Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 13 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Job Losses.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

14 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to provide alternative employment for workers at a company (details supplied) in County Cork which is to close; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11352/06]

I am aware of the implications for the workers in question following the announcement of the closure of this company. The decision to close was made for business reasons and was not a reflection of the performance of the operation in Cork. The Irish operation is relocating to the company's base in Portsmouth, England.

Initially, the role of FÁS, the State training agency, will be particularly important in assisting the workers. The agency is providing advice and training opportunities for the workforce as well as making its full range of services available to all of the workers. The employees are currently being interviewed by FÁS. The priority will be to find alternative employment for those involved.

In this regard, there have been substantial inward investment job announcements in the Cork area in recent years. In 2003, new projects with the potential to create up to 900 new jobs in companies such as Trend Micro, ACS, Altana, Schlumberger, Pepsi and Recordati were announced. In 2004, there were project announcements from companies including Centocor, Altera, AK Pharmaceuticals and McAfee with employment potential of approximately 800 new jobs. In 2005, over 600 new jobs were announced in companies such as Engenio, Siemens, Parsons, VMware, Alps, Cascade Designs and Alcon.

To date in 2006, new projects have been announced in Cork by Citco, Amazon and Amgen which will result in 1,800 new jobs at full operation. Citco will create 250 new financial services jobs, Amazon's investment will create up to 450 new jobs while the 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.

As regards indigenous industry, Enterprise Ireland is focusing on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up high-potential start-up companies and the creation of new jobs in existing companies. Since the beginning of 2003 to date, the agency has made payments of over €22 million to its client companies in County Cork. The State development agencies, including the local county enterprise boards, will continue to work closely together and with local interests to promote Cork for further investment and job creation.

National Reform Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

15 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he has taken to ensure the inclusion of the Oireachtas and Irish society generally in broader consultation on the development and implementation of the national reform programme. [11381/06]

The Irish national reform programme brings together a broad range of policies and initiatives to sustain Ireland's strong economic growth and employment performance as part its contribution to the relaunched EU Lisbon Agenda over the period to 2008. It was agreed that Ireland's social partnership process would serve as the Irish national reform partnership under the Lisbon Agenda. The national reform programme is co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach and prepared by the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Finance, taking into account policies agreed in both the programme for Government and Sustaining Progress. The social partners were consulted in the course of preparation of the programme for the period 2005 to 2008 and it was considered in both Houses of the Oireachtas on 25 and 26 October 2005.

The European Commission's assessment of the national reform programme was contained in its annual progress report, published in January 2006. The Commission's view of the Irish programme was that consultation and efforts to develop ownership of the document were very substantial, assisted by the fact that it was built on policies on which there was a fair degree of existing consensus.

Employment Rights.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

16 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has carried out an assessment to determine the optimum number of labour inspectors which are necessary to inspect compliance with labour law for the current workforce; and if a projection of future need has been carried out. [11235/06]

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

38 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the number of 31 labour inspectors is sufficient to monitor and deter labour abuses; and if he intends to increase this figure in the future. [11377/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

73 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the total labour force at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of labour inspectors in his Department; the number of workers per labour inspector; his views on whether this number is sufficient to uphold and protect working conditions and standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11273/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 38 and 73 together.

The latest statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office indicate that the total labour force is 2.07 million. The assignment of previously announced additional labour inspectors was completed in November 2005. That brought the complement of serving inspectors to 31 officers. The increase in staffing represents almost a doubling of the number of labour inspectors in the last 18 months.

The ratio of the number of labour inspectors to the labour force is one for every 67,000 in 2005. This shows a marked improvement in the ratio of labour inspectors over the past ten years, from one inspector for every 150,000 people in the labour force in 1996 to one for every 67,000 in 2005, and this against an increase of over 500,000 in the labour force in the same period.

It should be noted that there is a wide range of employment rights bodies and services. These include the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the redundancy and insolvency sections of this Department, the rights commissioner services provided by the Labour Relations Commission and the services provided by the Labour Court. The labour inspectorate is a unit within the employment rights compliance section, which also includes the employment rights information unit and a further separate unit that administers the referral of cases for prosecution and legal enforcement of orders. Between them, these various services have a complement of staff in excess of 150 people.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document, "Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate", to the social partners in early 2005. That document was the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG. The group, 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, has completed its report. The report will inform the current national partnership discussions.

Some of the key proposals in the report are: 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; 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 a regionalised structure; major investment in education and information dissemination on employment rights obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees.

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

Proposed Legislation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

17 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is his intention to urgently 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. [11266/06]

The Law Reform Commission, in its report published in October 2005, recommended that as the current law of corporate liability for manslaughter does not provide a clear basis for constructing liability, a new basis, in legislative form, is necessary. To this end the commission included the draft of a short Bill in its report. The commission also recommended that there should be individual statutory liability for managers who were culpable in the causation of death. Section 80 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 provides for directors, managers or other similar officers of an undertaking to be held liable by the courts for an offence that is attributable to connivance or neglect on their part.

While this is a considerable step forward in implementing the recommendations of the commission, the Attorney General's office was of the opinion at the time of the drafting of the Bill, which is now the 2005 Act, that there were much broader issues relating to the overall criminal justice system which needed to be considered and that, therefore, it was not appropriate to comprehensively deal with the issue of corporate manslaughter in a Bill which was providing for the law and regulation of occupational safety, health and welfare. It should be noted for the record that the commission accepted the Office of the Attorney General's view that the scope of the 2005 Act was narrower than the proposed offence recommended by it in its report.

Further consideration of the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Commission will now 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.

Job Losses.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

18 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether there is evidence to suggest that job losses are being under-reported in those businesses in receipt of grants from State agencies and which may face a clawback of that grant assistance if those job losses are accurately reported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11359/06]

The provision of grant assistance for individual companies is a matter for the development agency or body concerned and not one in which I have a direct function. However, I am advised by Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Shannon Development that they are satisfied that there is no evidence to suggest that client companies are under-reporting job losses to avoid a clawback of grant assistance.

In the event of a company failing to meet conditions attached to grant aid the agencies take whatever action is deemed necessary, which may include seeking repayment of grants received or portions thereof.

EU Directives.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

19 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date by the European Commission’s group of national experts, involving officials from his Department, on the implementation of the posting of workers directive; the reason no specific transposition measures have been adopted to date; 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. [11275/06]

Officials from my Department's employment rights section have participated in all 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 a knowledge of the law, of Government policy and of experience of the operation of the directive.

The mandatory provisions of the posting of workers directive were transposed fully and robustly into Irish law by section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. At none of the meetings of the expert group did the European Commission suggest that Ireland had not transposed the directive properly.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

20 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if employees and their trade unions were consulted in the formulation by the Health and Safety Authority of guidelines for employers, employees and clients involved in the cash transit industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11286/06]

In 2005, the Health and Safety Authority consulted widely with relevant interests in the cash in transit industry at all levels in the development of the "Guidelines for Employers, Employees and Clients involved in the Cash in Transit Industry", which were formally launched on 2 March this year. Speaking at the launch of the guidelines, my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for trade and commerce, Deputy Michael Ahern, said that the guidelines were a shining example of what could be achieved when employers and employees co-operated towards a shared goal. Indeed, proper safety and health procedures in the cash in transit industry will bring benefits not just to the industry but also to the general public in terms of safety and security.

A working group comprising representatives of employers, employees and their union, the Private Security Authority, the Garda Síochána and the Irish Bankers Federation assisted in the development of the guidelines. At an early stage in the process, the working group met employee representatives and heard their views. They were further consulted on the final draft of the guidelines.

The guidelines are designed to give practical advice to those working in the cash in transit industry so that the safety and health of all employees are protected and ensured. Employers, employees and client companies who follow the guidelines will be taking the recommended steps to protect the safety and health of their workers and will be demonstrating their intentions to achieve best practice.

The guidelines deal with a range of issues, from servicing ATMs and manual handling issues to syringe and knife attacks and hostage situations — so called tiger attacks. The specific objectives of the guidelines are to: promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of people working in the CIT industry and others who may use the services of CIT companies or who are engaged in carrying cash in the conduct of their own business or employment; provide guidelines on the standards of safety to be provided by those who conduct CIT business; ensure that risks to safety and health in the CIT industry are identified, assessed and eliminated or controlled in the most appropriate way; promote consultation and co-operation between employers, employees, contractors, sub-contractors, clients and controllers of premises in ensuring the safety of their employees.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

21 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he or his Department have investigated the cause or causes of job losses that have resulted in most cases in the relocation of the jobs to lower cost economies; the action he proposes to take to tackle the underlying reasons; when he expects to implement the measures necessary to effectively address the issue of such job relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11322/06]

It is not possible to infer precise causes for the decisions taken by companies relating to location or relocation. The reasons may be many and varied and include the availability of incentives, market access, availability and cost of labour, regulatory and financial issues. I am aware that some international research suggests that only 20% of the de-industrialisation between 1970 and 2002 in OECD countries was due to offshoring and trade effects. Forfás, the policy advisory body under the aegis of my Department, is also undertaking some research in this area, which should be completed later this year.

It is certainly the case that manufacturing firms in the more traditional sectors have, in recent years, operated against a backdrop of significantly declining external demand, downward price pressure and an increasingly competitive international environment, together with upward pressure on costs and the strengthening of the euro against our key trading partner currencies. There are areas of activity in which Ireland's competitiveness is seriously challenged and it is inevitable that, among the factors which influence the location decisions of companies, the competitive attractions of alternative geographic locations will figure.

Our experience of the increasing trend towards globalisation has been a largely positive one. There was a 4.7% increase in employment during 2005 with 87,000 new jobs created across the economy. This was the highest annual rate of employment growth recorded since 2000. Since 1997, employment in financial services and other business services has grown by 100,000 approximately, while employment in the construction sector grew by 100,000. Employment within manufacturing has declined by 31,000 since peaking at 251,000 in 2001. However, this decline has been more than offset by the rise in the number of jobs in services. Furthermore, manufacturing output has continued to increase, indicating improved productivity.

One of my Department's principal tasks is to ensure that Ireland continues to be attractive place to do business and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we have made significant efforts to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions and to promote new areas of competitive advantage, such as by developing our research and development base.

Our priority is the creation of sustainable employment, driven by companies with higher profitability, that are more technologically advanced and prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy. In this context the enterprise development agencies are working on an ongoing basis with companies to provide mentoring and developmental supports, to enhance management capabilities and critical workforce skills, to build productivity, to support the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth and to provide support for innovation and for research and development.

While the changing nature of our economy resulted in some losses, in contrast, the new jobs created in the economic development agencies' client companies in the last number of years are heavily concentrated in high value added, knowledge based companies that offer greater security in the face of intense international competition.

Statutory Audits.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

22 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the call by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for the audit exemption threshold to be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11348/06]

John Gormley

Ceist:

47 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland's call for an upward revision of the audit limit exemption, the number of businesses that would become exempted under such a scheme. [11385/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 47 together.

Exemption from statutory audit removes the need for companies to engage an independent external auditor. Following a proposal and recommendation from the task force on small business, audit exemption was first introduced in Ireland under the Companies (Amendment)(No. 2) Act 1999 and came into effect on 21 February 2000 for certain small private limited companies.

In 2003, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment undertook a review of the audit exemption threshold, arising from which the turnover limit was increased from €317,000 to €1.5 million with effect from 1 July 2004. This increase was seen as striking an appropriate balance between competing principles of better regulation and facilitating enterprise. Although this revision is only quite recent, I am conscious that there is a view developing that the level of the limit should be revisited. In addition, I understand that the small business forum, which was established last July to consider in broad terms the current environment for conducting small business in Ireland, has been examining the question of audit exemption. I also understand that this group will report to the Minister in the coming weeks.

In line with Government policy in "Better Regulation", it is appropriate that all regulatory requirements, including audit requirements, should be kept under review in consultation with all relevant parties. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is currently engaged in a process of reform and consolidation of the Companies Acts in conjunction with the Company Law Review Group. The question of change in the audit exemption limit is a matter I will examine in the context of that process. As regards the number of businesses that would benefit from an increase in the exemption limits, clearly this would depend on any revised limit that might be agreed.

Employment Rights.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

23 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he is taking to ensure that the official net payment documented by employers corresponds to the actual payment received by employees in view of recent revelations of abuse by subcontractors; and his views on whether the existing system of documentation is sufficiently detailed and transparent to act as both a deterrent to and indication of abuse. [11376/06]

In accordance with its remit under employment rights legislation, the labour inspectorate is empowered to examine particular employer records. In this connection, inspectors can examine copies of statements of pay or payslips and reconcile these with the payroll records. In addition, inspectors can examine the working time records that an employer is obliged to maintain. The preparation and production of false records is an offence.

In this connection, however, the Department, in its discussion document "Report on the Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate", recommended a streamlining of the record keeping requirements to tie in with the statements of pay. In addition, the report called for a significant revamping of the statement of pay or payslip so that there will be absolute transparency around the rate of pay per hour, the hours worked, the relevant calculation in respect of all deductions made and the eventual remuneration paid out. The report of the employment rights compliance group, which is informing the current partnership talks, indicated that there was a consensus between the social partners on progressing this proposal.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

24 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of occasions on which he or his predecessors have asked the Labour Court to carry out investigations into employment conditions as provided for in section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 since its enactment; and the details of each such report sought. [11229/06]

The information requested is not readily available for the years 1946 to 1984, inclusive, and can only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of officials' time and resources relative to the information sought. In 1985, two cases relating to Dunnes Stores were referred to the Labour Court under section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946. Since 1986, no referrals have been made to the Labour Court under section 24 of the 1946 Act.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

25 Ms O’Sullivan 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. [11281/06]

The Labour Inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality, as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to other workers.

In the area of pay and conditions, it is primarily the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 that apply to employees who are employed 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. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. In this regard, 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.

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 current partnership talks. The issue of a JLC for domestic workers, and proposals for new JLCs for other sectors, will be considered in this context. Other measures aimed at assisting vulnerable workers, including domestic workers, are also being considered in the context of the current partnership talks.

Economic Competitiveness.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

26 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he will take to lower costs for businesses, which include insurance costs that are 20% higher than those in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11349/06]

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 introduction of a non-inflationary budget for the third consecutive year. This displays the Government's prudent fiscal management of the economy at a time of ever increasing global competitiveness pressures.

Competition is the best way to ensure we have a competitive cost base. In my own Department I have assigned more resources and given more powers to the Competition Authority. I have abolished the groceries order and strengthened competition legislation to deliver more competition and help create a more cost effective base for doing business from Ireland.

In its annual report for 2005, the NCC found that the rate of growth in the cost of insurance has slowed down substantially in recent years. This can be attributed to the series of initiatives the Government has pushed through to reform the insurance sector. The action taken by Government to ensure reform and healthy competition in the insurance sector had already seen benefits for consumers. The cost of motor insurance, for example, continues to decline and in the 12 months to February 2006 declined by 8.6%, while the Personal Injuries Assessment Board continues to deliver fair compensation at costs that are significantly lower than under the old litigation system. At the end of December 2005, the PIAB estimates that its process has saved litigants over €4.3 million compared to comparable settlement costs under the old system.

Trade Union Recognition.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

27 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the decision of the Competition Authority to interpret the Competition Act 2002 as prohibiting self-employed persons from having a trade union negotiate employment terms and conditions for them. [11283/06]

I presume this question relates to the decision of the Competition 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. I have already spoken on this issue a number of times in the House.

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 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.

In its decision, the authority quotes a European case where the EU Commission found opera singers to be "undertakings". The authority's decision is, therefore, consistent with European Law and any attempt to exempt a particular sector or profession would place Irish law out of step with European law.

However, 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, of course, only the courts that can interpret the law. However, in entering into undertakings in settlement of the case, thereby avoiding the need to go to court, the parties appear to have accepted the authority's view. With the benefit of hindsight, it might have been more beneficial to all concerned had the case been heard before the courts so that a legally certain interpretation of the law could have been obtained. This course of action might be considered in the future should the issue arise again.

The bottom line regarding competition law and policy — and probably tax law and other laws too — is that there is no distinction between a self-employed actor, musician or journalist on the one hand and a self-employed electrician on the other, or a self-employed publican or hospital consultant. In considering the question of whether self-employed individuals should be permitted to have a trade union negotiate on their behalf, it is important that we bear in mind that almost any group of self-employed contractors — such as barristers, solicitors, pharmacists, architects, plumbers, undertakers, electricians, engineers, carpenters, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, consultants, farmers, pub owners, vets and so on — could, by joining 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.

National Reform Programme.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

28 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking to address the European Commission’s assessment that relatively little attention is paid to the issues of quality of work and poverty among employed people in the Irish national reform programme. [11379/06]

John Gormley

Ceist:

52 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking to address the European Commission’s criticism that the Irish national reform programme is not paying sufficient attention to adult participation in learning or the provision of affordable, high quality child care services. [11380/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 52 together.

The overall assessment of the Irish national reform programme, NRP, by the European Commission is very positive. It acknowledges the strong labour market performance in Ireland over the past five years and the effectiveness of our policies to sustain and enhance employment growth. The emphasis in the NRP on measures to integrate inactive people into the labour market, to increase female participation and to address skills development are seen as particularly positive elements.

The NRP is an integrated document covering policies across a number of Government Departments. The employment aspect was prepared in consultation with a number of Departments, including the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and Social and Family Affairs. As required under the Lisbon Agenda, the national reform programme outlines the policy priorities for the next three years and is not designed to be a comprehensive statement of all existing measures/programmes. There is an extensive body of employment legislation in place, for example, which ensures that workers rights are enhanced and protected and it is not covered in the report.

Quality of work is a multidimensional concept encompassing issues such as upskilling, lifelong learning, health and safety at work, adaptability, work-life balance and equal opportunities. These are addressed throughout the report and, together with the range of existing measures, are designed to ensure that the quality of work in Ireland is enhanced. Responsibility for policy to address poverty among employed people cuts across a number of Government Departments, including the Departments of Finance and Social and Family Affairs. In so far as my Department is concerned, the national minimum wage aims to ensure that employees are provided with a certain level of income. This is reviewed on a regular basis with the current rate at €7.65 per hour effective since 1 May 2005.

As regards adult participation in learning, the Department of Education and Science has the main responsibility in this area. My Department has placed increased emphasis on training employees, particularly those with low skill levels, to gain new skills and qualifications, through the one step up initiative. Over the period 2005-07, funding for supports and services under this initiative will total over €150 million.

Responsibility for the provision of affordable, high quality child care services is a matter for the office for children.

Industrial Relations.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

29 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide details of the participation and remit of Government representatives of the EU Group of European Directors-General on Labour Relations; if his Department will take steps to ensure that the minutes of meetings of the EU Group of European Directors-General on Labour Relations are made available to Members of both Houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11285/06]

A European Commission decision of 27 March 2002 dealt with the creation of a Group of Directors-General for Industrial Relations. This decision, reference no. 2002/260/EC, was published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 6 April 2002. Under this decision, the group comprises the directors-general for industrial relations of the member states and is chaired by a Commission representative.

The purpose of the group is "to provide a body for consultation, reflection, exchanges and co-operation between Member States and the Commission" and its mission is to: establish close co-operation between the institutions of the member states and the Commission on issues relating to the preparation of new Community initiatives in the area of industrial relations, the application and revision of the acquis communautaire in the area of labour law and the drawing up of research programmes, analyses, studies, publications and measures to raise awareness concerning Community labour law; monitor the development of policies in the area of labour law and industrial relations; facilitate the exchange of experiences and good practices in the area of individual and collective labour law. The group meets, in accordance with the Commission decision, in principle twice yearly. The minutes of its meetings are not published by the Commission.

Employment Rights.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

30 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions regarding recent data from the Central Statistics Office, which showed that 43% of employees who worked overtime in 2004 did so without payment; the steps he intends to take to stop such exploitation of workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11260/06]

In general there is no employment rights legislation covering overtime. While the Organisation of Working Act 1997 regulates rest breaks and maximum weekly working hours it does not cover overtime payment. Employees do not have a statutory entitlement to overtime pay except in certain employments covered by employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements. Policy on overtime pay may be decided by the employer and agreed as part of the employee's terms and conditions of employment or through collective agreements negotiated between employers and employee representatives.

Terms and conditions of employment are determined in the main by a process of voluntary collective bargaining between the employers and employees or their representatives. Within this system parties are free to negotiate or not to negotiate. To support the process and ensure a level of fair play, a floor of statutory rights, for example, minimum wages, holiday entitlements and so forth, are in place that can be improved upon by negotiation but which cannot be taken away. The State facilitates the bargaining process by providing 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, and the Labour Court.

While a feature of voluntarism is that collective agreements are generally not enforceable in law, in Ireland there are two areas where collective agreements have a legal foundation and are enforceable through the labour inspectorate, that is, registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders.

A number of employment sectors have pay and conditions of employment regulated through the joint labour committee system/employment regulation orders, EROs, or through registered employment agreements, REAs, that are legally binding on employers in the sectors to which they apply. A small number of individual firms also have binding REAs. Some of the EROs/REAs regulate overtime pay. Employment regulation orders or registered employment agreements regulate overtime payment in the following sectors: aerated waters and wholesale bottling — agriculture; catering — outside Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire; catering — Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire; construction; retail footwear and drapery — Dublin only; electrical contract; wholesale fruit and vegetable — Dublin only; hairdressing — Dublin city and county, Bray and Cork city only; handkerchief and household piece goods; hotels — outside Dublin city, Dún Laoghaire and Cork city; law clerks; printing — Dublin Only; provender milling; retail grocery; security; shirtmaking; tailoring; women's clothing and millinery.

The Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 provides that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within two months of the commencement of employment. The written statement of terms must include information on any terms or conditions relating to hours of work, including overtime, as well as information on the rate of pay of the employee or how the pay is calculated. An employee who is not paid in accordance with his/her terms of employment may refer a complaint to a rights commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act 1991.

