Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 81, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 82 to 88, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Care Services.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

89 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the recent OECD Report which found that child care costs here are among the highest in Europe and are rising far faster than inflation; the steps she will take to ensure affordable child care for parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30636/06]

I welcome the OECD's recent report on Early Childhood Education and Care "Starting Strong II".

I believe the Report's findings show a strong convergence between OECD and Irish Government policy for Early Childhood Education and Care. The OECD notes that policy in this area should not be elaborated from outside but should be based on consensus-building within the country as each OECD member will have individual factors and levels of historical development which will require tailored solutions to be found. Secondly brief reference is made in the report to some of the major recent initiatives taken by Ireland in the area of Early Childhood Education and Care. The data and the findings of the Report largely reflect the position during 2002-2004 which have been substantially advanced by these more recent developments.

The report finds that, along with Italy and Portugal, Ireland was found to be spending 0.44% of its GDP on this area. If our level of investment is measured as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP), the figure rises to 0.54% which is on a par with Germany and Austria. Parents will receive more support in paying their childcare costs in 2006 following the increases in April this year in Child Benefit and the introduction of the Early Childhood Supplement of €1,000 per annum to parents of children aged up to 6 years.

The Irish model has taken the classic features of state supported "supply-side" systems, such as wage supports for community childcare services, providing supports for services through the 33 local City and County Childcare Committees, supporting national voluntary childcare organisations and targeting identified local childcare service needs. Our investment is also based on social inclusion which is also relevant to our increasingly diverse society. These are all key values identified by the OECD.

These Programmes are, in turn, key elements of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010. I am satisfied that the Government approach to childcare will serve to moderate prices in the sector over time by increasing the supply of places and giving parents greater choice. As I have outlined, the Government approach is also about improving quality as childcare should not be judged solely on matters of cost and availability.

Hospital Services.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

90 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children the person responsible for highlighting new or existing protocols to the medical and administration staff of hospitals in regard to inter-hospital transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35542/06]

The HSE has advised my Department that the decision to transfer an individual patient from one hospital to another is a matter for the attending clinician and his or her team. Patient safety is the overriding factor in any inter-hospital transfer.

There is no national protocol governing inter-hospital patient transfers. Any such protocol could only outline general principles and would have to be developed further at local level taking account of regional and local considerations.

A number of HSE hospital networks have developed protocols for specific circumstances such as the transfer of seriously injured trauma patients to specific units and how to deal with situations in which a woman in advanced labour presents to a hospital without an obstetric unit.

The hospital network in the north-east has done considerable work in relation to this issue and has prepared a very detailed document. This highlights the need, in drawing up protocols, to take account of the services available locally in a hospital and those available regionally within a hospital network. This document is being circulated to all hospital networks and I have asked the HSE to ensure that all networks review their existing protocols in the light of this document and develop new ones as appropriate.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Ceist:

91 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria for eligibility for public health sector pension schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35452/06]

There are a range of public sector pension schemes in the health sector which have developed over time. In the past, health board employees would have been covered by the Local Government Superannuation Scheme while other health sector employees, in voluntary hospitals for example, would have been covered by the Voluntary Hospitals Superannuation Scheme or the Nominated Health Agencies Superannuation Scheme. Other statutory organisations within the health sector have their own superannuation schemes based on the public service model scheme. For most employees of organisations covered by such schemes, membership of the relevant superannuation scheme is mandatory.

As my colleague, Mr. Seán Power T.D., Minister of State at my Department, explained to the House in an adjournment debate on 18 October employees of non-public health sector organisations do not have access to these superannuation schemes.

Care of the Elderly.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

92 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the efforts which have been made to overcome the problem of VAT being charged by commercial suppliers of home care packages; if persons who have had to pay VAT will be refunded; if the VAT collected will be added to the €150 million home care package fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35193/06]

My Department is currently examining, in consultation with the HSE, the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners, the scope within the relevant EU directives to exempt the provision of homecare services by commercial suppliers from VAT.

In relation to VAT already paid, the Department of Finance has advised that non taxable persons cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT-registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

In line with normal practice, all VAT revenues are applied by the Exchequer for the common good, as determined by the Oireachtas. Earmarking particular taxes reduces the discretion of Government and the Oireachtas in determining the priority areas in which public money should be spent.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

93 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has published its cost benefit analysis on the multi-million project to provide 1,000 private beds in the grounds of public hospitals. [35505/06]

The co-location initiative is designed to deliver up to 1,000 new public beds at 10 public hospitals for an estimated tax cost of about €420 million, less than half the full capital cost. The tax cost will be offset by VAT and other taxes paid during construction. Lease payments at commercial rates in respect of public land will be paid by the private operators, in contrast with the current situation where there is no return on the public land in question.

Following an open procurement process in December 2004, my Department commissioned Prospectus Management Consultants to provide:

succinct and appropriate strategic and investment appraisal frameworks for the initiative; and

formal criteria and conditions for such proposals that would both encourage private initiative and promote and protect the public interest.

I published the full policy direction and the other documentation when launching this policy in July last year. This included details of the investment appraisal framework suggested by Prospectus Consultants for the HSE to apply.

A rigorous value for money assessment of each co-location proposal will be carried out by the HSE. I have required this of the HSE from the start. No project will proceed without the value to the State being demonstrated. This is how cost-benefit analysis is built into the initiative.

The National Development Finance Agency is assisting my Department to ensure that the financial assessment method being applied by the HSE is entirely robust.

Health Service Reform.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

94 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the abolition of the health boards may have been premature in view of the setting up of regional fora for councillors and regional meetings for Oireachtas members and having held a national consultative meeting in Kilkenny in October 2006 with stakeholders in the health services. [35527/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

183 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has full confidence in the Health Service Executive in view of the regional meetings and fora set up around the country on the health services. [35528/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 183 together.

