by the Deputy at this time.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

293 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 255 of 19 April 2005, the progress of the consultations with the interested parties; the plans there are to implement the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21897/05]

No observations on the pre-feasibility report on Shannon flooding have been received to date from the various stakeholders, 22 in all, who contributed to the completion of the report. Because of the report's size and complexity, this may take some time.

Further action, if any, must await the views of the relevant stakeholders. Any actions being considered to alleviate flooding from the Shannon are likely to give rise to environmental and economic questions, which will be difficult to resolve.

Garda Stations.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

294 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider allocating a room in the old Garda station at Kilrush in County Clare to the local Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21926/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works are currently in discussions with the Department of Defence regarding the possible future use by the FCA, of the former Garda station at Kilrush, County Clare.

Departmental Expenditure.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

295 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department or agencies under the authority of his Department, on the services of models for use in Departmental promotional activities, during policy launches or other Departmental events since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21971/05]

Apart from the Euro Changeover Board of Ireland, see below, my Department did not have expenditure on the services of models during the period in question.

During its existence from 1998 to 2002, the Euro Changeover Board of Ireland, which is funded from my Department's Vote, carried out a range of promotional and other activities in connection with the changeover to the euro. On occasion models were used, e.g. dressed in euro coin costumes, as pensioners on posters, etc. However, it would not be possible at this stage to identify the specific costs attributable to them as these services were delivered as part of integrated services provided by the board's public relations firm.

Although the Office of Public Works is not funded directly or indirectly by my Department, my Department has asked that office to communicate to the Deputy any relevant information in relation to her question.

National Development Plan.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

296 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he has identified areas of priority for inclusion in the new national development plan to run from 2007 until 2013; the extent to which the private sector will be involved in major infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22043/05]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 323 from him on 14 June last. As I advised the Deputy then, I will be putting proposals to Government shortly on the issue of a successor to the current national development plan, which will run until the end of 2006. I cannot, therefore, comment any further until the Government has taken a decision in this regard.

Flood Relief.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

297 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has completed a survey on the ability of the culvert currently under construction at Mabestown, The Ward, County Meath, to cope with flood conditions on the N2 Ashbourne/Finglas motorway project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22044/05]

The survey in question was carried out, not by the Office of Public Works, but by the firm of consultants operating on behalf of the National Roads Authority and the local authorities.

The Office of Public Works understands that the survey has now been completed and that the consultants have commenced the modelling of flood flows in order to identify options in relation to reducing the flood risk in this area. The consultants are in consultation with the Office of Public Works, which has maintenance responsibilities in respect of the Broadmeadow and Ward catchment drainage scheme.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

298 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when a tax rebate will be made to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22045/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a repayment of €184.62 is due to the person in respect of medical expenses for 2004. A cheque for this amount will issue on 28 June. The person's tax liability, and that of her husband, were also reviewed for 2004 to see if any additional relief was due under section 1020 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, i.e. special provisions relating to the year of marriage. No such additional relief is due.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

299 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of introducing an intermediary tax rate at 30% applied to an income tranche single of €5,000, €10,000 and €15,000 respectively with corresponding concessions for married earners. [22080/05]

It is assumed that the thresholds for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2005 incomes, of the introduction of each of these 30% rate bands could be of the order of €350 million, €650 million and €850 million, respectively, depending on how the bands were structured. Given the current band structures there would be major issues to be worked out as to how such a new rate could be integrated in practice into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners. These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

Endowment Policies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

300 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the complaint by many consumers that they were missold endowment policies; his views on the feature of the financial ombudsman whereby a case cannot be taken if the conduct occurred more than six years before the complaint was made and on the fact that this will exclude complaints regarding such misselling. [22106/05]

The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority — the financial regulator — is currently studying the situation with regard to endowment loan shortfalls, having commenced a survey last year, to determine whether and to what extent there will be difficulties for customers. It would be inappropriate to reach any conclusions in this issue in advance of IFSRA's consideration of the matter. The authority's consumer director has encouraged people to come forward if they are concerned about the possibility of having been mis-sold an endowment mortgage. The financial regulator has emphasised the importance of bringing complaints in the first instance to the financial institution from which they bought the policy.

