Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 23, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 24 to 110, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 111 to 117, inclusive, answered orally.

Labour Inspectorate.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

118 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the establishment level for the post of labour inspector within his Department; the number of posts filled at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4079/06]

The number of inspector posts in the labour inspectorate of the Department is 31. The assignment of previously announced additional labour inspectors was completed in November 2005. That brought the complement of serving inspectors to 31 officers. That increase in staffing represents almost a doubling of the number of labour inspectors in the past 18 months. However, the Deputy may wish to note that in the past week one officer has commenced a career-break. The vacancy arising as a consequence will be filled next week.

It is anticipated that the new round of social partnership talks will embrace consideration of the resourcing and mandate of the labour inspectorate and options to enhance the effectiveness of our employment rights compliance regime.

Anti-Competitive Practices.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

119 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to outlaw predatory pricing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4070/06]

The 2002 Competition Act prohibits anti-competitive practices in the same way as the prohibitions set down in Articles 81 and 82 of the EU treaty. Section 4 of the Competition Act reflects the prohibitions in Article 81 of the treaty regarding anti-competitive agreements, decisions and concerted practices while section 5 mirrors Article 82 of the treaty which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position.

Predatory pricing is an abusive and anti-competitive practice that acts against the interests of consumers. It is a tactic employed by a firm that is dominant in its market and involves the sale of product below cost for a prolonged period in order to damage or eliminate a competitor. Therefore, predatory pricing is already prohibited by section 5 of the Competition Act 2002 which outlaws the abuse of a dominant position and I do not consider that any action is necessary to further outlaw this practice.

Predatory pricing should not, however, be confused with other forms of low cost selling, such as promotional sales, disposing of old stock, or matching competitors' prices. These are legitimate pro-competitive pricing strategies which benefit consumers. Low prices are only predatory when they are reduced in order to subsequently harm consumers through higher prices later.

Industrial Disputes.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

120 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views regarding the failure of a company (details supplied) to implement a Labour Court decision to allow staff to be represented by trade unions at a disciplinary hearing; if clear legal rights will be given to workers in such situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4099/06]

Responsibility for the resolution of trade disputes is a matter for the parties involved. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery to assist the dispute resolution process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing an extensive set of legislative conditions on the parties to a trade dispute.

The Labour Court operates as an industrial relations tribunal, hearing both sides in a trade dispute. It then issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it considers the dispute should be settled. Labour Court recommendations for the resolution of trade disputes are not legally binding. However, as the Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, it is expected that the parties come to that process in good faith and consequently are prepared to accept the outcome of the process, namely the Labour Court recommendation.

The procedures set out in the code of practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures are well established and are in line with the voluntarist tradition of Ireland's system of industrial relations.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

121 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to develop the county enterprise board investment programmes in the Border, midlands and western region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3810/06]

There are 13 county and city enterprise boards operating in the Border midlands and western region. Under the BMW regional operational programme 2000-2006, these boards are responsible for delivering the micro-enterprise measure and, in this regard, continue to support, through both financial and non-financial measures, the development of micro-enterprises in the BMW region. The BMW region's Objective One status allows the use of comparatively better rates of incentives to business and assists the region in promoting and developing indigenous micro-enterprises. This status is also taken into account in allocating funds to the boards in the region. In 2005, for example, the funds allocated to the region amounted to some 37% of the total funds allocated even though only about 27% of the national population reside in the region.

The specific types of CEB assistance available to micro-enterprise is broken down between: measure one — project support expenditure, including grants for feasibility studies, employment grants and capital grants; and measure two — soft supports activities such as business advice, management and e-commerce training, enterprise education and programmes aimed as assisting and promoting women in business.

The function of the CEBs is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level. In providing support to enterprises, the CEBs are required to have regard to the quality, local relevance, cost effectiveness and viability of proposals. They must also seek to avoid supporting projects that would displace existing jobs or businesses. In this regard, the boards are required to give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, which over time may develop into strong export entities.

The CEBs in the BMW region performed strongly in 2005. They paid out more than €4 million in direct grant aid to 350 projects and assisted in creating more than 1,000 net jobs in grant-aided companies. The CEBs also provided training and management development programmes to the value of €3.4 million to 4,566 participants in the BMW area, of which 2,588 — almost 57% — were female. The local base of the CEBs which are responsible for the delivery of the micro-enterprise measure in the BMW region means that the projects supported are tailored to the particular needs of the local economic environment.

Overall the CEBs continue to play an extremely important role in the development of the micro-enterprise sector throughout Ireland and it is my intention that an appropriate level of support for the CEBs, in both the BMW region and the south and east region, will be made available again this year.

Employment Rights.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

122 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports of serious under payment and mistreatment of foreign workers employed as domestics in Irish homes, including reports that some have been paid as little as €2 per hour; the steps he intends to take to end such exploitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4054/06]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

129 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he has taken to protect the terms and working conditions of workers in the area of domestic service; if he is satisfied that there is adequate monitoring of this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4093/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 129 together.

In the area of pay and conditions, it is primarily the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 that apply to adult workers who are employed in domestic service. Employees, working in the provision of domestic service, as is the case for employees in most other areas of the economy, are not categorised in any unique fashion in current employment legislation.

I am aware of the publication of a case study document that focused on the circumstances of 20 women working in the provision of domestic services. In this connection I engaged in dialogue with ICTU and others and am, as a result, very conscious of their concerns for the workers providing these services. The possibility of establishing a joint labour committee under the auspices of the Labour Court has been mooted and officials of the Department have been examining the issue. I understand there is ongoing dialogue with the interested parties to determine the feasibility of that approach, including enforcement difficulties arising both from provisions in our Constitution and in the European Convention on Human Rights. I await the outcome of these deliberations.

The Labour Relations Commission commissioned the University of Limerick to carry out a review of the JLC system in 2005. Arising from this review and following bilateral consultations with the social partners and stakeholders, the Department has prepared a paper that will be used as the basis for implementation of the review in further consultation with the social partners and stakeholders, in the context of the forthcoming partnership talks. The issue of a JLC for domestic workers, and proposals for new JLCs for other sectors, will be considered in this context.

Job Creation.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

123 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, type and location of Irish Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland assisted jobs created in counties Carlow, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare from 1998 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4107/06]

The issues of job creation and retention in companies supported by the industrial development agencies under my remit, is a day-to-day matter for the agencies and not one in which I am directly involved. Employment figures for both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland are recorded by Forfás in the annual employment survey. Figures for 2006 are not available yet.

In respect of companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, the agency informs me that the total number of jobs created from 1998 to the end of 2005 is as follows: 1,776 jobs in Carlow; 4,201 jobs in Kildare; 3,428 jobs in Meath; and 4,026 in Wicklow. The new jobs created in the period cover the range of sectors that fall within Enterprise Ireland's remit, namely: food, consumer and retail, industrial and internationally traded services. Many of the new jobs created are heavily concentrated in high value-added, knowledge based companies that offer greater security in the face of intense international competition.

Enterprise Ireland works with companies in its portfolio to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation in order that they can compete on world markets. The productivity improvement fund, which I launched last year, supports manufacturing companies to adopt advanced technologies and focus on skills development to improve productivity, thus laying the foundation for export readiness. Research and innovation are also critical to success in the increasingly global marketplace for all companies, regardless of sector. Enterprise Ireland encourages sustained levels of research and development activity through its RTI scheme and research and development initiatives.

In respect of IDA Ireland, the agency informs me that figures for 2005 will not be available until later this month. For the period 1998 to 2004, IDA Ireland reports the following jobs created in client companies: 97 jobs in Carlow; 4,768 jobs in Kildare; 634 jobs in Meath; and 3,053 jobs in Wicklow. IDA Ireland is actively promoting all four counties for additional new and expansion investment projects. IDA Ireland has achieved the delivery of a new business and technology park in Carlow; a 290 job project for PFPC Financial Services in Navan which was announced last year; and the attraction of some world class manufacturing companies in Kildare.

I am confident the strategies and policies being pursued by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of additional, sustainable jobs and investment for counties Carlow, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.

EU Directives.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

124 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the nature and extent of Ireland’s representation and participation in the group of national experts on the implementation of the posting of workers directive set up by the group of directors-general for industrial relations of the member states established by the European Commission; the general or specific mandate given to the Irish member by him; the position communicated by the Irish representative at the meetings of the expert group; the reports from the representative to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4088/06]

Officials from my Department's employment rights section have participated in five meetings of the European Commission's group of national experts on the implementation of the posting of workers directive since October 2003 when the group was first established. The group's mandate is to foster practical co-operation between EU member states regarding implementation of the directive. Further meetings of the group will take place during 2006. The contributions of the officials in question are informed by the provisions and experience of the operation of the directive and relevant Irish legislation providing for the enforcement of employment rights.

While there have been no formal complaints, from either posted workers or EU member state governments, regarding the treatment of workers posted to work here, nevertheless, my officials reported on the application of the directive in Ireland and, as and when required, completed questionnaires from the European Commission on this subject. In particular, my officials provided information to the group on how the directive would be enforced here by the labour inspectorate.

The group also agreed procedures for enhanced co-operation between member states in relation to the directive. In this regard, information on the rights of posted workers in Ireland has been placed on the employment rights page of my Department's website. In addition, a list of national liaison offices and authorities responsible for monitoring the terms and conditions of employment of posted workers is also available in English, French and German on this website. This list facilitates posted workers if they have a complaint about their rights under the directive.

The expert group has also drawn up a code of conduct on co-operation standards for communications between liaison offices in the member states. This code provides that requests for information from one national liaison office to another should be dealt with on a priority basis and that replies should be furnished within four weeks.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

125 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the posting of workers directive is working effectively and in accordance with the legislative intent; the specific difficulties encountered in its workings; his approach to proposals for a review of the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4105/06]

Posted workers are sent to another country on a temporary basis by an employer. The posting of workers directive provides for administrative arrangements between the national liaison offices of the competent authorities in each member state. In this regard, the employment rights information unit of my Department is the national liaison office for Ireland.

We have not received any formal complaints from either posted workers or from any member state national liaison offices regarding the treatment of workers posted to work here on a temporary basis. If any such complaints are received, my Department will contact the persons or organisations involved to ascertain the position and, if required, this will be followed up by an inspection by the labour inspectorate.

While Ireland has not had any complaints in respect of persons sent here temporarily by their employers, should the European Commission come forward with specific proposals to amend the posting of workers directive, Ireland will play a constructive role. Our aim will be to ensure that any amending directive adopted will be of practical benefit to posted workers across the European Union.

Departmental Investigations.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

126 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the costs incurred by the State, at the latest date for which figures are available, arising from the various inquiries instigated by or on behalf of his Department; the element of these costs which have been recovered from any of the other parties involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4084/06]

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by or on behalf of my Department currently amount to approximately €11.3 million. This amount does not include the salary costs of Civil Service staff who worked on a number of these investigations or those legal costs borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor.

Costs of some €9.3 million were incurred by High Court inspectors appointed under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990, €5.8 million in the case of National Irish Bank Limited-National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited and €3.5 million in the case of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited. In the case of the Ansbacher inquiry, the High Court proceedings taken by the State to recover the costs of the inquiry were settled out of court for the sum of €1.25 million in favour of the State. In the case of National Irish Bank Limited-National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited, the court ordered that National Irish Bank pay the full costs of the investigation. I understand that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which had borne the costs of the investigation, has recouped the full cost from National Irish Bank. The aggregate recoupment to the State from section 8 investigations was €7.05 million or more than 75% of the total of €9.3 million. The balance of €2 million represents the costs arising from section 19 examinations. Section 19 as originally enacted did not provide for the recoupment of costs. This has now changed with the enactment of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001.

Labour Mobility.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

127 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to seek a change to Ireland’s current approach to the seven-year transition period for labour mobility as agreed under the accession treaties. [4125/06]

I have no plans to change current policy regarding the access of EU-10 nationals to our labour market.

Ireland has had strong employment growth for a sustained period and skill shortages exist in many sectors. The presence of migrant labour in Ireland is critical to the continuation of our economic growth.

I have asked FÁS to review the labour market effects of immigration. This work is still in progress. A preliminary report is expected shortly.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to ensure the competitiveness of Irish industry, with particular reference to escalating costs and the tendency for industry to relocate to lower cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4047/06]

Ireland's unprecedented period of economic prosperity has led to the creation of a modern, advanced European economy typified by all the associated advantages of high incomes, employment growth and rising living standards. Our future prosperity and success is dependent on our ability to develop, attract and retain higher value added operations that are characterised by both high productivity output and higher returns to labour.

Despite increasing global competitive pressures, the latest quarterly national household survey from the Central Statistics Office shows that the number of persons in employment grew by 96,200 in the year to reach almost 1.99 million in the third quarter of 2005. Moreover, we have seen employment increase in most sectors of the economy, not only construction, with financial and business services showing strong growth. These facts demonstrate that we remain a competitive economy for both foreign and indigenous enterprise and retain a strong capacity to generate and sustain employment while managing the transition to a more knowledge and services oriented economy.

To further expedite this transition my Department and its agencies are encouraging enterprises to undertake increased levels of investment in research, to make more and better use of technology, to invest in training, and to encourage more innovation across all sectors of the economy. This will help firms produce improved value added products and services. In the longer term this will provide longer lasting and higher quality jobs.

Sustaining Ireland's competitiveness continues to be a key priority for this Government. It is monitored in particular through the work and advice of the National Competitiveness Council. The Government's response is manifested in numerous ways, most recently as evidenced by the fact that for the third consecutive year it implemented a non-inflationary budget in budget 2006. This displays the Government's prudent fiscal management of the economy at a time of ever increasing global competitiveness pressures.

In my Department I have assigned more resources and given more powers to the Competition Authority. I am currently steering legislation through the Oireachtas to repeal the groceries order. Furthermore, I have established the enterprise advisory group, which is charged with the overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group, ESG. The group's work is progressing well and it will submit its first periodic report to Government on the pace and progress in implementing the ESG's recommendations by June.

Another fundamental element to safeguarding our competitiveness will be the successful completion of the present partnership talks. These talks will strongly influence our economic progress over the next few years. They will be crucial in setting wage increases at sustainable levels, which will both simultaneously protect our competitiveness and improve our living standards.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Regional Industrial Support.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

130 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the implications for State aid for Irish firms of new EU rules that State aid can only be provided in areas that cover 75% of the country’s population from 2007; if these areas have been designated; the way in which it is intended to designated same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4103/06]

On 21 December 2005, the European Commission adopted new regional aid guidelines for 2007-2013. The regional aid guidelines govern the areas in which member states may grant regional aid, more commonly known as investment aid. Investment aid is intended to promote the economic development of certain disadvantaged areas within the European Union to redress regional disparities. The guidelines specify rules for the selection of regions which are eligible for regional aid and define the maximum permitted levels of this aid. In line with EU cohesion policy and European Council requests for less and better targeted State aid, the new guidelines refocus regional aid on the most deprived regions of the enlarged Union.

Under Ireland's current regional aid map, which defines the areas where regional aid may be granted until the end of 2006, all parts of the country currently qualify for some level of aid. Given Ireland's economic performance since the current regional aid map was approved by the European Commission in 1999, it was to be expected that our scope to designate areas for regional aid for 2007-2013 would be significantly reduced. Nevertheless, Ireland has secured entitlement under the new guidelines to maintain regional aid qualification for areas accounting for 50% of the country's population for the period 2007-2013 and for a further 25% of population on a transitional basis for 2007-2008.

In accordance with the guidelines, the Border, midlands and west region — 26.5% of national population — will be classed as an "economic development region" and will continue to qualify for regional aid throughout 2007-2013 on a phasing-out basis. Ireland will be permitted to designate a further 23.5% of population to qualify for regional aid for 2007-2013. The south east sub-region would also qualify on the basis of unemployment criteria specified in the guidelines. The remaining areas which could qualify for designation for 2007-2013 under the 50% population threshold must meet the strict requirement in the guidelines that they are relatively more in need of economic development than other areas on the basis of recognised economic indicators. Following the selection of areas up to the 50% population threshold for 2007-2013, areas representing an additional 25% of population may be designated for 2007-2008.

No decision on designation has been taken yet, pending detailed analysis of the guidelines and economic indicators for the areas concerned. Member states have to submit proposals for designation to the European Commission for approval. Any area no longer entitled to regional aid would continue to qualify for other forms of State aid, including aid for research and development, aid for SMEs, training aid, employment aid and aid for environmental protection.

Redundancy Statistics.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

131 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4068/06]

The number of redundancies recorded by the Department for 2005 was 23,156, a reduction of 7.5% over the figure of 25,041 for redundancies in 2004. This downward trend is an indication of the continuing healthy state of the Irish economy. This comes on top of a 2.8% reduction in redundancies in 2004 from the 2003 figure of 25,769.

Labour Inspectorate.

John Gormley

Ceist:

132 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for increasing the number of labour inspectors and improving the scope and effectiveness of such inspections that are carried out. [4128/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

182 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will increase the labour inspectorate to 75 inspectors to ensure the enforcement of existing employment law. [4113/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 182 together.

The assignment of additional labour inspectors was completed in November 2005 bringing the complement of serving inspectors to 31 officers. That represents almost a doubling of the number of labour inspectors in the past 18 months. In the past week one officer has commenced a career-break and a replacement officer will take up assignment next week.

The enforcement of employment rights is too often characterised as a discrete function undertaken solely by the labour inspectorate. The reality is that there is a very formidable corpus of legislation that provides for a range of obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees. The employment rights arena is populated by various bodies, for example, the Labour Court, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Rights Commissioner Service to name just a few, each charged with the task of administering that volume of employment law. As always there is scope for improvement but it is no solution to just simply appoint even more labour inspectors.

The challenge in a rapidly growing economy is to ensure that there is adequate, timely and effective enforcement of compliance with the statutory and other provisions now in place. This was recognised in Sustaining Progress and, arising from commitments in it, the Government has completed reviews of: the employment rights bodies; the mandate and resourcing of the labour inspectorate; and the joint labour committee system. Each of these reviews has been completed and follow-on work is now in train.

With regard to the inspectorate, in early 2005 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document on the mandate and resourcing of the labour inspectorate to the social partners. That document has been the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG, since September 2005. The ERCG, which is made up of representatives of the social partners, including the CIF and SIPTU, together with the Departments of the Taoiseach, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Finance, is now finalising its work in this regard. The outcome of those discussions will inform debate in the context of a new social partnership agreement.

While the work of the ERCG is not entirely complete it can be indicated that among the key features emerging are options with regard to: a streamlining of access to redress through the existing employment rights bodies thus enabling individuals with the information and facility to more easily vindicate their employment rights and entitlements; a re-orientation of employment rights compliance procedures away from the civil courts; greater emphasis on proper record keeping together with increased transparency regarding pay and the associated information provided to employees on payslips; organisational improvements in the service provided by the employment rights compliance section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment — including the labour inspectorate and including a regionalised structure; and major investment in education and information dissemination on employment rights obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees.

Much has been agreed during the course of the ERCG discussions. Final comments from the social partners will be reflected in the finished report and the remaining issues relating to a more effective compliance model and the related organisational aspects — which may embrace a further strengthening of the labour inspectorate — have been clearly signalled as being matters for consideration in the forthcoming social partnership discussions.

The Government is not about reducing the high employment standards that we have attained, rather, it is fully committed to working with the social partners to not only maintain, but build upon and improve the situation of those at work, and, in the context of social partnership, has every confidence that agreement will be reached on all outstanding matters to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

Enterprise Support Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

133 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review the Enterprise Ireland eligibility criteria for companies to include import substitution as an acceptable enterprise for grant support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3809/06]

I have nothing further to add to my reply of 28 September 2005 when I stated that Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for the development of indigenous small and medium enterprises, SMEs, in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. The decision whether to provide funding to a company is a day-to-day matter for the agency and is not one in which I have a direct function.

Enterprise Ireland offers a range of supports aimed at assisting client companies to expand and compete in the international marketplace. As each company has its own distinctive ambitions, capabilities and needs, Enterprise Ireland delivers a flexible set of solutions tailored to the needs of the individual circumstances of Irish enterprises. Each client company is assigned a development adviser who works with the company in assessing its needs and capabilities, formulating an agreed growth plan and in assisting the company access the range of services and resources it needs to execute that plan.

The key focus of Enterprise Ireland's policy is to work with companies which have the potential to develop sustainable export sales and to qualify for support, a company should demonstrate clear potential to do this. Within this general policy context however, each business development plan is considered on its merits. Import substitution by itself is typically considered insufficient to justify the investment of significant resources in funding and support services. Enterprise Ireland believes that companies should also strive to supply such goods into overseas markets. To this end Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports available to assist Irish companies to develop their businesses in a manner that will facilitate them to effectively target and win customers in overseas markets, and will work closely with companies to achieve increased sales and exports in this regard.

It is important for companies to recognise that Ireland operates within a global market and that supplying the domestic market will be carried out in competition from suppliers in other countries. However, it is well recognised that import substitution can contribute to the viability of a new or growing enterprise and, to that extent, it can be a valuable and welcome constituent part of the company's target market.

Sustainable Development Strategy.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

134 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made to date in 2006 on the actions contained in his Department’s sustainable development strategy 2003-2005; if the potential for further work on green consumerism will be explored; if he will support the European Commission work on guidelines for making and assessing environmental self-declared claims by producers or distributors. [4120/06]

My Department's sustainable development strategy 2003-2005 is built around four pillars. Three of these relate to reducing the environmental impacts of business in the areas of climate change, competitive sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The fourth pillar addresses the issue of departmental sustainability. I am pleased to report that very significant progress has been made across all four pillars.

In the area of climate change, for example, my Department had a very significant involvement with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in regard to negotiations at EU and national level on the development and implementation of the EU emissions trading scheme which commenced on 1 January 2005. Through their participation in emissions trading, Irish companies are making a significant contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which will facilitate Ireland in meeting its Kyoto target.

In the area of competitive sustainability, key activities include my Department's involvement in negotiations on the energy using products directive. This directive, which was adopted in July 2005, establishes a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for energy using products. My Department is also participating in the EU environmental technologies action programme, ETAP. The ETAP is a broad ranging programme which is designed to stimulate the development and uptake of environmental products and services. In addition, my Department supported the work of Sligo County Enterprise Board in regard to improving the competitive sustainability of micro-enterprises. My Department established a multi-stakeholder working group to promote the uptake of environmental management systems, EMSs, by SMEs.

In the area of corporate social responsibility, CSR, significant progress has been made at both national and EU level. It is widely acknowledged that implementing corporate social responsibility in workplaces requires the closer involvement of employees in dialogue with employers to manage change and develop more sustainable ways of working. The implementation of the national workplace strategy, which was launched by the Taoiseach in March 2005, is being overseen by a high level group chaired by the Minister of State with responsibility for labour affairs, Deputy Killeen. The strategy aims to develop the supports that are required for the development of workplaces that are adaptable, flexible, participatory and highly productive. My Department is also contributing to EU corporate social responsibility policy through continued involvement in an EU high level group. A European Commission communication on corporate social responsibility is expected shortly, and I look forward to considering the details of the document when it is published.

The fourth pillar of my Department's sustainable development strategy relates to departmental sustainability. Over the period of the strategy there have been many achievements in this area, including the establishment of a departmental green team to promote the incorporation of best environmental practice into the Department's operations and the adoption of a departmental environmental management plan. Some achievements in the area of departmental sustainability include the introduction of paper recycling and ensuring that the Department's new building in Carlow incorporates high environmental standards. In addition, the Department provided training for key departmental and agency staff on the EU strategic environmental assessment.

One of the commitments in the CSR pillar of the strategy relates to green consumerism, which is about supporting sustainable consumer choices through ensuring the provision of accurate and credible social and environmental information on products and services. In 2000 the European Commission engaged consultants to assist it in identifying specific issues on which guidance for making and assessing green claims, in the light of the international standard ISO 14021, would be useful, and to develop informal guidelines on the subject. This work culminated in December 2000 with the publication of informal guidelines for making and assessing environmental claims. These informal guidelines are available as a support to those wishing to apply good practice in making environmental claims.

One of the key actions in ETAP, in which my Department is involved at national and EU level, is raising consumer awareness, with a particular emphasis on product labelling in order to ensure consumers have the necessary information to make informed choices. Enterprise Ireland recently participated in an ETAP seminar specifically targeted at raising business and consumer awareness of environmental products and services. Another way in which my Department is continuing to promote green consumerism is by promoting the uptake of environmental management systems, EMSs, by SMEs through a multi-stakeholder working group which it has established. EMSs facilitate more informed consumer choice, as the EMS is a clear demonstration of a company's commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

I should also mention that the new National Consumer Agency, whose establishment has been approved by Government, will have specific statutory functions in the area of consumer education, awareness, information and advice to help ensure that consumers are sufficiently empowered to make informed choices about the goods and services they buy and use in their day to day lives.

I consider the significant progress made over the period of the strategy has resulted in my Department addressing the challenges posed by sustainable ways of doing business, while maximising the business and competitiveness opportunities presented.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

135 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the events surrounding the closure of a construction site in Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4061/06]

The Health and Safety Authority has responsibility for enforcement of occupational safety and health law as set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Matters relating to enforcement of the Act are consequently the responsibility of the authority.

I am advised that the Health and Safety Authority was granted a High Court order in accordance with section 71 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 prohibiting work on a construction site in Dungarvan, County Waterford on 24 January 2006. The basis of this order was serious concerns about unsafe work practices including in relation to the dangers of working at heights.

The case was listed for hearing in the High Court on 30 January 2006 but, at the request of the defendant, was adjourned to 6 February 2006. As this relates to an ongoing day to day enforcement matter, and as it is still before the courts, I have no further comment to make.

Labour Inspectorate.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

136 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in regard to his announcement of the recruitment of an additional 11 labour inspectors, the number who have been appointed to date in 2006; when he expects the full number to be appointed; if these people will be concentrated on any particular area of work; the ratio between the number of labour inspectors and the numbers in the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4078/06]

Following the announcement by the Minister, Deputy Martin, on 12 April last, there are now 31 inspector posts sanctioned for the labour inspectorate. This represents almost a doubling of inspector personnel in the past 18 months and is indicative of a determination to ensure compliance with employment rights legislation. While the additional officers have been appointed and have been serving since late last year a vacancy has arisen in the past week. An application for a career break from one of the longer-serving inspectors was approved and became effective on 26 January. I expect that the vacancy will be filled next week.

The officers will concentrate on those employment sectors that have traditionally required considerable attention from the inspectorate. These are the services sectors covered by employment regulation orders such as, hospitality, cleaning and agricultural work. It is notable that many migrant workers are employed in these sectors at present.

The latest CSO statistics indicate that currently the number of people in employment is now more than 2 million. Accordingly, it might be characterised that for every inspector there are about 65,000 persons in employment. However, such an analysis is highly misleading since significant groups of people, substantial in number within that global figure, are securely in receipt of pay and conditions that exceed the statutory minimums provided for in employment rights legislation.

It has to be noted also, that in addition to the remit of the labour inspectorate, there is a wide corpus of employment rights legislation administered by various other State organisations and services. These include, for example, the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Labour Court, the Rights Commissioner Service and the Health and Safety Authority.

Immediately within the Department there is also, for example, the redundancy and insolvency sections together with the employment rights compliance section, ERCS. The latter comprises three distinct but inter-related business units, that is, the labour inspectorate, the employment rights information unit and a further separate unit that administers the referral of cases for prosecution and legal enforcement of orders. A complement of staff, who number in excess of 150 people, administer the various functions that are the remits of these bodies and services.

Employee Training Programmes.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

137 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on proposals from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions regarding the introduction of paid learning to enable workers to upskill. [4119/06]

The Government is committed to the promotion of lifelong learning. In today's rapidly changing world, we all must be prepared to adapt our skills. As the majority of the 2020 workforce are already working today, the training of those in employment is particularly important.