The Audit of Structures and Functions in the Health System, published in 2003, found that the arrangements in place at the time were complex and fragmented. It identified the need for fundamental system-wide structural reform to move from fragmentation to consolidation and integration. This detailed analysis was accepted by the Government, and the HSE was established in January 2005 pursuant to the Health Act 2004.

The provisions of the Act which established the HSE also took cognisance of the need to provide for public representation and user participation. These included the establishment of Regional Health Forums and the National Health Consultative Forum referred to in the Question.

The National Health Consultative Forum, which has the function to advise the Minister on matters relating to the provision of health and personal social services, represents a continuation of a similar arrangement initiated on a non-statutory basis under the National Health Strategy. Annual meetings took place from 2002 to 2005.

As I have indicated, the Regional Health Forums were envisaged as part of the arrangements for the establishment of the HSE. I made regulations under the 2004 Act to allow for their establishment on 1st January 2006. To date each of the four Regional Forums established has met on a number of occasions.

The HSE, as a new and large public organisation, is investing considerable effort in developing its links with Oireachtas members. The recent commencement of meetings by the HSE's senior managers at Administrative Area level with Oireachtas members is part of an ongoing development of its channels of communication in that regard. It is a development I welcome. These arrangements are, of course, additional to the very specific provisions relating to the Executive's accountability to the Oireachtas at national level which are contained in the 2004 Act.

As we proceed with the consolidation of services under a single statutory body, the HSE, rather than a multiplicity of different bodies, I remain convinced of the importance and correctness of the reform path being taken.

Hospital Staff.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

95 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the new consultants’ contract; and the way this will fit with her view of private hospitals in the grounds of public hospitals. [35509/06]

Discussions on a new contract will resume in early November on the basis of a formula presented to the parties by the independent chairman, Mr Mark Connaughton S.C. It is the chairman's intention that the parties will engage in intensive negotiations over the next two months.

Our objectives for a new consultant contract include:

a consultant-provided rather than a consultant-led service;

greater flexibility in consultants' work practices and working times;

consultants will have a clearly defined commitment to the public hospital system;

the introduction of team working as the norm;

enhancement of the role of consultants with respect to managerial and financial accountability;

consultants to play a more pro-active and strategic role in the supervision, education and training of NCHDs; and

more effective planning and monitoring of consultants' services.

The co-location initiative to achieve up to 1,000 new public beds by having private facilities built on the campuses of public hospitals is progressing apace. The Health Service Executive is currently engaged in a procurement process in respect of 10 public hospital sites.

As I said in the House last week, arrangements will be made to allow consultants to work in these facilities and remain on the one site, subject to better working arrangements by consultants in the public hospital itself.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

96 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the general practitioner only cards do not cover a patient wishing to obtain the services of the Irish Family Planning Association; if it is her intention to include this service to the GP only medical cards to persons who may not afford it otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35443/06]

The General Medical Services Scheme is largely a treatment based scheme which provides medical and other services for eligible persons from contracted general practitioners.

Family planning services are available for medical card holders and GP visit card holders from the majority of GMS contract holding general practitioners. If a GP does not provide family planning services, he/she is obliged to refer a patient to a GP who will provide this service.

While the Irish Family Planning Association are being funded by the HSE to provide a choice of family planning services, I believe that GP visit card holders should have access to those services free of charge. I have asked my Department to request that the HSE make the necessary arrangements in this regard.

Hospital Staff.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

97 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if Cavan Hospital consultants are still precluded from doing major GI surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35545/06]

The HSE has advised me that restrictions were introduced on consultant surgeons in Cavan and Monaghan performing major Gastro-Intestinal surgery in 2003 following the suspension of two consultants. Consultants are no longer precluded from carrying out major GI surgery in Cavan. These restrictions reflected concerns regarding the then heavy reliance on locum consultants at both sites, and concerns about surgical outcomes in Cavan which led to a number of external reviews of patient treatments being commissioned.

In November 2005 a series of recommendations concerning surgical services in Cavan/Monaghan were announced by the National Hospitals Office (NHO) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. These recommendations were developed following the 2004 RCSI report on surgical services at Cavan General Hospital.

The implementation of the RCSI's recommendations saw the promotion of team working among the consultants, the promotion of interdisciplinary audit, equity of access to resources for all consultants, and the co-ordination of activity between the two hospitals.

A joint surgical department was formed across Cavan and Monaghan hospitals from 1 January 2006. Following compliance with all RCSI and NHO recommendations, the new surgical department, which includes three new consultants appointed from January 2006, now carries out a range of surgical procedures.

Ambulance Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

98 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of advanced paramedics working in the Health Service Executive in an operational capacity to administer drugs such as cardiac medication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35552/06]

As part of the reform of the health service a National Ambulance Office has been established within the Health Service Executive (HSE). It has responsibility for the provision of pre-hospital emergency care nationally.

The most significant development in the sector for many years is the roll-out of the Advanced Paramedic Training Programme. The introduction of the programme required two legislative changes which were completed in August 2005. The National Ambulance Training School (NATS), which operates under the auspices of the HSE, in conjunction with University College Dublin, is providing training for Advanced Paramedic candidates.

The HSE has advised my Department that there are currently 26 Advanced Paramedics working in an operational capacity throughout the Ambulance Service. It anticipates that a further 18 Advanced Paramedics will be working before the end of this year. There are currently an additional 46 students in training and it is expected that the students who successfully complete the training programme will go operational in 2007.

A Group Authority Licence was required for the administration of three controlled drugs — morphine, lorazepam and diazepam — by Advanced Paramedics. This Licence was issued by the Irish Medicines Board on 5 May 2006. Completion of the training programme allows ambulance personnel to administer an additional 19 medications. This includes, for example, cardiac medications, which they could not administer previously.