The recently appointed Financial Services Ombudsman, whose office became operational on 1 April this year, is statutorily independent and is empowered to deal with complaints from customers of financial service providers. As stated by the Deputy, the ombudsman can deal with complaints related to conduct occurring up to six years before the complaint was made.

In addition, under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004, a provision exists for consumers to make complaints if the latest occurrence of the conduct being complained about happened within the last six years.

Consistent with the approach adopted in the Pensions Ombudsman scheme, it was considered essential to insert a retrospection limit on the investigation of complaints by the Financial Services Ombudsman. It would not be practical for the ombudsman to be asked to investigate complaints into conduct that occurred many years previously. In addition, while there is a time limit on the jurisdiction of the Financial Services Ombudsman, the financial regulator can examine conduct which occurred before the six year period.

It is important to bear in mind also that while the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Acts 2003 and 2004 provided for the roles of both the regulator and the ombudsman scheme concerning complaints about financial institutions, there was no diminution in the right of the consumer to have recourse to legal action through the courts.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

301 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is on emergency tax; if so, when the person’s tax affairs will be regularised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22128/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is on emergency tax as there is no record that Revenue was notified of the person's employment, either by the person himself or his employer. The position has now been clarified by Revenue and a certificate of tax credits issued, dated 24 June 2005. This will regularise his income tax affairs.

EU Receipts.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

302 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the funds which Ireland received from the EU in each of the past ten years; the amount Ireland had to pay on behalf of taxpayers here to the EU in each of the same years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22176/05]

The Irish receipts from and payments to the EU budget in the past ten years are detailed in the table below. The table also outlines the net position in relation to Ireland.

Year

Receipts from EU Budget

Payments to EU Budget

Net Receipts

€m

€m

€m

1995

2,568.7

689.2

1,879.5

1996

2,818.2

687.1

2,131.1

1997

3,179.9

652.0

2,527.9

1998

3,015.9

989.4

2,026.5

1999

2,678.9

1,051.0

1,627.9

2000

2,602.1

1,075.0

1,527.1

2001

2,488.8

1,220.0

1,268.8

2002

2,513.1

1,011.2

1,501.9

2003

2,611.6

1,190.4

1,421.2

2004

2,601.2

1,185.5

1,415.7

As can be inferred from this table, Ireland has contributed some €9.7 billion to the EU budget from 1995 to 2004. During this same period, Ireland received over €27 billion in transfers, giving a net benefit of some €17.3 billion. The table also illustrates that despite Ireland's receipts remaining reasonably static at around €2.7billion per annum, Irish payments to the EU budget have almost doubled over the same period.

Ireland's future net position will obviously depend on the outcome of the current negotiations on the financial perspective for the EU budget for the period 2007-13. However, it can be expected that our payments to the EU budget will continue to rise while our receipts will reduce in future years, reflecting our strong economic growth which has resulted in our becoming one of the more prosperous member states of the Union.

Tax Yield.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

303 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the amount which has been collected from householders in each year since 1997 under the former residential property tax; if any householder may still face a liability in respect of periods prior to the abolition of RPT due to non-payment or underpayment; the extent of any such liabilities; if such liabilities are a charge on the property of householders until cleared; if any interest and surcharges have been applied in respect of any outstanding liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22177/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the net receipt of residential property tax for each year since 1997 is as follows:

Year

€m

1997

3.95

1998

1.83

1999

1.77

2000

2.02

2001

1.65

2002

0.83

2003

0.40

2004

0.38

Residential property tax, RPT, was abolished with effect from 5 April 1997. However, any person who had a liability to RPT prior to its abolition in 1997 has an obligation to discharge that liability, including the payment of interest.