Skill Shortages.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

31 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether there is poor co-ordination between the Department of Education and Science and his Department on the issue of providing skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11343/06]

I am satisfied that there is good co-ordination between my Department and the Department of Education and Science on the issue of providing skills. There is regular contact and co-ordination between the two Departments, both in the identification of skills needs and in the responses required to meet those needs. This co-ordination is achieved through regular interaction between officials in a number of fora and on a day-to-day basis. The following are just some examples of how deep and wide this interaction is.

In terms of policy development, both the Minister for Education and Science and I are represented by our departmental officials as advisers to the expert group on future skills needs. This is one of the principal fora dedicated to addressing skills issues at the nexus of the education and training strands of policy. In that context, there is ongoing discussion involving both Department officials and representatives from their respective agencies — Forfás, FAS and the HEA — leading to agreed policy advice to myself and the Minister for Education and Science on a range of skills related issues. Officials from both the Department of Education and Science and my Department are also participating on an interdepartmental group on lifelong learning to further the lifelong learning agenda. Both Departments also participate in the ongoing work in supporting the implementation of the national workplace of the future strategy.

Both Departments or their respective agencies have representatives on a number of boards, councils or other bodies appointed either by myself or the Minister for Education and Science. The Department of Education and Science and/or its agencies, for example, are represented on the FÁS board, FÁS committees at local and national level, ESF committees and CEB structures. My Department and/or its agencies are represented on the HEA, the NQAI, HETAC and FETAC. In addition, there is significant ongoing interaction on skills related topics between the respective Departments and agencies under the aegis of both ministries.

These examples give some sense of the degree to which there exists a regular flow of information and joint participation in policy development processes involving the two Departments.

Economic Competitiveness.

David Stanton

Ceist:

32 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has read the CEO Pulse 2006 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11350/06]

The PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, inaugural CEO Pulse survey is a useful addition to the analyses and commentary that I receive about evolving confidence indicators and the competitiveness of the economy. The CEO Pulse survey reveals that business confidence among Ireland's CEOs is high, with more than 75% predicting growth in revenues, profits and spending within the economy in 2006.

Government policies are encouraging the transition to growth that will be increasingly based on higher levels of value added output and skills. The CEO survey finds that 70% of CEOs of multinational corporations indicated that Ireland was currently being considered for additional investment by their parent. This reinforces my belief in the strength of what we have to offer in the competition for foreign investment.

As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I have prioritised the enterprise agenda both in policy development within my Department and in its delivery through the development agencies that report to me. I note that the CEO survey reports that two thirds of Irish CEOs feel that the Government is more in touch with the needs of the business community than governments in other countries. This confirms that the Government's business agenda reflects the needs of Irish entrepreneurs in the real world of global competition and supports an entrepreneurial spirit that looks for and captures the opportunities emerging in world markets.

Despite some very favourable comments coming from the survey, there are some matters of concern. The survey reflects dissatisfaction with our infrastructure. I recognise the importance of having first rate infrastructure to meet our development ambitions into the future. While infrastructure investment has been sustained at a high level under the current national development plan, this will be added to as the Department of Transport rolls out its Transport 21 programme. An unprecedented €34.4 billion will be invested in public transport infrastructure and equipment over ten years.

I notice one of the major challenges mentioned by CEOs in the survey related to business costs. The Government's response is manifested in numerous ways, most recently as evidenced by the fact that for the third consecutive year we 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.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

33 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has received new draft regulations from the Health and Safety Authority to provide for improved safety conditions in the construction sector; if these new regulations have been approved by Government; when he expects them to come into operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11280/06]

The Health and Safety Authority began a consultation process with the social partners and key players in the construction industry on proposed new construction regulations under the safety, health and welfare at work legislation in 2003. The authority undertook public consultation during a six-week period towards the end of last year. A total of 46 submissions was received during this latter period. The proposed new regulations are designed to replace previous regulations in force since 2001 and 2003, to fully implement European directives relating to the construction sector and to give regulatory effect to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

I understand that the board of the authority is due to hold a special meeting tomorrow, Friday, 24 March, to consider the regulations. I expect to receive the proposed regulations immediately afterwards and they will be sent by the Department to the Attorney General's office for legal settlement. I intend to invite comments from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise and Small Business. Unless there are unforeseen difficulties, I expect to be in a position to sign the new regulations into law within about six weeks and to lay the statutory instrument before the Houses.

The Department, with assistance from the HSA, undertook a regulatory impact analysis which I also intend to lay before the Houses with the statutory instrument.

Employment Rights.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

34 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date 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. [11270/06]

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document, Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate, to the social partners in early 2005. That document was the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG. 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, has completed its report. The report will inform the current national partnership discussions.

Some of the key proposals in the report are: 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; 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; major investment in education and information dissemination on employment rights obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees.

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

Job Creation.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

35 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions or contacts he has had with the job creation agencies with a view to seeking new industries for Mallow, County Cork, in view of the implications for Mallow and the surrounding areas of the announcement by the Irish Sugar Company that it is to close its plant with the loss of 320 full-time and part-time jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11339/06]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

67 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to provide alternative employment for persons working in the Greencore plant in Mallow, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11358/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 67 together.

I was very concerned to hear the announcement of the closure of the plant in question at Mallow, County Cork. I am fully aware of the impact the job losses will have on the employees concerned and the local communities in both Mallow and the surrounding area. I understand that the company had hoped to undertake one more sugar campaign but it then decided that it was not feasible to do so.

Finding alternative employment for those affected will be a priority for the State's development agencies. The services of FÁS are being made available to the workers who are to lose their jobs. On 21 March 2006, representatives of FÁS met with company management and provided a full briefing on the range of FÁS services available. I understand that FÁS representatives are meeting with the staff today. The registration process will begin next week so that progress will be made before the employees are let go.

In addition to FÁS, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will play an important part in developing a way forward for the employees involved. At present, IDA Ireland is promoting north Cork to potential investors from across the full range of its targeted sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information and communications technologies and internationally traded services. Every effort will be made to secure new advanced, knowledge-based industry for the area. Several significant inward investment projects have been secured for the county in recent years.

Enterprise Ireland is working with just over 700 client companies in County Cork, which employ over 22,000 people. This reflects an increase of over 3,000 jobs in the agency's client companies in the area over the past five years.

Finally, on 21 March 2006, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Agriculture and Food and I, together with the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, met a delegation of various interested and concerned parties. In the course of our discussions, I assured the delegation of the full commitment of the State development agencies to addressing the difficulties facing the workers, their families and the local community. It is also my intention to ensure that possible alternative uses of the company's facility are explored.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

36 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will publish the expert report on workplace bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11353/06]

The expert advisory group's report on workplace bullying was launched and published by me on 17 August 2005. This report is freely available on my Department's website or directly from the Department.

My Department is currently in the process of implementing the group's recommendation to conduct a follow up survey on workplace bullying, which is similar to the survey conducted for the last report on this subject, published in 2001, to obtain an up-to-date picture of the incidence of workplace bullying. Research proposals to conduct the survey have been received and are currently being reviewed. I expect the successful tenderer to start the survey in the second quarter of this year and to complete it within as short a timescale as possible.

I have already given a commitment to publish the results of the survey, which will be brought to Government along with the report and the views of the social partners and other interested parties, for decision on how best to implement the report's recommendations.

EU Directives.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

37 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in respect of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility, the number remaining to be implemented; 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. [11274/06]

There is currently a total of 29 directives due to be transposed by this Department. Of these, as at end March 2006, ten are overdue for transposition and are detailed in the table.

Description of Directive

Deadline for Transposition

Current position

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

19/7/2004

Drafting of regulations almost complete. Will be part of general application regulations. Expected date of transposition 30 June 2006. Reasoned opinion issued by Commission

Directive 2001/84/EC. of 27 September 2001 on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art (deadline 1/1/2006)

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

8/10/2004

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

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

23/3/2005

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 or early April 2006. Reasoned opinion issued by Commission

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

6/7/2005

Drafting of regulations almost complete. Will be part of general application regulations Letter of formal notice issued by Commission

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

1/7/2005

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 Letter of formal notice issued by Commission

Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of 27 October 2004 on co-operation 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 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/early April 2006.

Directive 2003/10 EC, to lay down requirements on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise)

15/2/2006

Health and Safety Authority is drafting regulations. Plan to go to public consultation by end March 2006. Expected date of transposition 30 June 2006.

From April 2006 to December 2006 another nine directives require to be transposed. A further ten directives require to be transposed in 2007 and subsequent years.

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

Question No. 38 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

39 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, under the provisions of section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946, the Labour Court will investigate the employment conditions prevailing for workers who are employed in domestic service. [11227/06]

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 other workers.

In the area of pay and conditions, it is primarily the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 that apply to employees who are employed 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.

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, prosecution is initiated. In this regard, 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.

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 current partnership talks. The issue of a JLC for domestic workers — and proposals for new JLCs for other sectors — will be considered in this context. Other measures aimed at assisting vulnerable workers, including domestic workers, are also being considered in the context of current partnership talks.

Against this background, I do not propose to avail at this time of section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 to request the Labour Court to furnish a report into the employment conditions prevailing for domestic workers.

Consumer Affairs.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

40 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the report of the Consumer Strategy Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11267/06]

As I advised the House previously, the Consumer Strategy Group report, Make Consumers Count, was published in May 2005 and to date considerable progress has been made in progressing its recommendations. The report's core recommendation that a new national consumer agency, incorporating the existing Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, be established 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 and to have the NCA up and running early in 2007.

The Deputy will be aware that I appointed a board to the NCA in June 2005 to act in an interim capacity until the agency is formally established. Since its appointment, the interim board of the NCA 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 itself.

The other significant recommendation in the Consumer Strategy Group report related to the abolition of the groceries order. The Deputy will be aware that on Monday of this week I signed the order to commence the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006. The new Competition Act will finally abolish the Groceries Order 1987, which kept the prices of groceries in Ireland at an artificially high level by allowing suppliers to specify minimum prices below which products could not be sold. The new Act will also strengthen the provisions of the 2002 Competition Act by specifically prohibiting the fixing of minimum retail prices by suppliers, unfair discrimination in the grocery trade and the payment of advertising allowances and "hello money".

On other recommendations of the CSG, a number of the recommendations relating to my Department have already been implemented. The Deputy will be aware that the fines for breaching consumer protection laws have been significantly increased as recommended by the CSG. Furthermore, 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 over 30 separate recommendations involving a variety of different 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, was recently published on my Department's website.

Considerable progress has been made in progressing the recommendations of the CSG since the publication of its report. I am determined that this progress will continue 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.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

41 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement to Dáil Éireann on the findings of the NESC report entitled Creating a More Inclusive Labour Market; and the recommendations contained in that report he intends to implement. [11233/06]

The National Economic and Social Forum published its report entitled Creating a More Inclusive Labour Market, last month. It is a comprehensive report which aims to make practical recommendations to help create more opportunities for vulnerable people to access training, education and find better quality jobs in the labour market.

The report's recommendations are wide ranging and involve the responsibilities of a number of different Departments and State agencies. This Department is currently considering the report's recommendations in so far as they relate to its area of responsibility.

Employment Rights.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

42 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections which were carried out by the labour inspectorate in 2005 in respect of compliance by employers with legally enforceable registered employment rates in the construction sector. [11234/06]

In the case of the construction sector, there are two separate registered employment agreements, REAs — the construction industry, wages and conditions of employment, registered employment agreement and the construction industry, pensions assurance and sick pay, registered employment agreement, generally referred to as CFOPS. In 2005 the labour inspectorate carried out 50 inspections/visits under the construction industry, wages and conditions of employment, registered employment agreement.

Broadly speaking, monitoring of compliance with the CFOPS is a matter for signatories to the agreement. To assist them in this task they established, in 1998, the construction industry monitoring agency, known as CIMA, to monitor compliance on their behalf. The labour inspectorate, at the request of the Labour Court, carried out 47 inspections in 2005 under the pensions, assurance and sick pay registered employment agreement.

The enforcement of the provisions of a registered employment agreement may also be effected through the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations Acts. A trade union, an association of employers or an individual employer may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a registered employment agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the court is satisfied that the employer is in breach of a registered employment agreement it may by order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine.

Skill Shortages.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

43 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role his Department can play in improving management skills here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11340/06]

Management skills are critical to the success of business and to the viability of the more than 200,000 SMEs in Ireland. For this reason my Department and its agencies are already significantly involved in a range of programmes to support management development. The Department, FÁS, Skillnets, Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise boards all provide support for training and other forms of management development. Funding for in-company training, including management development, increased significantly in 2005 and this level of investment is being maintained in 2006.

These supports include the following features. The FÁS competency development programme saw its allocations increase from €8.5 million in 2004 to €35.6 million per year in 2005 and 2006. About one third of this will be invested in management development. FÁS investment will be matched by contributions from industry. Skillnets Limited also receives funding from my Department to manage a networking programme that involves training for networks of companies. The national training fund investment, which increased to €8.5 million in 2006 — up from €5.175 million in 2004 — will also attract matching funds from the employers. About 35% of this will be invested in management development activities.

Enterprise Ireland and the country enterprise boards offer a range of supports to help client companies identify and build on the current and future management capabilities they need for growth. In addition to supporting management development courses, these industrial development agencies also provide access to mentoring so that clients can access the wide ranging knowledge, connections, experience and advice of expert mentors. Enterprise Ireland has also developed an export development programme aimed at developing the skills of executives in manufacturing or internationally traded service companies so they can win international sales and sustain export growth into the future.

Enterprise Ireland and Skillnets are also managing ESF supported in-company training initiatives on behalf of my Department. Enterprise Ireland is supporting about 20 companies at a cost of about €6 million over three years. The Skillnets initiative, known as the Accel programme, has a public budget in the order of €16 million over the next two years — one third of which will be invested in management skills.

In addition, the expert group on future skill needs has undertaken a study on management skills in SMEs. This will be published shortly and will inform the development of future policy in this area.

Intellectual Property Rights.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

44 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the representations his Department has made under trade related aspects of intellectual property rights to improve access to patented medicines for poor countries. [11375/06]

Improved access to medicines is a matter which has been considered and discussed by World Trade Organisation, WTO, members in Geneva in the context of the agreement on trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, known as the TRIPs agreement.

Multilateral trade policy, in the context of the formulation and development of the common commercial policy of the European Union, is a Community competence and not solely a national competence. In this regard, the European Communities and member states have played a very active role in the adoption of the WTO General Council decision of 30 August 2003, which by waiving WTO members' obligations under Article 31(f) of the TRIPs agreement, allows members to grant compulsory licences for the production and sale of patented pharmaceutical products intended for export to third countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector. The waiver is a temporary measure and, in December 2005, the WTO General Council adopted a decision on a permanent amendment to Article 31 of the TRIPs agreement which has been submitted to WTO members for acceptance.

The EU is currently at the final stages of adopting a draft regulation transposing the temporary waiver into Community law. This will ensure that the right conditions are put in place, in the EU, to allow the system set up by the WTO decision of August 2003 to operate efficiently. Ireland has fully supported the above approach and is seeking the earliest adoption of the regulation.

Damien English

Ceist:

45 Mr. English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that current legislation allows for adequate protection and exploitation of intellectual property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11346/06]

The current body of Irish legislation in the intellectual property field provides a comprehensive legal framework for the protection and exploitation of such property. However, the field of intellectual property is constantly evolving in response to advances in technology and other developments internationally. My Department is therefore fully alert to the need to keep the present legislation under review and to bring forward proposals for necessary change.

In that context, I confirm my intention to progress primary legislation in this area aimed at maintaining an optimal legal environment for intellectual property. The Patents Amendment Bill 1999 will be taken on Committee Stage in the near future. This Bill has evolved considerably since its publication in response to international developments. It aims to update the Patents Act 1992 to bring our legislation more fully in line with the agreement on the trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, TRIPs agreement, and to give effect to revisions to the European Patent Convention and to the signature by Ireland of the Patent Law Treaty concluded under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Later this year, I aim to publish an intellectual property miscellaneous provisions Bill intended to transpose several EU directives into Irish law. These include the artists' resale right directive, the introduction of a public lending royalty and provisions needed to support the transposition of a directive on the civil enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Research Funding.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

46 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the barriers to the commercialisation of research and development which exist; the steps he plans to take to remove same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11341/06]

Very significant growth in research has been achieved through the commitment of €2.5 billion to science, technology and innovation across a range of Departments under the current NDP. The Government is committed to continuing to invest in research and development. Investment to date has been critical in developing the base of knowledge, discoveries and new ideas from which new products, services and enterprises can be generated and substantial efforts have also been made to ensure that this research can be commercialised.

Effective commercialisation is dependent on a clear framework for intellectual property rights arising from research. In that context, two national codes of practice for managing intellectual property, for fully and partly publicly funded research, respectively, have been published under the aegis of the Advisory Science Council.

EI supports the construction of campus based business incubation centres in all institutes of technology and universities. To date, it has approved 25 incubation centres, 16 of which are in institutes of technology or equivalent third level colleges, and a further nine of which are on university campuses. Specific incentives are also in place under the aegis of EI to support collaborative research involving firms and higher education institutions.

Currently, my Department is working with the enterprise agencies, Science Foundation Ireland and the Higher Education Authority on the development of a measure to further strengthen and support the technology transfer function in the higher education institutions to ensure that ideas generated from research are more effectively captured and brought to market. The commercialisation of research will continue to be a major area of focus by Government to ensure that investment in research is leveraged as effectively as possible for the economic benefit of the country.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Ministerial Appointments.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

48 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in appointing a new chief science adviser to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11282/06]

The interdepartmental committee on science, technology and innovation is currently finalising a strategy on STI to 2013 and this will be presented shortly to the Cabinet sub-committee on STI, which I chair. The implementation of this new strategy in a whole-of-Government manner is a complex and demanding task, which will be linked with the further refinement of the over-arching co-ordination and governance structures for STI, put in place by the Government towards the end of 2004, including proposals relating to the appointment of a chief science adviser.

Departmental Investigations.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

49 Mr. O’Shea 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. [11276/06]

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 was 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 which have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, reports were referred to the DPP in two cases. 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, to such extent that no effective progress was made by the authorised officer and the matter of reports of the examinations did not arise. These inquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Regarding the three remaining section 19 examinations, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 66 today.

National Minimum Wage.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

50 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of employers who pay their employees less than the national minimum wage on the basis that a monetary allowance is included as reckonable pay for the purpose of compliance with the national minimum wage where an employer provides an employee with full board and lodgings or lodgings only or full board only; and if the inclusion of this allowance is subject to any stipulation regarding the quality of the lodgings being provided. [11241/06]

The national minimum wage legislation provides for a monetary deduction which can be made from the statutory minimum pay of an employee if the employee is provided with board and/or lodgings as follows:

For full board and lodgings, €54.13 per week or €7.73 per day.

For full board only per week, €32.14 per week or €4.60 per day.

For lodgings only per week, €21.85 per week or €3.14 per day.

Information is not available on the number of employers who avail of this provision. The national minimum wage legislation makes no provision relating to the quality of lodgings provided in this regard.

Sports Sponsorship.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

51 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the practice of some sports organisations, including the Irish national soccer team, involving their changing their shirts on a frequent basis in association with sponsors, primarily for marketing reasons; if his attention has further been drawn to the cost consequences for consumers; if the National Consumer Agency or some other consumer body will be asked to examine this practice with a view to ensuring adequate protection for consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11264/06]

I am aware of concerns raised in a number of quarters regarding the practice highlighted in the Deputy's question. It is the case that there is no law to prevent sports organisations from changing their sports shirts. I would, however, agree with the Deputy that constant and frequent changes of replica apparel by sports organisations can give rise to considerable expense for some consumers. For that reason, I intend to request my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, to raise the Deputy's concerns with the relevant sports organisations to ensure that they fully appreciate the difficulties that too frequent changes in their sporting apparel can cause for some consumers.

It is, however, ultimately a decision for the consumer himself or herself as to whether he or she considers the cost of any good, including sports shirts, to represent value for money. It is not a matter for Government to make such decisions. Nevertheless, the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 oblige traders to indicate the selling price of goods/products which they offer for sale to consumers. It is important, therefore, that consumers use this information to assist them in making informed choices as to whether a particular product or item of sporting apparel offers value for money.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Company Closures.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

53 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to establish a task force to provide support services to workers that have been made redundant in view of the spate of recent company closures; and if he will formulate employment solutions for vulnerable industries. [11384/06]

Since the establishment of the county development boards, the relevant CDB is now seen as the body that is best placed to oversee any additional response that is required over and above the work of the agencies under the auspices of my Department. IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and FÁS all play their part in developing a way forward for redundant workers.

In co-operation with the industrial development agencies and local interests, FÁS provides a comprehensive range of support services to workers who are facing redundancy and, in particular, where company closures arise. The process is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of each closure. The services include the following: provision of intensive vocational guidance and counselling to the individuals affected; information on current job vacancies; assistance in CV preparation and interview techniques; advice and assistance on a comprehensive range of training options; identification of portable skills that can be applied to other sectors of employment; specially tailored and flexible training programmes; and assistance in investigating self-employment opportunities.

In the delivery of these services, FÁS liaises with other relevant agencies such as area partnership companies, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the city and county enterprise boards. To further develop and inform FÁS services in this area, FÁS has commissioned an external review of its support services. The final report is expected shortly.

Migrant Workers.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

54 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workers from accession states likely to arrive here in the next five years; the policy response of his Department to their arrival; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11351/06]

Since the accession of the ten new member states in May 2004, over 190,000 PPS numbers have been issued to EU-10 nationals and Revenue data indicate that about 70% of them may have participated in our labour market at some stage. It is not possible to predict the number of workers that will come from these member states to work in Ireland over the next five years.

However, I am informed that the "Population and Labour Force Projections 2006-2036" published by the Central Statistics Office last year included two alternative projections for net inward migration for the period 2006 to 2011. The first projection, which was based on the continuance of the present rate of strong economic growth, estimated that net annual migration over the period 2006 to 2011 would average 30,000. The alternative projection based on moderate levels of growth would be 20,000 per annum. The projections do not give details for nationals of EU-10 member states.

The policy is that workers from abroad working here are entitled to the same employment rights as Irish workers.