The primary responsibility for training rests with employers and individuals. However, the State funds training for particular groups where necessary, especially for the low skilled and the vulnerable. Increased funds have been provided in recent years to a number of programmes to support the one step up initiative through the training of those in employment. These programmes include the FÁS in-employment training initiatives, the skillnets training networks and accel programmes and the Enterprise Ireland in-company training programme.

Any discussion of paid learning leave must acknowledge the State's role in the training of those in employment. I am aware that ICTU, in a report published last June, proposed the introduction of paid learning leave. As that document implicitly acknowledged, progress on this issue will require consensus between Government, employers and trade unions.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

138 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has responded to the detailed questionnaire from the European Commission on the application here of the posting of workers directive and the request to present observations; the response to same; if the social partners were involved in the preparation of the response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4087/06]

The Department, in November 2004, provided a detailed response to the European Commission questionnaire on the application in Ireland of the posting of workers directive.

In a second report to the European Commission in January 2005, the Department provided a detailed account of the main provisions of Irish legislation which applies to posted workers. All employee protection legislation on the Statute Book in the State applies to posted workers in the same way as it applies to Irish workers. The report covered issues such as: the definition of a "worker" in Ireland's employee protection legislation; how Article 3(1) of the directive regarding the rights of posted workers was implemented; national case law, if any, in relation to posted workers; collective agreements giving effect to Article 3(1); co-operation procedures between member states; penalties for failure to comply with the legislation implementing the directive; and statistics on posted workers.

The European Commission did not require member state governments to consult their national social partners on the preparation of Ireland's response but this response was informed by both direct experience and ongoing contacts with the social partners regarding the functioning of the labour market and compliance with employment legislation.

Science Policy.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

139 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the report of the international evaluation panel on Science Foundation Ireland; the measures he proposes to bring to Government. [4095/06]

I am very pleased with the positive conclusions of the report referred to by the Deputy, which I launched in December. This evaluation report, Science Foundation Ireland The First Years 2001-2005, which was commissioned by Forfás, is the culmination of a substantial evaluation process carried out by an international panel led by Professor Richard Brook, director of the Leverhulme Trust in London.

While the panel indicates in the report that it is early in the life of SFI to assess the long-term cultural and economic impact of the research it supports, overall, it endorses the establishment and strategic direction of SFI and I welcome this endorsement. The panel found that SFI has been a positive driving force for change in the Irish research system in recent years and that impressive progress towards developing a world-class capability in biotechnology and ICT has been achieved in a short time. The report provides strong confirmation both of the need for SFI and of the contribution it has made, and continues to make, to strengthening our national research system, which is a fundamental building block for the knowledge economy to which we aspire.

The panel has made a number of recommendations on research excellence, sustainability of research funding, coherence and co-ordination by research funding agencies, commercialisation of research and some operational issues. SFI will work on the implementation of these recommendations together with my Department and other agencies as appropriate. In addition, a number of these issues will be addressed in the context of the strategy on science, technology and innovation 2006-2013, which I am currently finalising and which I will bring to Government in due course.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that Irish exporters are able to compete with their respective competitors on world markets; the recent trends in the export area and his proposals to enhance the prospects from an Irish viewpoint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4048/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

327 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that Irish exports are secure for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4355/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

334 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has studied the effect of the Government’s high wage economy on the competitiveness of Irish exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4362/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 327 and 334 together.

Ireland's economic growth and development is built, to a significant degree, upon the export activities of Irish based companies. The global economy, which Ireland has fully embraced for the betterment of all export orientated firms and their employees, offers immense opportunities for Irish companies with a small domestic market.

While considerable effort is devoted to developing and enhancing Ireland's traditional existing markets for exports, with northern Europe remaining our biggest market, Irish companies have achieved notable success in opening up new markets in recent years. From a position of 75% of Irish exports going to the UK in 1960, we have now reached a point where the EU now accounts for 62% of our exports with only 18% of exports going to the UK. Since last year, the US has replaced the UK as our leading export market and now accounts for about 20% of Irish exports. For example, Asia, a relatively new market for Irish companies, shows significant promise for sustained future growth. Pursuing the targets set out in the Government's Asia strategy is a priority for the next five years. We have therefore actively supported Irish enterprises in exploiting the prospects offered by the Asian market as well as by existing export markets and newer markets such as central and eastern Europe which will also be important for future growth.

The ability of Irish companies to successfully market and sell overseas is critical for the success of the Irish economy, particularly in the rapidly evolving international marketplace. In this connection, there has been a very creditable performance on the part of Irish exporters in a difficult trading environment against the background of the current global economic slowdown, in particular the slow growth in the major European economies of France, Germany and Italy and fluctuations in exchange rates of the euro against the US dollar and the pound sterling.

To further support Irish exporters in competing with competitors on world markets, my Department and its agencies are encouraging our enterprises to undertake increased levels of investment in research, to use more technology in product development and to encourage more innovation across all sectors of the economy. This will help firms produce improved value added products and services. In the longer term this will provide longer lasting and higher quality jobs.

I and my departmental colleague, the Minister, Deputy Martin, have been active in leading trade missions, in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, to a range of markets. Last month a major trade mission to India took place, led by the Taoiseach.

In relation to recent trends in trade, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show that exports increased by 7% in November 2005 relative to October 2005 and imports decreased by 9% in the same period. In addition, the export figure for November 2005 was 11% higher than the corresponding period for the same month in 2004. Strong export growth has taken place in 2005 across a number of key indigenous industry sectors including software and financial services, life-sciences and food, with the construction and engineering sectors maintaining performance levels.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

141 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives remaining to be implemented for which his Department has responsibility; the directives that are overdue; the number of warnings received from the EU Commission since 1997 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4080/06]

There are currently a total of 26 directives due to be transposed by this Department. Of these, ten are overdue for transposition and are detailed as follows. Eight directives require to be transposed before the end of 2006 and a further eight in 2007 and subsequent years.

It is not possible to provide definitive information on infringement proceedings prior to 2001. However, since 2001, my Department has received 26 notifications — additional to the five extant notifications in the following table — from the Commission in respect of the non-transposition of EU directives. All the directives covered by the 26 notifications have been transposed and the infringement proceedings have been satisfactorily resolved.

My Department continues to accord a high priority to the transposition of directives and makes every effort to transpose directives in time to meet the deadline given for transposition.

Current Infringement Cases

Description of Directive

Deadline for Transposition into Irish Law

Current position

Directive 2001/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 amending Council Directive 89/655/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work.

19/07/2004

Drafting of Regulations almost complete. Reasoned Opinion.

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

1/1/2006

Government approval to draft Bill was obtained in July 2005 and drafting by the Parliamentary Counsel is progressing steadily. It is hoped that the Bill will be published during the first half of 2006, with the passage of all Stages in the Houses before the end of the year.

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

08/10/2004

Draft Regulations are being finalised and it is intended to send them to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel shortly, with a view to transposition at an early date. Reasoned Opinion.

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

23/03/2005

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation ) Bill 2005 completed all Stages in the Seanad on 6 December 2005. It is currently awaiting Report Stage in the Dáil and it is hoped to have it enacted by end March 2006. Reasoned Opinion.

Directive 2002/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (vibrations).

06/07/2005

Drafting of Regulations almost complete. Letter of Formal Notice.

Directive 2003/105 EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2003 amending Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

01/07/2005

Regulations are in the final stages of drafting Reasoned Opinion

Commission Directive 2004/111/EC of 9 December 2004 adapting for the fifth time to technical progress Council Directive 94/55/EC on the approximation of the laws of the member states with regard to the transport of dangerous goods by road.

01/07/2005

Draft Regulations are in the final stages of drafting.

Commission Directive 2004/112 of 13 December 2004 adapting to technical progress Council Directive 95/50/EC on uniform procedures for checks on the transport of dangerous goods by road.

14/12 2005

Draft Regulations are in the final stages of drafting.

Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

29/12/2005

Draft Statutory Instrument being considered by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Directive 2005/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2005 amending Directive 2000/14/EC on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to the noise emission in the environment by equipment for use outdoors.

31/12/2005

It is expected that the directive will be transposed by end March 2006.

Workplace Accidents.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

142 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that according to the Health and Safety Authority 23 people were killed in workplace accidents in the construction sector in 2005, compared to 16 in that sector in 2004. [4110/06]

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

158 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of deaths and injuries arising from workplace accidents generally and specifically in regard to the construction industry for 2005; the way in which these figures compare with 2004 and 2003; the additional steps he intends to take to reduce such accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4086/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

171 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that according to the Health and Safety Authority 71 people were killed in workplace accidents in 2005, compared to 50 in 2004. [4116/06]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

181 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of migrant workers who were killed in workplace accidents in 2005. [4114/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142, 158, 171 and 181 together.

Figures published by the Health and Safety Authority show that 71 work-related deaths were reported to it in 2005 compared to 50 in 2004. I extend my sympathy to all the families of those involved and affected by the workplace fatalities. Unfortunately, for 2005, the same industry sectors, construction and agriculture, remained the most dangerous. There were 23 construction-related fatalities in 2005 compared to 16 in 2004 and 17 in 2003. Seventeen people died in the agricultural sector in 2005 compared to 13 in 2004 and 19 in 2003. Of the 17 deaths in the agricultural sector, seven involved people over 65 years of age. There were two child fatalities in the sector in 2005. To date, a total of 7,901 non-fatal accidents, resulting in absence of more than three days from normal work, was reported to the authority across all sectors in 2005. Of these 1,612 related to the construction sector.

A total of nine non-national worker fatalities occurred in Ireland in 2005, of which six were from other EU member states and three from other countries. Five of the worker fatalities occurred in construction, two in manufacturing industry and two in wholesale-retail and other services.

The Health and Safety Authority has expressed concern over the number of deaths involving non-nationals in 2005 and I agree that this concern is well founded and the number of fatalities involving non-nationals is out of proportion to their representation in the workforce.

The following table shows the number of fatalities by sector over the past three years. The rate of deaths and injuries in Irish workplaces is unacceptable and a range of approaches is necessary to secure and maintain a significant improvement. There are huge responsibilities on all parties in the workplace and the issue of safety can only be corrected by dedicated efforts by all those involved in day to day operations. I repeat my appeal to all parties to do more to promote awareness of the need for a safe work environment which has benefits for workers, employers and for society generally and which will engender a safety culture.

It should be noted that the drafting of new Safety, Health and Welfare (Construction) Regulations, following consideration of submissions received on foot of the public consultation process, are at an advanced stage. Also, drafting of new Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations, designed to revoke and replace in a single text the remaining provisions of the General Application Regulations 1993, as well as seven full sets of other regulations made under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, together with certain other provisions are well advanced. I expect to be in a position to sign both sets of these new regulations into force within the next few months.

The Health and Safety Authority's work programme for this year includes prioritising the high risk sectors of construction, agriculture and mines and quarries, as well as the health services, local authorities and process industries. Key actions in these sectors in 2006 will include: a major national road show which will visit a minimum of 5,000 construction workers; the development of a farm "safety village" at the World Ploughing Championships; the publication of three codes of practice tailored to those employing three or fewer in the agriculture, quarrying, and construction sectors; an effective inspection programme targeting key risks; a series of construction briefings targeting managers and designers on the new construction regulations including information on vibration, noise, work at height, underground services, roof work and cranes; and research into the issues involved in the employment of non-English speaking workers.

In relation to the construction sector specifically, the authority in 2006 is committed to carrying out a focused programme of 7,500 construction site inspections covering appointment of duty-holders and assignment of responsibilities, safety and health plans and safety statements, work at heights, reversing vehicle safety, welfare arrangements, training arrangements and slips, trips and falls.

Comparison 2003-2005: Number of Fatalities

Economic Sector

Number of fatalities in 2003

Number of fatalities in 2004

Number of fatalities in 2005

Total in sector

A — Agriculture, hunting and forestry

19

13

17

49

B — Fishing

0

3

2

5

C — Mining and quarrying

1

0

6

7

D — Manufacturing

6

3

7

16

E — Electricity/gas/water

2

0

0

2

F — Construction

17

16

23

55

G — Wholesale/retail trade; repair of goods

5

4

7

16

H — Hotels and restaurants

0

0

0

0

I — Transport, storage and communication

7

6

4

17

J — Financial intermediation

0

1

0

1

K — Real estate, renting, business

0

0

1

1

L — Public Admin/Defence

4

0

2

6

M — Education

0

1

0

1

N — Health/social work

0

1

0

1

O — Other community, social and personal services

4

2

2

8

Total

65

50

71

186

Jobs for People with Disabilities.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

143 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to reduce the level of unemployment among people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4069/06]

The Government is committed to addressing the needs of those with disabilities. In particular, we are committed to removing the obstacles which make it difficult for people with disabilities to participate in the labour market.

We have already done a great deal in this area. Under the Government's mainstreaming policy, my Department through FÁS is seeking to increase the participation of disabled workers through a three-pronged approach involving: first, facilitating progression into sustainable employment through skills development; second, stimulating awareness among employers of the contribution that disabled people can make and encouraging them to recruit them; and, third, providing specific employment supports for disabled people and employers.

People with disabilities now benefit from the full range of FÁS training programmes and services. Since 2002 FÁS has realised approximately 29,000 placements of people with disabilities in employment, training and other options. Since 2002 the FÁS budget for vocational training and employment for people with disabilities increased from €54 million to €64 million in 2005.

FÁS provides an extensive range of schemes and grants specifically to promote the employment of people with disabilities in the private sector. These include: the workplace or equipment adaptation grant; the employee retention grant scheme; the job interview interpreter grant; and the personal reader grant.

In addition, last year I launched a new wage subsidy scheme. FÁS administers the scheme. It offers financial support to employers outside the public sector to encourage them to employ disabled people. Grants varying between €7,650 and €9,500 are indefinitely available for each person recruited into employment.

My Department is currently preparing a multi-annual sectoral plan. The primary objective of this plan will be to ensure that those disabled people who aspire to avail of vocational training and employment options are given those opportunities, with the necessary financial and other supports. In formulating our plan, extensive consultations are under way and the viewpoints of all will be given careful consideration. We will also give close attention to the level of success of State supports provided to date and the need to adapt them as necessary.

Anti-Competitive Practices.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

144 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has had communication regarding recent accusations of anti-competitiveness in the cement industry; if his Department has had communication with the European Commission regarding this matter in view of the fines levied against a German cement cartel in 2003. [4129/06]

While I am aware of recent media reports of allegations of anti-competitive practices in the cement industry, I have had no formal communications in the matter nor has my Department had any communication with the EU Commission.

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State and I have no day to day involvement in the activities or business of the authority.

Employment Rights.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

145 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the investigation his Department has carried out into reports highlighted in the media of the treatment and subsequent dismissal of 14 female mushroom pickers from Latvia and Lithuania employed in County Cavan, who claimed that they had been required to work for an average of €250 per week for a working week of between 80 and 100 hours and had also been asked to work on Christmas day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4058/06]

The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

Employment regulation orders govern the wages and employment conditions of workers who are employed in the mushroom industry, unless they are already covered by the terms of a registered employment agreement, pursuant to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004.

The labour inspectorate has been in contact with the individuals who carried out work at the premises over a number of months and several statements have been recorded. At present, the inspectorate is clarifying the position as to the employer and employee relationship that may exist in respect of the individuals mentioned and the current owner-operator of the facility.

The issues arising are complex and to some extent may be further compounded by the fact that the current operator is possibly not resident in the State. The inspectorate is actively pursuing the case and will be focused on trying to secure appropriate redress for the people concerned once the facts, as distinct from media reports, are satisfactorily established. Should the question of prosecution arise it will be considered at the appropriate time.

Trade Liberalisation.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

146 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the implications of the recent round of World Trade Organisation trade talks in Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4074/06]

The agreement reached in Hong Kong provides for a continuation of negotiations across the full spectrum of areas within the Doha Development Agenda, with a recommendation of a deadline of concluding the negotiations successfully in 2006.

The Hong Kong ministerial meeting progressed important objectives including that of agreeing a package of measures of benefit, in particular, to least developed countries, as well as making progress on other aspects of the DDA negotiations, including in agriculture. An important achievement in Hong Kong was the agreement on the development package, including 97% Everything But Arms coverage, progress on cotton subsidies and on Aid for Trade. In agriculture, WTO members agreed to the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies and disciplines on all export measures with equivalent effect to be completed by the end of 2013.

Ireland, as with other EU member states, would have liked to have seen more progress in reaching agreement on lowering tariffs and trade barriers in the areas of industrial goods and services. EU Ministers, in their conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, in Hong Kong, shared the assessment of Commissioners Mandelson and Fischer Boel that, despite certain deficiencies and lack of ambitious progress on various issues, the overall outcome was acceptable.

Ireland is hopeful that the further negotiations, over the coming year, can achieve greater negotiating success through greater market access in areas of interest for Irish industrial goods and services exporters, and that the development objective of the negotiations can be fully met. Ireland, as with other EU member states, will work towards the achievement of an ambitious and balanced overall outcome to the DDA negotiations.

Regional Development.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

147 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for the Ballina and Mayo region in general in view of the Celtic tiger and that Ballina and Mayo as a county remains a notorious unemployment black-spot area; his views on whether investment in infrastructure is needed in the western area of the country; if the necessary infrastructure investment will take place in Ballina and Mayo; when he will ensure that the IDA will fulfil its promise of establishing adequate employment in Mayo and maintain balance of regional development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4108/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas, including Mayo, for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day to day operational matter for the agency. While I may give general policy directives to the agency, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

The agency has specifically assured me it is actively marketing and promoting the linked hub towns of Ballina, Castlebar and Westport for new greenfield investment. However the attraction of FDI to regional locations such as Mayo is not an easy task, with clients looking at Ireland often only willing to consider larger centres that have the scale, infrastructure and services capable of sustaining their investment.

In line with the national spatial strategy, a key goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. In this regard IDA Ireland is seeking to promote all regions and works closely with a range of local bodies including the county development boards, the local authorities, utility providers, third level institutes, private sector property solution providers etc., with a view to encouraging infrastructure development and expanding the number of alternative locations within Ireland that overseas investors will consider.

In the west region the agency is investing significantly in the development of world class business and technology parks at a number of towns throughout Mayo. The goal is to ensure that these locations have the appropriate property solutions, tailored to specific key sectoral targets, to attract inward investments. Specifically in Ballina, IDA Ireland is at an advanced stage in the acquisition of 27 acres of land on the Sligo Road with a view to developing a high quality business and technology park.

At the end of 2004, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 22 IDA Ireland-supported companies in Mayo employing 3,213 people. The agency is actively working with these clients with a view to encouraging them to grow and expand.

I am confident the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland in the county together with the ongoing commitment by Government to regional development will bear fruit in terms of overseas investment and jobs for County Mayo.

Labour Inspectorate.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

148 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate and the number of prosecutions initiated by the inspectorate in respect of the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; his plans to increase this number during 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4077/06]

The number of workplace inspections-visits undertaken by the labour inspectorate, during and after normal business hours, and prosecutions initiated in respect of the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 is set out in the following tabular statement. It should be noted that substantial and multifaceted investigations appear in the 2005 figures as one unit.

The primary function of the labour inspectorate is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including payment of any arrears due to employees. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and seek redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Successful prosecution can be dependent on adequate support from witnesses.

The number of inspector posts in the labour inspectorate of the Department is 31. The assignment of previously announced additional labour inspectors was completed in November 2005. That brought the complement of serving inspectors to 31 officers. That increase represents almost a doubling of inspector personnel in the past 18 months and is indicative of a determination to ensure compliance with employment rights legislation.

It is anticipated that the new round of social partnership talks will embrace consideration of further resourcing of the labour inspectorate together with options to enhance the effectiveness of our overall employment rights compliance regime.

Year

Inspections/Visits

Prosecutions Initiated

2002

8,323

25

2003

7,168

20

2004

5,160

14

2005

5,699

25

Trade Liberalisation.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

149 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made towards the establishment of a World Trade Organisation working group to examine non-tariff barriers to trade, particularly for electronic, pharmaceutical and chemical products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4097/06]

Since adoption of the WTO July 2004 Framework Agreement, WTO members have focused their attention on non-tariff barriers, NTBs, in recognition of the fact that they are an integral and important part of the non-agricultural market access, NAMA, negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda.

The recent Sixth World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference, in Hong Kong, noted that the WTO NAMA Negotiating Group, in Geneva, has made progress in the identification, categorisation and examination of notified NTBs. It also noted that WTO members are developing bilateral, vertical and horizontal approaches to the NTB negotiations, and that some of the NTBs are addressed in other fora including other negotiating groups. These NTB negotiations would include those in respect of electronic and other industrial products.

Labour Inspectorate.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

150 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the complement of labour inspectors will be sufficient to ensure compliance with the legal duty on employers prescribed in the new Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, in addition to the range of duties already undertaken by the labour inspectorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4085/06]

The Health and Safety Authority, the body charged with overall responsibility for administration, enforcement and promotion of workplace safety and health, is responsible for the implementation of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This legislation deals with occupational safety, health and welfare.

The authority has 164 staff involved in inspection, investigation and enforcement of health and safety legislation and it works to an ambitious planned work programme. For 2006 the authority has a budget of €20.598 million and in the context of the overall allocation of resources I am confident the authority can achieve the objectives in its programme.

The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

There are 31 inspectors working in the labour inspectorate. This represents almost a doubling of inspector personnel in the past 18 months and is indicative of a determination to ensure compliance with employment rights legislation.

Regional Development.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

151 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to promote Youghal, County Cork in respect of industrial development to tackle the increasing scarcity of employment opportunities for Youghal. [3808/06]

Support for job creation and investment in individual counties and regions is a day to day operational matter for the development agencies as part of their responsibility under the Industrial Development Acts. While I may give general policy directives to the agencies I am precluded under the Industrial Developments Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

IDA Ireland, the agency charged with the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, is actively marketing the east Cork area which includes locations such as Youghal, Little Island, Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy to potential investors on an ongoing basis. I am informed that every effort is being made to secure further advanced knowledge based industries for Youghal. The availability of a 4 hectare site with two high quality manufacturing facilities is a valuable asset in this regard. Existing FDI companies in Youghal include Avery Dennison, Tytex, and Artesyn Technologies.

Since 2003 more than 60% of all new investments announced in Cork city and county have been based in the east Cork area. The recent Amgen announcement of 1,100 new jobs at an €820 million facility at Carrigtohill, which is only 20 miles from Youghal, is a significant achievement by IDA Ireland, as it involves a major global project which has chosen east Cork as its development location.

From an inward investment perspective, IDA Ireland believes that Youghal, due to its proximity to the greater Cork area, benefits considerably from ongoing developments in the city and county. Since 1993 direct employment in IDA supported companies in Cork city and county has grown by more than 80%.

Enterprise Ireland, which is the agency with prime responsibility for the development of indigenous industries, is working closely with community groups in the towns of east Cork including Youghal, to foster further embryonic enterprise and to encourage young graduates to set up businesses in their own localities. In association with the South Cork Enterprise Board, the agency facilitated and encouraged the coming together of the group Enterprise Youghal, comprising representatives of the Youghal Chamber of Commerce, the town council and other interested parties, to drive and encourage an enterprise culture within the town.

Enterprise Ireland has set up a meeting with the Enterprise Youghal group and the South Cork County Enterprise Board, SCCEB, scheduled for 8 February 2006 to discuss the prospect of an application by the group for Enterprise Ireland assistance under the recently announced community enterprise scheme for the provision of community based incubator units which would stimulate business start-ups in the town.

The SCCEB, was established in 1993 to provide support to the south Cork area for small businesses with ten employees or fewer. Since its inception SCCEB has approved a total of €175,734 to 12 projects in the Youghal region in the past two years.

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

EU Directives.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

152 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position his Department has taken in European Union discussions on the services directive; the timetable for the approval of the directive at the Council of Ministers; and if the Government’s position on amendments to the directive that come from the European Parliament will be made public in advance. [4122/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

185 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government’s policy on the EU services directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4071/06]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

187 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the draft services directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4092/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152, 185 and 187 together.

I set out the current position on this proposed directive comprehensively in the course of the recent Private Members' motion on the matter — I refer the Deputy to the Official Report of 25 and 26 January.

The European Parliament is scheduled to complete its first reading of the Commission's proposal later this month. The Parliament is expected to propose a number of amendments to the proposal. These will be taken into account by the European Commission, which may then bring forward a revised proposal for consideration by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. In that event the Government will formulate its position on the Commission's amendments after full consultation with stakeholders. I am prepared to be as open as possible on the Government's position, bearing in mind however that a negotiation process is involved here.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

153 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he plans to take specific steps to transpose the posting of workers directive into Irish law; the reason no specific transposition measures have been adopted to date in 2006; his response to the observation of the European Commission that such an approach does not conform to the criteria established by the case law of the Court of Justice on the transposition of directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4104/06]

Section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 transposed the posting of workers directive into Irish law. Section 20 provides that, for the avoidance of doubt, all employee protection legislation on the Statute Book in the State applies to posted workers within the meaning of the directive in the same way as it applies to Irish workers. Posted workers are workers who are sent to another country on a temporary basis by an employer.

The enactments that regulate the rights guaranteed to posted workers by Directive 96/71/EC include: Employment Agency Act 1971; Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004; Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996; Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004; National Minimum Wage Act 2000; and Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

The collective agreements that regulate the rights that are required to be guaranteed to posted workers involved in construction or other related activity and that apply to such a worker posted to Ireland include: Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) 2005; and Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Pensions Assurance and Sick Pay) 2006.

I am satisfied that the directive has been fully transposed into Irish law by the existing legislation passed by the Oireachtas.

Departmental Appointments.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

154 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in 2006 in appointing a new chief science adviser to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4094/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, following the resignation of the chief science adviser late last year, I announced that the post would be filled by open competition. The CSA is appointed by the Government and I intend to bring forward proposals to Government on this matter in the near future.

Wage Levels.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

155 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has evidence of the lowering of average wage levels within certain sectors of the Irish economy due to an increase in new labour supply from new European accession state countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4124/06]

It is difficult to provide evidence regarding the impact on wage levels of the increase in new European accession states' nationals working here. This is because it is not possible to conclusively isolate this impact from that of the various other factors which affect wage levels.

It is true that a significant number of EU-10 nationals have joined our labour force since accession in May 2004. We know that since May 2004 more than 160,000 PPS numbers have been issued to them. Based on Revenue Commissioners data, it is estimated that about 70% of these people have employment details and therefore worked here at some stage, although many of them may have returned home in the meantime.

Preliminary indications regarding whether the participation of these EU-10 nationals has had a significant impact on overall wage levels, or on unemployment rates here, are that in overall terms it has not. Unemployment in Ireland remains at very low levels and has averaged 4.3% over the past year, the lowest in the European Union. In the year to the third quarter of 2005, employment grew by 5.1%, in other words, an additional 96,000 jobs were created, of which approximately 40,000 were taken up by non-nationals. In general, non-national workers appear to be filling jobs in those sectors which are experiencing strong jobs growth.

Most sectors of the economy in which a high proportion of EU-10 nationals are working are also showing fairly robust levels of earnings growth. For example, many EU-nationals are working in the construction sector and the latest figures for that sector show fairly strong annual wage growth to the third quarter of 2005 of 6.8%.

I am advised that up until 30 April 2006 it is open to us to restrict access to the labour market of the nationals of new member states. Thereafter, in the period to 30 April 2011, the approval of the European Commission would be necessary to impose restrictions, which would have to be justified by reference to a threat of serious disturbance to the Irish labour market.

However, in the context of our current robust employment position, I have no plans to change current policy regarding the access of EU-10 nationals to our labour market. These workers have already made a positive contribution to our economy and have participated significantly in the development of our infrastructure.

Labour Inspectorate.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

156 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions he intends to take to deal with phony subcontracting in the construction sector which is playing a role in undermining existing employment pay and conditions. [4112/06]

The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. To effectively exercise their powers when checking or pursuing possible non-compliance with employment rights obligations, inspectors require clarity around the employer-employee relationship in order that relevant provisions of the legislation can be applied. The phenomenon of bogus self-employment-bogus sub-contracting can frustrate that process.