A liability to RPT is not a charge on a property, except where a person — transferor — transfers a residential property to his or her spouse. In such cases, where a transferor transfers a residential property to his or her spouse, any tax and interest due and outstanding on the date of such transfer shall be and remain, for 12 years from that date, a first charge on that property.

Where a property is sold for a consideration in excess of the RPT threshold the vendor must furnish an RPT clearance certificate to the purchaser to certify that the vendor does not have an outstanding RPT liability. The value threshold for this purpose is €1,300,000 and applies to house sale contracts on or after 5 April 2005. Where the vendor fails to furnish the purchaser with an RPT clearance the purchaser must deduct a specified amount from the sale consideration and remit the specified amount to the Revenue Commissioners. The specified amount is calculated by deducting the amount of the RPT threshold from the sale consideration and multiplying the answer by 1.5%.

Where a person requests a clearance certificate from Revenue and has not previously paid RPT, Revenue will issue a multi-year return form to that person, and the form must be returned to Revenue with payment of any outstanding tax and interest. Where a person has paid RPT previously and requests a clearance certificate from Revenue, and Revenue consider that the RPT has been underpaid for any year(s), an assessment will issue for the amount of the underpayment.

Interest has been applied to late payments of RPT, however, surcharges do not apply to outstanding RPT liabilities.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

304 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the receipts accruing to the Exchequer in 2002, 2003 and 2004 from VAT receipts on house purchases; the likely revenues lost if the VAT rate had remained unchanged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22178/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of VAT collected from house purchases cannot be identified in the overall yield of VAT as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require this to be identified. However, based on data published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the VAT yield from the sale of new houses, including apartments, is estimated as €1,100 million in 2002, €1,541 million in 2003 and €1,999 million in 2004.

The reduced VAT rate of 12.5% was increased to 13.5% on 1 January 2003. Had the reduced VAT rate remained unchanged it is estimated that the VAT yield would have been €96 million less in 2003 and €148 million less in 2004. The estimated increase in the overall VAT yield from all sectors to the Exchequer arising from the increase in the reduced rate was €239 million in 2003 and €330 million in 2004. This is, therefore, an important source of funding for public services.

Tax Code.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

305 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers on homes up to €400,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22179/05]

All owner-occupiers are generally exempt from stamp duty on new houses where the property is 125 square metres or less. As the Deputy will be aware, the 2005 budget introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by reducing rates for house values up to €635,000.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost of abolishing stamp duty for first-time buyers who are owner-occupiers of residential property up to €400,000 is approximately €14 million in a full year.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

306 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of doubling the VAT threshold for small businesses in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22181/05]

Traders making supplies in the State are obliged to register for VAT where certain turnover thresholds are exceeded or are likely to be exceeded in any continuous period of 12 months. The current thresholds which were enacted by the Finance Act 1994 with effect from 1 July 1994 are: €25,500 in the case of a person supplying services — this threshold also applies to persons supplying a combination of goods and services or goods chargeable at the 13.5% or 21% VAT rates which are produced from zero-rated materials; and €51,000 for persons supplying goods. Businesses with turnover below these thresholds can register for VAT and those in the service sector in particular frequently choose to do so for business reasons.

As regards the estimated cost of doubling the current thresholds, the position is that under the EU Sixth VAT Directive with which Irish VAT law must comply member states may only increase thresholds in line with inflation. However, if thresholds were increased in line with the consumer price index since 1994, the €25,500 threshold would need to be increased to €34,910 and the €51,000 threshold would need to be increased to €69,819. The costs involved would be €19 million and €45 million respectively, amounting to a total cost of €64 million in a full year.