Accidents in the Workplace.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

55 Mr. Rabbitte 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 figures to date in 2006; the additional steps he intends to take to reduce such accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11279/06]

Figures published by the Health and Safety Authority show that 72 work related deaths were reported to it in 2005 compared to 50 in 2004 and 65 in 2003. There were 23 construction related fatalities in 2005 compared to 16 in 2004 and 17 in 2003. Of the 23 fatalities in 2005, 21 were employees, one was a member of the public and another was a non-construction worker.

In the period 1 January to 22 March 2006, eight workplace fatalities were reported to the Health and Safety Authority. These comprised four in agriculture, two in manufacturing industry and one each in construction and transport.

On injuries arising from workplace accidents generally, to date, a total of 8,095 non-fatal accidents, resulting in absence of more than three days from normal work, was reported to the authority across all sectors for 2005. Of these, 1,627 related to the construction sector. In the period 1 January to 22 March 2006, 1,320 non-fatal accidents were reported to the Health and Safety Authority, including 320 in construction and 309 in manufacturing.

I include a tabular statement on workplace fatal and non-fatal reported accidents and rates and comparisons. There are over 200,000 workplaces in Ireland and, to make best use of its resources, the authority is once again prioritising a number of sectors for attention. These include the high risk sectors of agriculture, construction, mines and quarries. Key actions in these sectors 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 codes of practice tailored to those employing three or less 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; research into the issues involved in the employment of non-English-speaking workers.

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 considerable 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 work 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.

Comparison 2003-2005: Number of Fatalities

Economic Sector

Number of fatalities

Total in sector

2003

2004

2005

A — Agriculture, hunting and forestry

19

13

18

50

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

72

187

Number of Reported Fatalities 1 January to 22 March 2006

Economic Sector

2006 (1/1 to 22/3)

A — Agriculture, hunting and forestry

4

B — Fishing

C — Mining and quarrying

D — Manufacturing

2

E — Electricity / gas / water

F — Construction

1

G — Wholesale/retail trade; repair of goods

H — Hotels and restaurants

I — Transport, storage and communication

1

J — Financial intermediation

K — Real estate, renting, business

L — Public Admin / Defence

M — Education

N — Health / social work

O — Other community, social and personal services

Total

8

Comparison 2003-2005: Rate of Fatalities

Economic Sector

Rate of fatalities

2003

2004

2005

A-B

12.3

12.6

14.1

C-E

3.0

1.0

4.1

F

6.4

7.9

8.7

G

2.0

1.5

1.9

H

0.0

0.0

0.0

I

5.4

5.3

3.4

J-K

0.0

0.4

0.4

L

4.4

0.0

2.0

M

0.0

0.8

0.0

N

0.0

0.6

0.0

O

4.2

1.9

1.7

Total

3.0

2.7

3.3

Comparison 2003-2005: Number of Reported Injuries

Economic Sector

Number of reported injuries

2003

2004

2005

A — Agriculture, hunting and forestry

60

103

107

B — Fishing

3

5

14

C — Mining and quarrying

67

50

99

D — Manufacturing

1,932

2009

1,852

E — Electricity / gas / water

61

62

37

F — Construction

1,117

1,514

1,627

G — Wholesale/retail trade; repair of goods

727

937

745

H — Hotels and restaurants

58

112

159

I — Transport, storage and communication

911

1066

1,042

J — Financial intermediation

152

217

142

K — Real estate, renting, business

145

194

208

L — Public Admin / Defence

984

944

852

M — Education

80

94

90

N — Health / social work

679

940

966

O — Other community, social and personal services

191

195

155

Total

7,167

8,442

8,095

Number of Reported Injuries 1 January to 22 March 2006

Economic Sector

2006 (1/1 to 22/3)

A — Agriculture, hunting and forestry

13

B — Fishing

1

C — Mining and quarrying

16

D — Manufacturing

309

E — Electricity / gas / water

5

F — Construction

320

G — Wholesale/retail trade; repair of goods

113

H — Hotels and restaurants

23

I — Transport, storage and communication

195

J — Financial intermediation

22

K — Real estate, renting, business

26

L — Public Admin / Defence

87

M — Education

14

N — Health / social work

137

O — Other community, social and personal services

39

Total

1,320

Employment Rights.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

56 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the investigation by the labour inspectorate into allegations of very 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 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. [11271/06]

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 the 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. I am unable, accordingly, 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.

The Minister, Deputy Martin, 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, the Minister and senior officials met with 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, the Minister 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.

The Minister, Deputy Martin, contacted the president of Finansbank and was assured that, provided the consent of the workers was forthcoming, his bank would co-operate in ensuring that the departmental 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 of the Department travelled to Finansbank on 14 April last. Following these meetings and contacts which Department officials had with SIPTU and Deputy Joe 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.

The Department wrote to Gama Turkey's legal advisers on 29 April 2005 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 was not supplied at the time. In recent days a substantial volume of data has been presented by Gama to the Department. Department officials are currently examining this material. Pending the outcome of this examination, 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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

57 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections which have been carried out by the labour inspectorate in respect of compliance with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 since its enactment; and the number of prosecutions for failure to comply with its provisions during the same period. [11230/06]

The number of inspections which have been carried out by the labour inspectorate in respect of compliance with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 since its enactment, and the number of prosecutions for failure to comply with its provisions during the same period, are set out in the table.

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/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Successful prosecution can be dependent on adequate support from witnesses.

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 included a focus on national minimum wage compliance, which commenced in February 2006. In addition to the new inspectors, a number of experienced officers are participating in this exercise in order to provide support and guidance as well as undertaking inspections themselves. It is expected that the additional resources and the focused campaign will substantially increase the number of inspections/visits carried out under the National Minimum Wage Act.

The Deputy should be aware that rights commissioners of the Labour Relations Commission — a body independent of my Department — also hear complaints concerning breaches of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. In addition, there are some 19 employment regulation orders drawn up through the joint labour committee system that regulate statutory minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment for workers employed in the various sectors where these apply. Ensuring compliance with the minimum pay amounts and terms and conditions forms a major element of the work of the inspectorate.

NMW inspections/visits and prosecutions initiated 2000-2005

Year

Inspections/visits

Prosecutions initiated

2000

3,419

0

2001

1,192

1

2002

1,731

3

2003

950

0

2004

416

1

2005

481

0

Departmental Agencies.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

58 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied with the way FÁS spends its budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11342/06]

The budget for FÁS is agreed on the basis of detailed discussions between FÁS, my Department and the Department of Finance in the context of the annual Estimates process. This budget is allocated in respect of specific approved programmes/schemes which are designed to meet the overall objectives set out in the FÁS Statement of Strategy 2006-2009.

The FÁS board and my Department monitor the expenditure and activity levels of FÁS on a continuous basis. FÁS is also subject to normal public service accounting regulations, which includes audits by its own internal audit unit and the Comptroller and Auditor General. In addition, the various programmes or schemes operated by FÁS are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Under the expenditure review initiative 2005-07, FÁS has been the subject of reviews in the following areas: community employment, FÁS standards based apprenticeships, FÁS traineeship and specific skills training.

Job Losses.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

59 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken arising from the announcement by NEC, Ballivor, County Meath, that it is to cease operations with the loss of 350 jobs; his views regarding the continuing loss of jobs in the general manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11262/06]

I was very concerned to hear that the company in question was closing with the loss of 350 jobs. The decision to cease production was announced by the parent company on 21 February 2006. On 22 February 2006, I met with representatives of Meath County Council and the State development agencies to discuss the situation.

Finding alternative employment for the workers is a priority for the State development agencies and IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and FÁS will play their part in developing a way forward for the workers. To date, FÁS has briefed all 350 employees on the range of services available to them. Registration and guidance interviews are due to commence on 24 March 2006 and are expected to continue for approximately three weeks. A training plan will be developed when the interviews are completed.

The workforce in Ballivor is highly skilled and the loss of these jobs will be a severe blow to the area. The industrial development agencies will strengthen their marketing efforts in County Meath. This will be done in partnership with the county council and other key players to increase the flow of potential investors for the county and to convert these into investment and job opportunities for Ballivor and the surrounding area.

Job losses in any sector are of concern. Ireland has a predominantly modern manufacturing base which competes in a range of growth sectors. However, as with most other European countries, there are areas of activity in which Ireland's competitiveness is seriously challenged. In the main, these are in activities where labour cost is the primary driver behind business decisions. It is inevitable that the investment decisions of some companies will be influenced by the competitive attractions of alternative geographic locations.

Manufacturing has been a key driver of prosperity across the economy for many years and enterprise policies will continue to emphasise the strategic importance of the sector to future economic growth. A key element of our strategy to help enterprise is to encourage increased levels of investment in research, business related technological development and innovation across all enterprise sectors, which will assist firms to produce improved products and services with added value. In the longer term, this approach will provide both more sustainable and higher quality jobs. Our objective is to ensure that our economy remains a globally competitive, profitable and secure location for business. When provided with the best supporting and competitive environment, I am confident that business and industry can develop to capitalise on investment and growth opportunities.

Departmental Investigations.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

60 Mr. Quinn 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. [11277/06]

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 over 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.

Employment Rights.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

61 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to research prepared for the ATGWU, based on the Watson Wyatt labour cost survey, which shows that Irish workers earn less, work longer hours and have fewer benefits than those in most western European economies; his views on the findings of the research; the steps he intends to take to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11263/06]

I am aware of the report to which the Deputy refers. I do not necessarily agree with its conclusions. However, in general, terms and conditions of employment are determined by a process of voluntary collective bargaining between employers and employees. As the Deputy will be aware, the current discussions on a possible social partnership agreement will impact on the terms of conditions of employment of workers for the next period.

The position of the low-paid has improved through successive national partnership agreements, through increases in the national minimum wage and in the annual budgetary changes to taxation. Studies have found that the net earnings of a worker on the minimum wage have broadly kept pace with a worker on the average industrial wage. This is the case in terms of both gross and net earnings.

Wage Levels.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

62 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the findings of the NESC report, Creating a More Inclusive Labour Market, that the richest 20% of the working age population earns 12 times as much as the poorest; and the actions he intends to take to bring about a reduction in this differential. [11232/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the National Economic and Social Forum, NESF, report that was published recently. Terms and conditions of employment are determined in the main by a process of voluntary collective bargaining between employers and employees or a trade union acting on their behalf. To support the process and ensure a level of fair play, a floor of statutory rights — for example, minimum wages, holiday entitlements and so forth — are in place that can be improved upon by negotiation but which cannot be taken away.

The position of the low-paid has improved through successive national partnership agreements, through increases in the national minimum wage and in the annual budgetary changes to taxation. Examination of statistical earnings produced by the Central Statistics Office shows that there is considerable uniformity in gross earnings increases across the economy over the five year period 2000 to 2004 and evidence of some compression of earnings differences within sectors.

Studies have found that the net earnings of a worker on the minimum wage have broadly kept pace with a worker on the average industrial wage. This is the case in terms of both gross and net earnings.

European Social Charter.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

63 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason Ireland has not fulfilled its reporting obligations under the European Social Charter since 2004, as charged in recent public statements by the charter’s supervisory committee, the European Committee on Social Rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6975/06]

I refer to my reply to the Deputy's Question No. 293 of 28 February last, which related to Ireland's submission to the Council of Europe of reports on its implementation of the revised European Social Charter. Since then, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has submitted the texts of its reports on Articles 13 and 16 as part of the ongoing completion of its third report. The Department expects to submit its reports on Articles 19 and 20 by the end of this week. The remaining four articles of its third report — Articles 1, 5, 6 and 7 — will be issued to the Council of Europe over the coming weeks. As I indicated on 28 February last, the second report will be submitted to the Council of Europe by the beginning of June, having due regard to other pressing demands.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

64 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his response to the draft services directive approved by the European Parliament on 16 February 2006; if the draft directive has been discussed at a meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council; if he will support the amendments agreed by the European Parliament on 16 February 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11261/06]

I join the relevant EU Commissioner in broadly welcoming the compromise amendments on the services directive which were agreed by the European Parliament on 16 February last. It is generally agreed that the amendments form a good basis for making progress on the directive. I formed that view on foot of the informal discussion on the matter that took place at the eve-of-Council dinner on 12 March, although I acknowledge that different member states will wish to raise various points of detail. There was no formal discussion per se at the Council, although the EU Presidency issued an oral report on the previous evening’s discussions. The onus is on the Commission to come forward with a revised text, which is expected in early April.

Employment Rights.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

65 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in his consultations regarding the possible establishment of a joint labour committee to protect the interests of domestic workers in the context of the current social partnership talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11265/06]

In 2005, the Labour Relations Commission commissioned the University of Limerick to carry out a review of the joint labour committee system. Arising from the review and its bilateral consultations with the social partners and stakeholders, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has prepared a paper to be used as the basis for the implementation of the review, in further consultation with the social partners and stakeholders and in the context of the current partnership talks. The issue of a joint labour committee for domestic workers will be considered in this context.

Departmental Investigations.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

66 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to the direction issued to an authorised officer to cease their inquiries into three companies being carried out under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990 the authorised officer has completed their reports; if he has received these reports; if so, the action it is intended to take arising from the reports; if the reports have been furnished to any of the tribunals of inquiry and, if so, which ones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11278/06]

In June 2005 I directed the authorised officer, in the case of the three section 19 examinations, to place at the disposal of relevant public authorities, including two tribunals, the information and assistance arising from his investigative work that was required by the authorities for the purpose of the performance of their statutory functions in accordance with section 21 of the Companies Act 1990. The public authorities in question are the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Moriarty tribunal and the Mahon tribunal.

All information, books and documents required by the two tribunals in question for the purpose of the performance of their functions have been disclosed to them by the authorised officer under directions issued by me or my predecessor. The authorised officer is providing follow-up assistance and information, as directed, to the tribunal that has requested it. All information, books and documents required by the three other authorities for the purpose of the performance of their functions have been disclosed to them by the authorised officer, as directed. This is being followed up by the provision of appropriate assistance and co-operation. Some recently received documentary material is being considered by the authorised officer with a view to disclosure, if appropriate, to relevant authorities.

My objective in directing the authorised officer to provide all relevant information and appropriate assistance to the authorities in question was to facilitate the earliest possible pursuit by them of matters which may require action by them. I was concerned about the length of time which had elapsed since the initiation of the examinations in January 1998. I was particularly concerned that any further delay could put at risk the possibility of achieving results from the examinations, such as the investigation and prosecution of offences, the collection of taxes owed to the State and the investigation of matters by tribunals.

Section 19 of the Companies Act 1990 provides for a preliminary examination — the procuring and inspection of a company's books and documents and the obtaining of explanations — but it does not involve final or conclusive determinations. A section 19 examination may lead to more substantive action, such as the investigation or prosecution of certain specified offences by relevant authorities or the provision of assistance to any of the bodies mentioned in section 21 of the Act, including tribunals of inquiry, in the performance of their functions. There is no statutory requirement for the making of a report on foot of a section 19 examination. Formal reports have not been completed in respect of the present three examinations.

However, I have directed the authorised officer to give the relevant authorities, in addition to the information already disclosed, whatever further information and assistance they require, in whatever form. I am satisfied that the measures I have taken in respect of the examinations have ensured that any wrongdoing suggested by the investigative work of the authorised officer has been brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities for such action as they think fit.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 35.

Telecommunications Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

68 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he will take to improve information infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11347/06]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to broadband infrastructure. Therefore, I refer her to my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, who has primary responsibility in that area.

Departmental Agencies.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

69 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the remit of FÁS should be changed to reflect changed economic circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11357/06]

The organisation and direction of FÁS is subject to continuous assessment and review in the annual budgetary process and in FÁS's statement of strategy. The current remit of FÁS is set out in its recently published statement of strategy, Building on our Vision, which identifies the challenges and opportunities it will face between 2006 and 2009. The strategy was developed following a comprehensive consultation process with Departments, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, employer bodies, trade unions, non-statutory organisations and FÁS customers.

The 2006-09 strategy commits FÁS to upskilling the workforce, promoting social inclusion and equality, contributing to a national human resources and skills development strategy and providing quality programmes and services. While continuing to meet the needs of the unemployed and disadvantaged, the strategy puts increased emphasis on the training and upskilling of the workforce. Due to demographic factors, productivity growth must come from the existing workforce. The continuous upgrading of the knowledge, skills and competencies of people at work is essential in the context of a move to a knowledge based economy.

The strategy recognises there will be an ongoing need for future consultation to ensure the continued relevance of the programmes and services on offer and to ensure that FÁS actively contributes to this country's continued economic and social development.

Employment Rights.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

70 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the investigation being carried out by his Department 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. [11269/06]

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment's labour inspectorate is responsible for monitoring the employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. As statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in the same way that they apply to native Irish workers, the inspectorate operates without any regard to worker nationality.

Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment. If evidence of non-compliance with employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the 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 covered by the terms of a registered employment agreement in line with to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004.

The 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. The inspectorate is clarifying the nature of the employer-employee relationship that may exist between the owner or operator of the facility and the individuals in question. The complex issues which arise in this case may be compounded to some extent because the current operator may not be resident in the State. The inspectorate is actively pursuing the case and will focus on trying to secure appropriate redress for the people concerned after the facts have been satisfactorily established.

Migrant Workers.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

71 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the discrepancy between Central Statistics Office projections of 20,000 immigrants per annum and estimates by FÁS that some 30,000 migrant workers will be required annually to sustain the economy here; and the planning mechanism he intends to put in place to monitor and manage migrant labour into Ireland. [11382/06]

I have been informed that Population and Labour Force Projections 2006-2036, which was published last year by the Central Statistics Office, includes two alternative projections for net inward migration between 2006 and 2011. The first projection, which is based on the continuance of the present rate of strong economic growth, estimates that net annual migration in those years will average 30,000. The alternative projection, which is based on moderate levels of growth, is 20,000 per annum. FÁS uses the higher figure in its Irish Labour Market Review 2005, which was published on 20 December 2005.

As regards the second part of the question, I refer the Deputy to my comments on Second Stage of the Employment Permits Bill 2005 on 12 October 2005, when I informed the House of new arrangements for the management of new economic migration arrangements. It is planned to introduce a green card system which will include a gateway to permanent or long-term residency for highly skilled and highly paid positions and to strengthen the labour market test for other occupations.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

72 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on introducing legislation to give trade unions the power to appoint representatives to boards of directors of companies with at least 25 employees as exists in some other states. [11231/06]

The Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act 1977 makes statutory provision for employee representation at board level in certain State owned companies. The purpose of the Act is to provide for the representation of workers at board level in certain enterprises listed in the Act, by means of the election of employees from among the workforce for appointment to the boards. Candidates for election have to be nominated by a trade union or another body that is recognised for collective bargaining purposes within the company.

There have been a number of developments in employee involvement since the worker participation legislation was enacted. The section of the Protection of Employment Act 1977 dealing with collective redundancies and the transfer of undertakings regulations require employers to inform and consult workers and their representatives about forthcoming collective redundancies and transfers of undertakings.

The Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996 provides for provision of information and consultation of employees by means of works councils on transnational issues in Community-scale undertakings and groups of undertakings. The information and consultation directive, which complements the 1996 Act, is being transposed into Irish law by the Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Bill 2005. The directive establishes a framework for informing and consulting employees and their representatives in undertakings about ongoing developments across a range of business, employment and restructuring issues.

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Bill, which completed Report and Final Stages in the Dáil on 22 March last, will have a significant impact on the level and scope of mandatory interaction in the workplace. In light of the significant statutory developments in respect of employee involvement I have outlined, I have no plans to introduce legislation along the lines suggested by the Deputy.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Economic Competitiveness.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

74 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his assessment of Ireland as a knowledge economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11344/06]

Ireland is making good progress in putting in place the required policy framework to develop as a knowledge-based economy. It continues to face the fundamental challenge of moving from an investment-driven economy, which has brought tremendous benefits in terms of jobs and increased living standards over recent decades, to developing an innovation and knowledge-based economy.

The Government's strategy to progress towards a knowledge-based economy and society involves investing in the people and ensuring they have the skills they require to live and work in the global knowledge economy. It needs to ensure that Irish enterprises have the absorptive capacity to turn knowledge into competitive products and services, develop the capabilities to undertake research and development work in-house and to link effectively with the generators of new knowledge in the higher education sector in Ireland and internationally.

I will shortly bring to the Cabinet a proposal for a new science, technology and innovation strategy, to cover the years between 2006 and 2013. The strategy will set out ambitious but necessary goals and actions to develop Ireland's knowledge economy. This country needs to accelerate its rate of human capital development, to bring about a transformation in the quality and quantity of research undertaken by enterprises, directly and in co-operation with third level institutions, and to develop its reputation as one of the most attractive locations for leading researchers to live and work and for knowledge intensive enterprises to prosper. The forthcoming strategy will contribute significantly to achieving the goals I have mentioned.

The objective of the strategy is to make a quantum leap forward in research and development and to move Ireland from an impressive latecomer to an acknowledged leader in this critical area. Success will be marked by demonstrable achievements in a number of areas, including increased participation in the sciences by young people, increased numbers with advanced qualifications in science and engineering, enhanced contribution of research to economic and social development, increased output of economically relevant knowledge, enhanced productivity and an established profile for Ireland. The investment proposed in the strategy is in addition to the €1.2 billion announced by the Government in last December's budget to develop fourth level education in Ireland.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

75 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has had communication with the Department of Finance regarding the upward revision in line with European standards of compliance targets for the recruitment and employment of people with disabilities across Departments, which by default currently stands at just 3%. [11378/06]

The Minister for Finance is responsible for the Government's policy on the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for the Government's policy in the wider public service. The Government's target that 3% of those employed in the Civil Service should be people with disabilities is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

While it is important that there are targets in the Government's policy, targets alone are not enough and must be supported by real and practical measures. The Department of Finance commissioned Goodbody Economic Consultants to review independently and in some detail the operation of the policy in the Civil Service. A detailed study of a number of Departments, carried out as part of that research, showed that 7% of existing Civil Service staff have disabilities, which is broadly in line with the findings of similar surveys in other countries.