The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) is currently undertaking a spatial analysis study which will guide the HSE in determining the optimum number and deployment of Advanced Paramedics required and advise in their deployment.

National Cancer Strategy.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

99 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to launch a renewed campaign to highlight the issues surrounding prostate cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35189/06]

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men. There are approximately 1,150 new invasive prostate cancer cases annually. It is predominantly a disease experienced by older men with the majority of cases occurring in the 70–74 year age group and the majority of deaths in the 80–84 year age group. The Department of Health and Children published a National Strategy for Cancer Control in June 2006. This National Strategy was developed by the National Cancer Forum which is chaired by Professor Paul Redmond, Head of Surgery, University College Cork and Cork University Hospital. The Forum is multidisciplinary and representative of all levels of service, both community and hospital based, and of the Health Service Executive. It also has consumer representation.

As part of its work on the Strategy, the Forum reviewed all issues relating to cancer control including specific diseases such as prostate and colorectal cancer. It highlighted that cancer control requires a whole population, integrated and cohesive approach that involves prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive and palliative care. It places a major emphasis on measurement of need and on addressing inequalities. The Forum did not call for a specific awareness campaign on the issue of prostate cancer.

The Forum concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the introduction of a population based prostate screening programme in this country but said that this issue should be reassessed when results are available from randomised control trials currently being conducted internationally. This position is consistent with the Recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocate the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for healthcare resources.

We are very supportive of the Irish Cancer Society's campaign entitled "Action Prostate Cancer" which was launched in April of this year by the Minister for Health and Children. Its aim is to become the leading provider of prostate cancer information and support in Ireland. Appropriate treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is available at major hospitals throughout the country. Any man who has concerns in relation to prostate cancer should contact his GP who will, where appropriate, refer him to the appropriate services in his area.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

100 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to build new hospitals in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35380/06]

New hospitals are being developed in Dublin under a variety of initiatives. The Government has mandated the Health Service Executive to move forward with the development of a new national tertiary paediatric hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital. A joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group has been established for this purpose. Among the key items to be addressed are the definition of a high level framework brief for the new hospital, the transfer of the site from the Mater Hospital and the establishment of a Development Board for the new hospital.

The Government also noted that the joint HSE/Department of Health and Children task group recommended that the HSE undertake a review of the configuration of both adult acute services and maternity services in Dublin.

The Deputy will be aware of the major capital development currently in train that will provide extensive new and redeveloped facilities at the Mater Hospital.

Funding is available in the capital programme for the redevelopment of the National Rehabilitation Hospital.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Health Service Executive is undertaking a procurement process to select consortia to build and operate a private hospital on each of 10 public hospital sites, including St James's, Beaumont, Connolly Memorial and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin. This initiative will free up additional beds for public patients at these hospitals by transferring private activity to the new private hospitals. There has been a lot of interest in this initiative. The HSE has pre-qualified a number of bidders in respect of each site and is now in the process of evaluating outline proposals and shortlisting bidders.

Legislative Programme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

101 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the legislation which has been passed since she became Minister. [35526/06]

The legislation within my remit which has been enacted since my appointment as Minister for Health and Children is as follows:

(1) the Health Act 2004;

(2) the Health Amendment Act 2005;

(3) the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005;

(4) the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006;

(5) the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2006; and

(6) the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

102 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the difference between a patient waiting in accident and emergency for an acute hospital bed and a patient waiting in an admission lounge for an acute hospital bed. [35530/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

131 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency admission lounges which have been opened and the number of beds they contain. [35472/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 131 together.

The Health Service Executive activity reports over recent months indicate a significant reduction in the average number of patients in A & E Departments awaiting admission. Waiting times for patients have also been reduced. The percentage of people waiting longer than 24 hours for admission has decreased from 13% in May to 7% in September.

In addition, admissions lounges have been developed at St James's Hospital (15 beds), Connolly Memorial Hospital (8 beds), St Vincent's Hospital (6 beds), Cork University Hospital (10 beds) and the Mercy Hospital in Cork (4 beds).

These admissions lounges enable patients awaiting admission to an acute hospital bed to be managed safely while preserving their right to dignity and privacy.

The performance targets in relation to the time that patients spend awaiting admission apply equally to those patients who are waiting in admission lounges and those who are waiting in the emergency department.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

103 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the main points of her winter initiative to deal with accident and emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35473/06]

Improving the patient's progress through A&E Departments is the key area of focus for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2006/07. Measurable improvements have been achieved in recent months. In order to ensure that these improvements can be sustained, particularly during the winter months, the HSE has introduced a broad-based Winter Initiative.

The Winter Initiative will be similar to those in place in other health systems internationally. Its purpose is to ensure that the services required to address the particular demands of the winter season are in place and operating optimally. It will encompass not just hospital services but also primary and community care services.

The Initiative will build on work already underway and focus on a range of measures including:

preventative measures;

public communications;

operational readiness (capacity, staffing, etc);

out of hours arrangements;

NHO/PCCC service integration (Ambulance/Primary Care/A&E links, Discharge Initiatives, Continuing Care and Home Supports);

planned escalation procedures to enable responsiveness to increased demand beyond normal operating levels; and

ongoing development of necessary infrastructure particularly for continuing care.

A formal structure is now in place, with eight Local Implementation Teams covering the whole country. A comprehensive work programme has been presented to each team for implementation. The teams will be responsible for ensuring that the Initiative's priorities are implemented at local level, as well as devising and implementing local solutions to address specific local winter demands.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

104 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the Health Service Executive commissioned report that recommended a restructuring of obstetrics and gynaecology services here, an increase in consultant numbers and the provision for the first time of publicly funded assisted reproduction facilities; if she intends to carry out its recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35494/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

192 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the recent report on maternity services commissioned by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35466/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 192 together.