In the construction industry, the recent significant Labour Court decision relating to the registered employment agreement in this area is notable. In this case, the employer maintained that two workers were employed as self-employed sub-contractors and accordingly not covered by the Construction Industry REA. The court concluded in this case that the workers were covered by the REA. In its consideration of the matter the Labour Court was guided by a 2005 High Court case, which found that the definition of a "worker" in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act is wide enough to include an individual sub-contractor.

The imminent discussions on a new social partnership agreement will include issues relating to a more effective compliance model and the related organisational aspects that might arise as a consequence. As a particular topic it is likely that the question of bogus self-employment-bogus sub-contracting will be considered in that context.

The Government is not about reducing the high employment standards that we have attained, rather, it is fully committed to working with the social partners to not only maintain but build upon and improve the situation of those at work, and, in the context of social partnership, it has every confidence that agreement will be reached on all outstanding matters to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

Pyramid Selling.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

157 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of recent revelations regarding the inadequacy of the law on trading schemes, he intends to carry out a review of the Pyramid Selling Act 1980. [4127/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

172 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to provide the public with additional protection against so called pyramid schemes; if, in particular, he will amend the legislation to cover so-called gifting schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4056/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 172 together.

I am aware of recent reports regarding so-called gifting schemes operating in Cork and Kerry. Under these schemes people pay sometimes large sums of money to other people in the expectation of other people giving them multiples of the original amount. The Pyramid Selling Act 1980, which prohibits people from inducing others to participate in pyramid selling schemes, applies to goods and services but there is a legal doubt as to whether this type of transaction is covered under the Act.

Ultimately it is for the courts to determine the law in this matter. The Garda Síochána is the enforcing authority for the Act.

I intend examining this issue in the context of the transposition of the unfair commercial practices directive, 2005/29/EC. The unfair commercial practices directive, which was adopted by the Council in May 2005, has as its aim increased protection for the consumer. The directive will outlaw certain practices. Specifically, the practice of "establishing, operating or promoting a pyramid promotional scheme where a consumer gives consideration for the opportunity to receive compensation that is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme rather than from the sale or consumption of products" will be banned. I will ensure that the Pyramid Selling Act 1980 will be reviewed in the context of the transposition of the unfair commercial practices directive.

I urge people to be vigilant in how they use their money. People should reflect on whether it is realistic to expect other people to give them large sums of money for nothing.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 142.

Employment Rights.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

159 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workers covered by registered employment agreements; and his plans to increase the number of employments covered by such agreements. [4090/06]

Section 25 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 provides that an employment agreement is an agreement relating to terms and conditions of employment made between worker and employer representatives. Section 26 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 provides that the Labour Court shall maintain the Register of Employment Agreements. Section 27 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 provides that any party to an employment agreement may apply to the Labour Court to have the agreement registered. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has no function as regards such agreements or the maintenance of the Register of Employment Agreements.

Job Losses.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

160 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the jobs lost in counties Wicklow and Carlow in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4106/06]

The issues of job creation and retention in enterprise development agency supported companies is a day-to-day matter for the agencies and not one in which I am directly involved. I assume the question refers to client companies of the enterprise development agencies.

In recent years Irish manufacturing firms, particularly in the more traditional sectors, have operated against a backdrop of an increasingly competitive international environment. Despite these pressures, total unemployment in Ireland remains relatively low at 4.3% and economic growth is estimated at 4.8% for 2005.

A total of 4,710 people are employed in 194 client companies of Enterprise Ireland in County Wicklow. Provisional figures for 2005 indicate that in County Wicklow, 426 jobs were created and 855 jobs were lost resulting in a net loss of 429 jobs. A total of 2,547 people are employed in 88 client companies of Enterprise Ireland in County Carlow. Provisional figures for 2005 indicate that in County Carlow, 204 jobs were created and 312 jobs were lost resulting in a net loss of 108.

In County Wicklow, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding support of more than €7.3 million and paid more than €7.8 million to client companies in the past three years. Enterprise Ireland has also approved funding of more than €1.5 million in support of community enterprise centres in Arklow and Wicklow town. Arklow Community Enterprise Centre opened in April 2005. In County Carlow, in the past three years, Enterprise Ireland approved support of more than €5.3 million and made payments of more than €3.5 million for manufacturing industry in the county. Enterprise Ireland assisted the establishment of Carlow Community Enterprise Centre, which opened in December 2004 and has also approved €1.42 million for the construction of a campus innovation centre at Carlow Institute of Technology.

The county enterprise boards, CEBs, develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity throughout their regions. Carlow County Enterprise Board reports that in 2005 its clients created 60 jobs and lost ten jobs resulting in a net increase of 50 jobs. Similarly, Wicklow County Enterprise Board reports that in 2005 its clients created 82 jobs and lost 34 jobs resulting in a net increase of 48 jobs.

IDA employment figures for 2005 will be available at the end of February 2006. It is actively working with client companies in Carlow to encourage them to grow and expand their range of activities. The role of third level colleges such as Carlow Institute of Technology and St. Patrick's College is critical to ensuring that Carlow and the region develops its educational and research capability to support existing and new investment. IDA Ireland is committed to the development of County Carlow and is actively promoting Carlow town for new foreign investment in international services and high value manufacturing activities. IDA Ireland has invested almost €11.5 million to date in developing the Carlow business and technology park on the Dublin Road. IDA Ireland is already actively marketing the building and park through its network of overseas offices. For County Wicklow, IDA Ireland reports that Takeda Pharmaceutical's — Japan — new expansion facility at IDA Ireland Bray business park is almost complete which will result in an increase of 90 jobs. Expansions by other clients are being implemented including Servier Pharmaceuticals and Inamed McGhan. The agency is continuing to invest in the county with €3 million going towards significant site development works at Arklow business park.

Consumer Rights.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

161 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in 2006 with regard to implementation of the report of the consumer strategy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4055/06]

Since the publication of the consumer strategy group report in May 2005, considerable progress has been made in progressing the report's recommendations.

The establishment of a new national consumer agency, which was the principal recommendation of the CSG, was fully accepted by the Government. Preparations for the establishment of the new agency are well under way. In this regard, I hope to publish the legislation establishing the new agency later this year.

The Deputy will be aware that an interim board of the NCA has already been in existence for more than six months. Since its appointment, the interim board has been very active in advocating the consumer's cause and raising the awareness of consumer rights. The interim board has been allocated funding to allow it to continue and intensify its activities throughout the course of 2006. In addition to being a forceful advocate on behalf of the consumer, the interim board, as part of its terms of reference, will have a key role in preparing the way for the fully operational agency.

The other significant recommendation in the consumer strategy group report related to the abolition of the groceries order. The Deputy will be aware that a Bill to repeal the order in its entirety and to amend the Competition Acts to strengthen the prohibitions in relation to resale price maintenance, unfair discrimination and "hello money" in the grocery trade is progressing through the Oireachtas.

In regard to the other recommendations of the CSG, a number of the recommendations relating to my Department have already been implemented. For example, the fines for breaching consumer protection laws have recently been significantly increased, as recommended by the CSG, the fundamental review of the existing code of consumer protection law, as recommended by the CSG, is already under way and additional resources have been dedicated by my Department to this task.

The CSG report contains more than 30 separate recommendations involving a variety of different of Departments and agencies whose activities directly impact upon the interests of consumers. Given the scope of the CSG's report, a high level interdepartmental committee was established to examine and prepare a detailed plan for the implementation of the recommendations. The committee's report, which was endorsed by the Government, is available on my Department's website.

I trust the Deputy can see that considerable progress has been made in progressing the recommendations of the CSG since the publication of its report. I am determined that this progress continues throughout the coming year and I am confident that together with the interim board of the NCA, progress will continue to be made to the benefit of consumers.

Information Technology Sector.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

162 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on recent research from Dublin City University which shows that job vacancies in the information technology sector rose by 14% to 9,200 in the last seven months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4067/06]

I am aware of the survey to which the Deputy refers. It was undertaken by assessing the contents of websites of various recruitment organisations and counting the IT vacancies being advertised at that time. The results attest to the overall buoyancy of the economy and, in particular, the upturn in the ICT sector since 2001.

The expert group of future skills needs advises Government on skills and labour supply issues for the enterprise sector. It carried out work in 2005 that pointed to skills shortages in a number of IT occupations. These include computer programmers, analysts and software engineers. While there does not appear to be a shortage at present among electronic and electrical engineers, the upturn in IT activity means that available skilled manpower is in greater demand than heretofore.

The expert group on future skills needs is closely monitoring the supply of graduates from the third level education system. The declining number of students opting to study ICT related subjects at third level, largely due to mistaken perceptions among students and their parents that the IT industry is not a good career choice, is of concern. Those perceptions are no longer valid in the light of current labour market manpower needs.

Last October, the expert group on future skills needs convened a meeting of key stakeholders, including Discover Science & Engineering, Engineers Ireland, ICT Ireland, the Irish Computer Society, the Higher Education Authority and IDA Ireland. The objective was to devise a co-ordinated action plan to reverse these mistaken perceptions and the consequential fall-off in students undertaking ICT related subjects.

All these organisations have since then been actively promoting technology-based courses in the run-up to the recent CAO applications deadline. A longer-term awareness campaign to highlight the opportunities now available to graduates with third level qualifications in technological disciplines is in development. It will be launched during 2006. In summary, I am aware of the emerging manpower problems in this sector and we are taking action to address them.

National Minimum Wage.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

163 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on wage rates within the tourism sector; and if he is satisfied that minimum wage regulations are being complied with. [2493/06]

Legislation governing rates of pay within the tourism sector depends on the nature of that work. The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the hotel and restaurant business are in most instances governed by employment regulation orders made pursuant to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004.

The hotels employment regulation order applies to workers employed in hotels anywhere throughout the State except the county borough of Cork and areas known, until 1 January 1994, as the county borough of Dublin and the borough of Dún Laoghaire.

Wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the catering industry are governed by two catering employment regulation orders, one of which covers workers employed in catering establishments in the areas known, until 1 January 1994, as the county borough of Dublin and the borough of Dún Laoghaire, and the other employment regulation order which covers catering establishments outside that area. In the area of pay and conditions, for all other employees in the sector the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 apply.

The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

Since November 2005 the number of labour inspectors assigned and serving has been increased to 31 officers. As part of the programme of work that is being implemented to train the new inspectors, their schedule includes a focus on national minimum wage compliance during February. In addition to the new inspectors, a number of experienced officers will be participating in this exercise also to provide support and guidance as well as undertaking inspections themselves.

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

I urge anyone who has specific evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

Departmental Investigations.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

164 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the outcome of the investigation his Department held into the circumstances in which 11 immigrant workers were reported to have been abandoned off an island near Skerries in County Dublin; if his Department intends to take action arising from this incident; if, in particular, there will be prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4057/06]

The labour inspectorate of the Department has been in contact with relevant colleagues in the Garda Síochána, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Health and Safety Authority. An inspector has interviewed the boat owner and two of the Latvian people who were gathering the shellfish. It has not been possible to establish any detail of an employment relationship and the Latvian interviewees made no complaint.

The Latvian Embassy has been contacted in the matter to ascertain if any complaints had been received there in connection with the incident. It appears that there have not been any complaints received. The embassy was assured that any complaints would be investigated and advised that in the event an employment relationship was established, the inspectorate would undertake a full inspection of relevant employment records and pursue any non-compliance with legislation within its remit.

In the absence of evidence of non-compliance with employment legislation the labour inspectorate does not propose referring the matter to the prosecution unit of the Department. In the event that new information comes to light, the inspectorate will consider what further action, if any, is appropriate.

The Health and Safety Authority, which is responsible for the enforcement of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and other relevant worker protection legislation, liaised with the Garda on this matter. It was not possible to make progress as the main parties concerned were not contactable and did not submit complaints.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

165 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to each of the inquiries being carried out by or on behalf of his Department; the projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4083/06]

Sixteen investigations into company law matters were initiated by my predecessor in the period since 1997. In three cases, the High Court appointed, on an application by the Minister, inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990. The inspectors appointed to Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited presented their report to the High Court on 10 June 2002. The report was subsequently published and referred to the DPP.

The inspectors appointed to National Irish Bank Limited and National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited presented their report to the High Court on 12 July 2004. The report was subsequently published. The court ordered that a copy of the report be referred to several relevant authorities, including the DPP. In 2005, the Director of Corporate Enforcement initiated proceedings in the High Court under section 160(2) of the Companies Act 1990, as amended, seeking the disqualification of nine persons against whom adverse comment was made by the inspectors. I note that last October the High Court granted a disqualification order against one of the nine persons. The proceedings against the other eight remain before the court.

One investigation under section 14 of the Companies Act 1990 was completed in 1998. The report on this was referred to the DPP. One investigation was undertaken under section 59 of the Insurance Act 1989. The report on this was referred to the DPP as well as to the inspectors who undertook the section 8 investigation into that company.

Eleven investigations were initiated by the Minister under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990. Six of these have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, two of the reports were referred to the DPP. A number of summary prosecutions have since been successfully concluded in one case. One report provided an input into the successful application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors under section 8 while the fourth report was passed to the relevant High Court inspectors. One report was completed in September 2002 and a further report was completed in March 2003. Both reports have been referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Two of the 11 section 19 investigations were held up in legal appeals. These inquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

In relation to the three remaining section 19 investigations, the current position is that in June 2005 I directed the authorised officer to place at the disposal of relevant public authorities, including tribunals, whatever information and assistance arising from his investigative work was required by those authorities for the purpose of the performance of their statutory functions. This process is continuing and will be completed as soon as possible. My objective in giving this direction is to achieve the earliest possible pursuit by the appropriate authorities of any matter which may require action by them.

Trade Missions.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

166 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the results of his recent visit to India; the contracts signed or trade agreements concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4102/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

169 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the outcome of his recent trade mission to India; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4064/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 169 together.

This was by far the largest trade mission from Ireland to have ever visited India, and, in accordance with the Government's Asia strategy, it was an important step in a structured programme designed to bring Ireland and India closer together. The mission to India visited three key business centres — Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. A total of 85 Irish companies, industry associations and organisations participated and a total of 120 business executives from these bodies travelled as delegates. The companies were from a broad range of sectors, from software and IT, through industrial products and services and education services to food and beverages. Significantly, 12 companies from Northern Ireland also participated and representatives from Invest Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry were also present.

The companies on the mission participated in more than 500 business meetings in the three cities. Most of the companies involved were making their first visit to India and Enterprise Ireland undertook to set up and manage individual itineraries for more than 50 of the Irish companies. In addition to setting up individual schedules, Enterprise Ireland organised three major networking lunches, one in each city. A total of 700 people attended these lunch events. Also, a number of group meetings were set up with leading Indian companies to give EI client companies access to high level connections within these companies, which they can later follow up. Separate events were organised by Enterprise Ireland for the education sector participants in Bangalore and in Delhi.

Eight Enterprise Ireland client companies signed contracts during the mission and 20 education sector partnership contracts, between Irish higher education institutions and their local equivalents, were also signed. It is estimated that these partnerships and contracts will generate an increase in revenue from India of the order of €35 million over the next three years. In addition, three of the Northern Ireland companies signed contracts or partnerships with Indian businesses.

A number of other stakeholders used the mission to initiate partnerships with their opposite numbers and clients. Examples include the signature of various agreements between the Irish Software Association, the Irish Biotech Association and the Irish Exporters Association, with their counterpart organisations in India.

The Taoiseach and I also used the mission to meet privately with a number of senior business leaders and it is likely that some of these executives will make exploratory business visits to Ireland in the coming months. During the mission, the Taoiseach announced that it had been decided that Enterprise Ireland is to establish an office in India to better service the needs of Irish companies in that market. I signed a bilateral science and technology co-operation agreement on behalf of my Department with the Indian Minister for Science and Technology. In addition, Science Foundation Ireland signed an agreement with the Indian Science Academy.

EU Directives.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

167 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his response to the resolution of the European Parliament of 15 January 2004 on the implementation of the posting of workers directive in connection with the provision of services; if he agrees with the views of the European Parliament; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4101/06]

I note the resolution of the European Parliament of 15 January 2004 on the implementation of the posting of workers directive. The resolution makes a number of proposals which are, in the main, matters for the European Commission, under its right of initiative, to address in the first instance.

Posted workers are workers who are sent to another country on a temporary basis by an employer. While Ireland has not had any complaints in respect of persons sent here temporarily by their employers, should the European Commission come forward with any concrete proposals in the area, such as an amending directive, for consideration by the Council of Ministers, Ireland will play a constructive role. Our aim will be to ensure that any agreement reached will be of practical benefit to posted workers throughout the European Union.

Employment Rights.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

168 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the investigation by the labour inspectorate into allegations of serious irregularities in regard to the treatment of employees of a Turkish company, Gama, which has been operating here; if all the workers have been given access to money held in accounts in a bank in Holland; if he has considered requesting the Garda Síochána to conduct an investigation into allegations that money had been diverted into accounts to which the workers previously had no access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4060/06]

Allegations of non-compliance with labour legislation in respect of a major construction firm were raised in this House on 8 February 2005 by Deputy Joe Higgins. Those allegations were that certain non-national construction workers were required to work excessive hours and that such workers were in receipt of pay of between €2 and €3 per hour in contravention of the statutory minimums applicable.

The labour inspectorate of my Department undertook an investigation of these allegations. That investigation was completed within six weeks and required the exclusive attention of three labour inspectors under the direction of two senior members of staff. A report on the investigation was prepared and circulated to relevant parties, including the construction firm involved.

Subsequently, the Department was informed that the firm proposed seeking a judicial review with regard to the investigation and inspector's report. At an interlocutory hearing a judgment was given whereby the Department was restrained from publication of the inspector's report but permitted to forward the document to relevant prosecutorial bodies. On foot of this outcome a copy of the inspector's report was sent to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Competition Authority, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda Commissioner.

The inspector's report was quashed in the judgment that followed the full High Court hearing of the case. That decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court. Accordingly, I am unable to elaborate any further on the content of the inspector's report or offer any observations on the actions that the prosecutorial bodies mentioned above may be considering.

I was concerned that all Turkish workers would have access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank in Amsterdam. To that end, I and my officials met senior management from Gama Turkey and Gama Ireland, the legal advisers to Gama Turkey, and a human resources consultant retained by Gama. At that meeting, I was assured by these senior managers, their legal adviser and the human resources consultant that all Gama workers in Ireland, past and present, would have full access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank.

I contacted the President of Finansbank. He assured me that, provided the consent of the workers was forthcoming, his bank would co-operate in ensuring that my officials would have sight of relevant bank records in his bank so that they could be satisfied that all workers would have access to the money in their bank accounts. Officials from my Department travelled to Finansbank on 14 April last.

Following these meetings and contacts which my officials had with SIPTU and Deputy Higgins, I am satisfied that a substantial number of Turkish workers who were in Ireland around last April received value for the funds that had been transferred to their personal bank accounts in Finansbank.

My Department wrote to Gama Turkey's legal advisers on 29 April seeking certain details on each current and former Gama employee, including the money transferred to Finansbank and the money transferred from Finansbank to their personal bank account in Isbank in Turkey. Despite reminders to Gama Turkey's legal advisers and engagement with a PR company engaged by Gama, this information has not been supplied to date. Accordingly, I cannot assure the Deputy that all Gama workers in Ireland, both past and present, have received value for the amounts that were transferred into their personal accounts in Finansbank.

In the meantime, there were ongoing contacts between officials of my Department and the company. Matters were brought before the Labour Relations Commission and then the Labour Court. Arising from these actions, substantial transfers of money were secured for workers in lieu of overtime worked. In addition, certain professional Gama workers in respect of whom transfers were not made into Dutch bank accounts were also awarded sums of money by the Labour Court. Many of these Turkish workers have now returned home. A routine inspection by the labour inspectorate of Gama is now under way.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 166.

Industrial Disputes.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

170 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the sacking of a shop steward with the union, Mandate, from their position in a company (details supplied) for wearing a union badge on their store uniform and the company’s subsequent refusal to attend a meeting regarding the disciplinary action with the worker in question due to the fact that they were accompanied by their trade union official is unacceptable; and the actions he intends to take to address such actions by employers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4111/06]

The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature. The State has established a number of institutions to assist in the resolution of trade disputes between employers and workers, including the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

I understand that the person referred to in the question has lodged a claim with the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body and I have no function in its day-to-day operation.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 157.

Employment Support Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

173 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures which have been taken by his Department to afford assistance to management and staff at C & D Petfoods following the recent fire at its premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4098/06]

Enterprise Ireland has been in ongoing contact with the company in question since the day after the fire. The agency met company management on 25 January 2006 to assess the situation and discuss the options available. I understand that an evaluation process is under way to determine the extent of the damage as well as the remaining production capability. The company is also facilitating the insurance evaluation of the premises. There are many other issues which still need clarification and, as these become clearer, the company will be in a position to make an informed decision on the future of the facility.

Enterprise Ireland has offered to provide any assistance, the company may require, in particular through the use of its regional network of offices to locate premises or manufacturers that may be suitable for temporary production purposes. The agency has also offered the services of its overseas office network to facilitate the search for an overseas company with the potential to produce product for the company until it is back in full production.

Although matters are still evolving, the company has confirmed that production at its soft can facility resumed on 6 February 2006. It is expected that the full soft can staff complement of 180 will resume today, 7 February 2006. Notwithstanding this, FÁS has been in contact with employer and union representatives to outline the labour market supports that will be made available to those employees who may be out of work for some time. These supports will include vocational guidance, motivational supports, job-seeking skills, technical skills, training and information on job vacancies — all tailored to meet the needs of each individual. Every assistance possible is being given to the company to ensure that a viable pet food manufacturing facility will continue to exist in Edgeworthstown.

Competition Law.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

174 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his view on the decision of the Competition Authority to interpret the Competition Act 2002 as prohibiting self-employed individuals from having a trade union negotiate employment terms and conditions for them. [4100/06]

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State. Accordingly, I have no role in relation to its day-to-day activities.

I presume, however, that this question relates to the decision of the authority regarding Irish Actors' Equity SIPTU and the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland concerning the terms and conditions under which advertising agencies hire actors. The authority's decision, which is published on its website, tca.ie, states that while it is perfectly legal for Equity to represent employed actors in collective bargaining with their employers, its trade union mantle cannot exempt its conduct when it acts as a trade association for self-employed contractors. In this particular case the authority determined that the actors in question were self-employed contractors and not employees.

Section 4 of the Competition Act prohibits anti-competitive practices, such as price fixing, by undertakings. An undertaking is defined in the Act as "a person being an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons engaged for gain in the production, supply, or distribution of goods or the provision of a service". This definition has been in use in Irish competition law for some time and is supported by EU case law.

I understand that the view expressed by the Competition Authority concerned this particular case only and it should not be taken as a definitive interpretation of the law. It is only the courts which can interpret the law. However, the parties to the investigation appear to have accepted the authority's view as they entered into undertakings in settlement of the case, thereby avoiding the necessity of going to court.

In considering the question of whether self employed individuals should be permitted to have a trade union negotiate on their behalf, we need to bear in mind that almost any group of self employed contractors, such as barristers, publicans, doctors or pharmacists, could, by coming together, adding union to their name and getting a negotiating licence, attempt to circumvent the protections afforded to consumers by the Oireachtas in the Competition Act.

Industrial Disputes.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

175 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the implications of the Irish Ferries dispute on his Department’s policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4073/06]

The fundamental approach of successive Governments to industrial relations has been one of voluntarism. There is a consensus among the social partners that the terms and conditions of employment of workers are best determined through the process of voluntary bargaining between employers and workers and between employers' associations and one trade union or staff association or more. This approach to industrial relations has served us well over the years.

In general, our laws do not try to impose a solution on parties to a trade dispute but rather are designed to help support the parties in resolving their differences. The State has, by and large, confined its role to underpinning voluntarism through the provision of a framework and institutions through which good industrial relations can prosper. Institutions have been established that can assist in the resolution of disputes between employers and workers such as the Labour Relations Commission, including its rights commissioner service, the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The Irish Ferries dispute was ultimately resolved through the utilisation of the industrial relations machinery of the State. The agreement between Irish Ferries, SIPTU and the Seamen's Union of Ireland was brokered by the Labour Relations Commission following the intervention of the national implementation body, and shows that, even in the must difficult of circumstances, our industrial relations and social partnership system is successful at resolving disputes between employers and employees.

Job Losses.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

176 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the recent spate of factory closures, he intends to implement a monitoring system to establish the detailed reasons for the loss of Irish jobs. [4126/06]

My Department operates an internal early warning system of potential job losses and firms in difficulty based on material provided on a confidential basis by IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Development. This information includes details as to why each particular situation has developed.

There are various reasons for job losses and factory closures. The early years of this decade saw a substantial restructuring and downturn in the information and communications technology industry globally. This brought about a strong focus on reducing costs and improving efficiency to meet a harsher global demand environment. Ireland is no longer a low-cost economy and we have experienced increased competition from locations elsewhere in the world where goods can be produced more cheaply than here. In addition, innovation and productivity in manufacturing processes have led to increases in output and wage levels for employees but with a reduced employment requirement.

Notwithstanding this, the year just concluded was the best since 2000 in terms of the range and quality of new investments, the development of our research capability and capacity, and in new jobs created. According to the latest quarterly national household survey published by the Central Statistics Office, 1,989,800 persons were in employment in the third quarter of 2005, an increase of 96,200 in the year.

Legislative Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

177 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is his intention to introduce legislation to provide for the creation of a new offence of corporate manslaughter as suggested by the Law Reform Commission in October 2003 and recommended by the commission in its recent report to which a draft Bill is appended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4053/06]

As was stated in the reply on this matter to Deputy Howlin in November 2005, the issue of whether legislation to provide for the creation of a new offence of corporate manslaughter as suggested by the Law Reform Commission in its recent report is not a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The main thrust of the recommendations are at a much wider area of responsibility than that covered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and, consequently, the Department does not have a primary function in the matter.

At the time of the launch of the report, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, made it clear that consideration of the report will take place primarily at Government level by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the context of his main responsibilities for the criminal law system.

Social Partnership.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

178 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in 2006 with regard to consideration of the discussion document covering the operation of the labour inspectorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4059/06]

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document on the mandate and resourcing of the labour inspectorate to the social partners in early 2005. That document has been the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG, since September 2005. The ERCG, which is made up of representatives of the social partners, including the CIF and SIPTU, together with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance, is finalising its work in this regard. The outcome of those discussions will inform debate in the context of the talks on a new round of national social partnership.

Much has been agreed during the course of the ERCG discussions. Final comments from the social partners will be reflected in the finished report and the remaining issues relating to a more effective compliance model and the related organisational aspects have been clearly signalled as being matters for consideration in the forthcoming social partnership discussions.

The Government is not about reducing the high employment standards that we have attained, rather it is fully committed to working with the social partners not only to maintain but also to build upon and improve the situation of those at work and, in the context of social partnership, has every confidence that agreement will be reached on all outstanding matters to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

Competition Law.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

179 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress on the competition agenda he expects to be made following the appointment of Mr. William J Prasifka as chairperson of the Competition Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4062/06]

I look forward to Mr. Prasifka taking up the position of chairperson of the Competition Authority next month. The Government sees competition as the life-blood of a vibrant economy and we are committed to removing unwarranted constraints on competition in all sectors of the economy and placing the consumer at the top of the policy agenda. I will work closely with the new chairperson, as I did with his predecessor, to ensure that the authority effectively performs its role in enforcing and promoting competition law for the benefit of consumers.

With regard to enforcement, I recently secured funding for the purpose of doubling the resources of the authority's cartels division and the authority will commence a recruitment campaign for this purpose very shortly.

Job Losses.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

180 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs he expects to be outsourced to overseas locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4065/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

330 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs relocated to lower cost economies in each of the past five years; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4358/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 330 together.