The Government has examined its policy in detail in light of the research and the consultants' recommendations. It is important to emphasise the need to continue to recruit people with disabilities to work in the Civil Service and to ensure that proper supports are in place for all staff with disabilities. The Department of Finance and the Public Appointments Service are considering the development of a recruitment programme to maintain work opportunities for people with disabilities in the Civil Service. Work is under way, in conjunction with the Civil Service unions, on developing a new and detailed code of practice and a more effective approach to monitoring staff with disabilities.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment's disability liaison officer participates in the disability officers' network, which was established to share information between Departments. I understand that the Department of Finance's disability advisory officer is preparing a new code of practice and providing advice for Departments and offices.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

76 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to review the eligibility criteria for funding from county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11138/06]

A fundamental review of the role and functions of the county and city enterprise boards in the development of micro-enterprises was conducted on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment by a group of economic consultants, Fitzpatrick Associates in 2004. The review, which was the most comprehensive examination of the role and functions of the enterprise boards since their inception in 1993, largely endorsed their activities and operations, found that there is justification for continued State support to micro-enterprises and concluded that the enterprise board network can continue to play a useful role in overall national enterprise development policy.

It recommended that, in providing assistance to micro-enterprises, enterprise boards should focus on economic objectives rather than social or local development objectives, that there should be a renewed focus on the core enterprise mission; that issues of potential deadweight, displacement and duplication should be more systematically and rigorously addressed, that there should be a move away from direct grant aid to repayable finance and that more soft supports should be provided as an alternative to grant aid. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment continues to work with the enterprise boards on the reorientation of their focus in line with the recommendations.

The small business forum, which I established last summer, is due to report back to me in the near future. The forum was asked to consider in broad terms the current environment for conducting small business in Ireland and to advise on the adequacy and appropriateness of the public policy responses, including the interventions by the enterprise development agencies, in that context. I look forward to learning of the conclusions of the forum in this regard.

Health Service Allowances.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

77 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if recipients of domiciliary care allowance are entitled to the carer’s respite grant irrespective of other personal circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11532/06]

The domiciliary care allowance, which was introduced in 1973 under circular 24/73, is payable under section 61 of the Health Act 1970. It is a monthly allowance that is administered by the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Health and Children. In 1999, the Department of Social and Family Affairs introduced the respite care grant for recipients of the carer's allowance. In 2000, the respite care grant was extended to beneficiaries of the domiciliary care allowance. The respite care grant is paid by the Health Service Executive to persons receiving domiciliary care allowance and by the Department of Social and Family Affairs to persons receiving carer's allowance or carer's benefit, or carer's allowance or carer's benefit as well as domiciliary care allowance.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

78 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the assistance which can be provided to a local organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11406/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

79 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of medical cards there were on a county basis on 1 January 1998; the number that are at the present time on the same basis; the number of general practitioner visit cards in place on a county basis; if she is satisfied that the means test being administered by the Health Service Executive is on a fair and equitable basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11415/06]

The current information in this regard, as provided on 1 March last by the Health Service Executive's primary care reimbursement service of shared services, is provided in the table. As the Department of Health and Children does not have information relating to January 1998, I have asked the HSE to provide it directly to the Deputy.

The assessment of applications for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the HSE, which has prepared a manual containing guidelines for the assessment of applications for medical and GP visit cards. The HSE's objective in drawing up the document was to ensure that there is consistency throughout the country in making decisions on applications for these benefits and that there is a fair and client centred approach to decision making.

County

Number of persons with a Medical Card

Number of persons with a GP Visit Card

Dublin

277,260

951

Kildare

38,151

142

Wicklow

27,992

229

Laois

17,239

217

Longford

12,786

101

Offaly

20,001

246

Westmeath

21,134

145

Clare

31,715

201

Limerick

50,725

267

Tipperary NR

19,749

91

Cavan

19,293

205

Louth

35,467

460

Meath

29,553

371

Monaghan

16,247

198

Donegal

68,898

761

Leitrim

11,218

134

Sligo

19,489

206

Carlow

15,768

302

Kilkenny

20,087

290

Tipperary SR

28,820

346

Waterford

36,109

322

Wexford

40,837

477

Cork

133,639

1,570

Kerry

41,755

514

Galway

66,163

590

Mayo

47,798

531

Roscommon

20,380

167

Total

1,168,273

10,034

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

80 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a cancer patient (details supplied) in County Cork who is awaiting specialised stem cell treatment following a course of chemotherapy and whose stem cells have been harvested has been informed that this treatment is not now available in Cork; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this patient needs to commence this treatment within four to six weeks from now and that stem cell harvesting will again have to take place if they attend another medical institution outside of County Cork; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this person’s youngest child died last year which together with this patient’s illness has caused devastation to this family; and the steps she will take to have this patient treated in a suitable centre without delay. [11421/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

81 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate an application on appeal to the southern Health Service Executive region for an increase in travel expenses where a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been approved €20 per week to meet the costs of transporting their middle-aged disabled son where this amount will not meet their expenses. [11422/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

82 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 168 of 29 November 2005, the status of the organisation of the tendering process; the discussions held with the Department of Education and Science on the topic; the dates of such discussions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11434/06]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the establishment of a new school of podiatry, which is a matter for the Department of Education and Science. I am conscious of the need for such a new school, which may involve the organisation of a tendering process.

Officials from the Department of Health and Children met their counterparts from the Department of Education and Science in August 2005. A second meeting between officials from the Departments took place last January, when the Department of Health and Children focused on how clinical training in podiatry could best be facilitated in a manner that is integrated with Health Service Executive services. The HSE is considering its approach to the issue and is expected to respond to my Department in the coming weeks in this regard.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

83 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 168 of 29 November 2005, the steps which she is taking to address the shortage of registered podiatrists here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11435/06]

The recently enacted Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a podiatrists' registration board, which will be responsible for establishing and maintaining a register of podiatrists. Statutory registration will involve podiatrists working in the public health service and in private practice. The Department of Health and Children is working on the establishment of a council of health and social care professionals in advance of the establishment of the podiatrists' registration board.

In advance of the establishment of the council and the registration board, the Health Service Executive and the Department are liaising with the relevant professional bodies on the further development of an assessment system to add podiatrists to a list of practitioners eligible to practice in the public health service. An assessment process carried out by the Department resulted in the addition of a further 81 names to the list in April 2005. The assessment process will be advanced further in the context of improving the supply of podiatry professionals. Discussions are ongoing between the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Education and Science on the proposed establishment of a new school of podiatry to train practitioners to degree level.

Health Services.

John Curran

Ceist:

84 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the difficulties in recruiting a full-time permanent speech and language therapist for a school (details supplied); the steps being taken to fill the vacancy; and when she expects the vacancy to be filled. [11442/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

85 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for a non-profit service provider in the intellectual disability sector having no financial statements between 2000-2004 and yet receiving a total of €288 million of public money. [11461/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

86 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position relating to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11466/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

87 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be given an appointment for an eye specialist in Galway. [11480/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

88 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the long awaited care for the elderly home in Ballinrobe, County Mayo; her views on whether this is an essential service which has been promised to the area for in excess of 20 years; her further views on whether, due to the huge catchment area this home would service, this would alleviate pressure on both the Galway hospitals and Mayo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11482/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

89 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the national cervical cancer screening service will be instituted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11483/06]

I am fully committed to the national roll out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. The Department of Health and Children has asked the Health Service Executive to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national programme. It is planned that cervical screening will be managed under a national call or recall programme with effective governance structures which will provide overall leadership and direction in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money.

The programme's elements — call or recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services — must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service. Significant preparatory work is under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. This year, the Department has made an additional €9 million available to the HSE for cancer services development, including the continuation of preparations for the roll out. The programme should be 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 under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. I have requested that the GP elements of a national cervical screening programme be considered at these discussions. Any remuneration arrangements which are 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 put in place tailored initiatives to encourage take-up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups. I would like the programme to be rolled out as quickly as possible but only when the essential infrastructure, organisation and services which are quality assured and meet international standards are in place.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

90 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the helicopter emergency medical service will be introduced to persons here in view of the continuing loss of life and disabilities due to the lack of same; her personal views as to whether this is a necessity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11484/06]

The Department of Health and Children and the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety jointly commissioned a consultancy study on the costs and benefits of the introduction of a dedicated emergency medical services helicopter for the island of Ireland. The study, which was published last year and is available on the Department's website, concluded that the introduction of a dedicated inter-hospital air ambulance service would be appropriate in an all-island context. In considering the report, the Northern Ireland Department advised that its priority is further investment to improve the ambulance service on the ground.

On foot of the report, the Department of Health and Children had detailed discussions with the Department of Defence about the future provision of air ambulance services by the Air Corps. A detailed service level agreement has been prepared and signed arising from the discussions. The signatories to the agreement are the Department of Defence, the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, the Defence Forces and the Air Corps.

The agreement sets out the range of services to be provided by the Air Corps, specifically inter-hospital transfer for spinal and serious injury and illness, air transport of neonates requiring immediate medical intervention in Ireland, air transport of patients requiring emergency organ transplant in the UK, air transport of organ harvest teams within Ireland and air transport of patients from offshore islands to mainland hospitals when the coastguard service is not available.

A steering group comprising representation of each of the signatories to the service level agreement has been established. The group will monitor the operation of the agreement and will, if necessary, amend the provisions of the agreement to take account of service developments, including the new fleet replacement programme being put in place by the Air Corps.

Hepatitis C Incidence.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

91 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her stance on providing free health care for the estimated 100 women who are severely affected, that is, desperately ill with hepatitis C but have not tested positive but have every other manifestation of the illness; and if in view of the small number involved and the effects of hepatitis C on their bodies she will reconsider her stance on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11485/06]

The possibility of an extension of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 to provide free health care for the patients referred to by the Deputy has been carefully examined and advice has been taken from a number of relevant experts. While I am sympathetic to the women in question, I cannot support an extension to the current eligibility requirements. This position was signalled to the support group representing the women at a meeting that I had with it in February 2005. Following further analysis of the matter, I confirmed my decision to the support group last September.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

92 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the paramedic grade in the ambulance service will be rolled out nationally to provide this essential service; her views on whether sufficient persons are qualified to operate this system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11486/06]

The national ambulance training school, which operates under the auspices of the Health Service Executive, provides training for advanced paramedic candidates in conjunction with University College Dublin. The school graduated 29 advanced paramedics in 2005 and proposes to train a further 48 in the current year. The deployment and utilisation of the advanced paramedics is being overseen by the HSE, in conjunction with the pre-hospital emergency care council, which is responsible for the development of standards in pre-hospital emergency care. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

93 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the short-listing, fee negotiations and interviews have been completed for the BreastCheck extension in Galway city given that the unit has received full planning permission; if the discussions on staffing requirements are complete; when in 2007 the national roll out of BreastCheck can be expected; the exact date as to when the first patients will be seen in the BreastCheck west clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11487/06]

BreastCheck is preparing for the national expansion of the breast screening programme to the remaining regions of the country. The Department of Health and Children has requested the director of BreastCheck to examine the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

94 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on placing mandatory arrangements wherever pharmaceutical products and alternative remedies are sold to distinguish clearly between products licensed by the Irish Medicines Board and unlicensed products in view of concerns that consumers are unaware of the difference between licensed and unlicensed products in pharmacies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11488/06]

Most of the regulatory initiatives in respect of medicinal products have their origins in EU directives that are required to be implemented in this country. Officials in the Department of Health and Children are finalising a package of regulations relevant to medicinal products and when these regulations are in place, all medicinal products, including herbal and homeopathic medicinal products, will be required to be authorised or registered by the Irish Medicines Board and it will be unlawful for any medicinal product not so authorised or registered to be placed on the market.

When these new arrangements come into force, licensed medicinal products will be given authorisation or certification numbers by the board and this should enable those who are involved in the marketing and use of medicinal products, including consumers, to distinguish between licensed and unlicensed products.

Homeopathy Therapists.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

95 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the licensing of homoeopaths prior to opening up to the public and ensuring a homoeopath refers a patient on for medical treatment; the way in which she intends to ensure a homoeopath makes it clear if they have certification from the Irish Medicines Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11489/06]

I am conscious that complementary therapy, including homeopathy, is of increasing interest to the public and that more people are now attending complementary therapists. A key concern of mine is protection of the public and a national working group on the regulation of complementary therapists has already reported to the Department of Health and Children with recommendations on future measures for strengthening the regulatory environment for complementary therapists. I will publish the group's report shortly.

One of the challenges facing the consumer is making informed health care choices. To this end, the Department of Health and Children is launching an information leaflet for the general public offering guidance when choosing to see a complementary therapist, including questions to ask the practitioner before embarking on a treatment. A key message is that patients with conditions which may require medical treatment should see their doctor first and I would strongly advise members of the public to take this message very seriously.

The Irish Medicines Board has no function in regard to the certification of practitioners of homeopathic medicine. The responsibility of the board relates only to the controls that apply to homeopathic medicinal products, which are required to have certificates of registration granted by the board before being placed on the market.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

96 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has, or intends to investigate the relationship between the RTE Guide, RTE health multimedia, the RTE health site and its advocacy of alternative remedies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11490/06]

I have not investigated the matter raised by the Deputy nor do I propose to do so. However, if the Deputy has any specific concerns she may wish to write to me in this regard.

Drug Trials.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

97 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of drug trials involving psychiatric patients in 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006. [11491/06]

The Irish Medicines Board has been asked to compile the information sought and it will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

98 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that an agreement between the Health Service Executive and SIPTU to abolish zero-hour contracts for home helps is implemented in full; the steps she is taking to ensure that the Health Service Executive complies with the Conditions of Employment Act 1944 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 when employing home helps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11497/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As these are matters for the executive under the Health Act 2004, the Department of Health and Children has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have them investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

However, I am aware that a high level group has been established, with representatives from the Health Service Executive and staff representatives from SIPTU and IMPACT, to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of home help services. This group is due to have its first meeting today. An additional €33 million full-year cost was allocated to the home help programme in the last budget, €30 million of which will be for 2006 with the remaining €3 million in 2007, which will enable the Health Service Executive to provide an additional 1.75 million hours nationally in 2006. The additional resource will further enhance the service and facilitate the expressed wish of many more older people to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible.

Hospital Services.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

99 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of admissions to the accident and emergency department of Wexford General Hospital in 2005 that can be attributed to alcohol or drug abuse; and the percentage of those so admitted who would be under 20 years and under 25 years. [11500/06]

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 requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

100 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the actions her Department is undertaking to promote the prevention and treatment of motor neurone disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11501/06]

Motor neurone disease is a progressive neurological disorder, the cause of which is unknown. There is no specific test and the diagnosis is made by clinical examination. While there is no cure for motor neurone disease at this time, certain treatments can slow the progression of this condition.

As part of the Estimates for health services in 2006, additional funding of €3 million was allocated specifically for the further development of neurology and neurophysiology services. This funding was provided to allow the Health Service Executive to further progress the implementation of the recommendations made by the former Comhairle na nOspidéal in respect of these services. The Comhairle na nOspidéal report, which has been published, recommended significant enhancement of services, including the appointment of additional consultants. While reaching the full complement of consultant posts as recommended will take some time, major improvements in patient care can be achieved in the shorter term through a combination of additional consultant posts and the appointment of a number of clinical nurse specialists and allied health professionals.

The Department of Health and Children is advised by the executive that the development of three new neurology units will commence during 2006, one in the mid-west, one in the north west and one in the south east, with the appointment of multidisciplinary teams comprising consultant neurologists and support staff.

The Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the Deputy's specific queries relating to motor neurone disease examined, and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on these matters.

Child Care Services.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

101 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the supports which are available to working parents who cannot arrange for their children to be collected from school; if consideration has been given to the provision of such services considering the high number of parents that are working; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11529/06]

While issues relating to school services, including school transport services, are appropriate to the Minister for Education and Science, the Deputy may be aware of the recently announced National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 which will provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services, including services for school age child care. The programme is being implemented by the Department of Health and Children through the newly established office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children, OMC, under my auspices. The OMC will also be responsible for implementing the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, which is set to continue until the end of 2007.

The need to support the further development of child care services for children of school-going age, including before and after school hours and out of school terms, is an important objective of both the EOCP and the new national child care investment Programme. The issue was examined in detail by a working group of the national child care co-ordinating committee, set up under the EOCP, and resulted in the publication in June 2005 of the report, School Age Childcare in Ireland. The report made a number of recommendations for the development of school age child care to support the child care needs of parents, including the use of school premises, where appropriate, as a location to develop a quality school age child care service, as well as laying down guidelines for the delivery of a quality service. It is hoped that its publication and promotion at local level by the city and county child care committees, CCCs, will give greater impetus to the development of these important services.

Funding is available under the EOCP and the new child care investment programme for the development of child care facilities, including facilities with a specific focus on school age child care. Community/not-for-profit and private sector child care providers may apply for grant assistance of up to €1 million and €100,000 respectively, towards the capital cost of developing a child care service in a catchment area where there is a demonstrated need, and subject to the relevant criteria. Schools, groups or individuals interested in applying for school age child care funding should contact their local CCC. Full contact details for the CCCs are available on the OMC website at www.omc.gov.ie.

Nursing Home Charges.

Michael Collins

Ceist:

102 Mr. Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received from persons with County Limerick addresses seeking repayment of overcharges in State run nursing homes; and if this figure will be analysed between living applicants and deceased applicants. [11543/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the national repayment scheme, inquiries relating to the scheme are referred to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. The Department of Health and Children has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

103 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to stamp duty exemption on the transfer of a farm will be examined in view of their educational qualifications. [11409/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person is unlikely to qualify for stamp duty exemption under section 81A of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 if the only qualifications held at the date of the instrument of transfer are those supplied with the question. The required qualifications are listed in the Revenue Commissioners leaflet SD2A, which is available on their website.

If the person in question would like to discuss the matter, he should contact the stamping unit, Revenue Commissioners, Cork, telephone 021 4325000.

State Property.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

104 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance when he will proceed with the heads of agreement settled in 2002 for the Great Blasket Island and incorporated in the management plan for the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11462/06]

The Office of Public Works is attempting to complete the purchase of the properties on the island and arrange for the implementation of the other proposals contained in the management plan for the island.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

105 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works intends to take back into its charge a building (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and the use to which it will be put. [11417/06]

Legal arrangements to return the Debtor's Prison, Green Street, Dublin 7 to OPW ownership are almost complete. Upon regaining ownership of the property, OPW will examine various strategies to extract maximum value from the property for the State as part of the transforming State assets programme.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

106 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a stamp duty exemption will be granted on the transfer of a farm from a parent to a son based on the qualification which the son holds (details supplied). [11418/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not clear from the details supplied whether the person would qualify for exemption from stamp duty, as the date of execution of the instrument and some other matters may be relevant. The conditions that must be fulfilled to qualify for exemption are set out in leaflet SD2A, available at the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie.

If the person in question would like to discuss the matter, and any associated difficulties he may have with payment, he should contact the stamping unit, Revenue Commissioners, Cork, telephone 021 4325000, or write to the Revenue Commissioners, Government Buildings, Sullivan's Quay, Cork.

State Property.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

107 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the specific plans his Department has for Doneraile Court and Park, Doneraile, County Cork. [11419/06]

Having assumed responsibility for this property in late 2004 the Office of Public Works commenced a programme of maintenance and minor improvements. This programme, which is ongoing, includes: improved general landscape maintenance; new sewerage connection for and upgrading of public toilets; repairs to main entrance gate; internal roads and bridges; and health, safety and security works. While further major works to the main house, Doneraile Court, are not planned for the short term, consideration is being given to outline proposals by a number of parties. Consideration is also being given to a proposal by local interests for the provision of a playground.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

108 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will extend the repayment of VAT to unregistered farmers to include VAT paid on the purchase of farm equipment such as tractors, which are used in the reclamation of land works and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11420/06]

The Value-Added Tax (Refund of Tax) Order 1993 provides a scheme for the refund of VAT paid by farmers on the construction of farm buildings and structures, fencing, drainage and the reclamation of farmland. Refund orders are very much an exception to the general rule, and I have no plans to extend the 1993 refund scheme for farmers to cover farm equipment.

However, as a group, unregistered farmers are compensated for the VAT borne on their farming inputs in accordance with a special mechanism provided for under the EU sixth VAT directive. The operation of the flat-rate scheme minimises the cost of administration which would be necessary if farmers were obliged to register and reduces the burden of administration on farmers generally in complying with VAT law. The flat-rate scheme provides for a set percentage, known as the flat-rate addition or refund, by which unregistered farmers may increase their prices when selling to VAT registered businesses such as co-operatives, meat factories and so forth. The VAT registered business, in turn, deducts the addition as a normal business input in its periodic VAT return. The current level of the addition is 4.8%.

Tax Yield.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

109 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if it is a legal requirement that VAT be charged on all road tolls; the amount of VAT collected in 2005 from each tolling facility nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11432/06]

The application of VAT on such charges is governed by the EU law with which Irish VAT law must comply. An ECJ ruling on this issue in 2000 meant that Ireland was required to apply VAT at the standard rate on all existing and future roads and bridges which are subject to tolls. The VAT treatment of tolled facilities was amended in the Finance Act 2001 to take account of the court judgment. Toll charges are therefore subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to provide a breakdown of VAT collected in 2005 from each tolling facility in the State. The VAT collected on all toll toads and bridges in 2005 is estimated at approximately €13 million.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

110 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if people paying maintenance towards the care of their children are entitled to claim tax relief on same; the amounts of tax relief claimed for the past five years concerning same; if a married man who has fathered a child outside marriage is not entitled to claim tax relief for maintenance paid, the reason for same; his plans to amend the current regulations to take into consideration such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11495/06]

The State provides a wide range of support mechanisms for children with regard to their welfare, health and education, including the universal payment of child benefit and, as recently announced in budget 2006, the early child care supplement.

Apart from incapacitated children, the tax code does not provide tax relief in respect of the maintenance of children. Accordingly, a married man who has fathered a child, whether inside or outside marriage, is not entitled to claim tax relief for maintenance paid by him in respect of that child. While the parent making a child maintenance payment is not entitled to relief or a deduction in respect of such a payment, it is not regarded for income tax purposes as the income of the other parent or as the income of the child. I have no plans to change this position.