I take it that the questions refer to a report on the future of Maternity and Gynaecology Services in Ireland that has been prepared by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that, while the Executive did not commission the report, it did facilitate its preparation by way of grant assistance.

My Department is advised that the Institute has finalised its report and is due to discuss its findings and recommendations with the HSE and my Department shortly.

Proposed Legislation.

John Deasy

Ceist:

105 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Pharmacy Bill will be introduced. [35522/06]

As I have previously stated, I consider the first Pharmacy Bill a priority piece of legislation. The first Bill will deal with the governance of the Pharmaceutical Society, registration and fitness to practice issues. It will also remove the EU derogation for supervisory pharmacists (where only Irish-trained pharmacists can supervise pharmacies less than three years old). The general scheme and draft heads of the first Bill were approved by Government on 25th May 2006. Work on the drafting of the Bill is ongoing between my officials and the Parliamentary Counsel's Office. Subject to the Cabinet's approval, I hope to publish the Bill and present it to the Oireachtas before the end of the current session of the Oireachtas.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

106 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if Cavan General Hospital is expected to receive all surgical transfers from Monaghan Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35546/06]

My Department has contacted the HSE and is advised that a protocol for the management of surgical patients within Cavan/Monaghan Hospital governs the circumstances in which a surgical patient may be transferred from Monaghan to Cavan.

The protocol was drawn up by a group chaired by the lead consultant surgeon in Cavan/ Monaghan and included representatives of staff in medicine, surgery and emergency medicine at both hospital sites as well as the surgical services co-ordinator and the risk manager for Cavan/Monaghan. The protocol reflects principles in the north east inter-hospital patient transfer policy, governing transfers among the five north east hospitals and between these hospitals and hospitals outside the north east.

My Department is advised that the protocol emphasises the importance of communication between consultants referring patients from one hospital to another. It also emphasises the importance of Cavan Hospital accepting the transfer of surgical patients from Monaghan, but also allows for the transfer of surgical patients from Monaghan directly to a tertiary surgical centre where the patient's condition warrants this and where such a transfer can be effected.

Damien English

Ceist:

107 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children the implications for other paediatric units around the country if the Health Service Executive feel it necessary to close a facility like the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght. [35533/06]

The Deputy will be aware that a review of tertiary paediatric services undertaken by McKinsey & Company on behalf of the Health Service Executive recommended that:

the population and projected demands in this country can support only one world class tertiary paediatric hospital;

it should be in Dublin and should ideally be co-located with a leading adult academic hospital;

it should also provide all the secondary (i.e. less complex) hospital needs of children in the Greater Dublin area; and

these secondary services should be supported by strategically-located Urgent Care Centres.

Following extensive examination, discussion and consultation, the joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Task Group that was established to advise on the optimum location for the new hospital recommended that the new national tertiary paediatric hospital should be built on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital. This recommendation was accepted by the Board of the HSE and was subsequently endorsed by the Government, who mandated the Executive to move forward with the development of the new hospital.

A joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group has been established for this purpose. Among the key items to be addressed are the definition of a high level framework brief for the new hospital, and the determination of the range of services and location of the urgent care centres required to support the new hospital. Other key actions that will be pursued by the Transition Group are the transfer of the site from the Mater Hospital, the determination of co-ordination policies between the new hospital and other hospitals (including those outside of Dublin), and the establishment of a Development Board for the new hospital.

The Transition Group will have consultations with relevant stakeholders in the course of its work.

To date, no decision has been taken in relation to the range of services to be provided at the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght in the context of the development of the national paediatric hospital and its associated urgent care centres.

Health Service Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

108 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the recruitment process of the 32 elder abuse officials or care workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35481/06]

The recruitment process referred to is a function of the Health Service Executive, which has informed my Department that the campaign to fill these posts is proceeding. The closing date for applications was 6th October, 2006 and the HSE will now be proceeding to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Infectious Diseases.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

109 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to the call by the MRSA and families organisation for a judicial inquiry into the non-implementation of the national guidelines contained in the 1995 Control of MRSA in the Irish Health care setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35543/06]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

196 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the call by MRSA victims and families on the setting up of a redress board to compensate MRSA victims and their families. [35544/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 196 together.

My Department has no plans at present to set up a judicial enquiry or a redress board to compensate people who have contracted MRSA.

The control of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) including MRSA continues to be a priority for the HSE. Measures to control the emergence and spread of HCAIs are necessary because there are fewer options available for the treatment of resistant infections and because these strains spread amongst vulnerable at-risk patients. The prudent use of antibiotics underpins any approach to the control of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including MRSA. This, together with good professional practice and routine infection control precautions, such as hand hygiene, constitute the major measures in controlling and preventing healthcare-associated infection, including that caused by MRSA, both in hospital and in community health care units.

The implementation of the revised SARI Guidelines on the control and prevention of MRSA in hospitals and in the community, the "Clean Hands Campaign", the National Hygiene Audits and the development of national standards in relation to infection control and hospital hygiene are also aimed at addressing the challenges presented by HCAIs.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

110 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the latest preparations by both the Health Service Executive and her Department for a possible flu pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35459/06]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

126 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position on the latest new estimates from experts for the expected numbers of persons that may become infected with avian flu; her Department’s plans to deal with avian flu; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35492/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 126 together.

I take it both questions relate to a possible human flu pandemic. For the sake of clarity, avian flu (H5N1) is primarily a disease of birds. To date, there have been a very small number of human cases of H5N1 infection in situations where there has been very close contact with infected birds. There is no evidence of efficient human to human transmission.

I would like to draw a very clear distinction between avian flu and the possibility of a future human flu pandemic. Experts advise that such a pandemic may arise as a result of the current H5N1 avian flu situation, but this is by no means inevitable. Nevertheless, the pandemic threat is real: while neither the timing nor the severity of the next pandemic can be predicted, experts advise it is a matter of when it arrives not if.