Data on the number of jobs that have been relocated to lower cost economies in the past five years are not available nor is it possible to predict how many will be outsourced to overseas locations in the future. Apart from definitional issues, outsourcing is two-way flow; many of the jobs in this economy, especially in the multinational sectors, could be looked upon as having been outsourced to here and we still continue to capture a significant share of such employment. Inter-firm outsourcing is also an important part of the enterprise activity. I would be confident, therefore, that the net gains well exceed the net outflows. This is evidenced at a macro level in the quarterly employment statistics from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, the latest of which show that the number of persons in employment grew by 96,200 in the year to reach almost 1.99 million in the third quarter of 2005.

While it is true that employment in the manufacturing sector has experienced a loss of more than 32,000 jobs between 2001 and 2004, it is impossible to attribute this to outsourcing. It is fair to say that the present competitiveness characteristics of our economy has made a reliance on low technology based manufacturing less sustainable than it was in the past. It is encouraging that the most recent CSO data points to a slight increase in the numbers employed in manufacturing.

Outsourcing and relocation are inevitable in a free market and open economy like ours and our economic performance has benefited considerably from winning this type of investment from other economies in the past. For some firms, outsourcing of low-end operations makes complete financial and strategic sense and may be the only means to ensure their continued viability. We must recognise that the challenge for Ireland is to attract and retain the high end, higher value added operations that are typified by higher output, improved productivity and greater returns to labour which will ultimately provide longer lasting and higher quality jobs. The enterprise agencies under my Department have adjusted their support strategies to reflect this new paradigm.

Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Job Initiative.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

183 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to attract new jobs to Cork following the news that 180 jobs at the GN ReSound plant were moving to China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4072/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas, including Cork, for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency. While I may give general policy directives to IDA Ireland, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving preference to one area over others. However, at the request of the agencies, I can and do assist the agencies from time to time in their efforts to promote Ireland and its regions for new investment and jobs.

To date in 2006 two new projects have been announced in Cork by Citco and Amgen which will result in 1,350 new jobs at full operation. Citco will create 250 new financial services jobs while the recent Amgen announcement of 1,100 new jobs at an €820 million facility at Carrigtohill is of particular importance being a major global project that has chosen Cork as its development location. These projects follow on from a number of projects announced in 2005 by companies such as Engenio, Siemens, Parsons, VMware, Alps, Cascade Designs and Alcon.

The loss of the jobs mentioned by the Deputy is regrettable. The recent success means that Ireland is much less competitive as a location for low wage manufacturing jobs. The focus for the future must be to attract investment requiring high skill levels, that are innovation rather than production orientated. Only economic activities with these characteristics will allow us maintain economic growth in the face of increasing competition from emerging economies such as China and India.

IDA Ireland's strategy for attracting FDI to the south-west region, including Cork is to progress the development of a knowledge economy in the region by targeting sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information and communications technologies, ICT, and internationally traded services via its network of overseas offices and project divisions; work with its existing client base to help them identify new investment opportunities, move up the value chain into higher value products and services and into higher order functions, such as research and development, that are more suited to the competitive characteristics of the Irish economy in the medium to long term; provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure; and work with local authorities and relevant infrastructure and service providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure to the region.

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

Public Contracts.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

184 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has had discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the need to ensure full compliance with all labour standards in all local government contracts; the measures he has taken to ensure that all public contractors meet these standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4091/06]

Under the conditions of contract for Departments and local authorities there is a requirement that contractors pay rates of wages and observe hours of labour and conditions of employment in public procurement not less favourable than those laid down by the national joint industrial council for the construction industry. I expect that a similar type of clause will also be included in the upcoming new standard form of construction contracts being developed by the Government contracts committee for construction in conjunction with the Department of Finance and in consultation with key stakeholders.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 152.

Job Creation.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

186 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created by the IDA in County Mayo in the past ten years; the location in the county of where these jobs have been created; the number of jobs the IDA is planning to create in the next three years; the location in the county where these jobs will be located; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4109/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. Data on job creation in supported companies are compiled from an annual employment survey carried out by Forfás. The breakdown of IDA Ireland employment data is available only on a regional and county basis.

County data for 2005 will not be available from IDA Ireland until the end of February. Once the data are available I will arrange that they be forwarded to the Deputy. The number of jobs created by IDA Ireland in County Mayo in each of the years 1995 to 2004, inclusive, is as set out in the following tabular statement.

It is not possible for IDA Ireland to predict the specific number of FDI jobs that will be created in the county over the next three years as ultimately decisions regarding investment and job creation are taken by supported companies and are highly dependant on global developments as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand for goods and services, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change.

IDA Ireland has advised me that it is actively working towards maximising the level of high value sustainable FDI employment opportunities in Mayo and in the west by investing in the provision of focused property solutions to support this objective. Specifically, IDA Ireland is developing world class business and technology parks in a number of towns throughout Mayo.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. The Government's national spatial strategy provides a framework for the achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in the gateway and hub locations. On this basis, IDA Ireland seeks to attract foreign direct investment into the gateway and hubs as well as a small number of additional locations throughout the west, particularly in Mayo through the linked hub of Ballina, Castlebar and Westport. The attraction of FDI to regional locations is not an easy task, with clients looking at Ireland often only willing to consider larger centres that have the scale, infrastructure and services capable of sustaining their investment.

IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in the medical technologies, life sciences, information and communications technology and international services sectors. The agency is also actively working with the existing base of overseas companies in Mayo to encourage them to grow and expand. In this respect it was heartening to see the recent announcement by Advanced Medical Optics in Westport of its intention to expand its workforce in the future. I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of overseas investment and jobs for County Mayo.

Number of new jobs created in IDA supported companies in Mayo in each of the years 1995-2004, inclusive.

Year

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

New Jobs Created

238

129

131

492

159

678

357

97

109

145

Source: Forfás Employment Survey.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 152.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3805/06]

My Department did not engage public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants for the purpose of seeking advice either on behalf of myself or either of the Ministers of State in my Department in the period 2003 to 2005.

My Department has, however, engaged public relations consultants within this period to promote specific issues or events as follows: promotion of awareness of Ireland's hosting of the EU Presidency from July 2003 to January 2004; preparatory work on the national disability strategy from May 2004 to July 2004; and promoting the affordable housing initiative and assisting with the general communications issues, including interaction with those in the relevant target groups around the country.

Commemorative Events.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

189 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach his views on having an all-Ireland annual memorial day for the Irish famine victims. [3823/06]

The 150th Anniversary of the Great Famine was commemorated by the Government in 1995. I am satisfied that the famine is commemorated on an ongoing basis in many different ways, for example, in the Cobh Heritage Centre, in Rowan Gillespie's Famine Memorial at Custom House Quay and in many other localities.

In addition, in the context of State and official visits to countries with large Irish communities often as a result of emigration in the famine years, the opportunity is taken whenever possible to include an appropriate act of remembrance in the official programme.

I am of the view that there has been a significant and appropriate commemoration to date of the famine and its impact on Ireland and its people. I am satisfied that remembrance and commemoration of the famine will continue to occur on many appropriate occasions.

National Disability Survey.

David Stanton

Ceist:

190 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach if work has begun on the national disability survey; if not, when same is due to begin; the terms of reference and scope of the survey; when he expects the survey to be completed and results available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3741/06]

The national disability survey, NDS, will be undertaken by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, in September 2006. The sample for the survey will be selected on the basis of the responses to the two disability questions in the April 2006 census of population. The survey will broadly follow the definitions and principles outlined in the World Health Organisation's international classification of functioning, disability and health, ICF. The survey questionnaires are being finalised by the CSO in conjunction with a consultative group comprising representatives from Departments, the National Disability Authority and organisations working within the disability sector. Advice has also been sought and received from a very broad range of other organisations, both within Ireland and abroad.

The overall objective of the survey is to provide a more comprehensive picture of persons reporting a disability in the census of population through an analysis of such factors as the degree of severity, the type of disability, the ability to use transport and the built environment and the extent to which persons with a disability are enabled to participate in education, employment and social life. Results from the survey are expected to be available around mid-2007.

Public Sector Employment.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

191 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the reason data are not available on the average earnings of persons employed in the health area of the public service who represent more than one third of public service employees; and the further reason sources of this important information have not been identified by the Central Statistics Office. [4286/06]

The CSO's quarterly release on public sector employment and earnings includes information on numbers employed and weekly average earnings. The information on numbers employed relates to all sectors within the public service, while the statistics on average weekly earnings are available for all sectors except health. Owing to the lack of suitably-structured and comparable earnings data across the health sector, only employment data was included for this sector.

The CSO is phasing in a new survey, the earnings, hours and employment costs survey, which will replace all of the existing short-term earnings surveys. Initially, the industrial and financial sectors are being surveyed. When fully operational, the new survey will cover most of the public and private sectors, including the health sector.

The survey will provide more detailed information on earnings and labour costs than is available from existing data. It will also make it easier to compare earnings between sectors and categories of workers by providing a measure of earnings per hour as distinct from earnings per week. The CSO has already begun discussions with the Health Service Executive with a view to arranging the compilation of the quarterly earnings data needed for this new survey.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

192 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if funding is available for the person in view of the circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3904/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

193 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if financial assistance, funding or grants are available under the child care system for a person (details supplied) to permit the person's child to play in a safe environment given the child's medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3941/06]

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.

The Government has committed €575 million in funding to the new national child care investment programme 2006-2010 which is being implemented by the office of the Minister with responsibility for children. This programme aims to provide a proactive response to enable the development of quality child care supports and services which will be planned for and developed locally. The funding is directed at increasing the supply of early childhood care and education services nationally. The remit of the programme is focused on the development of child care services, primarily those which come within the scope of the Child Care (Pre-school Services) Regulations 1996 and amendment regulations of 1997. This includes child care or early childhood care and education, such as crèches, playgroups, childminding and school age child care but does not include schools or residential centres. The case as described by the Deputy does not come within the remit of the programme.

It is important to note that in addition to the national child care investment programme, the Government has made provision for an early child care supplement of €1,000 for each child under the age of six years. This payment comes into effect from 1 April. The logistics of the payment are being finalised and details of the arrangements will be announced once they are complete.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

194 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the recent report, How are our Kids, in Tallaght west; if her Department had any meeting specifically in relation to the report; the new measures, sanctions or proposals she proposes to introduce in response to the considerable problems highlighted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4282/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

195 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the recent report, How are our Kids, in Tallaght west, her Department is co-ordinating the State’s response to the considerable problems outlined in the report. [4283/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the How Are Our Kids research project undertaken by the childhood development initiative and Dartington social research unit which was published in October 2004. This report was one of eight preliminary research documents which culminated in the publication of A Place for Children, a ten-year strategy by the childhood development initiative in Tallaght west.

The ten-year strategy was launched by the Taoiseach in October 2005. At that time, the Government welcomed the goals and aims of the initiative and it is clear the strategy is the result of an enormous amount of work at community level.

The objective of the strategy is to improve children's health, safety, learning and achieving and to increase their sense of community belonging. The Government has put a number of initiatives in place with the ultimate aim of improving children's lives in areas such as Tallaght west. As a Government designated geographic area of disadvantage, namely, a RAPID area, it has been estimated that approximately €27 million was spent in the year 2004-05 by statutory bodies on children's services in the part of it covered by the strategy. I know the project recognises this. This is a substantial sum in the area concerned. Developments through this and other programmes in the areas of education, health and youth justice at national level are mirrored in the approach outlined in the childhood development initiative's ten-year strategy.

A number of meetings between representatives of this and other related projects have already taken place with the relevant Department's officials. In December 2005, the Government announced the bringing together of a number of functions relating to children and their well-being in the office of the Minister with responsibility for children, OMC, to bring greater coherence to policy making for children. In that context, the office of the Minister with responsibility for children will co-ordinate developments in this matter on behalf of the Government.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

196 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 regarding an appointment with a psychologist; and if the person's benefits issues will be re-examined with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. [3800/06]

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.

Crisis Pregnancy Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

197 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the Crisis Pregnancy Agency’s work and the issue of reform. [3803/06]

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was established on 2 October 2001 under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act 1961. Its main role is to facilitate co-ordination of efforts of all groups in the area of crisis pregnancy prevention. The agency reports that over the past three years, it has increased the level of crisis pregnancy counselling available in the country by more than 50%. Last year, the agency allocated more than €3.5 million towards supports and services within crisis pregnancy.

A report, The Audit of Structures and Functions in the Health System, known as the Prospectus report, considered the structures and functions of the different specialist, advisory, regulatory and executive agencies within the health system and recommended the mainstreaming of many of them. It is in that context that I am considering at present the most appropriate future organisational arrangements in respect of the agency having regard to the separation of policy and executive functions, which is a key objective of the health service reform programme.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

198 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if the case will be examined; the reason there was such a delay in informing this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3816/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the transport services which are available from the Health Service Executive to bring people to ophthalmic appointments, especially people living alone. [3818/06]

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 Allowances.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

200 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason payment of the mobility allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been discontinued. [3824/06]

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 on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

201 Ms M. Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment is available to medical card patients over 70 years of age in the Health Service Executive north-east region; and if the location of such services will be identified. [3829/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

202 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason transport is not being provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to attend an outpatient’s appointment in Galway, especially as transport was provided to this person in the past. [3834/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Organ Donation.

John Gormley

Ceist:

203 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to organ donation, if she agrees that everyone is considered to be an organ donor unless they opt out by registering not to be one; that there would be a comprehensive database with the names of all donors; that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service could carry donor forms for people to fill out; that it would be mandatory for medical doctors to ask family members about organ donation in the event of a loved one’s untimely death; that there would be an intensive and hard-hitting television advertising campaign, similar to drink driving advertisements, which would encourage people to donate organs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3836/06]

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish donor network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of a organ donor card.

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

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

The European Commission is considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals.

Health Funding.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

204 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that there is an increase in the level of funding going to the Carers Association in order that carers receive the support and respite that is so essential to their very important role in society. [3840/06]

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.

Special Educational Needs.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

205 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services which are being put in place for the care and activation of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 who is leaving their special needs school in June 2006 and who further to my previous representations on their behalf have been told that the previously proposed service provider cannot accommodate them. [3848/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

HSE Correspondence.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

206 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that children with diabetes are being sent letters by the Health Service Executive referring to them as people with disabilities; if her attention has further been drawn to the upset that this can cause to children who assumed they had a manageable disease; and the steps she will take to ensure that this practice is discontinued. [3850/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

207 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for an MRI scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3852/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

208 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for an outpatients' clinic in Tallaght hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3853/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Social Services.

John Perry

Ceist:

209 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason social workers are not on duty after office hours during the week and at the weekend and public holidays; her plans in the Government’s care plan to amend this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3876/06]

The provision of an out-of-hours service in the context of the development of family support and child care services, including the implementation of the youth homelessness strategy, is identified in action 27 of the health strategy, Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You. While some progress has been made in certain areas of the country on the provision of out-of-hours services, the issue of a national formalised arrangement on such services, including the provision of social work services, is a matter for negotiation between the Health Service Executive and the trade unions representing the staff interests concerned. The HSE is reviewing the youth homelessness strategy action plans of its regions. The Department of Health and Children will have discussions on the outcome of the review with the HSE. The issue of out-of-hours arrangements will be examined in this context and in the wider context of the development of child care and family support services. I have asked the HSE to give the Deputy information on the current out-of-hours arrangements in child care and family support services.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

210 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the options regarding a long-term care plan for a person with an intellectual disability; and the services available on the north side of Dublin. [3888/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

211 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time at the accident and emergency unit in Naas hospital for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3905/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

212 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the figures regarding waiting lists in Naas hospital for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3906/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

213 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount invested in Naas hospital for each of the past five years; the number of beds available for each of the past five years; the number of doctors and nurses employed at the facility for each of the past five years; and the number of patients to have been treated at Naas hospital for each of the past five years. [3907/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 to 213, 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. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Community Care.

Michael Smith

Ceist:

214 Mr. M. Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a day care centre to serve elderly residents in the Borrisokane, County Tipperary, area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3924/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

215 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of non-resident children who are EU nationals for whom the domiciliary care allowance is payable to parents here; the country of residence of each of those children; the amount payable for those children in 2005; and the expected amount in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3936/06]

Domiciliary care allowance is a monthly allowance paid by the Health Service Executive. It may be paid in respect of eligible children aged 16 or under who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention that is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. The current rate of the allowance is €250.90 per month. The allowance was traditionally administered in respect of resident children only. Since May 2005, following a change to Regulation (EC) 1408/71 on foot of a judgment of the European Court of Justice, the allowance has been classed as a family benefit under the provisions of the regulation. As a consequence, it is payable in respect of non-resident children of EU nationals employed in Ireland whose children meet the qualifying criteria. The HSE, which has been notified of the changed position, is implementing procedures to comply with the change to the regulation. It is not possible to calculate how many of the children of non-Irish EU nationals working in Ireland may potentially be eligible to receive this payment. Similarly, it is not possible to determine the nationality of such people. The HSE is not in a position to state how many of the approximately 16,000 people in receipt of the allowance are non-Irish EU citizens.

Cancer Services.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

216 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made to date in 2006 in discussions with Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry in relation to sharing facilities to treat breast cancer patients from Donegal; when she envisages this may happen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3954/06]

The Department of Health and Children has been advised by the Health Service Executive that agreement has been reached in principle between the breast care teams in Letterkenny General Hospital and Altnagelvin Hospital on a model for co-operation on the provision of services for breast cancer patients in County Donegal. Further discussions are being held on an implementation plan for this model.

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

217 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has been denied the inpatient assessment in an adolescent psychiatric unit recommended by the person's doctors; and the further reason the family has been denied respite care. [3955/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

218 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Mayo with reference to previous parliamentary questions; if this person has been given an appointment in Beaumont Hospital; and if not, when the person will be called for same. [3985/06]

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 HSE has advised me that replies dated 1 December 2005 and 17 January 2006 issued to the Deputy in response to previous questions. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the case investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

219 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of the ambulance from Baltinglass to Naas; the reason this service was discontinued on Wednesdays; if this service can be restored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3995/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Asthma Incidence.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

220 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people estimated to suffer from asthma; and if free or subsidised medical treatment or drugs will be made available to these people. [4027/06]

As asthma is not a notifiable illness, information regarding its incidence is not routinely collected by the Department of Health and Children. People who cannot without undue hardship arrange for the provision of medical services for them and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. The Health Service Executive can take the medical costs incurred by an individual or a family into account as part of the assessment process. In November 2004, I introduced a new graduated benefit in the form of the GP visit card, which will extend free GP care and treatment to individuals and families on low incomes. In June 2005, I simplified the means test for medical and GP visit cards so it is now based on the income of an applicant and his or her spouse after income tax and PRSI. The means test now takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. In October, I announced that the income guidelines for medical and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%, which means the income guidelines are 29% higher than this time last year.

Such improvements have made the assessment process much fairer and ensure that people on low to moderate incomes can qualify for free GP care. Non-medical card holders can avail of the drug payment scheme, which protects against excessive medicine costs. Under the scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme, which is easy to use, significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines for the treatment of illnesses such as asthma. The Deputy will be aware that non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

221 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason it takes over six months for women in the Cork area to get the results of smear tests; and her proposals to deal with the situation. [4028/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

222 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork will be closed or downgraded; and if this psychiatric/geriatric hospital which has 54 long-stay patients will be adequately funded to stay in operation with no cutbacks whatsoever. [4029/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

223 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services, range of activities and frequency of service provided at the oncology department at Mayo General Hospital; if an oncology consultant is appointed on a full-time basis to this hospital; her plans in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4046/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

224 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the figure available for the domiciliary care allowance for 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006. [4076/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

225 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive north-west area has accepted that there is a bed shortage crisis at Letterkenny General Hospital, which they hope to ease with the opening of an 11-bed oncology ward in the near future, whilst they are also looking at another project to increase bed capacity on an interim ward; if funding will be made available for the capital and revenue costs involved for this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4145/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Patient Transfers.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

226 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) cannot be transferred to a Health Service Executive centre; if the person's transfer will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4146/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Alternative Medicine.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

227 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is still engaging in alternative medicine can be condoned; the reason there is no regulation on such practitioners to date in 2006; when such regulations will be in place in the interest of public safety; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4147/06]

One of my key concerns is the protection of the public. The national regulation of complementary therapists working group has reported to the Department of Health and Children with recommendations on future measures for strengthening the regulatory environment for complementary therapists. I will carefully consider the group's recommendations, which will inform the next steps in this area. One of the challenges facing the consumer is making informed health care choices. To this end, the Department is in the final stages of preparing an information leaflet for the general public, offering guidance to people when deciding to see a complementary therapist, including questions to ask the practitioner before embarking on treatment. A key message is that patients with conditions which may require medical treatment should see their doctor first. I strongly advise members of the public to take this message seriously.

Nursing Education.

John Deasy

Ceist:

228 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the requirements for registration in the general division of the register of nurses in respect of training received outside the European Union will be reviewed; if such applicants are informed of all the entry requirements; if credit is given for training hours received outside the EU, which would reduce the number of training hours subsequently required to gain registration; if the reply will be made with particular reference to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4148/06]

An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the registration of nurses under the Nurses Act 1985. The Deputy will appreciate that the board is obliged to process each application thoroughly to ensure that those entered on the register of nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process. I have been advised that the board discharges its functions in a professional manner. All applicants are informed of all the entry requirements. Applicants trained outside the EU are assessed. If they meet the board's requirements, credit is given for education and practical experience gained in their country of origin and other states where they have worked. There are no plans to review the requirements for registration in the general division of the register of nurses in respect of training received outside of the European Union as they are benchmarked against EU standards which are legally established. I understand that a decision in the case of the applicant referred to by the Deputy was issued by the board in May 2005. The person subsequently appealed the decision, but the original decision was upheld. A senior official from the board subsequently met the applicant and provided advice on the standards required for registration in Ireland.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

229 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the high level of public concern regarding cervical cancer which was demonstrated in the petition of 55,000 signatures as presented to her on 1 February 2006, she will stop needless deaths by introducing a free nationwide screening programme for women aged 25 to 60; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4149/06]

I am fully committed to the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national programme. The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call and recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call and recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.

Significant preparatory work is well under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. My Department made available an additional €9 million to the executive for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll-out. I consider that the programme should be best rolled out in the primary care setting, subject to affordable and acceptable arrangements being agreed. A review of the contractual arrangements for the provision by general practitioners of publicly-funded primary care services is being conducted at present, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. I have requested that the general practitioner elements of a national cervical screening programme be tabled at these discussions. Any remuneration arrangements agreed must be capable of delivering a high uptake among women. Payments must be primarily based on reaching acceptable targets.

I am convinced that we must also have in place tailored initiatives to encourage take-up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups. I wish to see the programme rolled out as quickly as possible but only when the essential infrastructure, organisation and services are in place that are quality assured and meet international standards.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

230 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the Health Service Executive can take the value of a house in the assessment for nursing home subvention, when the property is not being rented out by the family and the property is vacant when the parents go into full-time care. [4150/06]

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990, the Health Service Executive is empowered to pay a subvention where a person has been approved on both means and dependency grounds, as provided for in the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993. This contribution will assist a person with the cost of his or her care in a private nursing home.

The Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993, sets out the general rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention. "Means" for the purposes of these regulations are the income and the imputed value of assets of a person in respect of whom a subvention is being sought and the income and imputed income of his or her spouse. Section 13 of the regulations states:

A health board may impute an annual income equivalent to 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of the person, if it was not occupied immediately prior to or at the time of the application by a spouse, a son or daughter aged less than 21 years 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.

Certain thresholds were set in the 1993 regulations for the means and assets of a person applying for a subvention. These thresholds had not been updated since they were set in 1993. The Nursing Homes Subvention (Amendment) Regulations 2005, amended the thresholds contained in the 1993 regulations by increasing the value of assets to be disregarded for the purposes of subvention assessment from £6,000, or €7,618, to €11,000, increasing the asset threshold above which subvention may be refused from £20,000, or €25,394, to €36,000 and increasing the threshold of principal residence value above which subvention may be refused from £75,000, or €95,230, to €500,000 or more,where the residence is located in the Dublin area, or €300,000 or more, where the residence is located outside the Dublin area, provided that the applicant's income is greater than €9,000. This was previously £5,000, or €6,349.

The HSE continues to retain the discretion to impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than 21 years or in full-time education or in receipt of the disabled person's maintenance allowance, blind person's pension, disability benefit, invalidity pension or old age non-contributory pension, and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, the residence value above which they may automatically refuse to pay a subvention has been increased substantially, as outlined, to take account of increased property values. The Department is also working on primary legislation to expand the policies and principles of the subvention scheme to facilitate implementation of the scheme by the HSE throughout the country, and it is the intention to bring this legislation before the Oireachtas in the near future.

Departmental Properties.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

231 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of health establishments under lease agreement by the Health Service Executive nationally; the lengths of the various lease agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4170/06]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

232 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 31 January 2006, the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has been refused dental treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4192/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

233 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for an increased rate of subvention will be granted for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a response will be expedited. [4201/06]

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 Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

234 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an early appointment with an eye specialist at Waterford Regional Hospital will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4202/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

235 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the renewal of a medical card will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny which is under appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4203/06]

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 McGuinness

Ceist:

236 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if improved visiting rights will be granted for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if weekend visits will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4204/06]

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 Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

237 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging the appropriate procedure at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the matter can be expedited using the treatment purchase fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4205/06]

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.

Departmental Investigations.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

238 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has reported on its investigation into the death from vCJD of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin and the possibility of a vCJD cluster in the Ballybrack-Shankill-Bray areas; the person who conducted the investigation; and if the report of the investigation will be published. [4206/06]

My Department has sought a detailed report on this issue from the Health Service Executive. This report has not yet been received; when it is, it will be referred to the CJD advisory group for consideration and advice on any policy implications. At this stage in its investigations the HSE is confident that it can see no basis for the suggestion that there may be a cluster of such cases.

Homeless Persons.

Eoin Ryan

Ceist:

239 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children reported homeless in Dublin in the year 2004-05; the programmes in place by the child care policy unit of her Department to tackle child homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4207/06]

The youth homelessness strategy was published on 31 October 2001. The strategy provides a strategic framework for youth homelessness to be tackled on a national basis. The goal of the strategy is to reduce and if possible eliminate youth homelessness through preventative strategies and where a child becomes homeless to ensure that he or she benefits from a comprehensive range of services aimed at reintegrating him/her into his or her community as quickly as possible. Under the strategy, the former health boards, now the Health Service Executive, have lead responsibility for implementation of the strategy and they prepared detailed action plans in this regard to address youth homelessness in line with the objectives set out in the strategy. During 2005, my Department requested the HSE to undertake a review of the action plans to ascertain the extent of their implementation. A report on this matter is awaited.

In addition to the above, the national children's office, now part of the recently established Office of the Minister for Children, had been assigned responsibility by the Cabinet committee in co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the youth homelessness strategy. In this regard, the youth homelessness strategy monitoring committee, under the chairmanship of the aforementioned national children's office and representative of the child care policy unit of my Department and other relevant stakeholders, was established. The committee identified key areas, which required attention in order to drive the implementation of the strategy in an effective, co-ordinated way, on a nationwide basis.

A number of sub-groups were established as follows. The programme of action for children office, a unit within the health board structure with a co-ordinating function across all health board regions, agreed to take on the co-ordination and linkages functions within the HSE arena. The Office of the Minister for Children will continue to deal with cross-sectoral co-ordination issues. National guidelines on leaving and aftercare were approved by the monitoring committee and were circulated by my Department to the former health boards in July 2004. The purpose of the guidelines is to assist the HSE in developing its leaving and aftercare policies with the aim of, inter alia, protecting those leaving care who may be vulnerable to homelessness. The statistics sub-group recommended the introduction of a new youth homelessness contact form as a way of gathering more reliable and consistent statistics. My Department circulated the form to the former health boards in December 2003 for introduction on 1 January 2004. A total of 492 children appeared to the Health Service Executive to be homeless in 2004 as per provisional statistical returns. These returns have yet to be validated with the Health Service Executive.