Coastal Protection.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

111 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when funding for phase 2 of a specific project (details supplied) will be approved in order to carry out urgent and very necessary works in County Cork. [11411/06]

Responsibility for coastal protection rests with the property owner whether it be a local authority or a private individual. Last year under the Department's coastal protection programme, funding of €148,554 was provided towards village protection works at Guileen costing a total of €198,072.

A programme for the funding of coast protection works under the coast protection programme for 2006 is under consideration and the question of further funding for Guileen will be considered under this programme, taking into account the amount of Exchequer funding available and overall national priorities.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or others with his authority have had discussions with RTE or those in the private broadcasting sector in the context of the proposed broadcasting Bill; if conclusions or understandings have been reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11526/06]

In the context of the development of broadcasting policy my officials and I have cause, on a regular basis, to meet representatives of the various interests that comprise the broadcasting sector, including but not limited to commercial broadcasters, public service broadcasters and independent producers. At many of these meetings the issues to be addressed in the forthcoming broadcasting Bill, given their relative importance to the sector, have been raised and discussed in general terms.

Economic Competitiveness.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

113 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the strategies and plans he has for Irish industry, especially when many companies have moved to low-wage economies from here; and if he will make a statement on this potential crisis for workers here. [11392/06]

My Department and the enterprise agencies are acutely aware of the challenges that have emerged as a result of globalisation and increased international competition. However, Ireland's experience of this globalising trend to date has been a largely positive one. Employment in manufacturing has declined in recent years but that has been more than offset by increases in employment in services, including a substantial increase in internationally traded services. Furthermore, manufacturing output has continued to increase, indicating improved productivity.

It is certainly the case that manufacturing firms in the more traditional sectors have, in recent years, operated against a backdrop of significantly declining external demand, downward price pressure and an increasingly competitive international environment, together with upward pressure on costs and the strengthening of the euro against our key trading partners' currencies. To counterbalance the threat from lower-wage competitor economies, our policy is to encourage a move to higher levels of productivity and value-added products and services in sectors where we have or can develop a competitive advantage. While manufacturing will continue to play a key role in the economy, Ireland will also make a transition towards more service-orientated activities, as is the case with all developed countries.

One of my Department's principal tasks is to ensure that Ireland continues to be an attractive place to do business and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we have made significant efforts to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions and to promote new areas of competitive advantage, such as by developing our research and development base. Our priority remains the creation of sustainable employment driven by companies with higher profitability that are more technologically advanced and prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy, consequently being less likely to move on the basis of simple cost influences.

To assist the drive towards competitiveness and increased productivity, the enterprise development agencies are working with companies: to provide mentoring and developmental supports; to enhance management capabilities and critical workforce skills; to support the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth; to build productivity; and to provide support for innovation and research and development.

We will also continue to pursue labour market policies to promote lifelong learning and upskilling as a means of enhancing labour market flexibility and, where necessary, ensure that appropriate training supports are provided for workers in sectors that are no longer competitive to help them find alternative employment. Moderation of the rate of growth in operating costs is also necessary to ensure that our costs remain in line with those of other high-cost locations and that cost increases do not negate or overshadow the effect on competitiveness of productivity growth.

While the changing nature of our economy has seen some losses, in contrast, the new jobs created in the economic development agencies' client companies in the last few years are heavily concentrated in high value-added, knowledge based companies that offer greater security in the face of intense international competition.

Migrant Workers.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

114 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average industrial earnings per annum of migrant workers here. [11399/06]

The Department does not have the statistics sought by the Deputy. However, I understand that the Central Statistics Office will shortly be launching the national employment survey 2006, the results of which will be available next year. Some of the information sought by the Deputy may be captured in that survey.

Employment Levels.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

115 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of young persons, as defined in the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996, in employment at 31 December 2005 or the most recent available figures; and the number of employers who had young persons in their employment on the same date. [11412/06]

The Department does not have the statistical information sought by the Deputy. A perusal of the Central Statistics Office website indicates that in the period September to November 2005 there were 71,200 persons in employment ranging in age from 15 years to 19 years.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

116 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a grant scheme in place to assist a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is refurbishing a bar and restaurant. [11413/06]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State agencies, including the county and city enterprise boards, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and FÁS, through which assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

The county and city enterprise boards, CEBs, provide support to micro-enterprises with ten employees or fewer. The function of the CEBs is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants or for non-financial support such as business advice and information, management development and training, mentoring and so forth.

All the CEBs operate to the same criteria regarding the assistance that they can offer, that is, they can support the establishment or development of new and existing enterprises by individuals, firms and community groups, provided that the projects, which should generally be in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector, have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and over time may develop into strong exporting entities. In that regard, therefore, funding is unlikely to be available towards the costs of refurbishing a bar and restaurant.

The person concerned may, in the first instance, wish to contact North Cork County Enterprise Board, 26 Davis Street, Mallow, County Cork, telephone 022 43235, fax 022 43247, to determine whether he or she is eligible for any form of support from it.

Flexible Work Practices.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

117 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of those workers who worked on Sundays in 2005 who were paid double time for working on a Sunday. [11438/06]

The Department does not have the statistics sought by the Deputy. I understand that the Central Statistics Office survey captures information on overtime but not specifically regarding Sunday work.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

118 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of the workforce which worked on at least one Sunday per month in 2005. [11439/06]

The Department does not have the statistics sought by the Deputy.

Job Losses.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

119 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to address the plight of the workers made redundant by a company (details supplied) in County Donegal. [11459/06]

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.

In line with the voluntary nature of the industrial relations system in this country, 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. Responsibility for the settlement of a dispute ultimately rests with the parties themselves.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

120 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views, given the refusal of companies (details supplied) to pay the workers the redundancy terms recommended by the Labour Court, on whether it is necessary to increase statutory redundancy payments to a minimum of three weeks per year of service. [11460/06]

Legislation to increase statutory redundancy payments was enacted by means of the Redundancy Payments Act 2003. This increased the level of redundancy payments from a half a week's pay per year of service under the age of 41 and one week's pay per year of service over the age of 41, plus one bonus week, to two week's pay per year of service, plus a bonus week. This increase resulted from the Sustaining Progress agreement between the social partners. S.I. 695 of 2004 increased the ceiling on reckonable earnings used in calculating statutory redundancy payments from €507.90 per week to €600 per week from 1 January 2005. This represents an increase of 20% in the ceiling and follows from the recommendations contained in the report of the redundancy review group published in 2002 and from the mid-term review of Sustaining Progress. In light of the foregoing, there are no plans to increase further the level of statutory redundancy payments in the foreseeable future.

Statutory redundancy has been paid to the workers in the factory named by the Deputy and a 60% rebate was paid to the company last December. Ex gratia payments are a matter of negotiation between the company concerned and the workers, represented in this case by SIPTU. 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. Responsibility for the settlement of a dispute ultimately rests with the parties themselves.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

121 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the mechanism he has put in place to provide training for the employees recently made redundant in a business (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11463/06]

FÁS employment services and training services, midlands region, are closely involved with all companies which have redundancies, assisting the workers in planning new careers; identifying training needs and providing training in a range of skills.

A range of services are provided. They include a top level agreement with the company on responsibilities and actions, as well as intensive interviews either individually or in groups with affected workers. These interviews outline the range of supports and services available. In addition, the services include referral by FÁS of redundant workers to jobs, training courses or other options; the establishment by FÁS of special or customised courses where necessary; and ongoing support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market.

In the case of the business in question, FÁS has initiated the process outlined above and a number of the workers made redundant on 16 March 2006 are engaged in the process. FÁS will continue to provide its services to the workers until they find suitable employment.

Job Creation

Pat Carey

Ceist:

122 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures which are being taken by his Department and the agencies which report to him to attract jobs to the north Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11465/06]

Under the industrial development Acts, support for job creation and investment on a regional or local basis comes within the remit of the industrial development agencies and I am precluded from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over another.

IDA Ireland is the agency charged with the attraction of foreign investment, FDI, to this country. As part of its strategy to attract FDI to Dublin, IDA Ireland works with its existing client base in Dublin to encourage them to expand and diversify into higher value added goods and services. The agency also provides modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure to potential clients.

Under existing EU regional aid guidelines, RAGs, IDA clients investing in the Dublin region can receive grant assistance up to a maximum of 17.5% of eligible expenditure. Overall, the region has now attained sufficient critical mass in terms of population, its skills base, infrastructure offering, enterprise base and economic activity that it can attract and sustain business investment independent of grant support. As a result, IDA's policy is to utilise grant support in the Dublin region on a selective and exceptional basis.

In 2005 there were a total of 68 first-time site visits to Dublin, while in the same period, four additional IDA supported companies announced the creation of over 650 jobs in the following areas, Swords, Hartford Financial Group and Palm Global Operation, Eastpoint, Yahoo, and Blanchardstown, Qlogic.

Enterprise Ireland, which is the agency with primary responsibility for the promotion of indigenous industry, works closely with third level colleges in encouraging the commercialisation of research. The agency has supported the development of business incubation space in Dublin City University, Blanchardstown Institute of Technology and in the National College of Ireland. Under the community enterprise centres schemes, Enterprise Ireland supported centres in Coolock, Darndale and in the north city centre.

Since the beginning of 2005, Enterprise Ireland has approved over €33 million and made payments of over €27 million in support of development projects throughout the region. Figures from the 2005 Forfás employment survey indicate that at the end of 2005, there were 4,033 people employed in 196 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Fingal and 23,508 people in 1,048 client companies in Dublin city.

During 2005, the Fingal County Enterprise Board and the Dublin City Enterprise Board paid out just over €1 million in grant assistance. In 2005 there was a total net increase in enterprise board-assisted employment of 212 jobs in the area covered by both boards.

I am pleased that the strategies and policies being pursued by development agencies are producing real and sustainable results for the people of north Dublin in terms of additional investments and jobs and I am confident that this will continue to be the case into the future.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has examined the implications of the intention by some oil companies to cease business here; if this is likely to have implications for competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11496/06]

Consumers benefit from competition in the market and the Government is committed to fostering competition in all sectors of the economy. The national markets in which oil companies operate are no exception. Should any oil or fuel company decide to exit the market, I expect that there would be a high level of interest in the business being sold and many suitable prospective bidders. However, there is nothing the Government or anyone else can do to force incumbents to stay in a market. It is the right of any individual or corporation to sell its business and exit the market if it so wishes.

Form a competition perspective, any acquisition of an oil company currently operating in the Irish market is likely to be subject to regulatory clearance by the Competition Authority under the merger and acquisition provisions of the Competition Act 2002.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

124 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he proposes to take to combat job relocation to low wage economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11515/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs relocated from here to low cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11518/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has identified the main contributory factors to job relocation to other economies; the action he proposes to take to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11519/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals to avert job relocation from this economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11521/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which he proposes to ensure that Ireland can regain its competitive edge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11522/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost to lower cost economies in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11524/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 126, 127, 129, 130 and 132 together.

The National Competitiveness Council through its work on competitiveness benchmarking highlights where the economy is strong in competitiveness terms but also warns us of emerging or potential challenges. I give very careful consideration to the council's annual analyses when they are published. These reports provide a valuable input to the essential formation of policies necessary to encourage and support enterprise development.

Since the beginning of 2006, Amgen, the largest biotechnology company in the world, announced it has chosen Ireland in which to invest $1 billion and create 1,100 jobs by 2010. Vesta Corporation, a leader in virtual commerce solutions, will establish a European operations centre in Dundalk. Georgia Tech Research Institute will set up an applied industry research institute in Athlone and Actel will set up a European processor centre in Dublin. These are just a sample of high technology investments that have been attracted to Ireland because of our developing competitive strengths in technology, science infrastructure and knowledge confident and skilled employees.

Decisions by global businesses to make investments of this importance and scale are not made in favour of uncompetitive and lowly rated locations. In global terms we have not lost but are sharpening our competitive edge in terms of technological and innovation advantage — the very attributes that will sustain enterprise as the impact of globalisation becomes more influential and the severity of competition more intense. We are making impressive progress in winning significant employment from the outsourcing and relocation decisions of foreign investors. These investments, as well as the 65 high potential start-ups that were supported by Enterprise Ireland last year, are just some of the capital Ireland is generating to seed future growth.

As further evidence of our commitment to assisting and developing Ireland's knowledge economy, overall Government investment in research and development increased fivefold, from €500 million between 1994 and 1999, to €2.5 billion between 2000 and 2006. My Department is using some of these funds to aggressively support Science Foundation Ireland in its programme to build centres for science, engineering and technology. These connect world class researchers with industry through grants worth as much as €20 million over five years. These are targeted investments in areas with the most likely scientific and economic impact. I believe our aim to invest in performance and excellence is already paying off by repositioning Ireland at the sharp end of what global companies are looking for when making decisions about complex, high value investments.

To help indigenous firms tackle technological vulnerability that can lead to job losses, the enterprise development agencies under my Department's aegis have developed a range of programmes to encourage more firms to innovate and undertake research and development that will transform their ability to compete. This is critical for Irish small and medium sized enterprises, SMEs, because virtually all companies regardless of size now have to compete in some form of global marketplace. For example, Enterprise Ireland's productivity improvement fund helps companies access new capital equipment, acquire strategic new technologies or fund training and management development initiatives. Our aim is to drive productivity performance across indigenous companies so they not only survive the globalisation process but have the ability to profit from opportunities which globalisation offers.

Our future is inextricably linked to succeeding as a knowledge economy. Knowledge companies develop by collaboration and by building networks and clusters for mutual benefit. In response to the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group, I have authorised Enterprise Ireland to explore how these could be best utilised in an Irish context by promoting pilot industry-led networks with the aim of meeting either national economic or joint company development objectives. This is an exciting project for enterprise to work with my Department's agencies to imagine the future and help shape it.

These policies are designed to improve national competitiveness, sustain employment in Ireland and limit the attractiveness of lower cost economies for job relocation. It is not possible to identify the number of jobs that have relocated from Ireland over the past five years to low cost economies nor is it feasible to identify the myriad business reasons companies might have for making this decision. Furthermore, the life cycle of companies influences the ebb and flow of employment and investment and relocation is just one factor in the many enterprise related issues that determines employment levels. Nevertheless, the Government and I are determined that Ireland will be a competitive economy for the clever, research driven innovations that will be demanded by tomorrow's industrial and personal consumer markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he has taken to reduce the costs to industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11517/06]

Sustaining Ireland's competitiveness continues to be a key priority for the 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 introduction of a non-inflationary budget for the third consecutive year. This displays the Government's prudent fiscal management of the economy at a time of ever increasing global competitiveness pressures.

Competition is the best way to ensure we have a competitive cost base. In my Department, I have assigned more resources and given more powers to the Competition Authority. I have abolished the groceries order and strengthened competition legislation to deliver more competition and help create a more cost-effective base for doing business from Ireland.

Developed economies usually have higher costs than less developed regions and Ireland is no exception. While our cost base may be relatively higher than other economies, our competitiveness in skills, education, knowledge infrastructure and an ambitious workforce sets us apart from our competitors. This makes our economy an attractive location for investment and from which to do business globally. The consistent flows of high quality, sophisticated and research orientated investments that locate here is tangible evidence we are at the sharp edge of competitiveness in the products and services that will be needed by tomorrow's industrial and consumer markets.

Nevertheless, with global competition becoming more pressing and influential, enterprise needs to place a greater emphasis on productivity improvement. To help indigenous firms in this area Enterprise Ireland is running a productivity improvement fund that will help firms access new technology or initiate training and management development projects.

Finally, I have no doubt that the competitiveness and business costs imperative will be a critical overarching issue that must be taken into account by the various stakeholders in the social partnership discussions.

Questions Nos. 126 and 127 answered with Question No. 124.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that Irish exports are in a position to compete on world markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11520/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which he intends to create the climate for an increase in Irish exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11525/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 133 together.

I would refer the Deputy to the reply I made to similar questions put by him on 7 February 2006. As a small open market economy, exporting over 90% of its GDP, Ireland is hugely dependent on the ability of its exporters to succeed in world markets and has, as a result, fully embraced the global economy. Figures released this week by the Central Statistics Office show that Irish exports for 2005 increased by 5% on 2004 export figures. This compares with a 2% increase for Irish exports between 2003 and 2004. I am heartened by the continuous improvement in our export position against a background of continuing low growth rates in the European and US economies over the past year.

The Government is strongly supportive of Irish exporting firms seeking to increase their level of exports on world markets and in that regard my Department, through its agency, Enterprise Ireland, is active both domestically at the developmental level and through promotional activities carried out from a range of locations abroad, in assisting Irish indigenous companies to find new markets for their products and to increase their existing level of market share.

In this, Enterprise Ireland is ably assisted by Irish embassies abroad whose staff work closely with the agency in facilitating the development of export markets for Irish exporting companies. Close co-ordination is also maintained with other export promotion organisations, such as Bord Bia, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and non-governmental bodies such as the Irish Exporters' Association and the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. In addition, both I and my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, have been active in leading trade missions, in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, to the new member states and Asia, with a view to increasing the share of exports by Irish companies to these countries.

While the focus of our efforts has in recent years been towards developing and expanding markets in northern Europe and the USA and, consequently, reducing our dependence on the UK export market, we have also begun to explore the potential for increasing our exports to Asia and the Far East. In that context the Taoiseach last year launched the second phase of the Asia Strategy 2005-2009, following his successful visit to China. The Asia strategy contains a number of export oriented targets and objectives, which is overseen by a committee representative of public and private sector interests, with a view to exploiting fully the potential for Irish companies to develop new markets in Asia over the coming years.

My Department and its agencies will continue to work with other organisations engaged in export promotion, with a view to increasing the overall level of Irish exports in existing markets and creating new markets for Irish exporting firms.

Question Nos. 129 and 130 answered with Question No. 124.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that sufficient action has been taken to address the issue of jobs lost in County Kildare over the past three years to other economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11523/06]

Provisional figures suggest that job losses in companies supported by the enterprise development agencies which have occurred during the past three years have been offset by job gains. Overall permanent employment in agency supported firms in County Kildare has increased from 15,293 in 2003 to 16,070 in 2005. No data are available to indicate what impact relocation to other economies may have had on employment levels in the county.

Over the past five years, IDA Ireland's focused strategy for Kildare has been to promote the county as part of an integrated east region with access to a population base of 1.5 million people. IDA Ireland's strategy for County Kildare is to: progress the development of a knowledge economy; encourage increased co-operation between foreign direct investment companies and third level institutions in the county; work with the existing client base in the county to expand its presence; and provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure work with local authorities and relevant infrastructure providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure to the county.

Kildare has in recent years attracted some world class manufacturing companies such as Intel, Braun Oral B and Hewlett Packard. IDA Ireland is also working to attract the international services, software, financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors and in recent months IFS, a financial services company, has established a facility in Naas. To support this strategy IDA Ireland is working closely with educational institutions in the county, in developing the skill sets necessary to attract high value added employment to the county. IDA Ireland is also working with FÁS to provide guidance in developing the skill set needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in upskilling.

In line with the strategy currently being pursued by the enterprise development agencies, new jobs are being created by established firms in the county. Green Isle Foods, for example, announced a major expansion in 2005 at its plant in Naas, generating 130 new jobs. The services sector has also continued to grow and is now the most rapidly growing sector of the economy in County Kildare.

County Kildare has benefited from significant investment in recent years in technological infrastructure in NUI Maynooth. This will be the key to ensuring that the county is an attractive location for knowledge based industry in future years. Since 2002, Enterprise Ireland has approved over €3.3 million to support innovation partnerships between NUI Maynooth and industry. In addition to providing direct financial assistance, Kildare CEB also provides indirect assistance such as advice, mentoring and a broad range of training programmes for prospective entrants or established participants in the micro-enterprise sector.

Improvements to physical infrastructure facilities, required to attract today's FDI, include the development of Millennium Park, Naas. The park has three modern 40,000 sq. ft. advance office buildings, which are now available for marketing to inward investors.

Enterprise in Kildare encompasses a broad range of activities in a number of important sectors. I am confident that the strategies and policies of the enterprise development agencies will continue to meet both the needs of businesses that generate and sustain high quality employment opportunities and, as a consequence, the needs of society in terms of those opportunities in Kildare.

Question No. 132 answered with No. 124.
Question No. 133 answered with No. 128.

Export Licensing.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

134 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to the need for transparency and accountability in the control of exports of military and dual use goods here, his views on the fact that his Department’s website has not been updated on these and other issues since November 2002. [11530/06]

My Department is fully seized of the need for oversight and public transparency in the area of export licensing of military and dual use goods. This issue was addressed in the 2004 Forfás review of Ireland's export controls, which recommended that an annual report be laid before the Oireachtas on the licensing and export of military and dual use goods. The new export control legislation being prepared by my Department will provide for such reports and it is my intention to present the first such report, in respect of licensing activity in 2006, in 2007.

The export licensing pages of the website are updated on a regular basis, for example, to reflect changes in the lists of controlled goods. However, we ceased publication of licence numbers because they did not reflect the volume of military goods exported and, therefore, gave a misleading impression of such exports. It is anticipated that a more substantive revision of the website will be undertaken in the next few months, in the context of the imminent introduction of the on-line electronic licensing application system, with a view to better meeting the information needs of industry and other stakeholders.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

135 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when draft legislation, originally scheduled for 2005, on the control of exports of military and dual use goods will be introduced. [11531/06]

Work on drafting the heads of the export control Bill has been completed and consultations with other relevant Departments and agencies are under way. I expect this process to be completed within the next few weeks at which point I will bring it to Government for approval. Allowing for the formalities of drafting the legal texts, I hope to bring the legislation before the House in the autumn.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Mulcahy

Ceist:

136 Mr. Mulcahy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to provide pensions to Irish missionaries living abroad in developing countries who do not intend to return home to Ireland. [11429/06]

Missionaries who have made sufficient social insurance contributions can qualify for an old age contributory pension. Contributory pensions are payable abroad and so missionaries who qualify and who chose to settle overseas can receive a payment. Non-contributory pensions are only payable where a person is resident in this country. Accordingly, missionaries who return here and who satisfy the habitual residence condition and a means test can qualify for a pension.