A global flu pandemic will affect all countries and will cause widespread disease and death, and massive disruption to the health services and to society.

Improving our preparedness to manage a flu pandemic is therefore a high priority for my Department and for the Health Service Executive. A high level pandemic flu plan will be published in December 2006 based on the framework recommended by the World Health Organisation for national pandemic plans and reflecting up to date advice from the Influenza Pandemic Expert Group. The plan will focus on the health response, but will also provide the basis for the contingency planning which must take place across all sectors of society.

It is not possible to predict the impact of the next pandemic: much will depend on the characteristics of the virus, such as the clinical attack rate, the severity of the illness and the resulting case fatality rate. These cannot be known until the pandemic virus emerges. However, in order to assist planning, a number of scientific models of the impact of a pandemic have been developed internationally. In Ireland an empirical model of pandemic influenza has been proposed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and adopted for planning purposes. This model can be used to estimate the number of clinical cases, hospitalisations and deaths that will occur in Ireland during each week of a 15-week single wave pandemic, in the absence of any interventions.

The planning assumptions are:

a 25% clinical attack rate resulting in almost 980,000 clinical cases in the course of a pandemic hospitalisation rate between 0.55% and 2.4%, with a minimum total of 5,400 influenza-related hospitalisations over the 15 weeks peaking at 1,100 during week 6; and

a minimum total of 3,600 influenza-related deaths over the 15 weeks with a peak of 780 during week 6.

These assumptions are being kept under review and may be revised in line with international advice and risk assessment.

The following list gives an indication of ongoing preparedness activities:

the Influenza Pandemic Expert Group is updating expert guidance for publication in December;

the Pandemic Influenza Operational Response Plan is being updated in line with the most up to date expert advice;

a Standing Inter-Departmental Committee has been established to consider issues which go beyond the health aspects of an influenza pandemic;

arrangements have been made to procure a stockpile of the human H5N1 vaccine for key health care workers and other essential workers — my Department is also actively pursuing an advanced purchase order for a pandemic strain vaccine;

we have stockpiled 1 million treatment packs of the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, and a supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (oseltamivir phosphate powder) to treat children aged between 1 to 5 years of age;

on foot of expert advice, we are now stockpiling additional supplies of the other suitable antiviral drug, Relenza; and

the Expert Group is updating guidance on the non-pharmaceutical public health interventions aimed at reducing the spread of infection with reference to the latest recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the progress made over the past year in preparing for a possible flu pandemic and this work will continue to be a top priority for my Department and for the HSE in the coming year.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

111 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the statement by the Joint Committee on Health and Children that the provision of mental health services for adolescents is high on aspiration but low on action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35537/06]

"A Vision for Change", the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy acknowledged the need for increased in-patient beds and for improved resources to care for 16 to 18 year olds who can fall between child and adult services, and may not receive care appropriate to their particular needs.

It is recognised that dedicated adolescent mental health services are required. "A Vision for Change" makes a number of recommendations for the improvement of mental health services for adolescents. I have appointed a Monitoring Group to monitor and assess progress on the implementation of all the recommendations in "A Vision for Change".

The implementation of the report's recommendations, including those relating to mental health services for adolescents, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

112 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the uneven payouts to elderly people in nursing homes here and the fact that the enhanced financial assistance currently being made at the discretion of each Health Service Executive region results in some regions making no enhanced payments and in other cases there is a discrepancy in the amounts being granted; the steps she will take to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35483/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the 2005 Regulations.

There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum and these rates apply in all parts of the country.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act, 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. The supports paid by the HSE vary from person to person and region to region, depending on nursing home fees for example.

Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006. The additional €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country.

The Health (Nursing Homes)(Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. In addition, national guidelines on nursing home subvention are currently being developed by the HSE to ensure an even and equitable application of the regulations nationally.

The Government is currently considering new policy on Long Term Care and several principles underlying this were agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016". These principles include, for example, that there should be one standardised national needs assessment for older people needing care. The use of community and home-based care should be maximised. Sheltered housing options will be encouraged. Where residential care is required, it should be quality care and there should be appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a national standardised financial assessment. The level of support for residential care should be indifferent as to whether that care is in a public or private facility. The financial model to support any new arrangements must also be financially sustainable.

The Department is currently drawing up proposals as agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016".

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

113 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will introduce the Alcohol Products Bill; if she has been lobbied by the alcohol industry to cancel it in favour of voluntary agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35465/06]

A recommendation contained in the Interim Report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol calls for a reduction in the exposure of children and adolescents to alcohol advertising, marketing and sponsorship. In response to this, my Department entered into negotiations with the broadcasting, media and drinks industries while at the same time pursuing the development of legislation to restrict alcohol advertising, sponsorship and sales promotions/marketing practices. It was agreed that the industry would respond on an incremental basis. This has resulted in the establishment of Central Copy Clearance Ireland which addresses the issue of the content of advertisements, the development of a Voluntary Code of Practice on Advertising which addresses the issue of placement and the establishment of the Alcohol Marketing and Communications Monitoring Body to oversee the implementation of the Voluntary Code. As the Minister for Health and Children has previously indicated, she will await the Annual Report of the Monitoring Body before deciding on future actions in relation to legislation on this issue.

Nursing Home Charges.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

114 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of payments processed in relation to the long stay charges repayment scheme; the timeframe a person would expect to wait for payment after application to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35450/06]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

202 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money refunded to date to those people who were illegally charged for nursing home care. [35516/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 202 together.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 came into effect on 30 June 2006. The repayment scheme was launched publicly by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald on 14 August 2006. A national advertising campaign and a helpline also commenced on this date.

The HSE have informed the Department that over 126,000 forms have been dispatched to members of the public.

The Scheme Administrator has commenced scanning the records of long stay facilities around the country and to date more than 50 locations have been visited for this purpose. These records will form the basis for the calculation of the majority of the repayments.