A sub-group was established to look at the education and training objectives of the youth homelessness strategy. Membership of the group included representatives of the statutory and voluntary education and health sectors. It was agreed that there was a need to look at a broad understanding of the homelessness process to understand the potential impact of education and training elements as part of the solution for young people who are homeless. Consideration was given to the preventive aspect of educational and training interventions; processes to ensure that education and training elements form part of the ongoing support of children and young people who are homeless; and the role of education and training in the prevention and reintegration of children in the care or detention systems. The group finalised its report and it was sent to the relevant Departments, the National Educational Welfare Board and the Health Service Executive on 21 June 2005.

A sub-group was established to examine information and advocacy in the context of the youth homelessness strategy, with a particular focus on making relevant information more accessible to young homeless people or young people at risk of becoming homeless. The group finalised its report and it was sent to my Department, the Health Service Executive and Comhairle on 21 November 2005. Since the publication of the youth homelessness strategy, significant progress has been made. Approximately €12 million has been allocated by the Department of Health and Children to the former health boards for the development of youth homelessness services since 2001. A total of 195 new whole-time equivalent posts were filled across the Health Service Executive, up to 31 December 2004. Although these posts impact on youth homelessness services, they are not all exclusively dedicated to youth homelessness services. Eleven new units have opened nationwide. Over 42 new or extended services, including aftercare, have been developed around the country.

The Health Service Executive is responsible for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. In recent years many services have been developed to counter the problem of youth homelessness in the Dublin region. The crisis intervention service for young people out of home is based in the city centre and includes an outreach service, emergency out of hours social work service, reception centre, residential units and a day centre. A director for homelessness was appointed in the former eastern regional health authority, or Health Service Executive eastern area, in 2000. This is now the role of the national care group manager social inclusion since the establishment of the Health Service Executive. In Cork, Liberty Street House became fully operational in 2003, and acts as a focal point for youth homelessness services in Cork. The centre provides a variety of services, social work, medical, financial advice for young people out of home or in danger of becoming homeless.

Services for homeless children are also provided by the other Health Service Executive areas and generally these are provided as part of the child protection and welfare services. The services provided include units for young people out of home supported lodgings, and the provision of out-reach, leaving and aftercare services.

Medical Cards.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

240 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the requirement that medical card holders would have to pay for medical certification of fitness to drive was introduced; and if an exemption from this charge will be extended to medical card holders. [4214/06]

General practitioners who hold contracts under the general medical service scheme with the Health Service Executive undertake to provide a range of services to medical card patients. The contract was agreed in 1989. Paragraph 11 of the GMS contract requires that first and last certificates which are required to explain work absence should be provided free of charge to medical card holders, but also states that the payments made to GPs under the contract do not include certain other certificates required, such as under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences.

Hospital Accommodation.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

241 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds which are available in general and emergency hospitals in 1997; the number which are available today; her views on the fact that with the wind down of bed spaces in hospitals such as Monaghan General Hospital and the increase in population nationally more accommodation needs to be provided within the public health care structure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4230/06]

There has been no diminution in the number of acute hospital beds since 1997. The average number of inpatient beds and day places available in HSE network acute hospitals in 1997 was 11,727. The average number of inpatient beds and day places available in HSE network acute hospitals in December 2005, the latest date for which figures are available, was 13,255. It is important to note that the numbers of beds available in any hospital may fluctuate over time depending on service demands and other factors such as seasonal closures and refurbishment.

An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to expand public hospital beds in line with the health strategy commitment to increase total acute hospital bed capacity by 3,000 by 2011. Substantial investment in additional bed capacity in acute hospitals has already taken place. Funding has been provided to open an additional 900 in-patient beds or day places in public acute hospitals throughout the country. The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that at the end of 2005, 806 of these beds or day places were in place and the remaining 94 beds or day places will come on stream this year.

In addition, up to 450 acute beds or day places are in various stages of planning and development under the health capital programme. The Estimates for 2006 include €60 million to open new acute hospital facilities some of which will provide additional beds. I announced in July last year an initiative which will provide up to an additional 1,000 beds for public patients in public hospitals. My Department, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, will be reviewing public capacity requirements in the acute hospital sector in the light of developments since the health strategy was published.

With regard to Monaghan General Hospital, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

242 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the new regulations regarding nursing home subvention in relation to funds available to the patient and the valuation of the person's home (details supplied); the relevance these figures have from a means test point of view; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4231/06]

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, the Health Service Executive is empowered to pay a subvention where a person has been approved on both means and dependency grounds, as provided for in the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993. This contribution will assist a person with the cost of the his or her care in a private nursing home.

The second schedule of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993, sets out the general rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention. "Means" for the purposes of these regulations are the income and the imputed value of assets of a person in respect of whom a subvention is being sought and the income and imputed income of his or her spouse. Certain thresholds were set in the 1993 regulations for the means and assets of a person applying for a subvention. These thresholds had not been updated since they were set in 1993. The Nursing Homes Subvention (Amendment) Regulations 2005 amended the thresholds contained in the 1993 regulations by increasing the value of assets to be disregarded for the purposes of subvention assessment from £6,000, or €7,618, to €11,000, increasing the asset threshold above which subvention may be refused from €25,394 to €36,000 and increasing the threshold of principal residence value above which subvention may be refused from £75,000, or €95,230, to €500,000 or more, where the residence is located in the Dublin area, or €300,000 or more where the residence is located outside the Dublin area, provided that the applicant's income is greater than €9,000. This was previously £5,000, or €6,349.

The HSE continues to retain the discretion to impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than 21 years or in full-time education or in receipt of the disabled person's maintenance allowance, blind person's pension, disability benefit, invalidity pension or old age non-contributory pension, and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, the residence value and asset threshold above which it may automatically refuse to pay a subvention has been increased substantially, as outlined, to take account of increased property values. The Department is also working on primary legislation to expand the policies and principles of the subvention scheme to facilitate implementation of the scheme by the HSE throughout the country, and it is the intention to bring this legislation before the Oireachtas in the near future.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

243 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 485 of 25 January 2006 relating to phase 2B project at the Midlands Regional Hospital the reason the completion date for the total project is now scheduled as 2011 when the anticipated completion date was 2009; if, in view of her reply, what will be provided at this hospital upon completion of the fast stage of this project in 2007 and what will then remain to be provided in the remainder of the project which will be completed in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4242/06]

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 Aids and Appliances.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

244 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if ileostomy bags will be made available under the long-term illness scheme; and the reason they are not currently available under the scheme. [4243/06]

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. 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.

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility. There are a variety of ileostomy bags included on the list of reimbursable non-drug items for the community drugs schemes.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

245 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of the National Treatment Purchase Fund for each of the years 2002-05, inclusive. [4244/06]

The approved allocation for the National Treatment Purchase Fund for the years 2002-05 is provided in the following table.

Year

Funding

€m

2002

5.012

2003

30.057

2004

44.000

2005

64.000

EU Regulations.

David Stanton

Ceist:

246 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people for which her Department received over €420 million in respect of health treatments here for people who worked abroad as outlined by the Taoiseach in response to Leaders' Questions on 31 January 2006; the amount received from each respective state; the international agreement or agreements through which this money was received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4245/06]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 facilitates free movement of workers and others within the EU by providing for co-ordination between member states' health care and social security systems. In relation to health care, its provisions ensure that where people are affiliated with the health care system of one member state, insured with that system or covered by it, but residing or staying in another member state, they can access the public health care system of that member state in certain circumstances. The regulation provides for the reimbursement of health care costs in one member state to persons affiliated with the health care system of another member state.

The Revised Estimates volume 2005 shows an estimate of €422.2 million in appropriations-in-aid to the HSE Vote in respect of reimbursement of the costs of health care provided under this regulation. This figure represents the estimated net liability in 2005 of the UK to Ireland for the costs of health care provided under the terms of the Regulation (EC) 1408/71. Such persons include temporary visitors from the UK, UK pensioners and their dependants residing in Ireland, and the dependent families residing in Ireland of persons employed in the UK. Under the terms of a bilateral reimbursement agreement in place since 1973 between the two countries, this liability has been calculated on a lump sum basis rather than an individual basis.

With regard to other EU member states, the costs of health care are mutually waived in respect of Belgium, except for costs arising from accidents at work and occupational diseases, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, France, except for costs arising in respect of pensioners, Netherlands, Austria and Sweden. The costs of health care provided to persons, mainly temporary visitors, affiliated with the health care system of the remaining member states, prior to expansion, are very low and historically have not been collected as the administrative costs of doing so would be expected to exceed the likely receipts. Nevertheless, in view of the expansion of the European Union, the HSE is considering the data collection procedures necessary to provide an up-to-date assessment of these costs.

Care of the Elderly.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

247 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is her policy to encourage the care of the elderly in the home as a first priority; the announcements she made in this regard as part of the Estimates for public expenditure 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4250/06]

The Tánaiste and I regard the support of older people to stay in their own homes and communities as a key policy priority and thereby moving away from the practice of placing people in residential care as a first option. This is the expressed wish of the majority of our older people.

Additional funding has been allocated for services for older people and palliative care amounting to €150 million in budget 2006 —€110 million for 2006 and €40 million more for 2007. Approximately two thirds of this money, or €109 million, of the full year costs has been allocated to community support for older people. There will be a well-funded and viable alternative to long-term residential care in the form of home care packages and additional home help hours. In regard to the packages, it is expected that an extra 2,000 will be available by the end of this year; this will be approximately triple the number of such supports that were provided last year.

This is the largest ever increase in funding for services for older people, reflecting this Government's commitment to older people and putting them at the centre of health policy in the future. The investment package is a major step in focusing new resources on home care first and foremost, while still supporting appropriate residential care, where an additional €20 million has been provided to the HSE for this year. Home care packages deliver a wide range of services and have been piloted successfully in several regions in recent years. They include various disciplines and will vary according to the care needs of the person so that, for example, there might be a greater emphasis in some packages on home care assistants while other packages may require a greater level of therapy and nursing.

Home helps are another essential part of supporting older people at home and thereby delaying or preventing admission to long stay residential care. There is a continuing demand for home helps because of the increased number of older people. An additional €33 million full year cost is now being allocated for this programme, €30 million of which will be for 2006, providing an additional 1.75 million home help hours.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Perry

Ceist:

248 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their hip replacement operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4251/06]

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 Aids and Appliances.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

249 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason an application for the provision of a mobile wheelchair for a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been approved; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is becoming more dependent every passing day on the services of a wheelchair; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that due to problems to the person’s hands the person is unable to use the ordinary wheelchair and there is urgent need to have a mobile wheelchair provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4258/06]

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 on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Organ Donation.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

250 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the details in correspondence supplied there may be a case for re-examining the arrangements applying to organ donation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4273/06]

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish Donor Network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organdonation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of an organ donor card.

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

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

The European Commission is considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country.

Health Services.

Seamus Healy

Ceist:

251 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if respite or hospitalisation will be made available for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4281/06]

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 Staff.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

252 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average earnings of persons employed in the public health service, overall by main grouping; and the trend in these earnings in each year since 1999. [4287/06]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the management of human resources, including remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment. The parliamentary affairs division of the executive has therefore been asked to respond directly to the Deputy in regard to the issues raised.

The Deputy will of course be aware of the range of personnel required to deliver health services and that some services are delivered around the clock. By way of context, he will wish to note that my Department's health service employment census shows a total of 101,513 wholetime equivalent staff, excluding home helps, at end September 2005 employed in different care settings by the Health Service Executive, voluntary hospitals and the intellectual disability services. This equates to almost 120,000 individuals and almost 500 grades. Depending on the grade and the nature of the service delivered, staff may be remunerated on the basis of allowances and other premia pay in addition to basic salary. During the time period referred to by the Deputy, pay levels for staff have been determined under the terms of the social partnership agreements and, in some instances, by special pay awards.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

253 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Louth will be given an urgent appointment for the diagnosis of a long-term medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4294/06]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

James Breen

Ceist:

254 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to a parliamentary question of 26 January 2006, the commitments the Health Service Executive has made to Ennis General Hospital in relation to 24-hour doctor-led accident and emergency services and maintaining the aforementioned as an acute medical-surgical unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4307/06]

As the Deputy's queries relate to the Health Service Executive, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

255 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for subvention for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will be expedited and approved; if maximum subvention will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4312/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

256 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if maximum subvention will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if a decision will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4313/06]

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.

Organ Donation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

257 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has to meet the concerns regarding organ donation and transplantation of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4325/06]

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish Donor Network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of an organ donor card.

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

The practice in this country is that, even when a person has indicated his or her willingness to donate organs by way of carrying an organ donor card, or a driving licence marked accordingly, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought.

Even where opt-out systems are in operation, the relatives of the deceased are approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high-risk behaviour. Thus, the relatives will always be aware that a donation is being considered and can register an objection to the donation.

The European Commission is considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country.

Nursing Homes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

258 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing homes in each county for the year 2005; the number, name and location of nursing homes on a county basis which have been inspected once only, twice only and three or more times in 2005; if there have been adverse reports following these inspections; if so, the names and locations of the homes; the number of homes which have been refused registration and the reasons therefor; the names and location of same; the number, name and location of each which has had partial registration only granted; the action that has been taken by health boards, including legal action, and the names and locations of such homes; the result of such cases; the number pending; and if any nursing home has been closed in 2005. [4351/06]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

259 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing home inspectors here for each year since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4352/06]

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

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

260 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will be pursued for a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 179 of 29 November 2005 as she referred the matter to the parliamentary affairs division to have a reply issued on that date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4390/06]

An oversight in making the original referral was made by my Department. This has now been rectified and my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

261 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 215 of 22 November 2005, the status of an application regarding the post of speech and language therapist for a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4395/06]

My Department made inquiries on the Deputy's behalf and has been advised by the Health Service Executive that a speech and language therapist commenced work on 6 January 2006 and is providing speech and language therapy service to the school (details supplied) in County Clare.

Hospital Inquiry.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

262 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report into the death of a person (details supplied) at Monaghan General Hospital will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4415/06]

Following the death of Mr. Patrick Walsh in Monaghan hospital on 14 October 2005 the Health Service Executive commissioned Mr. Patrick Declan Carey, a consultant surgeon at Belfast City Hospital, and an honorary senior lecturer at Queen's University and Professor John Monson, Professor of Surgery, University of Hull, to carry out an independent and external review. The executive has advised my Department that the review has commenced with an anticipated completion date of late March-April 2006.

Hospital Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

263 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the development of Cherry Orchard Hospital as a community and lifestyle hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4453/06]

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.

Tax Code.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

264 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if it is possible within the provision of support mechanisms for biofuels to restrict duty exemption or other support mechanisms to fuels that are sourced either exclusively within the island of Ireland or within the European Union. [3988/06]

I presume the Deputy's question refers primarily to the new large-scale biofuels scheme announced in the budget and provided for in the recently published Finance Bill. Further details on how this scheme will operate will be produced by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in the coming months, once the necessary EU State aid approval has been obtained.

However, it is clear that it would not be possible for any scheme providing excise duty exemption for biofuels to make such exemption conditional upon the biofuel concerned being produced only in Ireland. This would be in contravention of Ireland's duty under EU competition law, not to distort competition in the Common Market. Inclusion of any such condition in the new scheme would lead to refusal of our application for the aforementioned EU State aid approval.

Notwithstanding this, one of the aims of the new scheme is to create, in so far as is possible, the development of biomass-feedstock production in Ireland to support the development of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry and we must try and reflect this in the new scheme.

Garda Stations.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

265 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when he expects construction to begin on the new Garda station in Finglas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3997/06]

A further revised sketch scheme for Finglas Garda station has been agreed with the Garda Síochána. The formal approval of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is now required. On receipt, planning consultation under Part 9 will commence. It is anticipated that a contract for the erection of this Garda station will be placed in autumn 2006 and that construction will commence before the end of the year.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

266 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when he expects construction to begin on the new Garda station in Ballymun; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3998/06]

An advertisement seeking expressions of interest from suitably qualified contractors is currently running in the EU Journal and the public procurement website.

It is anticipated that tenders will be invited in late April 2006. Following the placing of a contract it is expected that construction will commence this summer.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

267 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to be in a position to make a decision to build a new Garda station in Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4039/06]

A study on the redevelopment potential of the existing Tallaght Garda station has been completed. The study confirms that redevelopment of the site would accommodate a new Garda divisional headquarters as well as a mix of other uses, including commercial. A planning application is at present being prepared. On receipt of planning permission expressions of interest from developers will be sought to submit proposals for the comprehensive requirements of this site.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

268 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the situation regarding the future location of the Garda station at Dromad, County Louth. [4044/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have taken a temporary lease of a premises on the Newry Road, with a view to acquiring the leased property before the expiry of the lease.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

269 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Finance his plans to provide a new Garda station in Dunmanway, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4416/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works are in negotiations with an adjoining land owner regarding the acquisition of a plot of land required to facilitate the extension and refurbishment of the vacated Garda station in Dunmanway.

Oireachtas Members’ Remuneration.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

270 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the pay scales of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, senior Ministers, Ministers of State, Deputies and Senators at the time of the 2002 general election; the increases since that date; and the current pay scales. [3802/06]

The following table lists the pay rates in place at the time of the general election on 17 May 2002 and the revised scales since then for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Ministers, Ministers of State, Deputies and Senators. The table also lists all subsequent pay increases — general, review body on higher remuneration in the public sector and Benchmarking.

Report No. 38 of the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector recommended that the salary of a Deputy should be set at the ordinary maximum of the grade of principal — standard — in the Civil Service, and that the salary of a Senator should be fixed as 70% of that of a Deputy and should be revised for the future on that basis. The provision of long service increments for Deputies and Senators is in line with the views expressed in the above review body report. Therefore, as a result of this recommendation any increases awarded by the public service benchmarking body will be paid to Deputies and Senators.

The salary of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister and Minister of State is made up of two elements: the office holder's salary plus the Deputy's basic salary. While the Deputy's element of the salary is determined in the manner set out above, the office holder's element is based on general pay increases and a report by the review body on higher remuneration. The office holder's salary does not attract increases recommended by the public service benchmarking body.

1.04.02

1.10.02

1.01.04

1.01.04

1.07.04

1.12.04

1.06.05

1.07.05

1.12.05

1.01.06

General Increases

PPF Phase 3

SP Phase 1

SP Phase 1

SP Phase 2

SP Phase 3

SP Phase 4

SP Phase 5

Special Increases

Review Body 38 Phase 4

PSBB Phase 2

PSBB Phase 3

Review Body 40 Phase 1

Review Body 40 Phase 2

TD — basic

71,071

73,914

76,131

80,457

82,066

83,707

87,247

87,247

88,556

88,556

— 1st LSI

73,338

76,272

78,560

83,024

84,684

86,378

90,032

90,032

91,382

91,382

— 2nd LSI

75,603

78,627

80,986

85,589

87,301

89,047

92,813

92,813

94,205

94,205

Senator — basic

49,750

51,740

53,292

56,320

57,446

58,595

61,073

61,073

61,989

61,989

— 1st LSI

51,337

53,390

54,992

58,117

59,279

60,465

63,022

63,022

63,967

63,967

— 2nd LSI

52,922

55,039

56,690

59,912

61,111

62,333

64,969

64,969

65,944

65,944

Taoiseach

132,761

138,072

142,214

142,214

145,058

147,959

150,178

155,810

158,147

163,863

TD

71,071

73,914

76,131

80,457

82,066

83,707

87,247

87,247

88,556

88,556

Total

203,832

211,986

218,345

222,671

227,124

231,666

237,425

243,057

246,703

252,419

Tánaiste

103,931

108,088

111,331

111,331

113,558

115,829

117,566

121,975

123,805

128,279

TD

71,071

73,914

76,131

80,457

82,066

83,707

87,247

87,247

88,556

88,556

Total

175,002

182,002

187,462

191,788

195,624

199,536

204,813

209,222

212,361

216,835

Minister

89,516

93,097

95,890

95,890

97,808

99,764

101,260

105,057

106,633

110,488

TD

71,071

73,914

76,131

80,457

82,066

83,707

87,247

87,247

88,556

88,556

Total

160,587

167,011

172,021

176,347

179,874

183,471

188,507

192,304

195,189

199,044

Minister of State

39,062

40,625

41,844

41,844

42,681

43,535

44,188

45,845

46,533

48,215

TD

71,071

73,914

76,131

80,457

82,066

83,707

87,247

87,247

88,556

88,556

Total

110,133

114,539

117,975

122,301

124,747

127,242

131,435

133,092

135,089

136,771

PPF = Programme for Prosperity and Fairness
SP = Sustaining Progress
LSI = Long service increment
PSBB = Public Service Benchmarking Body

Public Works Projects.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

271 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance when approval will be granted for the extension of a bridge at a location (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3814/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have no responsibility for the bridge in question.

Tax Certificates.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

272 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with a P21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3854/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement — form P21 — for the year 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 31 January 2006.

Official Residences.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

273 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if it is proposed to establish a Taoiseach’s residence in Dublin; the location of same; the projected capital cost and the estimated annual running costs of such a residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3858/06]

There are no plans to create an official residence for the Taoiseach. The Deputy's question may have been prompted by recent press speculation on the completion of the refurbishment of part of the Farmleigh estate to further enhance the guest facilities there.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

274 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to meet the concerns of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding the availability of capital tax allowance on Fáilte Ireland registered caravan and camping parks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3866/06]

Section 34 of the Finance Act 2005 introduced a number of changes to the capital allowance regime for hotels, guesthouses, holiday hostels and holiday camps. Guesthouses and holiday hostels were specifically brought into the capital allowances regime for the first time. Also, the entitlement to the capital allowances was provided for the first time on the basis of buildings being registered in the appropriate Fáilte Ireland register.

Following the Finance Act 2005 changes, the Revenue administrative practice granting capital allowances in respect of buildings and structures erected in a registered caravan park was reviewed. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism held discussions with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance while examining submissions made to it on behalf of the Irish Caravan and Camping Council, ICCC. As a result of these discussions the Revenue Commissioners decided that retention of a non-statutory scheme on behalf of caravan parks was not appropriate and decided to withdraw it with effect from 1 January 2006. Allowances in respect of expenditure incurred before that date are not affected.

It should be noted that some of the expenditure that would typically be incurred by these caravan park operators may be eligible for the plant and machinery capital allowances but this would not generally include any buildings or structures.

Asbestos Remediation Programme.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

275 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the location and number of Office of Public Works buildings at present being investigated or previously treated for the presence of asbestos; if the public employees and their families will be given an assurance that, where buildings in which they have worked were treated for the presence of asbestos, full medical consultative procedures will be placed at their disposal to alleviate anxieties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3867/06]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

277 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of State buildings by county, including Government offices, schools, Garda stations and so on, for which surveys and inspections have been carried out to determine the type, form and condition of asbestos present; the number of inspections per county which have yet to take place; the schedule of work for removal of asbestos to be undertaken in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3875/06]

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

The information regarding the number and location of buildings surveyed, being surveyed or being treated for asbestos is given in the following table. The Commissioners of Public Works are finalising their 2006 programme in the light of these surveys and in consultation with the occupants of the buildings involved.

The availability of medical screening to staff etc. in buildings where asbestos has been detected is a matter for the relevant Departments or Government offices and I am aware that such arrangements are in place generally on request. In addition, full consultative procedures in relation to the management of asbestos in buildings have been in place for some time under the general direction of the commissioners. These arrangements will continue for the duration of the programme.

County

Schools Surveyed

OPW Buildings Surveyed

Total

Carlow

44

0

44

Cavan

32

3

35

Clare

32

10

42

Cork

383

34

417

Donegal

205

35

240

Dublin

526

176

702

Galway

294

128

422

Kerry

180

12

192

Kildare

127

29

156

Kilkenny

84

12

96

Laois

31

4

35

Leitrim

26

10

36

Limerick

157

25

182

Longford

14

7

21

Louth

83

14

97

Mayo

214

76

290

Meath

104

12

116

Monaghan

19

6

25

Offaly

40

11

51

Roscommon

96

34

130

Sligo

36

16

52

Tipperary

79

36

115

Waterford

86

11

97

Westmeath

35

12

47

Wexford

116

14

130

Wicklow

96

9

105

Totals

3,139

736

3,875

Tax Certificates.

John Perry

Ceist:

276 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance when the certificate of tax credits for 2006 will be issued to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3872/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point for 2006 was issued on 31 January 2006 to the person whose details were supplied.

Question No. 277 answered with QuestionNo. 275.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

278 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the tax credit applicable for a married couple is allowable to EU nationals and non-EU nationals where the spouse is not a resident here. [3933/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

279 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the home-caring spouse tax credit for a married couple is allowable to EU nationals and non-EU nationals where the spouse is not a resident here. [3934/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 278 and 279 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that where Revenue are satisfied that one spouse is resident in the State and the other spouse is not so resident and the non-resident spouse has no income, then the resident spouse may be granted the full tax credits and tax rate bands applicable to married couples under joint assessment. I am further informed that, where one spouse is resident in the State and the other spouse is not so resident and the non-resident spouse has income and Revenue are satisfied as to these matters, then depending on the extent of the non-resident spouse's income, the resident spouse may be granted a limited form of the tax credits and tax rate bands applicable to married couples under joint assessment. The reason that the resident spouse cannot avail of the full tax credits and tax rates bands applicable to married couples under joint assessment is because the foreign income of the non-resident spouse cannot be taxed in the State.

With regard to entitlement to the home carer tax credit, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the credit would not be due in the scenario outlined in the Deputy's question. The reason for this is that, where one spouse is resident in the State — the claimant — and the other spouse — the "carer spouse" for the purposes of the tax credit — is not so resident, the dependent person, the person being cared for, would not, therefore, be residing with the claimant which is a main condition attaching to eligibility for the home carer tax credit.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

280 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the years for which tax relief was granted to a nursing home (details supplied) in County Dublin; the amount of relief granted; if the amount of tax relief granted has been repaid to the Exchequer since this institution has ceased to operate. [3935/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, taxpayer confidentiality requires that a Minister for Finance does not answer a parliamentary question about the tax affairs of an individual or company, other than when the Deputy is asking the question on behalf of the individual or company. In this instance, it is not clear that this is the case and in the circumstances, I regret I cannot comment on the tax affairs of any taxpayer.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

281 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the final number of submissions received under the public consultation process for the new Leixlip Garda station; the length of time it will take to consider same; when a final decision will issue in respect of the project; when tenders will be sought for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3968/06]

Some 98 submissions were received in relation to the proposed Garda station for Leixlip. Full consideration will now be given by the Commissioners of Public Works to the issues raised in these submissions. It is not possible to say precisely how long this will take but the commissioners should be in a position to make a formal decision in a number of weeks. Invitation of tenders is dependent on the outcome of the Part 9 planning procedure.

Tax Collection.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

282 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when an investigation in relation to non-return of earnings and tax deductions for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in the tax year to 31 December 2004 will be completed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the non issuing of a P21 to the person involved means that they cannot finalise the third level grant applications in respect of their children; and if this matter will be expedited. [3970/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the matter is still under investigation and as there is non-co-operation by the former employer, the date of completion is not known at this time. Revenue is aware that the continued difficulties being encountered with the former employer are resulting in a delay in the issue of form P21, which is necessary to finalise the third level grant applications for the taxpayer's children. The Revenue Commissioners advise me that they are taking appropriate steps to expedite the completion of their investigation in this matter.

Flood Relief.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

283 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he will take responsibility for works needed to prevent flooding (details supplied) following numerous queries from affected residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4142/06]

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that they have no information regarding the problem in question that would warrant the implementation of a flood relief scheme.