Officials of my Department made a presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 2005 on pensions for missionaries. Following the presentation, a working group, which includes my Department, was established to examine issues relating to social protection coverage for missionaries, notably relating to pension coverage. The question of providing pensions for missionaries who retire abroad will be considered in the light of the conclusions of the working group.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

137 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is not being awarded the family income supplement. [11430/06]

An application for family income supplement, FIS, was received by my Department from the person concerned on 8 February 2006. One of the principal conditions for receipt of FIS is that a person must work at least 19 hours per week or 38 weeks per fortnight. Based on the information available to my Department, the person concerned was not considered to be in full-time remunerative employment, as prescribed in regulations. Accordingly, her claim was disallowed and she was advised of this decision and of her right to appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.

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

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

138 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will extend free travel to older Irish emigrants, at the very least to Irish pensioners living in the UK, when they return here on their holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11479/06]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. People resident in the State who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or disability payment from a country covered by EU regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, and who have been in receipt of this payment for at least 12 months, are also eligible for free travel.

There have been a number of requests and inquiries relating to the extension of entitlement to free travel in Ireland to Irish-born people living outside Ireland, or to those in receipt of pensions from my Department, particularly in the UK when they return to Ireland for a visit. I am continuing to explore all aspects of an approach, subject to clarification of legal advice. I will continue to review the operation of the free travel scheme with a view to identifying the scope for further improvements as resources permit.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

139 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the numbers employed by county in the coast guard service; their role and responsibilities; the future for the coast guard service; the number of posts not filled at the moment in each county area; the cost of the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11393/06]

A total of 81.5 posts are assigned to the coast guard, which is part of the Department of Transport since 1 January 2006. Table I provides details by county of filled and unfilled posts within the coast guard together with their roles and responsibilities. Table II provides details of the cost of the coast guard services.

With regard to the future development of the coast guard, it is proposed to transfer its headquarters to Drogheda as part of the Government's decentralisation programme. The move has been identified as a phase one project and the Office of Public Works is seeking a suitable site for the development with the objective of completing the move as quickly as possible. I have also asked coast guard management to finalise its assessment of the needs of the rescue co-ordination centre arrangements with a view to undertaking necessary development and re-equipping work.

Table 1: Irish Coast Guard Posts, Roles and Responsibilities

County

Posts filled

Posts not filled

Role

Responsibilities

Dublin

1

Director

Head of Coast Guard and responsible for all functions. Functions are managed under headings Operations, Engineering, and Administration.

Dublin

1

Operations Assistant Director

Responsible for Operations, which has four Branches: — Pollution/Salvage, — Search and Rescue, (SAR), — Voluntary Services and Training, and, — Stores. Operations manage the emergency response provided by voluntary Search and Rescue (SAR) services, including 54 Coastal Units, and the 4 helicopter emergency response airport bases, at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo. It also manages voluntary SAR services declared resources to the Coast Guard, e.g., RNLI and Community Inshore Rescue Services.

Dublin

1

Engineering Assistant Director

Engineering maintains a radio communications network to provide a listening watch on distress channels, co-ordination of SAR resources, broadcast of weather forecasts and navigation warnings, and provision of a ship telephony service. The network has capacity for adequate transmission/ reception for radio communication for persons in all waters and land areas within the Ireland Search and Rescue Region.

Dublin

1

Operations Pollution / Salvage Manager

Responsible for Ireland’s response to all incidents of actual or potential pollution of marine waters within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone, (IPRZ) and for salvage management.

Dublin

1

Operations SAR Manager

Responsible for the co-ordination of SAR response which emanates from the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre and its two sub-Centres, one at Malin Head and one at Valentia.

Dublin

1

Operations Voluntary Services & Training (VS&T) Manager

Responsible for provision of all training, equipment, vehicles, accommodation, running costs and overheads for the Coast Guard’s 54 Coastal Units. Responsible for liaison with IRCG declared resources, including inland voluntary groups.

Dublin

Operations Stores Management

Stores Branch is managed by Head of Engineering, (for Engineering equipment), the Pollution / Salvage Manager (for Pollution/Salvage equipment) and the VS&T Manager, (for Coastal Unit equipment).

Dublin

2

1

Operations Training and Operations Officer — VS&T

Responsible for on-the-ground provision of training and equipment for 54 Coastal Units and all other organisational and technical matters affecting the individual volunteer Units.

Dublin

3

Operations Training and Operations Officer — Pollution/Salvage

Responsible for on-the-ground management of all pollution and salvage issues in the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone, (IPRZ).

Dublin

1

Operations Divisional Controller

Responsible for management of the Dublin Divisional preparedness

Dublin

1

Operations Deputy Divisional Controller

Responsible to Divisional Controller of the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

Dublin

8

2

Operations Station Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Dublin

9

Operations Watch Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Dublin

2

Engineering Electronics Officer

Responsible for maintenance, improvement and expansion of the IRCG radio communications network.

Dublin

1

Engineering Engineering and Operations Officer

Responsible for maintenance, improvement and expansion of the IRCG radio communications network.

Dublin

1

Operations Storekeeper

Responsible for management of Stores for vehicles and equipment for 54 Coastal Units.

Dublin

2

Administration Higher Executive Officer

Responsible for IRCG administration.

Dublin

1

1

Administration Executive Officer

Responsible for IRCG administration.

Dublin

3.3

0.2

Administration Clerical Officer

Responsible for IRCG administration.

Donegal

1

Operations Divisional Controller

Responsible for management of the Malinhead Divisional preparedness.

Donegal

1

Operations Deputy Divisional Controller

Responsible to Divisional Controller of the Marine Rescue sub-Centre.

Donegal

9

Operations Station Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Donegal

5

Operations Watch Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Donegal

1

Engineering Engineering and Operations Officer

Responsible for maintenance, improvement and expansion of the IRCG radio communications network.

Donegal

1

Administration Service Attendant

Support of Malin Head Marine Rescue sub-Centre.

Kerry

1

Operations Divisional Controller

Responsible for management of Valentia Divisional preparedness.

Kerry

1

Operations Deputy Divisional Controller

Responsible to Divisional Controller of the Marine Rescue sub-Centre.

Kerry

6

3

Operations Station Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Kerry

9

Operations Watch Officer

Responsible for co-ordination of distress or emergency calls.

Kerry

1

Administration Service Attendant

Support of Valentia Marine Rescue sub-Centre.

Cork

1

Engineering Electronics Officer

Responsible for maintenance, improvement and expansion of the IRCG radio communications network.

Cork

1

Administration Clerical Officer

Responsible for IRCG administration.

Co. not assigned

1

Engineering Senior Engineering & Operations Officer

Responsible for maintenance, improvement and expansion of the IRCG radio communications network.

Total

* 73.3

13.2

*There are five station officer vacancies in IRCG. These vacancies will be filled from the watch officer, at present totalling 24 officers, thus reducing the number of the latter posts to 19.

Table 2: Irish Coast Guard — cost of services

Item

Allocation for 2006

€000

A. Administrative Budget

(1) Salaries and Overtime

4,831

(2) Travel and Subsistence

300

(3) Other, (meetings, couriers, etc.)

8

Sub-total

5,139

B. Cost of Supply of IRCG Services

(4) Operations

(a) Current

28,610

(b) Capital

1,580

(5) Engineering

(a) Current

1,058

(b) Capital

1,220

Sub-total

32,468

Total

37,607

Note: The above figures only relate to those services provided directly by the coast guard and do not include the cost of support services such as human resources, information technology, public relations and legal services provided centrally by the Department for all functions, including the coast guard, under its remit.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

140 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if he has information on the provision of new premises for the Crosshaven coast guard; if a list of capital projects exists for coast guard units and the area in which Crosshaven may exist on such a list. [11504/06]

As I indicated in my reply in the House to Question No. 137 on 9 March, the OPW is reserving a site for a modern station house for Crosshaven coastal unit at the Coast Guard Cottages premises in Crosshaven, County Cork. The coast guard of my Department maintains a list of capital projects for provision of station houses for coastal units. While the capital budget 2006 has been allocated, the Crosshaven project remains a priority and will be considered for advancement at the earliest date.

Road Haulage Industry.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

141 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the incentives he proposes to introduce to encourage the use of trucks with engines that fit the criteria of Euro 4 status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11407/06]

Under EU directive 88/77/EC, as amended by Directive 1999/96/EC, on the approximation of the laws relating to the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from compression ignition engines for use in vehicles and the emission of gaseous pollutants from positive ignition engines fuelled with natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas for use in vehicles, member states are required to prohibit the registration, sale, entry into service or use of new trucks where the emissions of gaseous and particulate pollutants and opacity of smoke from the engine do not comply with the limit values set out in row B1 of the tables in section 6.2.1 of Annex I, commonly referred to as Euro 4. Accordingly new trucks being registered and entered into service here on or after 1 October 2006 must, inter alia, meet the emission limits of row B1. I have no plans to incentivise the earlier implementation of these emission limits for new trucks being registered here.

Air Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

142 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he will take steps to ensure that the rights of disabled people travelling by air are preserved, in the context of the forthcoming decision to be made by the European Parliament on the rights of people with disabilities; if he will ensure that the safety reasons for which they can be denied, within the European Union, are clearly set out to avoid the risk of arbitrary and unjustified denials of boarding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11467/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, there is a proposal for an EU regulation concerning the rights of persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. The proposed regulation will mean, among other things, that persons with reduced mobility will have strengthened rights when travelling by air, that they may not be discriminated against in any way and that they cannot be refused a reservation or embarkation on grounds of reduced mobility except in certain circumstances where there may be a safety issue. Furthermore, the proposal will mean that assistance must be given to persons with reduced mobility in airports and when on aircraft, free of charge. Persons with reduced mobility will have to give advance notice of their needs to airlines and airports when making their reservation, and airlines and tour operators must determine whether there is a justified safety reason which would prevent such persons being accommodated on the flights concerned before refusing any booking.

Member states will be required to designate a body responsible for enforcing the regulations and receiving complaints. They must also lay down rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the regulations. Ireland has strongly supported this proposal and will designate an enforcement body when required.

The text of the proposal has been substantially agreed, with legal and linguistic issues to be resolved by the experts of the Council and the Parliament. It is hoped that it will be formally agreed at Council in May. Following adoption of the proposal at European level member states will have to transpose the regulation into domestic law. In Ireland this will probably be done by means of statutory instrument.

In respect of national legislation, the Disability Act 2005 is comprehensive and crosscutting legislation designed to support and underpin the participation of persons with disabilities in everyday life. The emphasis of the Act is to develop services and to put in place the requisite infrastructure in a systematic way. The Act puts on a statutory footing a wide variety of positive action measures to improve fundamentally the position of persons with disabilities in Irish society.

Under section 34 of the Disability Act 2005, the Minister for Transport is required to draw up a sectoral plan covering accessible transport, including transport by air. An outline sectoral plan was published in September 2004 and was the subject of a public consultation process. A second edition of this plan is currently being prepared, which will also be the subject of a consultation process. When finalised the departmental sectoral plan will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by 29 July 2006 as required by the Disability Act 2005.

Disabled Drivers.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

143 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is true that disabled parking spaces provided by local authorities are free of charge with no time limit applying; when all car parks will have free parking for disabled drivers with a parking disc; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11478/06]

Road traffic and parking regulations made in 1997 under section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provide that only vehicles in which a disabled person's parking permit is displayed may stop or park in a disabled person's parking bay provided the vehicle is being used for the convenience of the person to whom the permit was issued. The provisions contained in the traffic and parking regulations relating to the use of disabled persons' parking bays apply in respect of the use of public roads only.

The 1997 regulations also provide that in areas where time restricted parking is in operation by the road authority, vehicles that display a disabled persons parking permit are not subject to those time restrictions.

Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that road authorities may make by-laws for the control and regulation of the parking of vehicles at specified places on public roads within their functional area and shall provide for payment of fees in respect of such parking. The by-laws may provide for the exemption of any specified classes of vehicles from the payment of fees in respect of parking, the conditions under which specified classes of vehicles may be so exempted and the identification of exempted vehicles fees. The making of such by-laws is a reserved function of the elected members of the local authority. It is a matter, therefore, for each individual road authority to determine whether vehicles displaying a disabled persons parking permit should be exempt from parking fees in areas where a paid parking scheme is in operation.

Section 101 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 provides that local authorities may make by-laws in respect of the use of car parks they provide. The determination of the provisions, including payment of parking fees, in such by-laws is a matter for the elected members of the local authority. The operational rules applicable to parking in non-local authority car parks are matters for the private owner or management interests concerned.

Taxi Regulations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

144 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport if he will direct the Commission for Taxi Regulation to defer the implementation of its action plan, Driving Forward, in view of the apparent lack of consultation with all sectors of the taxi industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11493/06]

I have no proposals to issue such a policy direction to the Commission for Taxi Regulation. The Commission for Taxi Regulation is the independent body responsible for the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles, including taxis, and their drivers, under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003.

In 2005, the commission initiated a national review to assess the extent and quality of services currently provided by small public service vehicles and subsequently published the document, Roadmap — Towards a new national code of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines in Ireland, which sets out the areas where change is required along with the commission's proposed solutions. Submissions were invited on the roadmap by 26 September 2005, following which the preparation of new regulations commenced. The commission has also taken over the power to declare or alter taximeter areas and to fix maximum taxi fares from local authorities and invited submissions on consultation paper No. 3, Taximeter Areas and Taxi Fares, by 19 December 2005.

I understand that the commission, prior to making its recent determination on taxi fares and other related taxi matters, received over 500 submissions as part of the various consultation processes. In addition, numerous meetings took place with a broad range of stakeholders and interested parties, including the advisory council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

145 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the charge that applies to each of the on-the-spot fine categories. [11538/06]

A fine of €60 is prescribed under the present on-the-spot fine system for offences relating to the carrying on a vehicle of an insurance disc, display of motor tax disc, maximum weights or breach of requirements at stop sign and line, yield sign and line and at traffic lights.

A fine of €25 is prescribed for contravention of requirements relating to centre of roadway lines, continuous and broken, merging and diverging lines, box junctions, driving in bus lanes, defective tyres, stopping or parking during a clearway period on a part of a roadway which is a clearway and parking on a bus lane.

The following offences all carry a prescribed fine of €19: contravening a parking by-law made by a road authority; contravening a regulation prohibiting or restricting the parking of a mechanically propelled vehicle; contravening a car park by-law made by a road authority; breach of the prohibition on a street service vehicle from standing for hire at a place in the area in respect of which the by-law or rule is made other than an appointed stand; the stopping or parking of an omnibus at a stopping place or stand; and illegal parking by vehicles at a bus stopping place or stand.

I propose to apply a new fixed charge system for a range of road traffic offences shortly.

Community Development.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

146 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the assistance which can be provided to a local organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11403/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

147 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the assistance which can be provided to a local organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11405/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

My Department pays an annual grant to the head office of the organisation in question. The Department requires that this grant is used for purposes consistent with the ethos of the Department, specifically, the alleviation of disadvantage.

In addition, local branches of the organisation in question have also availed of funding in recent years under my Department's programme of grants for locally based community and voluntary organisations, and under the community supports for older people, CSOP, scheme. Any future applications by the organisation for funding under these programmes will be considered in the normal way.

Tuaraiscáil na Roinne.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

148 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén costas a bhí ar an leagan Béarla is déanaí de Thuarascáil Bhliantúil na Roinne agus san áireamh air sin briseadh síos ar gach costas ullmhúcháin agus déantúis, costais foirne, costais chlódóireachta, grianghraf agus deartha agus gach uile chostas eile a bhain lena cur ar fáil agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11476/06]

Ní miste a mhíniú don Teachta gur foilsíodh Tuarascáil Bhliantúil mo Roinne-se do 2004 i bhfoirm iomlán dhátheangach agus ní bheadh sé indéanta na costais a bhain leis an ngné Béarla amháin a dheighilt amach.

Costas iomlán thart ar €24,180 a bhain leis an dTuarasáil mar seo a leanas:

Dearadh agus clóchur/leagan amach

6,711

Aistriúchán agus profú

3,396

Grianghrafanna

1,198

Clóbhualadh

10,880

Costais ilghnéitheacha eile

1,998

Bhí foireann as gach rannán líne i mo Roinnse bainteach le hullmhú an doiciméid, maraon le foireann ón rannán corparáideach. Óir an t-ullmhú seo a bheith ag dul ar aghaidh i dteannta le tascanna laethúla eile, ní bheadh sé indéanta briseadh síos réalaíoch a dhéanamh ar na costais a bhain leis an ngné sin den phróiseas. Bheadh na costais seo suntasach i gcomhthéacs na gcostas iomlán a bhain le réiteach na Tuarascála.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

149 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the farm retirement pension of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford has been reduced by €185.98 per week. [11410/06]

It is a requirement of EU Council Regulation 2079/92, under which the 1994 early retirement scheme was introduced, that the early retirement pension can be paid only as a supplement to any national retirement pension that the participant and his or her spouse, or partner in a joint management arrangement, receive. This means that the value of any national retirement pension payable must be deducted from the early retirement pension.

The person is in receipt of a contributory old age pension. As required under the scheme, the amount of his old age pension, including the budget increase from 6 January 2006, had to be deducted from his early retirement pension.

Departmental Advertising.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

150 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her Department paid for the public notice placed in the spring 2006 edition of a publication (details supplied); if so, the amount paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11441/06]

My Department did not place or pay for the notice referred to by the Deputy.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

151 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a REPS query for persons (details supplied) in County Mayo will be dealt with by the regional office in Galway considering that the matter has been ongoing for quite some time; and the position in this case. [11454/06]

My Department is satisfied that the person holding the lease on the inherited land is entitled to make application for REPS in her own right on the lands in question. This application, like all REPS applications, will be subject to normal REPS approval procedures.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

152 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway for the transfer of entitlements by way of private contract clause leases from a herd number has not been successful in view of the fact that in a letter dated 5 May 2005 her Department informed her that her application had been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11455/06]

The person submitted an application for consideration in respect of the inheritance measure of the single payment scheme. Following processing of her application, she was notified on 5 March 2005 that her inheritance application was successful and advised of the need to procure a herd number in her own name to facilitate the transfer of entitlements and payment of the single payment. The person was assigned a herd number and on 23 February 2006 applied to transfer out her inherited entitlements by way of private contract clause. This application has been processed and the entitlements have now been transferred.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

153 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who made an application for some entitlement from the national reserve will be informed of the outcome of such application; the entitlements which will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11468/06]

The person submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under category B.

Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under livestock premia and-or arable aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002. Investments can include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and-or ewe quota or other investments.

Over 23,000 applications for an allocation of entitlements from the national reserve were received, when account is taken of farmers who applied under more than one category. Processing of these applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants at the earliest opportunity.

My Department will be in touch with individual applicants as soon as their applications are fully processed and formal letters setting out my Department's decision will be issued.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

154 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount accruing to the Exchequer from fixed charge penalties for traffic offences in each of the past six years. [11533/06]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

155 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount accruing to the Exchequer from on-the-spot fines for traffic offences in each of the past six years. [11534/06]

The information requested is not readily available and is currently being researched. I will be in touch with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Sexual Offences.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

156 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to review existing legislation and to introduce new legislation with regard to releasing details of paedophiles living in an area to the local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11400/06]

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides for a notification system, sometimes called a register, for persons convicted of a sex offence in the State and, in certain circumstances, for persons convicted of a sex offence outside the State. The register is the property of the Garda Síochána and is not available to the public. In exceptional circumstances, such as where the Garda is aware of an immediate or serious threat from a particular individual, it may decide to disclose the name of that individual to persons on a strict need-to-know basis. I have no plans to allow for public access to the register.

Asylum Support Services.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

157 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of single males in residence at Kiltimagh, County Mayo, while awaiting asylum seeker decisions; the reason the reception and integration agency of his Department has exceeded its initial proposal of ten single males at this location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11402/06]

The reception and integration agency, RIA, is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers. In replies to recent parliamentary questions I have outlined, in detail, current trends in asylum seeker numbers such as a fall in the number of new applications together with a fall in the number of families seeking asylum, and the consequent implications for the RIA. Accommodation provision is a demand led process driven by factors over which the RIA has no control and it is obliged to adjust its accommodation portfolio to reflect current demands. It is also obliged to use the accommodation at its disposal in the most effective way and provide the best value for money for the taxpayer.

In the case of the Kiltimagh centre, the RIA considered it to be suitable for possible reclassification from family to single person accommodation. As part of the reclassification of this centre, the RIA intended to relocate its families to other centres where they could benefit from special facilities for children and young people, including preschool facilities. For several reasons, the RIA has agreed that the families with school-going children who currently reside at the centre should be allowed to remain there at least until the end of the current school year.

The RIA has to date allocated a total of 17 male asylum seekers to the centre. The RIA undertook to place ten male asylum seekers in the annexe to the building and to monitor the arrangements on an ongoing basis. Having done so, a small number of additional placements were then made. Placements at this centre, as at any other centre, are determined by demand for beds. This demand is, in turn, determined by several factors, including the profile of asylum seekers entering the State, families, single persons, nationality, gender, age and so forth, the movement of asylum seekers from and to RIA accommodation and bed-space availability across the accommodation portfolio. The RIA will continue to monitor the arrangements in Kiltimagh.

The centre at Kiltimagh has operated as an accommodation centre since December 2003 and it has been well run, without incident, by its owners and their staff throughout this time. The RIA is obliged to accommodate all asylum seekers and, in doing so, it cannot discriminate on the basis of the sex of the person seeking asylum. The RIA has in its accommodation portfolio 16 male-only centres and no significant issues have arisen at these locations. Single male centres have, in the past, operated in small villages where residents of the centres helped in a voluntary capacity with various community activities such as the annual clean up for Tidy Towns competitions.