The HSE have informed the Department that over 17,000 forms have been submitted to the scheme administrator applying for repayments and these applications are being processed at present. The timeframe for payment is predicated primarily on whether the applicant is alive or whether the application is being made by a family member or the estate of a deceased person. Priority is being given to pay those who are still alive. It is estimated that there are now in the region of 15,000 people within this category. Living people who were wrongly charged will be first to receive payments under the scheme.

The HSE has advised that the first offers of repayment are commencing this week and that the first payments are expected to issue before the end of November with further payments continuing thereafter in subsequent weeks. It is expected that the bulk of payments to estates will commence in the Spring of 2007.

Provision has been made for applications to be received up to 1 January 2008.

Drug Treatment Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

115 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to move heroin addicts from drug treatment into regular primary care facilities by training doctors to prescribe the anti-addiction drug buprenorphine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35191/06]

I am aware that the drug Buprenorphine is being proposed as an alternative to methadone in the treatment of opiate dependent addicts. The current position is that Buprenorphine can be prescribed to opiate users by addiction services consultants in specialists drug treatment clinics, where the prescription and dispensing of Buprenorphine is tightly controlled.

The Irish Medicines Board has amended the authorisation for Buprenorphine to allow it to be prescribed by General Practitioners who have specialist training in its use. My Department is considering the implications of this revised authorisation, especially in view of the diversion potential of Buprenorphine in its current form.

My Department does not have a role in defining the training programmes of doctors. This is a matter for the Medical Council and the relevant training body.

Health Services.

Joe Callanan

Ceist:

116 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Western Regional Immunisation Board has not been reinstated following its disbandment in November 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35200/06]

I am informed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that when its structures changed it was decided that it was no longer appropriate to have a regional Immunisation Committee for the former Western Health Board area that no longer existed and it was, therefore, disbanded. This was in anticipation of new structures for HSE West.

However, in parallel to this decision, it was agreed that the Immunisation Committee in each of the three counties of the former Western Health Board would be re-established. These County Committees are charged with driving the Immunisation Agenda. A system has also been put in place whereby the Chair of each local committee will meet with the Local Health Manager with responsibility for immunisation on a regular basis, where issues of common concern can be addressed.

Health Strategy.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

117 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on figures from the Public Health Alliance that the death rates for all cancers among the lowest occupational class is over twice as high for the highest class, it is nearly three times higher for strokes, four times higher for lung cancer, and six times higher for accidents; the way she intends to combat such inequalities in health outcomes here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35451/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

136 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the targets her Department has set to reduce the disproportionate burden of ill health that lower income groups suffer as detailed in Quality and Fairness, A Health System for You; the initiatives in place to reduce these health inequalities; the success of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35453/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 136 together.

One of the key measures of health status is premature mortality, major causes of premature mortality in Ireland being circulatory diseases, cancer, accidents and injuries. For all of these, there is a social class gradient, with those in the lowest socio-economic group being the worst off. Likewise, at the beginning of life, health status indicators such as infant mortality and low birth weight highlight the adverse situation of the lowest socio-economic group. In addition, it is known that some groups such as Travellers have lower life expectancy than the general population. Smaller scale studies also show higher levels of ill health among homeless people, drug users and prisoners. Mental illness is also a significant cause of morbidity, with the burden again falling most heavily on the lowest socio-economic group.

The health sector is strongly committed to implementing a range of measures aimed at tackling and reducing these health inequalities. Social inclusion-relevant aspects of existing health strategies and plans feature in the current National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP inclusion) 2003-2005, in the recently negotiated social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, and in Ireland's National Report on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NSSPI) 2006-2008.

The National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) is the main vehicle through which the Government's response to the problems of poverty and social exclusion is being channelled. The Government's 2002 review of the NAPS Building an Inclusive Society sets out a number of targets aimed at reducing health inequalities. These include targets to reduce the gap in premature mortality between the lowest and highest socio-economic groups for circulatory diseases, for cancers and for injuries and poisoning; to reduce the gap in low birth weight rates between children from the lowest and highest socio-economic groups; and to reduce the gap in life expectancy between the Traveller Community and the whole population. My Department is currently working to develop an appropriate set of shorter-term targets that will reflect progress towards these longer-term outcomes. It is anticipated that this work will feed into the 2007 HSE Service Plan and the forthcoming NAP inclusion 2006-2008 process.

In June this year I launched the Cancer Control Strategy 2006 prepared by the National Cancer Forum. The Strategy recognises that there is a need for a consistent focus on risk factors for cancer, incidence of cancer, access to services, and outcome from services to help to reduce health inequalities between various groups. The Strategy recommends that the HSE should put in place arrangements to monitor inequalities in cancer risks, cancer occurrence, cancer services and cancer outcomes. The policy indicators proposed in the Strategy will provide an important means of maintaining a policy focus on cancer inequalities.

Health Service Management.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

118 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the corporate plan for the Health Service Executive was published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35548/06]

Under Section 29 of the Health Act, 2004, the Health Service Executive is obliged to prepare, adopt and then submit to me for approval a Corporate Plan for a three year period. The Executive submitted its Corporate Plan 2005-2008 in accordance with the provisions of this section. This Plan outlines the key objectives for the period 2005-2008, how the achievement of these objectives will be measured and the use of its resources.

I approved the HSE Corporate Plan 2005-2008 on 17 October, 2005 and a copy of it was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 20 October, 2005. This Corporate Plan is also available from the HSE's website, which iswww.hse.ie.