Tax Code.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Ceist:

284 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a provision in the Finance Act 2006 to make farmers and other land owners exempt of the 20% capital gains tax that they have to pay on land they have been forced to sell due to compulsory purchase orders to make way for road development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4220/06]

Capital gains tax, CGT, is a tax on a capital gain arising on the disposal of assets. A 20% rate of CGT applies on the gains arising on the disposal of assets, including land which is the subject of a compulsory purchase order, CPO. This is the lowest rate of CGT in recent history. In budget 1998, the rate was halved from 40% to 20%. Where compensation is received for land that is compulsorily acquired, any gains arising from the amount paid for the acquisition of the land are chargeable to tax. In other words, if there is a sum paid by a public authority for the compulsory acquisition of land, then irrespective of its components, for example, disturbance, injurious affection etc., that total sum will be the amount to be assessed for tax. The CGT due on a disposal of land under a CPO is calculated in the same way as any other disposal of land. The consideration for the disposal will be the sum received for the land. There are no plans to make any changes to the legislation in this regard.

Legislative Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

285 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the legislation covering ethical investment; his plans to review same; the consultation he foresees on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4292/06]

The concept of ethical investment does not form part of the current legal framework governing investment activities. Ethical investment differs from conventional investment in that investment decisions are determined, at least partly, by non-financial criteria underpinned by personal beliefs or opinions. The ethical policy underlying a particular investment may be set out in a number of documents including the prospectus or the investment agreement. The ethical policy of a company may be prescribed in the memorandum and articles of association of that company. I have no plans to introduce specific legislative arrangements governing the area of ethical investment.

As regards the promotion and sale of investment products, the legislative framework governing the authorisation and ongoing supervision of investment firms and exchanges is set out in the Investment Intermediaries Act 1995 and the Stock Exchange Act 1995. The legislative basis for the financial regulator's supervisory function in relation to collective investment schemes is set out in several Acts and regulations dating from 1989. Further details of the regulation of financial services firms may be found on the financial regulator's website at www.financialregulator.ie.

Metropolitan Area Networks.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

286 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Question No. 179 of 25 January 2006, the existing fibre networks which are being interoperated with the new metropolitan area network; the estimate of the length of such privately owned fibre optic cable that has been used in the construction of the metropolitan area network; and the contractual arrangements that apply in such cases. [3835/06]

The metropolitan area networks are interconnected with two networks for the supply of backhaul. ESBT has a 1300-km network. BT Ireland installed 1,900 km of cable on CIE's track network. The management services entity, eNet, which holds the concession to manage, maintain and operate metropolitan area networks on behalf of the Irish Government for a period of 15 years, recently announced interconnect agreements with the above operators to provide backhaul services to many of the metropolitan area networks.

Natural Gas Grid.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

287 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the feasibility studies which have been carried out by the Government with a view to providing natural gas from the Corrib field to other towns in Mayo and Sligo; the stage of such evaluations and examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3951/06]

The regulation of the gas market is delegated to the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. It is open to any intending supplier of gas to any town to apply to the CER for consent to lay the necessary pipe work, and for a licence to supply natural gas. The CER must be satisfied that a proposal to extend the natural gas distribution network is an economic proposition before it will grant consent for it, as otherwise uneconomic projects will increase costs for all energy consumers. As the Deputy will be aware, the CER has recently engaged in a public consultation process on proposed changes to gas connection policy and charges. The proposed changes would bring significant benefits, including encouraging the connection of new loads to the network where such connection is economically feasible in the longer term.

In line with a long-standing commitment, a feasibility study will be done to assess the potential for bringing gas to Donegal town and I hope to make an announcement shortly on the terms of reference for such a review.

Proposed Legislation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

288 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposed date for the publication of the Broadcasting Bill; his plans to appoint a single over-arching authority to directly regulate both the State-owned and independent broadcasting sectors on an equal and level basis; the way in which he envisages such a regulatory authority might function; his plans for distinction in the regulatory handling of the different sectors within that framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3965/06]

The priority issues to be addressed by the legislative proposals that will form the basis of a new broadcasting Bill are as follows: the establishment of a single content regulator for commercial, community and public service broadcasters; the establishment of RTE as a company under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2003; the provision of a statutory mechanism for future adjustments to the level of the television licence fee; and the development of the right of reply mechanism, allowing persons whose reputation and good name have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts in a television or radio programme to gain redress.

Work is continuing on developing the legislative proposals needed to address these issues, and I anticipate that the Bill will be published during the course of 2006. My intention in framing the legislative proposals is to ensure that the broadcasting regulatory environment continues to encourage the parallel development of high-quality broadcasting by Irish public service, commercial and community broadcasters.

Departmental Staff.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

289 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the qualifications the TAG has to enable it to have input into the Advantica report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3969/06]

It is not and was not the function of the TAG to have input into the Advantica report. That said, the Geological Survey of Ireland, where one of the members of the TAG is employed, furnished to Advantica specific information relating to landslides to enable it complete its investigation into pipeline safety in peat.

The role of the TAG was to select world-class gas safety consultants to liaise with it and to give me technical and professional advice regarding their report. The TAG could also have a role in the implementation of design and monitoring of any new safety regime which might emerge. The members of the TAG comprise: chief technical adviser — energy — who is a chartered energy engineer; assistant chief engineer, who is a civil engineer; and principal geologist in the Geological Survey of Ireland. I am satisfied the range of qualifications, expertise and experience present in the TAG is fully up to the challenges presented to the group. These include geotechnical investigations, peat dynamics, large capital project engineering, quality control, health and safety and gas pipelines.

Fisheries Protection.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

290 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent and nature of his recent correspondence with the European Commission with regard to data provided by the Marine Institute showing a serious under-reporting of catches being landed at ports here and the reported secret landings of fish by Irish vessels at the Scottish port of Peterhead; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3989/06]

The EU Commission has been informed of certain information that has come to the attention of the Irish authorities in regard to undeclared landings by Irish fishing vessels. A meeting has been requested with Commissioner Borg to advise on the information that has been received and on the actions taken and planned by the Irish authorities to address the matters arising.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

291 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals the National Salmon Commission has made regarding the conservation of salmon stocks; if there is a proposal to close fisheries on the west and east coasts of Ireland; if so, the way in which this can be justified in view of the fact that many tourist anglers have booked their fishing and accommodation months in advance of the common season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3990/06]

The National Salmon Commission is due to meet later this month with a view to framing recommendations for the application of management measures to the commercial and recreational angling season for salmon in 2006. Their recommendations will be informed by the advice received from the standing scientific committee and that tendered by the regional fisheries boards' chief executives. They will take account of the terms of reference assigned to the commission on their appointment in September 2005, which require the commission to consider what conservation management mechanisms might be required to achieve the alignment of national and district total allowable catches and quotas with scientific advice given to it by the standing scientific committee.

Upon receipt of the National Salmon Commission's recommendations, I will consider what changes, if any, must be made to the existing regulations and by-laws prior to application.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

292 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the figures which indicate that the number of angling tourists coming here has dropped by 50% over the past five years; the steps he will take to preserve angling stock which might redress this alarming trend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3991/06]

The central and regional fisheries boards devote considerable effort and resources, in collaboration with Tourism Ireland, to the promotion of angling tourism. The overall decline in angling tourism is not unique to Ireland but reflects a trend widespread in Europe. The report of the tourism policy review group to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in September 2003 observes a decline in activity holidays which is not confined to angling but also includes cycling and hillwalking.

I understand that Fáilte Ireland is carrying out research among tour operators involved in promoting special activity holidays and special activity holidaymakers. Problems identified include rising costs and access to activities. Fáilte Ireland has also identified angling among main areas of activity for which detailed marketing plans have been agreed, targeting the markets offering the best short-term return. Several other supporting activities are identified across all products including greater understanding of international trends in demand for special interest products.

Fish habitats and stocks are under threat from a variety of adverse environmental and water quality pressures both at sea and in rivers and estuaries. These pressures, along with over-exploitation of stocks, pose a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of this natural resource.

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the protection, conservation and management of inland fisheries stocks rests with the central and regional fisheries boards. As Minister with responsibility for the marine, I rely on the advice of the fisheries boards and the National Salmon Commission when determining policy and legislative measures aimed at protecting these stocks. Any such measures that may be recommended to me, whether in respect of game or coarse angling, will be considered with a view to their early implementation.

Departmental Bodies.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

293 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when it is proposed to open the Marine Institute’s new building in Maree, Oranmore, County Galway; the initial estimated cost of this project; the current cost; and the number of people who will be employed there. [3992/06]

I am advised the new Marine Institute headquarters building at Rinville, Oranmore, County Galway, is in the final stages of completion. It is intended that the Marine Institute staff will be relocated to the new building from mid-March 2006.

I understand from the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the project, that the cost is expected to come within the sanctioned Department of Finance project budget of €50.4 million, inclusive of fees and fit-out.

The Marine Institute advises me that the initial occupancy will be in the order of 170 staff but this may rise periodically to approximately 200, through the intake of both summer students and specialist research project teams.

Fisheries Protection.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

294 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress he has made in introducing a scheme for the buy-out of drift-net fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3993/06]

The Government has, to date, consistently ruled out buy-out as an effective means of achieving the restoration of salmon stocks and has instead, since 2002, promoted the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling to achieve catch reductions as the best instrument available to achieve this objective.

Moreover, no convincing case has been advanced as to the public good that would be acquired by the State in the context of a publicly funded buy-out of commercial salmon licences nor why stakeholders benefiting from increased numbers of salmon entering the rivers should not contribute in whole or in part towards achieving that increase. The Deputy will be aware of the joint Oireachtas committee's acknowledgement that any compensatory schemes should largely be funded by those stakeholders who would be the main economic beneficiaries of more salmon being free to return to the rivers. I also draw the Deputy's attention to the committee's comment that "public moneys spent must have, as a primary aim, ensuring the survival of the salmon species and that this precept must be regarded as more important than any economic gain to any sector that may accrue".

As I have previously and consistently indicated to the House, I have no plans at present to introduce a buy-out of commercial salmon fishing licences but I am continuing to review the matter in the context of the policy outlined above. In this regard, I would be open to any relevant proposals presented to me whereby stakeholders benefiting from any reduction in commercial catch would engage in the first instance with licence holders and indicate a willingness to address any compensation issues that might arise. In the event of a compensatory scheme being identified, it is my view that the economic beneficiaries should contribute to the scheme.

I can confirm that I have referred the broad outline proposals, which were submitted to me, to the National Salmon Commission recently for an objective evaluation in accordance with its terms of reference in the overall context of conservation management measures designed to achieve the alignment of national and district total allowable catches and quotas. I await its advice in this regard.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

295 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the decisions of the appeals officer in the determination of two sea-fishing boat licensing appeals for applicants in west Cork (details supplied) where the appeals officer recommended that such applications be considered by his Department on a favourable basis in the exceptional circumstances; and if such licenses will be issued to said applicants. [4193/06]

The function of the licensing authority for sea-fishing boats was transferred under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 to the Registrar General of Fishing Boats. The Act provides that the licensing authority is independent in the exercise of its functions under the Act, subject to the law for the time being in force and policy directives in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing.

The two applicants referred to by the Deputy had been refused a sea-fishing boat licence by the licensing authority under the scheme for the licensing of traditional pot-fishing boats in the Irish inshore fleet. One of the conditions of the scheme was that an applicant must not currently be in full-time employment outside the fishing industry. There was evidence that both applicants were in full-time employment outside the fishing industry and their applications were therefore refused. They appealed the refusals to an appeals officer appointed under the 2003 Act. The appeals officer upheld the licensing authority's refusal but recommended that favourable consideration be given by the licensing authority to an application for a licence by the appellants.

The licensing authority has informed me that it does not have discretion to vary the terms of the pot licence scheme and accordingly it is unable to issue an offer to the applicants for a licence under that scheme. However, an application for a sea-fishing boat licence can be accepted from the applicants at any time and processed under standard fishing boat licensing conditions.

Pension Provisions.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

296 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the 673 pensioners who left Eircom in the second half of 1997 were not paid their bonus due on 31 March 1997 in view of the fact that they received no financial benefit and were excluded from the €100 million transfer to the ESOT, €50 million of which was made up of forgone bonus payments for the years 1997 to 2001. [4268/06]

I have no function in the matter raised by the Deputy. The issue of pension entitlements to retired company employees is a matter for the company in question.

Proposed Legislation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

297 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if regulations (details supplied) were each drafted in the Office of the Attorney General; if not, the reason for same and by whom they were drafted; if he proposes to replicate this procedure in primary legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4353/06]

The regulations in question were drafted and approved in the Office of the Attorney General before signature by my predecessor.

As the Deputy will see from the legislative proposals for the Electronic Communications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which are available on my Department's website at www.dcmnr.ie, it is proposed to provide for a civil administrative fines regime in relation to the proposed offence of overcharging.

Metropolitan Area Networks.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

298 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends to roll-out the metropolitan area network to a town (details supplied) in County Cork. [4417/06]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the fully liberalised private sector, regulated by Comreg, the independent Commission for Communications Regulation.

The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Phase one of this programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country, which were built on time and under budget. This programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide including 15 towns in County Cork. Cork is developing projects in respect of the following towns: Bantry, Blarney, Carrigaline, Charleville, Cobh, Dunmanway, Fermoy, Kanturk, Kinsale, Midleton, Mitchelstown, Passage West, Ringaskiddy, Skibbereen and Youghal.

Design and procurement has already commenced in the Cork region and construction is due to start later this year. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. Clonakilty is not part of the current roll-out but may be included in further phases subject to the necessary approvals and Exchequer funding being made available.

My Department's website, www.broadband.gov.ie, lists a number of broadband service providers already offering services in Clonakilty, County Cork, using a variety of broadband technologies such as DSL, wireless, fibre, cable and satellite. The website gives prices for the various services on offer, and contact details for each of the companies.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

299 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will sign and ratify the 1990 UN International Convention of the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of the Their Families. [3806/06]

This matter has been raised on a number of occasions in the Dáil, most recently in response to Questions Nos. 677 and 680 on 25 January 2006. The case for ratification has been examined by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which has lead responsibility on the issue.

It should be noted that the rights of migrant workers and their families, while they need to be kept under active review, are already protected under existing national legislation and under the Irish Constitution, as well as under EU law. In addition, the rights of migrant workers and their families are also addressed by Ireland's commitments under international human rights instruments to which the State is already a party. These international instruments include, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The convention referred to in the Deputy's question was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, and it entered into force on 1 July 2003, following ratification by the requisite number of states, that is, 20. The convention has been open for signature and ratification since December 1990. However, to date, only 34 states have ratified it. No European Union member state has as yet signed or ratified the convention, nor has any indicated an intention to do so.

The position essentially is that, in order for Ireland to ratify the convention, significant changes would have to be made across a wide range of existing legislation, including legislation addressing employment, social welfare provision, education, taxation and electoral law. These changes would also have implications for our EU commitments. The operation of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK might also possibly be affected. The situation is being kept under review.

Visa Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

300 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of persons who were processed by the visa office in December 2005; the number of different countries which were represented amongst persons applying for visas; the number of translators of different languages which were available in the office during those working hours. [3846/06]

The total number of visa applications processed by the visa office in Dublin in December 2005 was 1,670. While precise statistics on the number of countries in question are not available, the countries of origin from which most applications were received were: Pakistan, 311; Nigeria, 251; India, 176; Philippines, 134; and Romania, 161. It is not normally the practice of the visa office to make use of translators, since visa applications and supporting documentation are usually presented in English.

Since 3 January 2006, responsibility for the visa office in Burgh Quay has been transferred to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Emigrant Supports.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

301 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress of his Irish abroad initiative; the assistance being provided to emigrant groups abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4016/06]

Significant progress continues to be made on initiatives which benefit our Irish community abroad. A particularly positive development is the very substantial level of funding now available. In 2006, the unprecedented amount of €12 million has been secured for emigrant services. This figure, which represents an increase of 45% on 2005, is a clear reflection of the Government's firm commitment to the welfare of our community abroad.

The Government greatly appreciates the invaluable work of the excellent network of community care agencies that assist Irish people abroad. Their services make a critical difference to the circumstances of many of our more vulnerable emigrants. Officials of my Department's Irish abroad unit and our embassies will continue to work closely with them so as to ensure the effective allocation of increased funding.

The needs of the Irish community in Britain, in particular older people and those at risk of social exclusion, remain a key priority. In 2005, groups in Britain received grants amounting to €7.06 million, an increase of 63% on 2004. While the primary emphasis of funding continues to be to support frontline welfare services, I am pleased that the additional funding has also made it possible to support a number of capital projects, as well as projects which foster a greater sense of community.

Another priority area is that of our undocumented community in the United States. As the Deputy is aware, the legislative debate in the United States on immigration reform has entered a critical phase. In the period ahead, I will continue to lobby strongly in support of measures which would improve the circumstances of the undocumented Irish.

During 2005, I was pleased to approve grants of €750,000 to the Irish immigration centres in the United States. The invaluable services that they provide to our community there are of particular relevance to the undocumented at this complex time of uncertainty. The high priority which the Government attaches to the issue of the undocumented is also clear from the grant of €30,000 which I recently approved to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a group established to mobilise grassroots support within the Irish community for immigration reform.

In 2005, I was also happy to announce increased funding to Irish emigrant groups in Australia and, for the first time, to a group in Canada which supports our older community in Toronto. Increased financial support was also directed to organisations in Ireland that are engaged in pre-departure information for intending emigrants, and assistance to emigrants returning to Ireland.

I look forward to enhancing our relationship with, and support for, our communities abroad during 2006.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

302 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation regarding Irish illegals in the USA; his contacts with American politicians in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4020/06]

The Government attaches the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. We raise our concerns in all of our contacts with US political leaders and emphasise the importance of addressing the situation in a positive and sympathetic way.

In raising this matter with our US contacts, we of course appreciate that immigration is a highly divisive issue. The extent of differing opinion on this sensitive matter was evident in recent debates in the House of Representatives around the passage through that House of the Sensenbrenner-King immigration Bill. This Bill, which is one of many currently before the US Congress, concentrates on enforcement and security measures, and does not propose provisions that would regularise the status of the undocumented.

The focus of the debate now shifts to the Senate, which has before it a number of bills. Of these, the approach proposed by Senators Kennedy and McCain is particularly attractive as, if adopted, it would offer the undocumented a path to permanent residency.

In all of my meetings with US contacts, including with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with key congressional figures, most recently in Carlingford in January, I have made known our support, and the support of the Oireachtas, for the approach favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. Their Bill has also been strongly endorsed by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a group established recently to mobilise grassroots support within the Irish community in the US for immigration reform. I welcome the establishment of this organisation and recently approved a grant to it of €30,000 towards its operational expenses.

While there have been significant developments, it is clear that the legislative situation is fluid and that achieving the necessary compromise on this sensitive issue remains a formidable challenge. In this regard, I welcome the engagement of President Bush on this issue and his support for a humane approach which involves reform as well as enforcement. The Deputy can be assured that the Government will continue to lobby intensively on this issue in the critical period ahead.

Human Rights Issues.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

303 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when it is proposed that Ireland will ratify the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns in respect of the trafficking of women and girls into Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4144/06]

Ireland opposes, and seeks the elimination of the practice of human trafficking. The Taoiseach, in his intervention at the Council of Europe's Third Summit in Warsaw on 16 and 17 May 2005, welcomed the adoption of the Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as the conventions on terrorism opened for signature at the summit, as "[laying] down a strong marker that these evils within European Society are unacceptable and not to be tolerated".

The Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings is currently under consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for policy in this area. Legislation is being prepared by that Department which will criminalise trafficking in human beings for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation as provided for in the EU Council framework decision on combating trafficking in persons. This legislation will also take account of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Putting the necessary legislation in place would put Ireland in a position to ratify the convention.

John Gormley

Ceist:

304 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has met with Iranian Opposition groups (details supplied) with regard to the human rights situation in Iran including political executions and political prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4178/06]

I have not met with the particular organisation referred to by the Deputy. The Government, of course, monitors the human rights situation in Iran closely, through our embassy in Tehran and in co-operation with our partners in the EU. This involves regular contact with non-governmental organisations both within and outside Iran.

We remain seriously concerned about human rights issues in Iran, including the use of the death penalty and the detention of political prisoners. Our concerns are raised regularly with the Iranian authorities. The meeting of the European Council in Brussels on 16 December 2005 issued a declaration on the situation in the Middle East, which reiterated the deep concern of the EU at the lack of respect for human rights and fundamental political freedoms in Iran, and called on Iran to demonstrate respect for these principles by taking concrete steps, including the permanent release of prisoners of conscience. The European Council emphasised that the development of the EU's long-term relationship with Iran will depend on progress on all issues of concern. These include the human rights situation.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

305 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the claim by a former US marine, speaking in Trinity College, Dublin, that depleted uranium shells were carried on planes that landed in Shannon Airport; the steps he has taken to check the validity of the claim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4194/06]

Where it is sought to transport munitions of war through Irish territory, the permission of the Minister for Transport, in the case of civilian aircraft, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the case of foreign military aircraft, is required. The grant of such permission depends upon several different factors, among them air safety, Ireland's obligations under international agreements, and policy considerations. A search of the records held by both Departments has shown that there have been no applications for the transport of depleted uranium munitions from the period building up to the Iraq war to the present day. The US Embassy has been contacted about this matter and confirmed that its records support this.

European Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

306 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the opinion of the European Court of Justice Advocate General Mr. Phillippe Léger that the EU-US passenger name records agreement should be annulled due to the fact that there are inadequate protections; and if Ireland will not enter into or retain any agreement with the US that suffers from similar flaws to those outlined by the advocate general. [4233/06]

I have noted the opinion of advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, Mr. Philippe Léger, given on 22 November 2005, in cases C-317/04 and C-318/04 concerning the transfer of air passenger name records to the US authorities. The advocate general proposes that Commission Decision 2004/535/EC, dated 14 May 2004, and Council Decision 2004/496/EC, dated 17 May 2004, should be annulled on the grounds that neither decision has an appropriate basis in European law.

In these cases, the advocate general has considered the relevant Community law relating to the protection of personal data, and its application to the activities of a state in areas of criminal law, matters which are essentially the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The opinion of the advocate general in the two cases is not binding on the Court of Justice.

The court is considering the case and will deliver its opinion at a later date. We will await the court's decision and will consider the matter in consultation with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Transport, both of whom have responsibilities in the area.

Visa Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

307 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether, with reference to the section of the quality customer service plan of his Department, entitled “improvements in visa services”, which outlines the objective of reducing response time, this objective is being met; and if this average response time with regard to visa applications has been reduced; the average response time to visa applications and inquiries; and the average response times of these applications in each of the past five years. [4309/06]

My Department is responsible for visa applications to our missions abroad. Since January 2006, visa applications made in Ireland are the responsibility of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Visa applications received abroad, and subsequently referred to Dublin, are decided by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

All of our missions abroad are committed to reducing the response times for visa applicants. In recent years, dedicated visa officers have been assigned to the embassies in Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi to facilitate the processing of applications speedily, and this is being further expanded. Delegated sanction authority to missions on applications has been extended and has helped to reduce response times. Further improvements, including a new visa IT system, AVATS, are at an advanced stage of planning. The AVATS system will permit detailed tracking of an individual application from the point of receipt until its completion.

Visas are issued in missions, including honorary consulates, all over the world. While statistics are not available on overall average response times, the Department is committed to trying to improve its service, including response times, to the public.

Foreign Conflicts.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

308 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of requests which have been received in each year since 2001 to allow foreign military personnel passing through ports and airports here to make unscheduled overnight stays here, and the number of these which applied to US military personnel. [4393/06]

A search of the records of the Department of Foreign Affairs indicates that, as of 3 February, the following requests have been received since 2001:

Year

Number

2006

2

2005

7

2004

5

2003

4

2002

0

All of these requests related to US military personnel.

Drugs in Sport.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

309 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of cases reported to his Department of illegal use of substances in the greyhound industry by Bord Na gCon in each of the past five years; the action taken if such reports were received; the results of the action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4002/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

313 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of cases of illegal use of substances in the greyhound industry reported by Bord no gCon to his Department since his Department had responsibility for the industry included in its brief; the action taken if such reports were received; the results of the action taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4001/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 313 together.

Bord na gCon is the statutory body responsible for the control and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland. The Greyhound Industry Act 1958, as amended, confers on Bord na gCon wide powers to regulate all aspects of greyhound racing, including integrity management and anti-doping controls.

The following table sets out information provided to my Department by Bord na gCon about the number of anti-doping tests carried out in the five year period 2000 to 2004. A report on the 2005 testing programme is awaited.

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

No. of Samples

991

2,154

2,309

3,437

5,160

No. of Positive Tests

14

23

43

79

95

% Positive

1.4%

1.1%

1.9%

2.3%

1.8%

Bord na gCon's annual control committee report, which is available on its website, includes details of the number of samples tested at Bord na gCon licensed tracks in 2004, the number of positive tests, meetings of the control committee, fines and prize money forfeiture, positive test substances, and publication cases. Individual decisions taken by the control committee are not subject to review by me.

Sports Capital Programme.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

310 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason a lottery grant (details supplied) was not taken up; if the issues preventing same have been resolved; and if it must now be reapplied for. [3849/06]

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

A grant of €150,000 was allocated to the organisation in question, under the 2003 sports capital programme and this grant is still available to the club. The grant allocation is subject to the terms and conditions of the programme, including the execution of a deed of covenant and charge, which provides, inter alia, for a refund of the grant in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated.

My Department's legal advisers, the Chief State Solicitor's Office, CSSO, deal with the grantee's solicitor in executing this deed. I understand that the CSSO is awaiting the required documentation from the organisation's solicitor and no payment in respect of the grant can be made until the deed of covenant of charge is executed.

Several other documents are also required by my Department, including tenders, tax clearance certification for the applicant and its chosen contractor and planning permission documentation. The organisation in question has been informed of such requirements.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

311 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding grants and funding to a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if the maximum support will be given in 2006. [3886/06]

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

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 27 and 28 November last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 20 January 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are being processed and will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

312 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to the assessment and approval for a club (details supplied) in County Mayo seeking funds; when he expects that allocation will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3942/06]

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

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 27 and 28 November last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 20 January 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are being processed and will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Question No. 313 answered with QuestionNo. 309.

Proposed Legislation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

314 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, in view of the Attorney General’s revision of the constitutionality of random breath testing, he believes that the constitutionality of the Private Member’s Bill, the Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill 2005 will be revised or clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4236/06]

I do not consider that the views expressed by the Office of the Attorney General on the constitutionality of the Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill 2005, will in any way be revised. I am arranging for officials of my Department to discuss and clarify the various issues involved with the Deputy.

Sports Capital Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

315 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if funding will be sanctioned for a club (details supplied) in County Kerry under the sports capital programme 2006. [4289/06]

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

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 27 and 28 November 2005. The closing date for receipt of applications was Friday, 20 January 2006. All applications, including one from the organisation in question, are being processed and will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

EU Directives.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

316 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position his Department has taken in EU discussions on the services directive; the timetable for the approval of the directive at the Council of Ministers; and if he will make public in advance the Government’s position on amendments to the directive that come from the European Parliament. [4406/06]

I set out the position on this proposed directive comprehensively in the course of the recent Private Member's motion on the matter. I refer the Deputy to the Official Report of 25 and 26 January 2006.

The European Parliament is scheduled to complete its first reading of the Commission's proposal later this month. The Parliament is expected to propose several amendments to the proposal. These will be taken into account by the European Commission, which may then bring forward a revised proposal for consideration by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. In that event the Government will formulate its position on the Commission's amendments after full consultation with stakeholders. I am prepared to be as open as possible on the Government's position, bearing in mind, however, that a negotiation process is involved here.

Migrant Workers.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

317 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to seek a change to Ireland’s approach to the seven-year transition period for labour mobility as agreed under the accession treaties. [4407/06]

I have no plans to change the policy regarding the access of EU-ten nationals to our labour market.