The RIA is aware of the concerns and fears expressed by some residents in the town, through various fora, about the placement of male asylum seekers in the centre. The RIA appreciates the degree of anxiety or unease that some local residents may feel if a centre profile is changed from women, children and small babies to single persons. It is the RIA's experience that, over time, such feelings dissipate as local residents come to know the individuals concerned and as their practical experience of the centre operation allays their initial concerns.

Child Care Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

158 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for funding to develop a crèche facility by an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork. [11423/06]

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

160 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received an application from an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork for funding for the provision of a crèche, pre-school, after-school service; if the necessary funding will be provided for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11425/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 160 together.

Responsibility for the national child care investment programme has been assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of establishment of the new office of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for children.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme, I understand the community based group in question submitted an application to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform some time ago. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formerly ADM Limited, which is engaged to administer the day-to-day operation of the programme, to ensure that it meets the programme's funding criteria. In addition, large scale projects such as the capital development proposed in this instance, undergo an intensive assessment process by an external building consultant.

I understand the application is in the final stages of the appraisal process, following which a decision will be made on funding. The group will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Asylum Applications.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

159 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11424/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 14 March 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 16 February 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order in respect of him.

His case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 158.

Citizenship Applications.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

161 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person who has lived here since the early 1980s, whose father is employed in the health system in Ireland, who has been educated in Ireland and who works as a plastic surgeon in Ireland is unable to get her certificate of naturalisation until 2007; his views on this as the person must travel frequently with her job and as an ambassador of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11440/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person in question was received in the citizenship section of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 26 September 2005.

The average processing time for an application for naturalisation is 24 months. It is likely, therefore, that the file will be submitted to me for decision in or around September 2007. If the person in question wishes to travel outside of the State prior to her application for naturalisation being finalised, she can travel on her current passport and apply, in advance of her departure from the State, for a re-entry visa to the visa office at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Bench Warrants.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

162 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the circumstances whereby a bench warrant was issued for the arrest of a person (details supplied); when the warrant was issued; the reason the warrant was issued; the further reason the warrant was not executed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11443/06]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

163 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of bench warrants and committal warrants which were executed during the month of March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11444/06]

It has not been possible within the timeframe involved to collate the information required by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

164 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the modules that are outstanding and remain to be dealt with by the Morris tribunal; when he expects the final report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11445/06]

The Morris tribunal was established by instrument of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, made on 24 April 2002, S.I. 175 of 2002. Its wording reflects the wording of a resolution passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 28 March 2002 to the effect that ten definite matters — numbered items (a) to (j) — of urgent public importance were to be the subject of inquiry.

The systematic approach adopted by the tribunal has been to progress its work on a modular basis, with each module being related in so far as practicable to individual items numbered (a) to (j) in its terms of reference. The tribunal reported on item (e), managing explosives, on 2 July 2004. It reported on item (a), Peoples’ extortion calls, and part of item (b), the Barron investigation, on 19 May 2005.

My understanding is that the tribunal has completed its investigations into three further items, namely, items (d), arrest and detention of Mark McConnell and Michael Peoples, (g), Ardara arson attack, and (i), Burfoot arrests and detentions. I understand that reports on these three elements of its work will be presented to me in the near future.

On 21 March 2006, counsel to the tribunal read out the opening statement concerning its public hearings on the detention module of its work, which embodies item (f) and the remainder of item (b). The remaining items are: items (c) allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family and their friends and associates; (h) allegations contained in documents received by then Deputy Jim Higgins and Deputy Howlin; and (j) the effectiveness of the Garda Complaints Board inquiry vis-à-vis the complaints made by Mr. Frank McBrearty senior.

I understand that the tribunal currently anticipates that, if all the participants co-operate, it will complete all its work by the summer of 2007.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

165 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent on the Morris tribunal in each year since the tribunal was established in 2002; the amount spent on the Carty inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11446/06]

The amounts spent on the Morris tribunal to date, broken down by year, are as set out in the following table:

Year

Cost

€m

2002

2.180

2003

6.764

2004

6.135

2005

6.202 (provisional)

2006 (to end Feb)

0.813 (provisional)

As regards the amount spent on the investigation by Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty, the position is that this investigation was undertaken as part of normal duties and the costs involved were accounted for in the normal manner under the relevant subheads of the Votes concerned. It would not be possible retrospectively to extract the cost of this investigation without the reallocation of resources on a scale that would be impractical.

Garda Deployment.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

166 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí who are employed full-time as drivers for Government Ministers and for other persons holding State office; the guidelines or regulations which cover their employment; if there are requirements to carry out domestic or family duties; if he proposes to review the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/06]

Ministerial State cars are placed at the disposal of Government Ministers and others pursuant to a long standing arrangement and are supplied to the following: the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste; 13 Government Ministers; the President, the Government Chief Whip; the Ceann Comhairle; the Attorney General; the Director of Public Prosecutions; the Chief Justice; and former Taoisigh and Presidents.

Ministerial cars are Garda cars driven by Garda drivers who have completed special advanced driving courses. I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 77 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool of which 56 are allocated on a full-time basis as drivers for the ministerial fleet. The remaining 21 gardaí are on a relief panel and cover periods of absences through annual leave and illness.

These drivers are tasked with providing close personal protection to Government Ministers and other designated protected VIPs, in addition to their driving duties. State cars are available to the users on a 24 hour per day basis.

Residency Permits.

David Stanton

Ceist:

167 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in the case of a foreign national marrying an Irish citizen and where the marriage fails, the attitude his Department takes to the permission to reside here previously granted to the foreign national; the situation where Irish born children are involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11448/06]

A non-EEA national who is residing in Ireland on the basis of marriage to an Irish citizen, and whose marriage subsequently fails, will no longer be residing in the State in accordance with the permission granted to them by my Department. This change of circumstances will necessitate a review of their situation by my Department. If I am satisfied that there is a legitimate basis for the continued residence of the non-EEA party in the State, my Department will grant an appropriate permission.

In the event that the person in question does not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction, the issue of permission to remain will be considered but only in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport the person concerned. In that circumstance, the person will be notified of the proposal and given an opportunity to make representations about it. If, after consideration of those representations and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, it is decided not to make a deportation order, the person will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

With regard to the situation where Irish born children are involved, the Deputy will be aware that the Supreme Court judgment in Lobe and Osayande, 2003, confirms that the parentage of an Irish citizen child by a non-EEA national does not infer an automatic right of residence in the State. However, the presence of Irish born children in a failed marriage situation will be considered by my Department in the context of any representations made as a result of a proposal to deport from the State.

Parental Leave.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

168 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the revised parental leave policy is coming into effect; and if parents of an eight year old child or older will be entitled to take leave. [11449/06]

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 provides for a range of improvements to the existing parental leave legislation which will offer greater flexibility to working parents. These include provisions to raise the maximum age of the eligible child from five to eight years and an increase in the maximum age of the eligible child to 16 years in the case of children with disabilities.

The Bill, which has been passed by the Seanad, is currently awaiting Dáil Report and Final Stages. While the scheduling of the Bill is a matter for the Oireachtas, I expect the Bill to be enacted in the coming weeks. The provisions of the Bill will be commenced on enactment.

Residency Permits.

John Curran

Ceist:

169 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for permission to remain here by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [11450/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 April 2002 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 22 September 2004 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her.

She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order in respect of her. Her case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Garda Operations.

John Curran

Ceist:

170 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of Operation Anvil to date; and the successes achieved by the Garda Síochána during Operation Anvil. [11451/06]

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin metropolitan region on 17 May 2005 with a view to addressing the problem of serious crime such as gun crime, robberies and burglaries and combating an emerging gun culture. At my request, Operation Anvil will be extended outside the Dublin metropolitan region during 2006. I also obtained funding to enable Operation Anvil to continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational policing terms.

All operational personnel in the Dublin metropolitan region may be employed on Operation Anvil as the need arises. Personnel from the Garda national units are also deployed on the operation as appropriate. The net incremental cost of the operation from its commencement to 21 March 2006 is €11,205,071. This figure includes the cost of overtime, travel and subsistence and other ancillary costs. The table, which shows the statistics for Operation Anvil up to 19 March 2006, indicates that the operation has contributed to encouraging successes across a number of headings.

Operation Anvil week ending 19 March 2006

Arrests

Murder

31

Serious Assaults

440

Robbery Offences

414

Burglary

907

Total Number of Arrests

1,792

Searches

Drugs

8,347

Thefts

873

Firearms Searches

776

Total Searches

9,996

Seizures

Firearms

374

Vehicle Seizures

3,934

Total Seizures

4,308

Number of Checkpoints Established

26,231

Value of Property Recovered

€6,030,192

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

171 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the results of the Alcohol Action Ireland survey, Alcohol in Ireland — Time for Action, have been brought to his attention; the action he intends to take on foot of the results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11464/06]

A copy of the results of the survey referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department. The Government legislation programme published on 25 January last makes provision for publication of a sale of alcohol Bill in 2006 which will update and streamline the law relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol. The Bill will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2004, and replace them with provisions more suited to modern conditions. I will consider the issues raised by Alcohol Action Ireland in the context of the detailed drafting of the Bill.

Garda Investigations.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

172 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the outcome of the Garda investigation in respect of the fraudulent extraction of training fees from participants in the FÁS sponsored safe pass courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11477/06]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Citizenship Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

173 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is standard procedure to inquire or investigate whether an applicant for naturalisation has engaged in any political activity while residing here; what constitutes political activity for these purposes; and the reason that information would be requested or required. [11492/06]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation if he is satisfied that certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. Those conditions include having a period of residence in the State and being of good character.

When an application for naturalisation is received, it is examined immediately to determine whether the applicant meets the statutory residency criteria. If the applicant does not meet the residency requirements, he or she will be informed immediately. If the applicant has the necessary residence in the State, the application will then be considered in accordance with the other statutory requirements.

During the processing of such applications, inquiries regarding the individual's financial background, including their social welfare and taxation histories, are made. In addition, inquiries are made with the Garda Síochána on the applicant's background to establish whether he or she can be considered to be of good character. Any other inquiries deemed necessary on any particular application will be made in advance of referring the case to me for a decision.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Questions Nos. 464 and 465 of 7 February 2006, if he is in a position to provide the information requested on samples taken from drivers by the Garda Síochána. [11503/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 669 and 670 of 21 March 2006.

Departmental Properties.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

175 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if fixtures and fittings from Fort Mitchel Prison have been transferred or sold; if sold, to whom and for what price; if money has been received; and if such money has been given to his Department as part recoupment of State investment in these facilities. [11505/06]

When the decision was made to close Fort Mitchel Prison, all furniture and equipment was examined to identify what could be used in other prisons. Following this, certain items were transferred to other prisons. Other items were then sold locally, which realised approximately €3,000 of which €500 remains outstanding. I understand this was due to an administrative oversight and the Irish Prison Service expects that payment will be made in the next few days.

The Irish Prison Service engaged the services of CCM Property Services, Midleton, County Cork, to dispose of the remaining equipment at auction. The public auction realised approximately €100,000. The funds have been received and lodged to the Prison Service Vote as appropriations-in-aid in 2005. Items such as built-in units and light fittings remain in Fort Mitchel as it was not economically viable to have them removed and transferred elsewhere. Other fixtures, equipment and stock items which were of no further use to the prison service were donated to charity.

Garda Strength.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

176 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will conduct a full investigation into the number of gardaí currently required and required in the future to provide an adequate policing service to Ireland’s growing population; the way in which he intends to meet this required recruit level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11512/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Garda Síochána as at 31 December 1997 and 20 March 2006 was 10,702 and 12,445, respectively. This represents an increase of 1,743 or 16.3% in the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána during that period.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in the agreed programme for Government remains as when I announced the Government approval in October 2004 for my proposals to achieve this objective. The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. This project is fully on target and will be achieved.

As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this record expansion, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda College during 2005. The college will induct a further 1,100 recruits this year and again in 2007, by way of intakes of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. The first of these intakes commenced training on 9 February 2006. The first incremental increase of newly attested gardaí under the programme of accelerated recruitment took place on 15 March 2006.

The Garda Síochana Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a Garda Síochána inspectorate comprising three persons to be appointed by the Government, one of whom shall be appointed as its chief inspector. The purpose of the inspectorate will be to seek to ensure that the resources of the Garda Síochána are used to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness benchmarked with best police standards. Recruitment of the chief inspector is at an advanced stage and will be followed closely by the appointment of the other two inspectors.

Following its establishment, I intend to request the inspectorate to carry out an inquiry to identify the required manpower needs of the Garda Síochána, having regard to international best practice in policing. This investigation will not only examine the force's requirement for trained police officers, it will also seek to identify the requirement for civilian support staff, for example, scenes of crime investigators, crime analysts, financial, IT and human resource personnel. I will examine the results of the inspectorate's inquiry in due course with a view to ensuring that the resources at the disposal of the Garda Síochána are sufficient to enable it to provide an effective policing service.

Garda Recruitment.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

177 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of civilian vacancies within the Garda service; if the public service staffing embargo is preventing these roles from being filled; the number of gardaí spending a large proportion of their working day performing duties arising from these civilian vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11513/06]

There are the equivalent of 42 civilian posts vacant within the Garda Síochána. This includes some 15 posts at clerical level with the remainder in professional, technical and general services grades. Several of these vacancies arise from worksharing arrangements and the normal time-lags between selection and appointment.

The Government decision of December 2002 to cap and reduce the numbers in the civil and public service does not impact on the filling of these vacancies. Generally speaking, these are filled through a combination of internal promotion, recruitment from either the Public Appointments Service or from centrally agreed transfer lists in the case of provincial locations. In provincial locations, temporary staff are regularly recruited to make up any attendance shortfalls. As this is an ongoing process, there is a minimal requirement, if any, for members of the Garda Síochána to perform clerical duties in such circumstances.

I am committed to the ongoing implementation of the civilianisation programme. I am also determined that the additional gardaí being recruited under the historic expansion of the force will be deployed to frontline, visible and effective policing duties.

Significant progress has been made on the implementation of the civilianisation programme to date, for example, 113 civilian finance officers have been appointed and are carrying out the district finance officer duties which were hitherto performed by gardaí. In addition, the recent establishment of the Garda information service centre in Castlebar will, when fully operational, allow for the equivalent of up to 300 gardaí to be freed up for frontline outdoor policing duties.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

178 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of on-the-spot fines issued by the Garda Síochána in each of the past six years; and the breakdown by offence. [11535/06]

The number of on-the-spot fines or fixed charge notices issued by the Garda Síochána in each of the years from 2000 to 2005 is set out in the following tables.

Year

Non-display of licence disc

2005*

49,547

2004

49,552

2003

49,853

2002

58,963

2001

53,349

2000

42,113

Year

Parking Violation

2005*

50,143

2004

56,479

2003

68,087

2002

77,598

2001

76,815

2000

80,074

Year

Speeding

2005*

143,651

2004

141,723

2003

157,852

2002

246,196

2001

272,228

2000

224,264

Year

Seat belts

2005*

18,084

2004

22,613

2003

39,129

2002

52,146

2001

52,459

2000

59,841

*Statistics for 2005 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

179 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the typical reason as to why an on-the-spot fine may be cancelled by the Garda Síochána; the statutory basis for such cancellations; if he will provide a copy to the Oireachtas Library of the guidance document to which the Garda Síochána refers when considering such cancellations; if statistics are held or are available on the various categories of cancellations; if so, the number of fixed penalties cancelled by the Garda Síochána for the Dublin metropolitan area and the Garda divisions in each of the past six years with a breakdown for each separate exemption category for each of the years. [11536/06]

Road traffic legislation, in particular section 27 of the Road Traffic Act 2004, provides exemptions for the drivers of emergency vehicles from the application of restrictions, requirements and prohibitions imposed under the Road Traffic Acts generally. Such exemptions apply where the safety of a road user is not endangered.

Bar the exemption provided by section 27, the typical reason for cancellation of a fine on the spot is the absence of sufficient evidence to sustain a prosecution. In the case of parking offences or speeding offences detected on camera, the registered owner was not the actual vehicle owner at the time; non-display of a tax disc, application had been made to the relevant licensing authority for a road fund licence prior to the date of affixation of the notice; an alleged seatbelt offence, the person was the holder of a medical certificate which exempted the person from wearing a seatbelt.

Statistics are not compiled in such a way as to establish the number of fines on the spot or fixed charge notices cancelled by the Garda Síochána. To identify and collate the number cancelled for any particular reason would require an unjustifiable deployment of Garda time and resources.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

180 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the reason for the cancellation of the on-the-spot fine is routinely recorded; the way in which documentation in respect of such cases is routinely reviewed; and the number of times such reviews take place. [11537/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the cancellation of an on-the-spot fine is a matter for the Garda district officer where the alleged offence was committed and is recorded locally at Garda district office level. Each Garda district office is subject to a bi-annual audit by the Garda divisional officer and may also be subject to an audit by the Garda internal audit unit.

Garda Equipment.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

181 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if gardaí at roadside checkpoints have direct access to PULSE and the national driver file and data held by the vehicle registration unit; and, if not, his plans to provide them with such access. [11539/06]

Gardaí at roadside checkpoints do not have direct access to the PULSE system. However, the Garda information service centre has been established in Castlebar to centralise the inputting of data onto PULSE. A pilot of the centralisation of the input of data was extended to the entire southern region by the end of February 2006.

This means that in the pilot area, gardaí no longer have to return to the station to input incident details but are supplied with mobile phones and are required to phone in details of the incidents they investigate to the Garda information service centre from the site of the incident. This service is available to gardaí in both networked and non-networked stations in the pilot area. Where this pilot is not in operation inquiries can also be made to an operator in a control room who has access to PULSE. I am informed by the Garda authorities that PULSE contains vehicle registration and owner details as provided by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The new ICT strategy for the Garda Síochhána, which is being finalised at present, recommends the use of mobile technology in the field to provide on-line access to PULSE. As part of the fixed charge processing system, hand-held units have been provided for the capture of fixed charge incident data at the roadside. I am informed by the Garda authorities that a proof of concept to allow gardaí to look up the national driver file using this hand-held technology is being developed.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

182 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the work of the persistent offenders task force in respect of traffic offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11540/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is no persistent offenders' task force dealing with traffic offenders. The Garda Síochána is committed to making all traffic offenders amenable for their actions, in particular, those who persistently commit breaches of driving regulations and other offences which impact on road safety. Through its enforcement activities the Garda Síochána aims to improve driving behaviour and bring about a greater compliance culture, leading to a reduction in the number of persons killed and injured on the roads.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

183 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if non-residents driving foreign registered cars are currently prosecuted under the on-the-spot fine system; if not, the way in which penalties are applied to this group of drivers; the statistics available to him on the number of such penalties in any given time period in respect of this driver category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11541/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the legislation underpinning the fixed charge system requires a motorist who allegedly commits a fixed charge offence to be issued with a fixed charge notice. Before a prosecution may be instituted the person must have failed to pay the fixed charge notice within the statutory period. Statistics are not compiled in such a way as to identify the number of non-residents driving foreign registered vehicles who have been issued with fixed charge notices.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

184 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of speed checks, excluding those checked by static cameras, carried out on motorways in the past year for which statistics are available. [11542/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that statistics are not compiled in such a way as to indicate the number of speed checks carried out on motorways. The safety of Garda personnel operating the speed checks and the motoring public are a primary consideration when deciding where to locate a speed check.

Deportation Orders.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

185 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will urgently review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Waterford, who have been taken into custody and who have had deportation orders served on them, in regard to the health issues and danger to their lives if they are deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11549/06]

The persons concerned, a husband and wife, arrived in the State on 25 April 2001 and 30 December 2000 respectively and applied for asylum. Their applications were refused following consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The persons referred to by the Deputy were informed, by letter dated 16 August 2002, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them and afforded them three options under section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of deportation orders or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Their cases were examined under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, including consideration of representations for temporary leave to remain in the State lodged on their behalf by their legal representatives. In addition to the 11 factors contained in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, I must also have regard for section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, on the prohibition of refoulement before signing a deportation order. This means in essence that the safety of returning a person to their country of origin, or refoulement as it is referred to, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether to make a deportation order.

Refoulement means that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to a State where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UNHCR, in evaluating, in each individual case, the safety of making returns to Nigeria and other third countries.

On 11 March 2005, I signed deportation orders in respect of the persons concerned. Notice of the deportation orders was served by registered post requiring the couple to present themselves to the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, on Thursday, 7 April 2005, to make arrangements for their deportation from the State. The couple failed to present themselves as required and were thus classified as evading their deportation.

On 15 March 2005 the couple were arrested and are currently detained in prison pending the making of arrangements for their removal from the State. Representations have been made to the effect that the wife is suffering from a medical condition. Her legal representatives have been asked to provide up to date medical reports by 31 March 2006. These reports will be considered prior to removal but it should be understood that in the meantime, arrangements for their removal from the State will continue. The enforcement of the deportation orders remains an operational matter for the GNIB.

Higher Education Grants.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

186 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the financial assistance schemes which are available from her Department to third level students who qualify for the higher education grant through their local authority but whose families are finding it impossible to meet the educational, accommodation and maintenance costs involved where a third level student is residing away from home and more particularly in Dublin where the costs are higher. [11426/06]

My Department funds three means tested maintenance grant scheme in respect of students attending approved courses in approved third level institutions and one maintenance grant scheme in respect of students attending approved post-leaving certificate courses in approved PLC centres.

Apart from the funding provided through the student support maintenance grant schemes, financial assistance is also available from my Department through the student assistance fund which is administered by the national office for equity of access to third level education, also known as the national office. The objective of the fund, which is ESF aided, is to assist students in a sensitive and compassionate manner who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. Further information on this fund is available from the relevant third institutions.