Child Abuse Inquiry.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

119 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the action to be taken to examine the fact that it is over seven and a half years since an inquiry was established into alleged abuse (details supplied) in County Galway and people are still waiting for results; the steps being taken to review this inquiry process; when this review will be completed; and when the report will be published. [35440/06]

I am advised that an inquiry into allegations of abuse by former residents of the Brothers of Charity Services in the former Western Health Board area was commenced in April 1999 by that Health Board. I understand from the Health Service Executive that in September, 2005 it commenced a review of the inquiry process with a view to ensuring that the process will be completed at the earliest possible date. This review is ongoing at the present time.

I am concerned about the length of time which has elapsed since the initial inquiry commenced and I have asked the Health Service Executive to ensure that it is completed as a matter of urgency.

Medical Cards.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

120 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has calculated the cost of introducing free medical cards for both persons under six and 18 years old; the cost in both cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35457/06]

I have asked my Department to arrange to provide the Deputy with information on the estimated cost of providing medical cards to all children aged under six years. However an exercise to establish the estimated cost will first need to be undertaken, with the assistance of the Health Service Executive, and the information sought will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

In relation to the Deputy's request for an estimate of the cost of providing medical cards to persons aged under 18 years who do not currently hold a medical card, it is estimated this would cost approximately an additional €300 million per annum. This estimate has been calculated on the basis of the Central Statistics Office's national population by age estimates for 2004 and information from the Health Service Executive on the number of medical card holders aged under 18 years, as at 1st September 2006. Cost data from a number of sources has been used, in particular from the latest available 2004 Annual Report of the former General Medical Services (Payments) Board and figures provided by the HSE regarding General Medical Services (GMS) GP capitation fee payments as of 31st December 2005.

It will be noted that should eligibility arrangements be adjusted to enable larger numbers to qualify for a medical card, the actual costs arising would depend on the precise demographic profile of those additional clients. The capitation payments to GPs, for example, are calculated according to clients' age, sex and distance of their residence from the GP's centre of practice. Furthermore, the effect on the GMS drugs budget and on certain other services available free of charge to medical card holders cannot be predicted with accuracy and would be dependent on the health status of the clients concerned.

The following matters were not taken into account in arriving at the estimate of approximately €300 million:

potential additional costs in terms of income forgone by public hospitals in respect of A & E attendance and in-patient charges;

the possible cost, depending on the circumstances of the additional persons obtaining medical cards, of such services as aids and appliances and public health nursing;

any offsetting effect of a potential reduction in costs under the Drug Payments Scheme, non-medical card holders are entitled to make claims under the Drugs Payments Scheme (DPS) for reimbursement of all prescribed drugs and medicines in excess of €85 per calendar month, and persons obtaining a medical card and who currently qualify under this scheme would no longer come within the terms of the scheme, as their drug costs would be met under the GMS; and

costs in other areas of Government in which the holding of a medical card may be used as a means of determining entitlement to services or benefits.

Hospital Procedures.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

121 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of day ward and elective cases that are cancelled every day due to overcrowding in accident and emergency departments here. [35474/06]

It is regrettable that some patients may have their procedures postponed. The Health Service Executive (HSE) endeavours to keep postponements to a minimum and to have postponed procedures rescheduled as soon as possible. However, due to the nature of the acute hospital system, in some instances, it is necessary to re-schedule planned treatments when priority has to be given to emergency cases or for a variety of other reasons such as infection control.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to provide the Deputy with the information requested.

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

122 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports of proposals for specialist paediatric surgical services for very young children being centralised at Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin and paediatric neurosurgical services at Temple Street; the provisions for such services; the submissions the Health Service Executive has received regarding paediatric surgical services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35476/06]

The organisation of specialist paediatric and neonatal surgical services has been the subject of extensive debate for a number of years. International best practice indicates that best clinical outcomes are achieved when the number of patients being treated in a unit is sufficient for a high level of surgical, anaesthetic and nursing expertise to be maintained.

There are currently three departments of paediatric surgery in Dublin, one in each of the children's hospitals. While there is a level of shared consultant posts, the three departments operate separately. My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that its view is that there is now a unique opportunity to develop a single, unified department of paediatric surgery in Dublin to facilitate integration and further collaboration among the three children's hospitals in advance of the move to a new national paediatric hospital.

The HSE has been in discussions with the three children's hospitals regarding paediatric services in general and paediatric specialist surgery in particular. Following these meetings, the HSE sought submissions from the hospitals. I understand that these submissions have recently been received and are under consideration.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

123 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when national standards for disability services will be published and implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35551/06]

My Department, in partnership with the National Disability Authority (NDA), has developed draft National Standards for Disability Services (NSDS) in consultation with people with disabilities, their families, carers, service providers, health services providers and other stakeholders. These standards are designed to ensure that services are provided to an agreed level of quality and that the level of quality is consistent on a national basis. It is proposed that the standards will apply to a range of services for people with disabilities as funded by the Health Service Executive.

The draft NSDS are being considered within the framework of the Health Services Reform Programme. A critical element in this process is the establishment of the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA). The new Health Bill currently being drafted to underpin the Health Reform Programme will include provision for the establishment of HIQA on a statutory basis. The establishment of HIQA as a key part of the architecture of planning and developing health and personal social services in Ireland will promote a continuous quality improvement ethos in the health system. The development and implementation of the NSDS is a central element of the process.

Meanwhile, the draft NSDS have been forwarded to the interim HIQA for its consideration. The implementation process for the NSDS will necessarily involve an incremental process of planning, training and implementation over the coming years.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

124 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has received representations from persons abused while in foster care; if such abuse will be addressed by means of a redress scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35471/06]

As the Deputy may be aware in 2002, the then Minister for Education and Science introduced the Residential Institutions Redress Act. This legislation was enacted to provide a mechanism for former residents of industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages, children's homes and in certain situations special schools and hospitals to obtain redress for injuries they suffered while so resident.