It is not customary for me to comment on any possible changes to thresholds which may or may not arise in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

307 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if motor vehicle forms RF100 and VRT4, Rev 6, will be synchronised; if carbonised versions will be made available to motor dealers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22238/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the VRT4, Rev 6, form is a declaration for first registration of a used vehicle and the RF100 form is an application to the motor tax authorities — local authorities — for first licensing of a used vehicle. Prior to March 2005, the VRT4 and the RF100 were printed as one carbonised set, with the VRT4 the top page and the RF100 the bottom page. The information applicable to both documents copied through from the VRT4 to the RF100. Changes made to the RF100 form by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, requesting additional information, led to the misalignment of the two forms and made the existing carbonised document obsolete.

The Revenue Commissioners are actively engaging with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to synchronising the data and producing a carbonised version of the revised forms. This form would then be made available to motor dealers.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

308 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the total cost, number and nature of legal services sought by his Department from 1998 to 2004 and to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22415/05]

In general, my Department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and seeks outside legal advisers in circumstances requiring legal advice of a specific and/or specialist nature. The following table details the cost, number and nature of such legal services sought by my Department in the period in question.

Name of Service Provider

Cost

Year

Nature of Work

1998

McCann FitzGerald Solicitors

58,734

1999

Advice in respect of Pension Entitlements of former Civil Servants.

Arthur Cox & Co. Solicitors

138,965

2000

Advice in respect of the proposed merger and flotation of ACC and TSB Bank.

McCann FitzGerald Solicitors

47,081

2000

Advice in respect of the An Post ESOP

McCann FitzGerald Solicitors

11,512

2001

Advice in respect of the An Post ESOP

Mason, Hayes and Curran Solicitors

72,200

2001

Advice and assistance in the competitive process to award the National Lottery licence

Gerard Hogan SC

960

2002

Advice re: the establishment of financial services regulatory authority.

ABN Amro & McCann FitzGerald Solicitors

895,165

2002

Advice in relation to the Sale of ICC Bank plc.

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

368,760

2002

Advice in relation to the sale of ACC Bank.

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

1,640,000

2002

Advice in relation to the establishment, including advice on legislation, of Financial Services Regulatory Authority

O’Donnell Sweeney Solicitors

156,776

2002

Assistance in the drafting of the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Bill 2002

McCann FitzGerald Solicitors

69,542

2002

Secondment of a solicitor to assist in relation to legal matters arising within the Department.

Matheson, Ormsby & Prentice Solicitors

130,106

2002

Secondment of a solicitor to assist in relation to legal matters arising within the Department.

Matheson, Ormsby & Prentice Solicitors

55,704

2003

Secondment of a solicitor to assist in relation to legal matters arising within the Department.

Arthur Cox & Co. Solicitors

6,050

2003

Professional fees for advice, attendance correspondence, preparation of a comparison of Disclosure Regulations in Ireland and Northern Ireland

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

30,250

2003

Secondment of a solicitor to assist in relation to legal matters arising within the Department.

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

77,171

2003

Legal advice to Minister in relation to the sale of ACC Bank

Matheson Ormsby Prentice Solicitors

12,233

2004

Drafting of contractual terms & conditions

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

55,524

2004

Drafting of contracts for construction projects

Philip Lee Solicitors

25,793

2004

Drafting of contracts for construction projects

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

77,407

2004

Secondment of a solicitor to assist in relation to legal matters arising within the Department.

Denis Kelleher B.L.

1,815

2004

Drafting of Statutory Instrument

Michael M. Collins S.C.

800

2004

Advice on Discovery Order from Commission to Enquire into Abuse in Residential Institutions

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

79,631

2004

Legal advice to Minister in relation to the sale of ACC Bank

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

231,800

2005

Drafting of contracts for construction projects

Philip Lee Solicitors

19,575

2005

Drafting of contracts for construction projects

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

24,684

2005

Drafting of contracts for construction projects

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

45,230

2005

Legal Advisors to Compile a compendium of Public Private Partnership terms and conditions of Contract

A&L Goodbody Solicitors

124,316

2005

Legal advice to Minister in relation to the sale of ACC Bank

Total*

4,457,784

*28 items.

Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

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