Ireland has had strong employment growth for a sustained period and skill shortages exist in many sectors. The presence of migrant labour in Ireland is critical to the continuation of our economic growth. I have asked FÁS to review the labour market effects of immigration. This work is still in progress. A preliminary report is expected shortly.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

318 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the strong inflow of migrant workers into Ireland, and the fact that many depend on private employment agencies, whose only goal is profit maximisation, the sector will be investigated to stamp out exploitative practices. [3830/06]

Employment rights legislation makes no distinction as between Irish and migrant workers. To avoid doubt on this, section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation on the Statute Book applies to workers posted to work in Ireland in line with Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 16 December 1996.

This directive relates to the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services and applies also to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a contract of employment that provides for his or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment. Thus, all employee legislation applies to migrant workers recruited by employment agencies to work in Ireland under a contract of employment.

The employment rights compliance section of the Department, which includes the labour inspectorate, applies the same principles in the discharge of its functions and, accordingly, makes no distinction as between Irish and migrant workers when undertaking compliance checking or investigating complaints. Where possible, the inspectorate will investigate any specific matters brought to its attention once they fall within its powers and remit. There are limitations, however, to what the inspectorate can reasonably achieve. Such limitations arise, for instance, where there are concerns regarding activities that occur outside Irish jurisdiction, and particularly outside the EU. The Internet is another area where there is little capacity to address concerns unless there is an Irish-based representative who can be contacted and influenced.

Arising from the Government's commitments under Sustaining Progress, a review of the Employment Agency Act 1971 is taking place. As part of this process, in June 2005, the Department issued a White Paper on the review of the Act. The deadline for submissions was 15 July 2005. A total of nine submissions were received. The Department is examining these submissions.

This Bill will, inter alia, propose a system of registration of employment agencies based in Ireland, supported by an industry regulatory code which will set out in detail, the practices and standards that employment agencies would be expected to follow.

Notwithstanding the caveats mentioned earlier, I urge anyone who has evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

EU Directives.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

319 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 121 to 125 of 4 February 1997 that set out the procedures relating to the position of landowners affected by special areas of conservation, if in the forthcoming transposition of Council Directive 2003/105/EC, generally known as Seveso II, into Irish law, he proposes to establish similar fair procedures relating to consultation, the provision of maps, compensation and so on in the case of landowners similarly affected by Seveso zones some of which are not alone massive but draconian in terms of property rights and thus an affront to both natural and constitutional justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3921/06]

The aims of the Seveso II Directive, Council Directive 96/82/EC, which is transposed into Irish law through the European Communities (Control of Major Accidents Involving Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2000, S.I. No. 476/2000, as amended by Council Directive 2003/105/EC, which will soon be transposed, are to prevent major accident hazards involving dangerous substances, and to limit the adverse human and environmental consequences where accidents do occur.

Under the directive, one of the means of achieving these aims is ensuring that land-use policies take account of the need to maintain appropriate distances around establishments which process or store dangerous substances. The Health and Safety Authority, under the terms of these regulations, provides technical advice in the interest of safety to the planning authorities.

The planning authorities are the major decision makers in regard to the siting of plants which fall under the terms of the regulations and the subsequent granting of permission for additional developments. All plants affected by the directives are subject to the planning process, which in itself has an appeals process built in and is transparent. Likewise, property owners whose land use may be restricted or otherwise affected by a proposed plant are entitled to avail of the planning and appeal process.

However, the Planning and Development Act 2000, No. 30 of 2000, provides that compensation under section 190 of that Act shall not be payable in respect of the refusal of permission for any proposed development which (a) could, due to the risk of a major accident or if a major accident were to occur, lead to serious danger to human health or the environment, or (b) is in an area where it is necessary to limit the risk of there being any serious danger to human health or the environment.

The special areas of conservation referred to in the question are designated under the terms of the EU Habitats Directive, which is within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Compensation is available in some cases where there is a prohibition on the continuation of economic activity which has been carried out on land which is subsequently designated as a special area of conservation. There is no compensation available for a prohibition of any possible future economic use of such land.

Ministerial Travel.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

320 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of his proposed visit to Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4017/06]

It had been intended that I would lead a trade mission to Ukraine later this month, but unfortunately, due to a combination of factors it was not possible to finalise the necessary arrangements to facilitate this. Nevertheless, there is considerable interest among a range of Enterprise Ireland client companies in visiting the country to pursue business contacts and trade opportunities. It is therefore hoped that a suitable programme can be organised for a date later in the year.

Enterprise Development Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

321 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if consideration will be given to extending the enterprise development programme to the south-east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4081/06]

The enterprise development programme is a new programme set up in association with the Líonra network of third-level institutions, Athlone IT, GMIT, Sligo IT, Letterkenny IT, NUI Galway and St. Angela's College. This programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland and FÁS, is based on the enterprise platform programme already in place in the south east. The aim of the enterprise development programme is to increase the number of start-up businesses in the midlands, west and north-west regions by providing a tailored programme of supports to assist eligible participants to develop business ideas which can be spun out as knowledge-based companies to provide jobs and export sales.

The south-east enterprise platform programme is run at the Waterford Institute of Technology, with support from Tipperary Institute, Enterprise Ireland and the county and city enterprise boards. In the 2004-05 programme, six of the 25 graduates were funded by Enterprise Ireland. The 2005-06 programme commenced on 19 September 2005 with 20 candidates participating in the programme, six of which have been approved for Enterprise Ireland support to date. Graduates are expected to go on to set up new businesses in the region following the programme.

The enterprise platform programme is a one-year rapid incubation programme designed to provide hands-on support and management development for entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business. Enterprise Ireland is a partner with the Department of Education and Science and the colleges in this initiative. It provides funding, under its business development grant under the Enterprise Ireland campus enterprise commercialisation fund, for eligible participants to attend the programme and develop business ideas which can be spun out as knowledge-based companies to provide jobs and export sales.

Community Enterprise Schemes.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

322 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the allocation of funding under the recently announced extension of the Enterprise Ireland community enterprise centre scheme on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4082/06]

The administration of the community enterprise centre, CEC, scheme is a day to day matter for Enterprise Ireland, and not one in which I am directly involved.

Enterprise Ireland advertised the 2006 CEC scheme in a public call for proposals in the national press on 19 and 20 January 2006. The closing date for receipt of applications is 27 April 2006.

As this is a competitive scheme there is no allocation of funding on a county by county basis. All applications will be assessed, and eligible projects will be evaluated and approved by the Enterprise Ireland board. Where the number of suitable applications exceeds the available funding, those ranked highest will be supported.

Support of up to 50% of eligible expenditure, or €400,000, whichever is the lesser, is available for projects within the Border, midland and western region. An additional 5%, maximum 55% or €440,000, whichever is the lesser, is available for projects located in the Clár programme districts.

Support of up to 40% of eligible expenditure, or €300,000, whichever is the lesser, is available for projects outside the BMW region. An additional 5%, maximum 45% or €337,500, whichever is the lesser, is available for projects located in the Clár programme districts.

Industrial Development.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

323 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for business and industry to locate at the business park at Askeaton, County Limerick in view of the fact that the park has been available for a considerable number of years. [4139/06]

Responsibility for development of property solutions for enterprise promotion in the mid west lies with Shannon Development. Responsibility for grant assistance to companies locating in the region is an operational matter for the relevant development agencies. IDA Ireland is the national agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland and its regions, while Shannon Development is responsible for indigenous industry in the mid-west region. The IDA works closely with Shannon Development in the promotion and marketing of those tailored property solutions throughout the mid west, including the Askeaton business park.

The business park is a Shannon Development-owned land bank, comprising circa 227 acres. The site has been identified as an important site from a business and employment perspective for both the county and region in the planning and land use transportation study, the mid-west regional planning guidelines and the county development plan. The investment projects which IDA Ireland seeks to win will be in more advanced higher-value, sophisticated activities, both manufacturing and services, often related to research activities, requiring high-level skills, infrastructure and business services generating more high-value products, services and jobs. That reflects the changing nature of FDI, whose primary needs can be summarised as follows: a high-quality urban environment with a critical mass in population; world-class access infrastructure, for example road access to key cities and ports and international airports; telecommunications infrastructure with multiple carriers and competitive pricing with business support services; third level educational infrastructure, including universities and technical colleges that are located on or close to business and technology parks; a range of affordable, state-of-the-art property solutions with the necessary infrastructure to support their activities.

The Askeaton site is been actively marketed through IDA's network of overseas offices as a solution for utility-intensive projects. The development and servicing of the business park as a solution for such large-scale infrastructure-intensive projects is an ongoing project for Shannon Development, drawing on the experience of IDA in the development of similar sites in other locations, for example Oranmore, County Galway and Grangecastle, County Dublin. Ultimately, however, decisions regarding where to locate a project are taken by investors, based on the ability of the locations to support their business needs.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

324 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the IDA has not secured an industrialist for the new IDA industrial park, Tuam, County Galway; the number of potential clients that the IDA has brought to the site to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4259/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas, including available property solutions, for new or expanded FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency.

IDA Ireland is actively marketing the new industrial park in Tuam to potential investors on an ongoing basis. While IDA Ireland has succeeded in attracting five site visits to the town since January 2003, there have been no site visits as yet in 2006. Ultimately, decisions regarding where to locate a project, including what locations to visit, are taken by the investors.

Prospective investors looking at Ireland are often willing to consider only larger centres that have the scale, infrastructure and services capable of sustaining their investment. In an effort to enhance the attractiveness of the town of Tuam for additional investment and jobs, IDA Ireland informs me that: a total of €3.5 million has been invested in the industrial park to date; planning permission has been obtained for the construction of a 20,000 sq. ft. advanced technology building, two 7,500 sq. ft. and two 5,000 sq. ft. advance technology units on the park; the agency is actively working with its existing base of overseas companies in the county and the Tuam area to encourage them to grow and expand; the agency is also working with local groups, utility-providers and other agencies to ensure that the county secures the appropriate infrastructure that will support existing companies to grow and develop and generally to enhance the attractiveness of the area for new projects.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland will in time bear fruit in additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of Tuam.

Job Creation.

Seamus Healy

Ceist:

325 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Carrick-on-Suir will be prioritised for job creation and investment and to establish a jobs task force for the town in view of the persistent high levels of unemployment, in excess of 20%, in the town and in view of the closure announcement of a company (details supplied) with the loss of 53 jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4280/06]

The company concerned announced to its staff on 31 January last that it would cease operations in Carrick-on-Suir with the loss of 53 jobs. Some 11 permanent staff will be transferred to new offices in Waterford city and will be retained in distribution support activities and finance.

The IDA strategy for South Tipperary is to concentrate future economic development in Clonmel by developing the town as a first-class location for overseas investment. That strategy has been agreed with the south Tipperary county development board, and the agency's plans were outlined to Carrick-on-Suir Town Council last year. Carrick-on-Suir needs to link into the economic growth centres of Clonmel and Waterford, as there will be knock-on benefits in sectors such as distribution and transport, thus creating further investment and employment opportunities for people in surrounding areas, including Carrick-on-Suir.

Enterprise Ireland provided support in 1998 for the setting up of an enterprise centre in Carrick-on-Suir. That centre has been sold to a private developer, and the proceeds of that sale have been invested in a new community resource centre for the town. The community enterprise centre is now incorporated into a state-of-the-art resource centre.

The unemployment rate for the south east, according to the latest quarterly national household survey, is 6.7%. The latest CSO live register analysis shows that the number of those claiming unemployment benefit in Carrick-on-Suir was fairly static — 890 people in December 2005, as against 893 in December 2004. I met a delegation from Carrick-on-Suir Town Council last year and, following a meeting with FÁS, the agency agreed to increase its level of engagement with the long-term unemployed in the town.

I can assure you that the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, will continue to work closely together with the county development board, as well as participating in the special working groups set up in October 2004 by the county manager of south Tipperary to deal with job creation issues in the area, including Carrick-on-Suir. Should any further co-ordination be required, I consider that the county development board and the special working groups on which the State agencies are represented would be the appropriate fora to fulfil this function.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

326 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which insurance here, favourably or otherwise, compares with costs throughout the EU, with particular reference to motor and public liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4354/06]

The National Competitiveness Council in its annual competitiveness report 2005 found that of the 16 countries benchmarked, Irish expenditure on non-life insurance was the fourth-highest. However, the NCC also found that the rate of growth in the cost of insurance has slowed down substantially in recent years. That can be attributed to the series of initiatives that the Government has pushed through to reform the insurance sector. The action taken by Government to ensure healthy competition in the insurance sector had already seen benefits for consumers.

Sub-indices calculated from the all-items consumer price index at mid December 2005 show that since the insurance reform programme began in October 2002, there has been a reduction of 25% in car insurance.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which was one of the key initiatives of the Government's insurance reform programme, published its first annual report on 13 September 2005. That shows that PIAB assessments to date have been delivered approximately three times faster and at a delivery charge four times cheaper than under the litigation system. As well as being of major benefit to victims of accidents, that is a significant reduction in the cost to insurance companies for the delivery of compensation and hence facilitates reductions in insurance premia.

Supervision of insurance undertakings is the responsibility of the Financial Regulator, formerly known as the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. The Financial Regulator has a wide regulatory remit, covering consumer protection and prudential supervision of practically all of the financial services industry, including insurance, and the services provided by it.

The Financial Regulator comes under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Question No. 327 answered with QuestionNo. 140.

Retail Sector Developments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

328 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has satisfied himself that adequate legislative protection exists to prevent the emergence of a monopoly in the retail sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4356/06]

Part 3 of the Competition Act 2002 is designed to regulate mergers and acquisitions in the economy, including the retail sector of the economy, to ensure that there is no significant lessening of competition in the market.

Under the merger provisions in the Act, parties to mergers and acquisitions that exceed the specified financial thresholds must notify their proposals to the Competition Authority in advance for regulatory clearance.

Mergers or acquisitions which fall below the specified thresholds may be voluntarily notified to the authority for ex-ante clearance so that parties can be assured that their transaction will not be subject to ex-poste proceedings by the authority under section 4 or 5 of the Act.

Part 2 of the Competition Act provides legislative protection to prevent monopolies emerging as a result of anti-competitive agreements, decisions, concerted practices, section 4, or owing to the abuse of a dominant position, section 5.

Accordingly, I am satisfied that the Competition Act provides an adequate legislative regime to prevent the emergence of a monopoly in the retail sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

329 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if competition is positively affecting the consumer here in the retail sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4357/06]

Competition is the life-blood of a vibrant economy, and the Government is committed to removing unwarranted constraints on competition in all sectors of the economy, including the retail sector.

The retail grocery sector has seen significant changes in recent years, particularly since the entry of discounters Aldi and Lidl. There have been other developments too, such as the opening of 24-hour outlets by food retailers and the stocking of more non-food items to facilitate the way people live today.

I am pleased to see that many Irish firms have faced up to this increasing competition by investing further in their operations and opening more new stores. Such investment is important for improving the services and choices available to Irish consumers. The mix of retail outlets has created a situation where local and international players now coexist in a dynamic marketplace.

However, price competition in the retail grocery sector has been constrained for many years by the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987, which prohibits the sale of grocery goods at below net invoice price. That prohibition has had the effect of keeping prices artificially high.

However, one of the main provisions of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2005, which I recently brought before the Oireachtas, is to revoke the groceries order. I expect that once the order has been repealed, we will see greater competition in the retail grocery sector and that prices will reflect that increased competition in due course.

Question No. 330 answered with QuestionNo. 180.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

331 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts he has made to identify the cause of rising costs to industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4359/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

332 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that industry is concerned at the increasing escalation of costs to both manufacturing and service industries; if he intends to take steps to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4360/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

333 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he proposes to take to address the issue of competitiveness in the economy here; if he expects the benefit of such action to accrue to the manufacturing or services sector in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4361/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 331 to 333, inclusive together.

Ireland's economy continued to perform exceptionally well in 2005. GNP grew by approximately 5%, compared with an OECD average of 2.7% for last year. The recently published NCB purchasing managers' index showed that the Irish manufacturing sector maintained solid growth in output and new business in January. Last year, according to the CSO's latest quarterly national household survey, employment reached 1.99 million in the third quarter of 2005. What is particularly reassuring is that the employment growth was recorded across all sectors of the economy, including the manufacturing sector.

The Government has a strong record of taking decisive actions to ensure that our enterprise environment remains attractive. The introduction of a third consecutive non-inflationary budget in 2006, the abolition of the groceries order, the successful reform of the insurance sector and the increased resources of the Competition Authority are all testament to the Government's determination to safeguard our competitiveness.

However, despite our continued economic success, we cannot afford to become complacent. Maintaining Ireland's competitiveness has been and will continue to be a key pillar of the Government's economic policy. The Government gives careful consideration to the advice of the National Competitiveness Council, which is charged with monitoring Ireland's competitiveness and suggesting recommendations to enhance it. The enterprise advisory group, which I established last year to oversee the implementation of the enterprise strategy group's recommendations continues to make good progress and is expected to submit its first periodic report to the Government later this year.

Our future prosperity depends on our ability to attract and retain the higher value-added operations that are an essential component in any knowledge-based economy. I am reassured by recent data that last year there was a strong upward trend in Irish research and development performance. We also need to improve our productivity performance to ensure our continued competitiveness. To achieve that, Enterprise Ireland has a €20 million productivity improvement fund, which aims to assist Irish enterprises in their drive for higher efficiency and international competitiveness.

Finally, I have no doubt that the competitiveness imperative will be a critical overarching issue that will need to be taken into account by the various stakeholders in the up-coming social partnership discussions.

Question No. 334 answered with QuestionNo. 140.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

335 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the replacement jobs for those being lost at a company (details supplied) in Naas, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4363/06]

The company in question has undertaken a major restructuring and upgrading of its plant in Naas, County Kildare. Although the restructuring involved 245 redundancies, the company has chosen Ireland as the international manufacturing site for its next generation of products, involving substantial capital investment at its plant. Those workers who lost their jobs are highly skilled workers, and Enterprise Ireland anticipates that some of the former employees will avail themselves of the supports provided by Enterprise Ireland to develop their own technology-based businesses. In addition, FÁS is also assisting the affected workers to plan new careers, identify training needs and secure alternative employment.

The industrial development agencies continue to market Naas for investment and job creation. Both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are working with their client companies with a view to supporting such companies with potential investment and expansion or diversification of activities that would strengthen their presence in Naas.

County Kildare has in recent years attracted some world-class manufacturing companies such as Intel, Wyeth Medica, Braun Oral B and Hewlett Packard. In addition, on 5 May last, I performed the official opening of International Fund Services (Ireland) Limited's office in Naas. That facility is on target to employ 240 people by the end of 2006. The announcement last year by Green Isle Foods of a €22.6 million expansion investment, supported by Enterprise Ireland, which is now under way, will lead to the creation of 130 additional jobs in Naas, from a current base of 630.

I am satisfied that the strategies and policies being pursued by the industrial development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, will continue to maximise sustainable job creation and investment opportunities in Naas and the surrounding area.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

336 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if child-minders who avail of the new child-minding relief will be able to access maternity benefit or contributory pensions in later years. [4337/06]

Self-employed workers generally pay class S contributions. The class at which contributions are paid and the number paid establishes the range of benefits and pensions towards which a contributor can build up entitlement. Class S contributors can accrue entitlement to the following payments: widow's or widower's contributory pension, orphan's contributory allowance, old age contributory pension, maternity benefit, adoptive benefit and bereavement grant.

Liability to social insurance contributions for self-employed persons is primarily determined by reference to reckonable income, as assessed in accordance with income tax provisions. The child-minding relief, announced by the Minister for Finance in budget 2006, would allow an individual to supervise up to three children other than his or her own at home and exempts all related child-minding earnings, up to a maximum ceiling of €10,000 per annum, from tax, social insurance and levy payments. Where child-minding income exceeds €10,000, the respective total amount earned by the minder would be taxable as normal under self-assessment procedures.

The issue raised by the Deputy is being addressed in the context of the preparation of social welfare legislation to give effect to the budget increases.

Information Technology Initiatives.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

337 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he expects the first early childhood supplement to be made; the information technology implications for his Department of the new payment; if the current information technology system is capable of making the payment; if not, the necessary steps and timeframe for the information technology system to become compatible with the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3859/06]

My Department will provide payment production services for the early child care supplement scheme on an agency basis for the office of the Minister for Health and Children.

The scheme is to come into effect from April 2006. Payment of the supplement will be made on a quarterly basis, and three payments will issue during 2006, with the first payment expected to be made in the summer. However, it is not possible at this early stage of planning and development to give precise payment dates.

The ECS will require the development and implementation of new information technology functionality to support payment of entitlements and administration of the scheme. It is planned to undertake that work by extending the current phase of the service delivery modernisation programme, a multi-annual programme of work involving the introduction of new technology and the replacement of legacy computer systems.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

338 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused unemployment assistance or benefit; if that person will be considered for farm assist; the further reason more help was not offered to the person in view of the circumstances of the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3925/06]

The person concerned exhausted his entitlement to unemployment benefit on 2 March 2005. He applied for unemployment assistance from 3 March 2005. Several letters were issued to him requesting details of his efforts to find work. When no response was received, a deciding officer closed the claim. A letter advising the person concerned of that decision was issued to him on 3 May 2005.

The person concerned has been contacted by telephone and an application for farm assist, with effect from 3 March 2005, has been completed on his behalf. When a decision has been made on that claim, the person concerned will be contacted by phone and informed of the outcome.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

339 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent assistance will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4007/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function regarding decisions on individual claims.

Section 195(b) Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides that the HSE may decide that a person is not entitled to SWA where it considers a person not to be genuinely seeking employment.

Section 195(c) Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides that the HSE may also decide that a person is not entitled to SWA, unless the person applies for any statutory benefits or assistance to which the person may be entitled.

The Dublin and mid-Leinster area of the executive has advised that the person concerned was paid basic SWA while awaiting the outcome of a claim for unemployment assistance and that he was also paid a rent supplement. His application for unemployment assistance was refused, as he was deemed not to be genuinely seeking work. That decision was upheld on appeal by the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Having regard to the new circumstances of the case, the HSE decided that the person concerned no longer satisfied the qualification criteria for SWA, as it too considered the person not to be genuinely seeking employment. Accordingly, payment of his basic SWA and rent supplement claims was terminated. The person concerned subsequently appealed that decision to the designated appeals officer in the HSE, but the decision was upheld by the appeals officer.

If the person in question is not satisfied with the decision of the HSE appeals officer, he may appeal that decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Code.

John Curran

Ceist:

340 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to the fact that under secondary legislation it is a condition of entitlement to social welfare allowance rent supplement that an applicant has not vacated local authority accommodation provided by a housing authority or, if they have vacated such accommodation, that the health board is satisfied that they had good cause for so doing, the way in which good cause is interpreted; the definition which is applied; what is good cause for so doing; the way in which community welfare officers, superintendent community welfare officers, or the designated officers for appeals in the Health Service Executive areas, would recognise good cause if they were confronted with same. [4049/06]

Subject to certain conditions, the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs and who do not have accommodation available from any other source. Rent supplement is a short-term income maintenance support and is not intended to address a person's long-term accommodation needs.

Article 9(2)(d) of SI 382 of 1995 provides that a rent supplement shall not be payable in circumstances where a person has vacated accommodation provided by a housing authority, unless the Health Service Executive is satisfied that he or she had good cause for doing so. Article 31 of SI 382 of 1995 provides that the Health Service Executive may award a supplement, including a rent supplement, in any case where it appears to the executive that the circumstances of the case so warrant.

In making a decision regarding a rent supplement claim, the executive considers all the facts and supporting documentation presented to it, and every case is decided on the basis of its own individual circumstances. Neither I nor my Department has any function regarding decisions on individual claims.

Where a person claims good cause for leaving local authority accommodation, the factors considered by the executive in making its determination include the stated reason for leaving the accommodation, validated evidence to support the stated reason and the availability of an alternative housing solution, including alternative local authority accommodation.

Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of the executive regarding a claim for rent supplement, that decision may be appealed to the designated appeals officer in the executive. Where the person is not satisfied with the decision of the HSE appeals officer, the decision may be further appealed to the independent social welfare appeals office.

Social Welfare Appeals.

John Curran

Ceist:

341 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the point at which a delay in deciding an appeal to a designated officer for appeals regarding social welfare allowance rent supplement application becomes an unreasonable delay; and the period of time which must elapse before the delay becomes an unreasonable delay in his estimation. [4050/06]

John Curran

Ceist:

342 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the statistics for each Health Service Executive area on the length of delays in deciding appeals to designated officers for appeals relating to applications for the social welfare allowance rent supplement that have been refused by superintendent community welfare officers. [4051/06]

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 341 and 342 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, SWA, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, HSE. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims or in the role of the executive's appeals process.

Where a person is dissatisfied with the outcome of an application for SWA he or she may appeal against the decision to the appeals officer in the relevant HSE area and if necessary then to the chief appeals officer of the social welfare appeals office.

The timescale for completing an appeal from the date of receipt to the communication of a determination is dependent, among other things, on the availability of the required information, such as details of the applicant's income, bank statements, information from landlords etc. The person who originally made the decision may be asked to review the case in the light of any additional information supplied in relation to the appeal.

The HSE has advised that the total number of SWA appeals for 2005 was 6,305. It has further advised that, in general, the period for the completion of the SWA appeals process in the HSE is 21 to 28 days, however, cases of greater complexity require a longer period. The HSE was unable to provide statistics for each Health Service Executive area on the length of delays in deciding appeals.

John Curran

Ceist:

343 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which the superintendent community welfare officer decided that a person (details supplied) had not established a need to vacate local authority accommodation in view of the fact that the person had supplied letters from their doctor and the Garda Síochána to support their application for the social welfare allowance rent supplement. [4052/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

Article 9(2)(d) of SI 382 of 1995 provides that a rent supplement shall not be payable in circumstances where a person has vacated accommodation provided by a housing authority unless the Health Service Executive is satisfied that he or she had a good cause for doing so.

The Dublin-mid-Leinster area of the executive has advised that it has rejected an application for rent supplement from the person concerned as in its opinion the person had not established good cause for leaving her local authority accommodation. In coming to its decision the HSE took account of the letters from the Garda and her doctor which the person had submitted in support of her claim. The person concerned has appealed the decision to the designated appeals officer in the Health Service Executive. A decision on the matter is expected shortly.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John Deasy

Ceist:

344 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people currently in receipt of unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance; the percentage of the labour force which are made up of people in receipt of such payments; the additional measures he plans to put in place to facilitate their return to the work place; the discussions being held with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment concerning the introduction of such measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4158/06]

The total number of persons on the live register as of end January 2006 is 160,100. The live register comprises 64,100 people receiving unemployment benefit, 86,100 receiving unemployment assistance and 9,900 signing for credits. Based on the seasonally adjusted live register of 157,400 and using CSO methodology, the estimated standardised unemployment rate for end January 2006 is 4.3%.

A number of measures were announced in the 2006 budget to assist social welfare recipients return to work. These include the reduction in the periods required to access the back to work scheme. I have reduced the period required to access the self employed strand of the scheme from three to two years for people on unemployment payments and from five to two years for the employee strand. I have also introduced a 50% tapered withdrawal of earnings between €60 and €90 per week for rent and mortgage interest supplement.

My Department also administers the back to education allowance programme. This is a second chance educational opportunities programme designed to encourage and facilitate unemployed people, lone parents and people with disabilities to improve their skills and qualifications with a view to returning to the work force. There were 7,308 participants in the scheme for the 2004-05 year.

My Department maintains ongoing contact with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in developing policies and enhancing programmes to encourage and assist unemployed people to return to work. Under the national employment plan, unemployed customers aged 18 to 55 years are referred to FÁS for guidance in terms of returning to education, training or employment. The plan was recently reviewed by independent consultants and I have asked my officials, in conjunction with officials from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and FÁS, to review the recommendations.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

345 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications received by the Health Service Executive for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance in 2005; the number of applications granted in respect of the number of children; the number of applications refused in respect of the number of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4171/06]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The scheme is open to applications from June to end-September each year.