The millennium partnership fund for disadvantage, which is also administered by the national office, was announced in September 2000. Pobal, formerly Area Development Management, manages the fund on behalf on my Department and the national office. The objective of the fund is to support students from disadvantaged areas with regard to retention and participation in further and higher education courses. Students may contact their local area partnership company or community group for assistance. Decisions on eligibility for the millennium partnership fund are a matter for the relevant partnership or community group.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

187 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if assistance will be given to a person with a disability (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [11395/06]

I can confirm for the Deputy that the pupil in question currently has access to five hours' resource teaching support per week and to a full-time special needs assistant or SNA support. Responsibility for putting these resources in place rests with the management authorities of the school in question.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

188 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if the necessary funding will be made available to provide a canteen service at a centre (details supplied) in County Limerick. [11396/06]

My Department has no record of receiving an application for the provision of a canteen service at the centre referred to by the Deputy. In general my Department provides a kitchenette of around 25 square metres in the context of the provision of new post-primary school buildings or large scale extensions.

Teaching Qualifications.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

189 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm the veracity or otherwise of a newspaper report (details supplied); if she will further confirm that her Department has been in contact with interested parties; if arrangements have been made with these parties to meet in the coming weeks; if she will confirm her attitude towards changing the structure of training currently being practised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11397/06]

At the launch of the OECD report, Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, in May of 2005 I indicated that the report provided an opportunity to examine the overall area of teacher education and development. At the launch I signalled it was my intention to formally engage with the colleges of education, the education departments of universities and colleges and wider stakeholders on some of the key issues that emerge from these reports and the wider changes.

The Deputy may recall that I set out a number of areas to be addressed in this engagement, which can be summarised as: whether the content covered on pre-service teacher education programmes has adequately kept pace with the changing demands now facing teachers in our classrooms; the appropriateness of the current focus on academic studies at primary pre-service teacher education; and the requirement to align the allocation of H.Dip. places more closely to identified needs such as languages, the sciences, Gaeilge and mathematics. A series of meetings has since been held by my officials and representatives of the colleges of education. The other education sector stakeholders will also be consulted.

Higher Education Grants.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

190 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the date upon which the 2006 third level grant aid scheme will be published; the reason publication of the scheme in 2005 was delayed until July; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11398/06]

The process of reviewing the thresholds for eligibility and the grant levels for the 2006-07 academic year is currently ongoing. Decisions on the 2006 schemes will be announced as soon as this process is completed. The applications forms and accompanying notes for the 2006-07 will issue in the coming weeks.

The application forms and accompanying notes for the 2005-06 academic year, in respect of each of the four maintenance grant schemes, were issued electronically to each local authority and VEC on 31 March 2005. The forms and notes were delivered by courier early in April 2005. The 2005 schemes for the 2005-06 academic year, issued both electronically and in hard copy to each local authority and VEC on 20 June 2005.

All of the above issue dates were well in advance of the specified deadline for receipt of the grant applications in the assessing bodies, which for the 2005-06 schemes was set at not later than 31 August 2005.

School Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

191 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance which can be provided to a local organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11404/06]

My Department's school transport section will arrange to have the transport issues investigated if the Deputy provides the names of the pupils and schools concerned.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

192 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 29 November 2005, the status of the organisation of the tendering process; when tenders will be sought; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11433/06]

My Department had a number of meetings with the Department of Health and Children in regard to the establishment of a school of podiatry and a number of issues remain to be considered. Pending the finalisation of these discussions, it is not possible to advise when a call for proposals can proceed.

Languages Programme.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

193 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if, arising from previous parliamentary questions regarding a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9, her Department has concluded its assessment of educational provision in the area in view of the current and future demographics which according to the most recent information was to have been concluded by mid-March 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11469/06]

The review of all-Irish provision at primary level in the Ballymun area is well under way. The providers of all-Irish education at primary level in the area will be advised of the outcome as soon as the review is completed.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

194 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will re-examine the case of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for learning support as the school was not made aware that they were entitled to such a post until after the closing date for such applications had passed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11470/06]

My Department has recently developed a new general allocation system of teaching support for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, SEN, such as borderline mild and mild general learning disability and dyslexia, and those with learning support needs. The general allocation for the school referred to by the Deputy equates to 7.5 hours part-time hours per week. I am informed that the school has the services of a fully qualified teacher for these hours and the relevant grants have issued.

The school made an application for a set-up grant for a new special education teaching post. However, as the school has only part-time hours and not a full-time post, it does not qualify for such a grant. To qualify for a full-time special education post, the school needs a minimum of 22 part-time hours. My officials have conveyed this information directly to the school authorities and issued my Department's circular, Special Education 02/05, to the school.

School Staffing.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

195 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has received correspondence from a school (details supplied) in County Wexford in regard to the appointment of a fourth classroom teacher under the developing school criteria; if she will respond positively in view of the circumstances outlined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11471/06]

My Department has received correspondence from the school referred to by the Deputy in regard to the appointment of a third mainstream class teacher under developing school criteria.

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year. According to data submitted to my Department by the board of management of the school in question, the enrolment in the school on 30 September 2005 was 77 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule, circular 0023/2006, which has issued to all primary schools and is also available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2006-07 school year will be a principal and two mainstream class teachers. The school will also have a shared learning support-resource teacher based in the school.

Within the terms of the current staffing arrangements for primary schools, there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30 September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30 September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

It is open to the board of management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent appeal board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. They are also available in circular 0024/2006, appeal board for mainstream staffing in primary schools, which is available on my Department's website. Hard copies of this circular will issue to primary schools shortly.

It is proposed that the first meeting of the appeal board will be held in May 2006. Further meetings will be held in July and October 2006. The closing dates for receipt of appeals are 12 May, 24 June and 18 October, respectively. Appeals must be submitted to primary payments section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The standard application form is available from primary payments section or on my Department's website. The appeal board operates independently of the Minister and my Department and its decision is final.

It would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeal board.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

196 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science when the application for extension to and refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Cork was first made; and when the work will be approved, bearing in mind that the proposal to provide a devolved grant under the small schools scheme would not even cover 50% of the cost and is, therefore, entirely inappropriate for this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11502/06]

The school in question first applied for an extension and refurbishment in 2000. Its building project has been progressing through architectural planning. This school was one of 135 schools invited to participate in the small schools scheme, a devolved scheme for primary school building works that enables the school authorities to extend and refurbish their schools. Devolving funding to school management authorities allows them to have control of their projects, assists in moving projects more quickly to tender and construction and can also deliver better value for money.

The decision on whether to participate in the scheme or to drop out, if the scope of the build is more than the funding envelope permits, is a matter for the school authority. The management of this school, together with the other schools invited to participate in the devolved scheme, attended an information meeting held by my Department in Tullamore on 20 March 2006. This school raised a number of issues regarding its project which are being addressed at present.

Schools intending to participate in the devolved scheme have until 31 March to inform my Department of their decision. Should this school decide not to accept the invitation, its project will remain in the mainstream school building programme in line with the project's priority band rating.

Disadvantaged Status.

John Deasy

Ceist:

197 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Waterford has not been included in the new school support programme; if her attention has been drawn to the concern being expressed by the school in question which would lose the benefits attached to its disadvantaged status; and if her Department will re-examine the application in view of the fact that this is an inner city school that has made great strides through its inclusion in the disadvantaged status. [11506/06]

DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP. The process of identifying primary and second level schools for participation in the new school support programme has been completed.

As a result of the identification process, 840 schools have been invited to participate in the new programme. These comprise 640 primary schools — 320 urban-town schools and 320 rural schools — and 200 second level schools. Letters of invitation were issued to all 840 schools in late February with a request to complete and return an acceptance form by 10 March 2006.

The school to which the Deputy refers is not among the 640 primary schools selected for participation in the school support programme. However, this school is among the schools receiving additional resources under pre-existing schemes and programmes for addressing concentrated disadvantage and will retain these supports for 2006-07. The efficacy of these supports will be kept under review.

As well as the provision being made under the new school support programme for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage, financial support will be provided for other primary schools where the level of disadvantage is more dispersed. This support will be based on the results of the new identification process and the arrangements which will apply in this regard will be notified to schools early in the autumn.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the school support programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. This mechanism will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The school to which the Deputy refers has requested a review and a review form issued to the school on 7 March 2006. The closing date for receipt of review applications is Friday, 31 March 2006.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

198 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary education in class sizes under 20, 25 to 29 and 30 or over; and the number of children in infant classes in these categories in respect of schools (details supplied). [11509/06]

The data sought by the Deputy is provided in the following table.

Class Size Categories

0-9

10-19

20-24

25-29

30-34

35-39

40 and over

Total Ordinary Pupils in National Schools 2004/2005

2,095

63,492

103,988

155,398

99,464

8,931

162

Infant Class Pupils in Our Lady of Consolation N.S., Donnycarney

0

61

0

0

0

0

0

Infant Class Pupils in Scoil Chiaráin, Donnycarney

n/a: This school does not cater for Infant Classes

Infant Class Pupils in Scoil Áine, Raheny

n/a: This school does not cater for Infant Classes

Infant Class Pupils in Scoil Íde, Raheny

0

0

118

86

30

0

0

Disadvantaged Status.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

199 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5 has been designated in band two disadvantage while the school adjoining is in band one despite the latter having a somewhat lower level of children from families with features of disadvantage; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that as a consequence the school is likely to lose one of its learning support teachers and as a result will have to abandon the three year infant programme, reading, recovery and first steps. [11514/06]

DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP. The process of identifying primary and second level schools for participation in the new school support programme has been completed.

This process was managed by the Educational Research Centre, ERC, on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through my Department's regional offices and the inspectorate. In the primary sector, the identification process was based on a survey carried out by the ERC in May 2005, from which a response rate of more than 97% was achieved.

The analysis of the survey returns from primary schools by the ERC identified the socioeconomic variables that collectively best predict achievement, and these variables were then used to identify schools for participation in the school support programme. The variables involved were: unemployment; local authority accommodation; lone parenthood; Travellers; large families — five or more children; and pupils eligible for free books.

As a result of the identification process, 840 schools have been invited to participate in the new school support programme, which comprise 640 primary schools — 320 urban-town schools and 320 rural schools — and 200 second level schools. Letters of invitation were issued to all 840 schools in late February with a request to complete and return an acceptance form by 10 March 2006. A completed acceptance form has been received from the school to which the Deputy refers.

The 320 urban-town primary schools in the school support programme have been categorised into two bands as follows, that is, band 1 includes the first 180 urban-town primary schools identified for inclusion in the programme and band 2 includes the next 140 urban-town primary schools.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the school support programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. This mechanism can also address the concerns of primary schools identified for inclusion in band 2 but that regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in band 1.

The review process will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The school to which the Deputy refers has requested a review and a review form issued to the school on 13 March 2006. The closing date for receipt of review applications is Friday, 31 March 2006.

Officials from my Department will contact the school authority directly to discuss the learning support-resource teacher staffing for the coming school year.

Special Educational Needs.

Eoin Ryan

Ceist:

200 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make resources available to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 16 to provide special needs tuition to a pupil. [11527/06]

My Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for pupils with special educational needs. The supports in question include remedial and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has been established as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education (Establishment) Order, 2005. Since 1 January 2005, the NCSE, through local special educational needs organisers, SENOs, is responsible for processing resource applications for children with special educational needs.

The level of teaching and special needs assistant support for special educational needs is determined by the SENO in accordance with my Department's resourcing policy for special educational needs. In this case the SENO recommended a total of 35.5 teaching hours and 28 hours special needs assistant support to cater for the special educational needs of pupils at this school, including the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

In situations where schools have surplus teaching posts, my Department routinely requires that these posts be utilised to meet new and emerging needs within such schools, including those of pupils who have special educational needs, where appropriate. In the case of the school in question, my Department decided that the teaching hours recommended by the SENO should be met from within the school's existing resources, which included 2.89 surplus teaching posts.

An independent appeals committee is available to school authorities who wish to appeal the adequacy of their teacher allocation. The school in question appealed this decision to the independent appeals committee. The appeals committee decided that an allocation of a further 0.23 whole-time teacher equivalents was warranted and this allocation was granted by my Department for the 2005-06 school year. This committee operates independently of my Department and its decisions are final.

School Placement.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

201 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a significant lack of primary school places in certain towns (details supplied) in County Kildare; the way in which she intends to alleviate this situation in view of the fact that a purpose built primary school is not being allowed to enrol anything more than two infant classes per school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11544/06]

I am aware that Sallins, Naas, Kill and Johnstown, like many areas located within close proximity to Dublin, continue to experience population growth, a position that almost inevitably places some strain on existing educational provision. However, a range of significant measures has been undertaken by my Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in these areas.

At primary level, an entire new school has been provided at Killashee while temporary accommodation has been provided at Scoil Corbain, St. Conleth's and St. Mary's national school and St. Conleth's Naofa in Naas. Temporary accommodation has also been provided at one of the two nearby national schools at Caragh. In addition, approval has been given to Gaelscoil Nás na Riogh, Caragh national school and Kill national school for additional accommodation for September 2006. GS Nás na Riogh has recently been approved to commence architectural planning for the provision of a new 16 classroom school.

At Sallins national school, a seven classroom extension is completed and this extension has increased capacity from nine classrooms to 16 classrooms. An extension to bring the school up to 24 classrooms has commenced architectural planning.

Additionally, there are proposals to improve accommodation at St. David's national school, Two Mile House national school and Caragh national school. The accommodation needs of the national schools at Ballycane, Convent of Mercy in Naas and Scoil Pádraig in Johnstown are also currently being assessed.

Currently, two junior infant classes are accommodated in the new national school to which the Deputy refers. When fully occupied, the school will operate as a two-stream 16 classroom school. To enable it develop in this manner, it can only enrol two junior infant classes annually. This incremental development is common to all newly established schools to ensure that a shortage of accommodation at the school is avoided by an over enrolment in the early stages and, crucially, to ensure that the enrolments and staffing levels in other schools in the area, where older pupils would inevitably be drawn, are not adversely affected.

My Department is awaiting details of an agreed enrolment policy from the primary providers in the area to ensure that the development of the new school is underpinned as envisaged. It is satisfied that the totality of the primary accommodation available in the area in question provides sufficient places to cater for all those seeking places.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

202 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the options which are available to the parents of a four year old child who does not have a primary school place for September 2006; the action which can be taken to alleviate the situation for concerned parents and their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11550/06]

The compulsory school starting age in a national school is six years of age. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself or herself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with within 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.

I am aware that Kill, Sallins and Naas, like many areas located within close proximity to Dublin, continue to experience population growth, a position that almost inevitably places some strain on existing educational provision. However, a range of significant measures has been undertaken by my Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in these areas. At primary level, an entire new school has been provided at Killashee while temporary accommodation has been provided at Scoil Corbain, St. Conleth's and St. Mary's national school and St Conleth's Naofa in Naas. Temporary accommodation has also been approved at Caragh national school, St. Corban's, Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh in Naas, and Scoil Naomh Brighde.

A brand new state of the art 16 classroom school together with a double autistic unit was opened this September in Naas town. This project, in particular, will assist in easing any difficulties for primary pupil places that may exist in Naas. It is also proposed to build a brand new state of the art 16 classroom school for Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh.

With regard to Kill, the property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department on to site acquisitions generally, is continuing, in consultation with the local authority, to explore all possibilities for the acquisition of a site for a new 16-24 classroom national school in Kill.

Additionally, there are proposals to improve accommodation at St. David's national school and Two Mile House national school. The long-term accommodationneeds of the national schools at Ballycane, Caragh and Convent of Mercy in Naas are also currently being assessed. At Sallins national school, a seven classroom extension is under construction. When completed, this extension will increase capacity from nine to 16 classrooms. An extension to bring the school up to 24 classrooms is being allowed into architectural planning this year.

All of these initiatives represent huge capital investment and demonstrate my commitment to meeting the needs of the areas concerned. The school planning section of my Department will keep the position under review to ensure that any additional emerging needs are met as expeditiously as possible.

Environmental Policy.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

203 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in respect of Question No. 379 of 25 January 2006, he will indicate the ownership by organisation of the 259 units referred to; the directors of each such organisation; the people in whom the beneficial ownership of such units is vested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/06]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Public Service Charges.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

204 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason primary schools are being metered for non-domestic water usage; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this will put a severe strain on resources of primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11414/06]

The national water services pricing policy framework requires local authorities to recover the cost of providing water services from non-domestic users of these services. It is a requirement of water pricing policy that the cost of providing water services to the non-domestic sector should be fully recovered by local authorities by means of a meter based volumetric charge. This is the most equitable approach which also promotes maximum environmental efficiency.

While current arrangements for schools may, in common with many other non-domestic users, be based on fixed water services charges, local authorities are moving towards the metering of all non-domestic water use. This will provide a transparent and equitable cost recovery mechanism for water services which should incentivise all non-domestic users, including schools, to conserve their use of water.

Hunting Licences.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

205 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he granted an extension of licences to cover March 2006 to beagling clubs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11416/06]

Section 26(2) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, allows the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to grant to the master or other person having charge for the time being of a pack of beagles or harriers a licence to hunt hares in any district or districts specified in the licence with that pack on such day or days, being a day or days which are not specified in the hares order providing for the open season, as are both specified in the licence and are in the year in which the licence is granted.

Following consideration of applications from the Irish Masters of Beagles Association and Cork Southern Hunt Club, it was decided to issue these organisations with a licence for the period from 1 March 2006 to 31 March 2006. Licences have been given for this period annually for the past number of years. As a condition of the licences a return giving the dates and number of hares hunted and killed on each of the days specified shall be made to the national parks and wildlife service of my Department.

Returns from previous years have shown that beagling results in extremely low hare mortality giving no strong conservation reasons to oppose the issue of these licenses: 2005 — three hares killed; 2004 — two hares killed; 2003 — three hares killed; 2002 — two hares killed; 2001 — three hares killed; 2000 — three hares killed.

Local Authority Housing.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

206 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of houses allocated to local authorities (details supplied) under the 2000 and 2002 Acts; the number of sites allocated; the number of instances of financial transactions as well as the amount of these transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11507/06]

Information on the number of social and affordable housing units acquired under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 — 2004 in each local authority area until the end of September 2005 is published in my Department's housing statistics bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and also on the Department's website at www.environ.ie. Provisional annual data for 2005 on the number of social and affordable houses acquired in the areas requested in the question indicate that Kildare County Council acquired 45 units. While the number of instances of financial transactions is not available in my Department, Kildare County Council received a total of €1,971,153 in lieu of land transfers. There have been no sites acquired by any of the councils referred to in the question.

Planning Issues.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

207 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a circular has been distributed to local authorities regarding unfinished housing estates within the past six months; the stipulations of such circulars; the response or action which was yielded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11510/06]

My Department issued circular letter PD 1/06 on 25 January 2006 reminding local authorities of their obligations under section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 in taking in charge of estates. Each local authority has been directed to establish a policy addressing certain specified issues on taking in charge of housing estates to be agreed by the members of the authority, which must be reported to those members on a regular basis and at least once annually. The circular letter also states that the existence of a management company to maintain elements of common buildings, carry out landscaping and so forth must not impact upon the decision by the authority to take in charge roads and related infrastructure where a request to do so is made.

The circular letter also directed each local authority to submit a report to my Department detailing how each local authority is performing in taking in charge of estates. The specific information sought related to the anticipated number of housing estates which will be taken in charge this year and how many houses will be affected; the number of housing estates that have not yet been taken in charge whose planning permission expired more than two and less than seven years ago; the number of housing estates which are finished or unfinished in line with the relevant planning permission; the action being taken to resolve the issue of unfinished estates; whether the planning authority has a stated policy in regard to taking in charge of housing estates; the average length of time it takes to take an estate in charge; and whether a national policy on taking in charge would assist and if so the issues such a policy should address.

These reports are currently being received and collated in my Department. I will consider the question of any further guidance on taking in charge thereafter.

Local Authority Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

208 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the performance in each of the county councils and county boroughs in respect of the performance indicators, for example, costs per million cubic metres of water, percentage level of leakage, level of enforcement of planning control, percentage of recycling, litter fines issued per litter warden and the average time to re-let dwellings. [11511/06]

The report, Service Indicators in Local Authorities 2004, which was published by the local government management services board in July 2005, contains comprehensive information on local authority performance in 2004 across a wide range of activity programmes, including enforcement of planning control, recycling, enforcement of litter legislation and the average time to re-let local authority dwellings. The report is available in the Oireachtas library. I expect to receive the 2005 report on service indicators from the local government management services board by end June 2006.

The cost of water services across the country ranged between €610,000 and €2.03 per cubic meter in 2004. The unit cost of water services provision differs between sanitary authorities given the differences in the costs of water production across each sanitary authority area and the economies of scale that apply. It is a matter for each sanitary authority to set the appropriate level of charges for non-domestic users of water services, subject to the water services pricing policy framework, which provides for the full recovery of actual costs, and water and waste water charges being determined having regard to this principle.

The National Water Study, which was published in 2000, involved an audit of individual public water supplies outside the greater Dublin area serving more than 5,000 people. The study examined all aspects of water supply, including availability of raw water, treatment capacity, water distribution systems and associated management issues, and found, inter alia, that unaccounted for water levels varied significantly between regions but were generally in the range of 40% to 50%. This data can be compared with the results from pilot water conservation projects that began prior to 2000 by a number of local authorities, for example, rates reduced from 42.5% to 28.7% in Dublin, in Donegal from 59% to 39%, in Meath from 47% to 34% and in Kilkenny from 45% to 29%. This resulted in significant ongoing cost savings.

All of the pilot projects were completed with the aid of capital funding of €63 million from my Department. Following a further allocation of €276 million by my Department in May 2003, local authorities are currently implementing a wider programme of water conservation projects that will identify and substantially reduce unaccounted for water in public supply networks.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

209 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there is provision within standard local authority tendering documentation requiring checks to be carried out regarding past compliance of companies tendering for contracts with labour legislation. [11547/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

210 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on introducing a requirement within local authority tendering regulations that contracts can only be awarded to unionised firms. [11548/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

The local government sector operates under public procurement guidelines issued by the Department of Finance. These require contracting authorities, including local authorities, to ensure that tenderers have regard to minimum pay and other legally binding industrial or sectoral agreements when preparing tenders and that tender documents should have an appropriate reference to this.

Transgressions of labour legislation are a matter in the first instance for the labour inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which has the power to examine relevant records and, where breaches of statutory obligations are identified, to have matters rectified.