The statistics requested by the Deputy in relation to allowances awarded for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively are set out in the following table. Statistics are not available on the number of applications refused. Final statistics for 2005 are not available as they have yet to be furnished to my Department by the Health Service Executive. However, initial indications are that at least 71,000 families will have received assistance under the scheme that year.

In an effort to ensure there is maximum take-up of this valuable support scheme, I have asked my Department to undertake an extensive nationwide promotion and information campaign over the coming months.

Table: Number of Children and Families in receipt of Back to School, Clothing and Footwear Allowance, 2002, 2003 2004 and 2005 (estimate)

Child Age

2002

2003

2004

2005

2 and under

8,368

12,377

10,708

3

8,857

14,716

11,096

4

10,161

13,709

11,745

5 -11

65,408

68,347

62,212

12-17

55,365

55,475

50,568

18-22

7,652

7,499

7,080

Total Number of Children

155,811

172,123

153,409

Total Number of Families

71,759

75,202

70,577

71,000 (estimate)

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

346 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average payment made under the farm assist scheme in Monaghan and Cavan for 2005; the way in which this compares with the national average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4172/06]

The statistics are not available in the format requested by the Deputy but I am providing details of the average payment under the scheme at the end of each of the last two years. The details have been compiled from data that is maintained on a local office catchment area basis and these do not correspond exactly with county boundaries.

31/12/2004

30/12/2005

National average

162.87

182.67

Cavan

166.89

185.90

Monaghan

165.51

184.81

The amount paid to each farmer depends on a number of factors, for example, family size, whether the spouse/partner is working and any means assessed from all sources. The farm assist scheme is a practical response by my Department to the situation of low-income farmers and it represents a long-term safety net for them. It benefits farm families with children and also provides increased payments to farming couples without children and to single farmers on low income.

David Stanton

Ceist:

347 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the anticipated costs to his Department in administering the new early child care supplement in 2006 and also in a full year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4239/06]

The administration of the early child care supplement scheme will be undertaken by this Department on an agency basis on behalf of the Office of the Minister for Children.

An assessment of the administrative implications for the department is in train. The assessment covers areas such as the development of the computer system, definition of administrative and control procedures, office space and facilities requirements and the specification of liaison arrangements with other countries.

The amount to be provided in respect of the administration costs of the scheme is under discussion with the Department of Finance and these discussions will be finalised shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

348 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the percentage of staff in his Department who have expressed an interest in moving to Donegal town under the decentralisation programme; and his views on whether this percentage is high enough to necessitate a move in the short to medium term. [4276/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

349 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the percentage of staff in his Department who have expressed an interest in moving to Buncrana under the decentralisation programme; and his views on whether this percentage is high enough to necessitate a move in the short to medium term. [4277/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 349 together.

Under the Government decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004, my Department is to relocate 230 posts to Donegal town and 120 posts to Buncrana.

The decentralisation implementation group, DIG, report to the Minister for Finance on 19 November 2004, recommended those locations and organisations to be included in the first phase of moves, and those to be regarded as potential early movers.

In the case of my Department, Sligo and Drogheda were included in the first phase and Carrick-on-Shannon was recommended as a location to be considered as an early mover.

The DIG progress report to the Minister for Finance on 30 June 2005 outlined the indicative construction start and completion dates for all locations and organisations not included in the first phase of the programme. According to the report, the indicative construction start date for Donegal town is the end of 2007 and the construction completion date is mid-2009. The corresponding dates for Buncrana are the end of 2007 and early 2009.

The Office of Public Works, OPW, has been charged with securing accommodation in the decentralised locations. My Department has been advised by OPW that a suitable site has been identified in Donegal town and a site has been purchased in Buncrana.

The Public Appointments Service established the Central Applications Facility, CAF, through which all applications for decentralising locations must be submitted. According to figures received in my Department from the CAF, the number of applicants for Donegal town and Buncrana is 107 and 34 respectively. The number of applicants serving in my Department is 40 for Donegal town and 17 for Buncrana. The CAF will remain open for new applications until the full decentralisation programme is complete.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

350 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that for the first time in nine years participants on the Moving On programme (details supplied) are having their training allowance assessed for rent supplement and that a disregard of €60 is being applied; his plans to change same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4308/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The purpose of the scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

Under the rules of the scheme, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person after the payment of rent has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €13 which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Where a person has an additional income as a result of participation on a FÁS training course, such as the Moving On programme, the means test provides for a weekly disregard of up to €60 per week and for half of any additional income between €60 and €90 to be disregarded for means assessment purposes. This type of additional income disregard was first introduced in budget 2000 and has been increased over the years to its current level. The current arrangements are designed to ensure that people have a financial incentive to take up training opportunities.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

351 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the conditions governing the payment of the disability allowance to persons who leave here; the maximum duration that a person can leave here for personal reasons to visit another part of the European Union without losing their disability allowance. [4386/06]

Disability allowance is a means-tested social assistance payment which is paid to people with a disability who are substantially handicapped in undertaking work which would otherwise be suitable for a person of their age, experience and qualifications.

The right of a person to retain a social security payment when moving to another member state is governed by national legislation and EU social security regulations. While social insurance based payments can be paid when a person moves to another member state, payments which are classified by EU regulations as being "special non-contributory benefits" are not generally payable outside the State.

For the purposes of the EU social security regulations, disability allowance is classified as a special non-contributory benefit and accordingly is not payable outside Ireland. The only exception to this is in circumstances where the person is receiving medical treatment in a hospital abroad, in which case payment of disability allowance may continue for the duration of such treatment.

Search and Rescue Service.

James Breen

Ceist:

352 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 314 of 15 November 2005, the position in relation to providing proper facilities for the Doolin coast guard and rescue service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4019/06]

I regard the provision of a new station house for the Doolin coastal unit as a very high priority. I understand that the process of acquiring a site has been difficult to date and this has delayed this much-needed development. However, as indicated to the House on 15 November 2005, negotiations are under way with a landowner about a site.

These negotiations are now at a very advanced stage and as soon as a site has been acquired my Department's objective is to proceed as quickly as possible to develop the station house.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

353 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport when his Department first received representations from an association (details supplied) for the provision of the mandatory fitting of so-called cyclops mirrors as part of his Department’s test on commercial vehicles; his response to same; and the action he intends taking to provide for such a measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4303/06]

Directive 2003/97 lays down new standards for the type approval of certain categories of vehicles, particularly lorries, in relation to the field of vision of drivers. While the directive's provisions do not become compulsory until 26 January 2007, and then only in relation to new vehicles, I have sought to have these higher standard mirrors fitted to existing HGVs on a voluntary basis. In that regard, in April 2005, the Irish Road Haulage Association, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, SIMI, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation were requested to consider advising their members to retrofit vehicles with blind spot mirrors or indirect vision devices. SIMI was also asked that, in advance of the 26 January 2007 deadline for new vehicles, all new HGVs being put on the market meet the higher standards required by Directive 2003/97/EC.

It is only after 26 January 2007 when the fitting of such mirrors on HGVs becomes mandatory that it would be possible to check vehicles for these mirrors during the annual roadworthiness test.

There is no record in my Department of representations having been received from this association in relation to roadworthiness testing of vehicles for the purposes of determining whether so-called cyclops mirrors have been fitted.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

354 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the facilities which are in place for the physical application of penalty points on current driving licences; the degree of co-operation between the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Garda Síochána PULSE system concerning same; the number of people who are disqualified from driving due to having 12 penalty points; if there are motorists who have 12 penalty points but are not disqualified; and if so, the reasons therefor. [3819/06]

In accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, penalty points are endorsed on the entry in the licence record relating to the person and not on the driving licence.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, on receipt of notifications from the Garda Síochána or the Courts Service that a fixed charge has been paid, or a person has been convicted of a penalty point offence, endorses the licence record in the national driver file with the appropriate number of penalty points and issues a notification to the person concerned.

The matter of co-operation between the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who hold and administer the national driving file and the Garda Síochana PULSE system is a matter for that Department and the Garda Síochána.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has advised that at 31 December 2005, 19 licence holders had accumulated 12 points. The accumulation of 12 points results in automatic disqualification for a period of six months.

Rail Services.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

355 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding plans for the reinstatement of the Dublin-Navan rail line; and if resources will be made available to ensure that this project is expedited. [3833/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

366 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the date and projected cost for the completion of the phase 2 feasibility study for the Dunboyne-Navan section of the Navan-Clonsilla railway line. [4175/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

367 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if the placement of pipes and manhole covers from the Dunshaughlin sewerage scheme along the proposed alignment of the Navan-Clonsilla railway line will significantly add to the cost of reopening the line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4176/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

368 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if the route of the proposed Navan-Clonsilla railway will follow the old alignment. [4177/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 355, 366, 367 and 368 together.

Transport 21 provides for the re-opening of the Navan rail line in two phases. The first phase involves the development of a spur off the Maynooth line, at Clonsilla, to near the proposed M3 interchange at Pace, near Dunboyne.

I understand Iarnród Éireann has already completed a feasibility study for this phase and the company is currently in discussion with Meath and Fingal County Councils regarding the planning and design work necessary to advance this first phase. Funding for this design and planning work will be provided by my Department in 2006. When this work has been completed Iarnród Éireann will submit its proposals to me, including the alignment and projected costings for the project. A railway order will be required to allow construction of the line to proceed. Under Transport 21, phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

A scoping study for phase 2 of the project, the extension of the line from Pace to Navan, will also be undertaken by Iarnród Éireann in 2006.

Driving Tests.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

356 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if stage one of the recruitment process for driver testers has taken place; and when successful candidates will have undertaken all phases of recruitment. [3915/06]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

365 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding recruitment campaign for driver testers including the number of vacancies and the number of applications received; and the position regarding completion of interviews. [4162/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 356 and 365 together.

My Department is in the process of recruiting ten driver-testers through an open recruitment competition organised by the Public Appointments Service. A total of 4,276 applications were received and 4,224 attended stage one of the competition held on 16 December 2005. Results issued to candidates on 30 January 2006.

Stage two, which is an advanced driving test, will be held on 8, 9 and 10 February 2006. The third stage, an interview, will take place in March. Successful candidates will commence a six-week training course in May. Subject to passing this course, they are expected to commence testing in June 2006.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

357 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the steps he will take to have an application for a driving test by a person (details supplied) in County Longford expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3916/06]

An appointment for a driving test was arranged for the person concerned for Thursday 19 January 2006 at 9.15 a.m. The person concerned did not attend for the appointment.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

358 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to his confirmation by way of reply to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 9 March 2005 that red zones at the State airports were formally established in 1968; the number of air accidents and associated third party fatalities that have occurred within each such red zone in the interim period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3922/06]

The air accident investigation unit of my Department has examined its records and has no record of any aircraft accidents or associated third party fatalities in any of the red zones at any of the State airports since 1968.

Airport Development Projects.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

359 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to confirmation by way of reply to Parliamentary Question No. 845 of 25 January 2006 that Aer Rianta operated extensive commercial car parks on the grass area beside the Team Aer Lingus building and close to the threshold of runway 11/29 for a number of summer periods prior to 1 January 1998, the reason his Department allowed such development in the first instance within a supposedly sacrosanct red zone and secondly failed to ensure that Aer Rianta obtained the necessary planning permission for such large-scale commercial development on departmental lands bearing in mind that during the periods in question such unauthorised development was undoubtedly an indictable offence in accordance with section 24(1) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 as amended by the 1982 Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3923/06]

As I said in my reply to Question No. 845 of 25 January 2006, I understand from the Dublin Airport Authority that the use of the area in question for the provision of car parking facilities was an operational decision required to alleviate serious congestion at the airport during peak travel periods. I understand that it was a temporary, emergency measure to cater for overflows from the main car parks during the peak summer season.

This was a normal day-to-day operational matter for Aer Rianta for which it was not considered necessary to seek the approval of the Department. I understand that the only alternative to this short-term expedient would have been for cars to park on the public roads, with the attendant safety implications.

Road Safety.

John Dennehy

Ceist:

360 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Transport his views on giving the responsibility for investigation of fatal road crashes and related dangerous occurrences over to the Health and Safety Authority; if not, if he will consider doing so with a view to creating a standard method of investigation here and a new ethos geared towards prevention of such happenings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3944/06]

The primary immediate investigative role in relation to road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road accidents including, where appropriate, road construction or surface standards, and in particular whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence.

The Garda Síochána is the body empowered to make such a determination and to launch criminal proceedings against any person the gardaí consider should be accused of the commission of an offence.

Garda reports on these investigations are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of the establishment of accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate the carrying out of remedial works relating to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.

The Health and Safety Authority is the national body in Ireland with responsibility for securing health and safety at work. For this reason, the involvement of the HSA in accident investigation only arises when a collision takes place in the context of a place of work, for example, where an involved vehicle constitutes a workplace or where road works are being carried out. I do not intend at present to propose any changes to the position outlined above.

Provisional Driving Licences.

John Curran

Ceist:

361 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Transport his plans to put an end to the ban on provisional licence holders driving on the motorways here. [3964/06]

I have no plans to provide for provisional licence holders to be allowed to drive vehicles on motorways.

Traffic Management.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

362 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport when his task force reported to him; when a decision will be made on a possible ban on super size trucks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3996/06]

I am currently considering a departmental report on whether to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles and I hope to take a decision on the matter shortly. The report, which was prepared by my officials in October 2005, takes account of the submissions received from interested bodies and individuals as part of the public consultation process relating to this issue. No task force was established in relation to this matter.

In the event that it is decided to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles, it will be necessary to submit the draft regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the Technical Standards and Regulations Directive 98/34.

Driving Tests.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

363 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount of driver testers he expects to recruit from the Department of Agriculture and Food staff; the level of interest and applications received from the latter staff for such positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4160/06]

My Department sought expressions of interest from staff in the Department of Agriculture and Food, identified by the Department of Finance as surplus to that Department's organisational needs. Expressions of interest were received from 25 eligible staff.

Following a competitive process, my Department proposes to temporarily redeploy eight staff. The eight will commence a six-week training course in late February and subject to passing this course, are expected to commence testing in April 2006.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

364 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the full cost of the bonus package on offer to driver testers; if same will be made available to all testing staff, including new recruits; the additional duties which will be carried out as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4161/06]

The direct cost of the bonus scheme will be in the region of €1.5 million to €2 million. The scheme is available to all driving testers and 90 testers have signed up to participate. New recruits will also be eligible to participate. It is not possible to indicate the total number of tests to be carried out under the bonus scheme but, based on the commitment given by the 90 testers, it is expected to deliver a minimum of 30,750 extra tests.

Question No. 365 answered with QuestionNo. 356.
Questions Nos. 366 to 368, inclusive, answered with Question No. 355.

Road Signage.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

369 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 413 of 31 January 2006, when the new traffic signs manual will be completed; when it will be published; if it will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas before publication; the length of time it has been in development; if there is an existing comprehensive framework for traffic signage in place; the stage at which the Dublin City Council proposal referred to in his answer will be considered; the estimated time such consideration will take; when he will be in a position to indicate if this proposal will be accepted and translated into regulations; his views on this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4179/06]

The Traffic Signs Manual, published in 1996, incorporates the design of all of the traffic signs that can be deployed on public roads and guidance and advice in relation to the use of such signs.

Traffic signs can be generally divided into three distinct groupings. These are regulatory signs, warning signs and information signs. While the manual provides depictions of regulatory signs, the statutory basis for such signs is established in regulations made by the Minister under section 95 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. For the purpose of warning and information signs, the manual constitutes a direction given by the Minister under section 95(16) of the 1961 Act, which provides the legislative basis for the design and use of non-regulatory traffic signs generally.

Work on updating the manual commenced in late 2004. A draft of a new chapter 8 of the manual, which relates to traffic signs at roadworks, is currently the subject of a consultation process involving all road authorities. This chapter will be finalised following consideration of submissions received and it is proposed that it will be completed by mid-year. Work on the remaining chapters is progressing and it is intended that drafts of updated chapters will be made available for consultation with road authorities between this and the end of the year. I expect therefore that the updated manual will be ready to be published in early 2007. As is the case with the current manual, the new publication will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The proposals made by Dublin City Council would require changes to parking regulations and the designation of new signs or, alternatively, a revision of the application and status of existing signs. As the council has been advised, its proposal is being considered in the context of the development of the chapters in the traffic signs manual concerning regulatory signs. If it is considered appropriate to adopt the suggestion made by the council, it will have to be supported by provisions in both traffic and parking regulations made under section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 and traffic signs regulations made under section 95 of the Road Traffic Act 1996.

Bus Corridors.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

370 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the outcome of the pilot bus corridors operated on the hard shoulders of motorways. [4181/06]

I understand from the DTO that the status of hard shoulder bus lanes being implemented by local authorities in the greater Dublin area is as follows: N3 Dunshaughlin approaches, at construction. Expected completion Q3 2006; Bracetown, construction works complete; and, Clonee-Blanchardstown bypass, inbound extension to Blanchardstown QBC, at public consultation.

In addition, hard shoulders are in use on the Stillorgan QBC extension, N11, Foxrock church to Loughlinstown roundabout; the M50 to Newlands Cross outbound, N7; the Lucan QBC, N4, Lucan to South Circular Road; the Blanchardstown QBC, N3; and the Swords village to Clonshaugh Road roundabout, via Boroimhe Road, all complete and open.

Completion of the Kingswood to M50 via Newlands Cross inbound, N7 corridor, is due in the third quarter of 2006.

Driving Tests.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

371 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if attempts to retrain staff from the Department of Agriculture and Food to deal with the driving test backlog are in disarray; and the new proposals he plans to introduce to deal with the waiting test delay. [4271/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 3311/06, which I answered in the House on Wednesday, 1 February 2006. As I have indicated to this House previously, the delay in providing driving tests is a matter of regret to me. It not only represents a poor service to the public but it is also hampering the development of initiatives I wish to pursue and which will contribute further to road safety.

The driving test and those who deliver it constitute a key element in the road safety strategy. It is my objective to eliminate the backlog of driving tests by mid-2007 and my Department has developed a package of measures in consultation with staff interests to achieve this.

I am pleased to acknowledge that a high number of existing driver testers have indicated that they will participate in a bonus scheme, which will make a significant contribution to the reduction of the backlog over the coming 18 months. Furthermore, in a unique cross-departmental and cross-union agreement, a further eight civil servants from the Department of Agriculture and Food have successfully passed interviews and tests. They will shortly be trained as driver testers and will start working in April to reduce the backlog. Later in the year, they will be augmented by another ten new recruits on two-year contracts. This increased volume of testing is putting administrative staff in Ballina under considerable pressure and I want publicly to recognise the contribution they are making to resolve a difficult situation. They are often the first point of contact between the public and the Department in difficult times and they have responded admirably.

However, despite all these efforts I am convinced that more needs to be done in the short term and that the temporary use of outsourcing must be an option to which I have recourse. Outsourcing not only provides access to additional staff resources but also to training options and to infrastructure and facilities that are needed to overcome the problems we face in the coming months. Sustaining Progress provides that option but there is union disagreement on this. I accept that this disagreement reflects a genuinely held difference of opinion on the meaning of clauses in Sustaining Progress.

Departmental and union officials have worked hard together to reach solutions and, although good progress has been made, I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the overriding need to eliminate the backlog as quickly as possible and to allow those same staff to concentrate on developing and implementing a road safety regime and services which are part of this Government's programme.

Therefore, I intend to progress the outsourcing option. I understand that this decision is likely to be tested under the arbitration provisions of Sustaining Progress. If so, that will give both sides a binding decision. Meanwhile, I have mandated my Department to progress outsourcing. I strongly believe that this is a prudent decision which it is necessary to take in the interests of road safety and to avoid any unnecessary subsequent delays in eliminating the backlog.

I want to be unequivocally clear to the staff in the Department that I appreciate the level of service and commitment they have given and continue to give to the delivery of a driver testing service. They will continue to be the backbone of the service in future. While I believe that outsourcing is needed now in exceptional circumstances to augment their work, I can give them an assurance that it is a temporary measure and not intended to replace their work. I can also assure them that if outsourcing points to deficiencies in the infrastructure or systems which are available in the public service, I intend to continue to secure and provide the resources needed to improve the public service infrastructure. In tandem with eliminating the backlog, I am determined to support a better public service delivery of the driving test to the benefit of both customers and staff. Along with eliminating the backlog I intend to deliver a service in which existing staff will be proud to work.

Departmental Expenditure.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

372 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 15 December 2005 the funding received by each body under the aegis of his Department in 2005 and the projected amount in 2006; the breakdown of his Department’s contribution to each body in 2005 and to date in 2006; the number of staff employed by each of these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4304/06]

Details of funding for the agencies under the auspices of this Department as outlined in Parliamentary Question No. 39961 of 15 December is set out in the following table. This table outlines the total amounts these agencies provisionally spent in 2005, their respective allocations included in the 2006 abridged Estimates volume, AEV, and the relevant expenditure to date in 2006.

Agency

Provisional 2005 spend

2006 allocation

2006 spend to date

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) Programme Expenditure

35,059

44,500

Admin Expenditure

1,198

1,082

Total

36,257

45,582

nil*

National Safety Council (NSC) Admin Expenditure

5,397

5,559

nil*

Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) Admin Expenditure

3,283

9,397**

nil*

National Roads Authority (NRA) Programme Expenditure

1,317,164

1,362,285

17,147

Admin Expenditure

8,688

13,080

1,200

Total

1,325,852

1,375,365

18,347

Railway Procurement Agency Programme Expenditure

85,009

110,000

681

Admin Expenditure

6,878

11,000

112

Total

91,887

121,000

793

*The administration expenses for these bodies are normally reimbursed by the Department on a quarterly basis in arrears.

**The 2006 allocation to the MBRS includes an amount of €7m to fund its re-location to the university campus in Belfield.

The number of staff directly employed by each body is as outlined below:

Number

Dublin Transportation office

28

National Safety Council

11

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

17

National Roads Authority

124*

Railway Procurement Agency

94

* The staffing figure for the NRA is their total sanctioned posts. The NRA are currently actively recruiting and they expect to be in a position to have their full staffing complement in situ by March 2006.

Transport Regulations.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

373 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the way in which a person who has experience on tachograph readings and so on and who is undertaking courses in this field of activity can qualify to become a transport officer with his Department dealing with all aspects of the application of transport rules and regulations; if such appointments are confined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4322/06]

At present, transport officers are executive officers in my Department who receive an allowance for carrying out specific duties. To date, vacancies have been filled by confined competition within my Department. However, under the Government's decentralisation programme, executive officers who applied under the Central Applications Facility, CAF, may be offered positions as transport officers and will be headquartered in Loughrea. Once the road safety authority is established, transport officers will be part of the staff of that organisation.

I do not expect external vacancies to arise in the short term but if they do, recruitment will be carried out by the Public Appointments Service. At present, interested parties for executive officer positions can register through the public appointments website, www.publicjobs.ie. Once registered, the applicant is notified automatically when a competition is announced.

Departmental Expenditure.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

374 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the breakdown on a county basis of the amount of funding provided by his Department in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4275/06]

Details of expenditure allocations for my Department in the years in question are set out in the respective Revised Estimates Volumes, while details of actual expenditure are contained in the audited appropriation accounts published annually by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Expenditure across the three main programme areas, including administration, for the years in question is set out as follows.

2003

2004

2005 (Provisional Outturn)

€m

€m

€m

An Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht

78.343

85.807

88.395

Community Affairs

129.514

148.346

158.803

Rural Affairs

50.250

61.180*

91.734

Administration

15.087

16.842

15.571

* Includes €3.398 million for rural social scheme.

The Deputy will also be aware that expenditure within these programme areas takes place across a wide range of schemes and projects, descriptions of which are available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie. It is the practice of both my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, and myself, to make details of all announcements on grant approvals and other expenditure-related decisions under these programmes, available on the Department’s website.

While a detailed breakdown on a county basis is not readily available, if the Deputy would like information on a particular scheme, I would be glad to provide such details to him.

Peace Programmes.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

375 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the Government will commit itself to supporting the European Parliament amendment, which adds to the remit of the EGTC/EGCCs where border regions have experienced prolonged periods of civil or military conflict, the EGCT may also have the objective of promoting reconciliation and assisting with peace-building programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4324/06]

My Department has no responsibility for the matter raised by the Deputy.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

376 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received the single farm payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3832/06]

The single payment scheme is applicable to farmers who actively farmed during all or any of the three reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002, and who were paid livestock premia and/or arable aid payments in one or more of those years.

As the person named did not benefit under any of the schemes, entitlements were not established for the single payment scheme. The person named submitted an application, on 29 October 2004, for consideration under the force majeure or exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment scheme. Having assessed the application, the single payment entitlements unit informed the person named that the circumstances outlined did not fulfill the force majeure criteria laid down in article 40 of Council Regulation, EC no. 1782/2003. The person named then appealed this decision to the single payment appeals committee which upheld this decision.

The person named was also ineligible for payment under the 2005 disadvantaged areas scheme as a check on the animals on the holding showed that the minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare was not satisfied.

Animal Feed Imports.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

377 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the quantity of oilseed rape and the forms in which oilseed rape was imported into Ireland over the past three years up until December 2005. [3856/06]

The following table sets out the quantity of oilseed imported into Ireland for animal feed in the period 2003 to 2005 and the form in which it was imported.

2003

2004

2005

Total

000t

000t

000t

000t

Extracted (removal of oil by solvent)

144

147

139

430

Expeller (Removal of oil by mechanical extraction)

5

0

0

5

Total

435

Some 86% of the above material was imported from within the EU. No whole grains of oilseed have been imported into Ireland in the period referred to.

Pest Control.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

378 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures which are being taken to prevent the spread of New Zealand and Australian flatworms here that pose a threat to the native Irish earthworm; the research which is being carried out on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3857/06]

The New Zealand flatworm has been recorded in Britain and Ireland over the last ten years. These flatworms are predators of earthworms and there is no control method other than trapping and physically destroying them. As they do not affect plants or vector plant diseases they are not covered by plant health legislation that comes within the remit of my Department. There was a considerable fear that as their populations spread to agricultural land that there would be serious consequences for earthworm populations. However, research and monitoring carried out in Northern Ireland and Britain indicates that while flatworm populations are established the feared effects have not occurred. Nevertheless our advice is still to destroy flatworms where they are found. My staff check for the presence of these pests while carrying out plant health inspections of third country material.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John Perry

Ceist:

379 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to the early farm retirement if she will honour her commitment regarding entitlement and the way in which same will affect farmers in ERS 1; if farmers including offspring who take over the farm of the retired farmer can apply to the national reserve for entitlements; if so, if same still stands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3868/06]

My Department was aware, from an early stage in the negotiations leading to the introduction of the single payment scheme, of the possible implications for retired farmers who had leased their holdings. In so far as it proved possible in the context of the EU regulations governing the single payment scheme, and following lengthy discussions with the European Commission, provision was made under the rules of the single payment scheme to address some of the concerns of retired farmers.

As participants in the 1994 scheme of early retirement from farming had retired before the start of the reference period in 2000, they are not in a position to claim entitlements under the single payment scheme. However, following agreement with the European Commission, a special category has been included in the national reserve for farmers who inherit or otherwise receive land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who retired or died before 16 May 2005 where the land in question was leased to a third party during the reference period. This will benefit the family members of retired farmers who decide to take up farming. Only landholders actively engaged in farming can receive entitlements from the national reserve. A separate category, category A, has been included in the 2005 national reserve application form to cater for this group, and I hope to apply similar arrangements under the 2006 and subsequent years' national reserve.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Ceist:

380 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to protect the entitlements of farmers in the ERS 2 where they are unable to lease out entitlements or where entitlements are activated but not drawn down for whatever reason (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3869/06]

Mary Coughlan