The rationale behind the setting up of the Redress Board was that children in the residential institutions were separated from their parents and, therefore, did not have the benefit of the care and protection which a child in the care of a family usually enjoys. The institutions concerned controlled all aspects of the children's lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no reasonable capacity for access to or involvement by their parents. Therefore, the children in the institutions relied to a significant degree on the public bodies that had a statutory duty to protect them.

During the passage of the legislation through both Houses the issue of including children who were in foster care was discussed and it was decided not to extend the legislation, as children in foster care were not in a residential institution. It is not the intention currently to establish a redress board dealing with foster care. However, I wish to assure the Deputy that I am committed to ensuring that children placed in foster care receive the highest standard of care.

I am aware of correspondence from 3 individuals in recent times seeking the establishment of such a redress board and I have responded to these individuals in this regard. It is, of course, open to any individual to pursue their own redress through the courts system should they wish.

Vaccination Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

125 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will include pneumococcal immunisation as part of the State-wide universal vaccination programme, as called for by the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Meningitis Trust and in view of the fact that this immunisation is now being implemented in the Six Counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35467/06]

Ireland's recommended immunisation programme is based on the guidelines of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. These guidelines are prepared with the assistance of an active committee from associated disciplines in paediatrics, infectious diseases, general practice and public health. Vaccines are continually evolving and guidelines change given the nature of these developments.

The inclusion of the pneumococcal vaccine in the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme is being considered by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee as part of its review of the immunisation guidelines. No decision has yet been reached. My Department and the Health Service Executive will be guided by the expert advice from the NIAC in this regard.

The Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland recommend vaccination against pneumococcal disease for persons who are at increased risk of the disease and its complications, particularly for those with:

Asplenia or severe dysfunction of the spleen, including surgical splenectomy;

Chronic renal disease or nephrotic syndrome;

Chronic heart, lung or liver disease illness including cirrhosis;

Diabetes mellitus;

Sickle cell disease;

Immunodeficiency or immunosuppression due to disease or treatment, including HIV infection at all stages;

Patients with CSF leaks, either congenital or complicating skull fracture or neurosurgery; and

Persons aged 65 years or older.

A vaccine is licensed for use in at-risk children aged under 2 years of age.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Mental Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

127 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to improve the availability of specialist out-patient psychiatry teams for children and adolescents. [35539/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

128 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which blood testing in the public hospital system is contracted out of private laboratories; her Department’s policy in this regard; if surveys of cost differentials between contracting out and carrying out work directly in public hospitals have been or will be undertaken; the safeguards which apply to ensure that the highest standard operating procedures apply; if she has had discussions with the Health Service Executive on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35468/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

129 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the policy paper on her initiative to put 1,000 private beds on the grounds of public hospitals. [35504/06]

I published the full policy direction and supporting documentation to this initiative when it was announced in July 2005. The policy has been on my Department's web site since the announcement.

Eating Disorders.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

130 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the lack of facilities for the estimated 200,000 people with eating disorders; her further views on the fact that the only dedicated public services are three beds at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin that are designated to eating disorder patients over 18 years; her plans to address this issue to provide services to under 18 year olds that have eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35485/06]

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

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

132 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is acceptable that some inspections of nursing homes are taken by environmental health officers who are not qualified to assess the standards of medical and nursing care; the reason, in the cases of inspections being carried out separately by medical and nursing team officials, these have not been made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35480/06]

The inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990. The 1990 Act provides for the registration of private nursing homes and procedures for attaching conditions to the registration and for de-registering homes. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations, 1993 set out the standards which private nursing homes owners must adhere to in the provision of nursing home services.

In accordance with the Regulations, the HSE carries out inspections of private nursing homes. The HSE has inspection teams in each area. Each team is comprised of a Senior Area Medical Officer (Chairperson), a Director or Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing and a Principal or Senior Environmental Health Officer. Where Environmental Health Officers visit initially, a medical and nursing inspection is carried out soon afterwards.

Each nursing home receives an integrated report following inspection, which contains recommendations in relation to best practice/conditions, which are required for continued registration. Under the 1990 Nursing Homes Act and the 1993 Regulations, Health Service Executive areas can attach particular conditions to registration. Any deviation from these conditions can be subject to sanction up to and including legal action in the District and Higher Courts. The inspection team liaises with the proprietor to ensure compliance with the Regulations within an agreed timescale.

Two inspections per year of every nursing home are required in accordance with Article 24 of the Regulations. In addition the inspection teams carry out follow-up inspections as required and also conduct advice visits for prospective nursing homes.

The HSE has informed my Department that they commenced publishing nursing home inspection reports on their website:www.hse.ie in September 2006. The plan to publish nursing home inspection reports follows considerable consultation within the HSE and also with representatives of nursing homes organisations. It should be noted that the reports being published on the website will give a snapshot of the situation in a particular nursing home on the date of inspection. Information of a confidential nature will not be published.

In addition, a Working Group was established by the Department to develop the standards for residential care settings for older people. Membership of the Group comprised officials from the Department, the Health Service Executive, the Social Services Inspectorate and the Irish Health Service Accreditation Board. The Group was involved in developing draft standards for the inspection of both public and private residential care for older people. These draft standards will be circulated to interested parties for consultation shortly. In addition, the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board has examined the development of accreditation standards for both public and private residential care for older people. These will be introduced once national standards are established. The IHSAB and the DoHC are in ongoing consultation in relation to national and accreditation standards.

Hospital Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

133 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will proceed with closing down St. Luke’s Hospital for radiotherapy treatment in Dublin. [35514/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

330 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans and that of the Health Service Executive to transfer the services at St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar to St. James’s Hospital; the reason for this decision; if she will review this policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35185/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 330 together.

The expertise and professional commitment of the staff at St. Luke's Hospital will continue to be an essential element in the development of cancer care. The decision to transfer this resource was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital.

In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. Medical and scientific experts from the hospital are involved in developing the output specifications for the delivery of new radiation oncology services nationally. The Chief Executive at St. Luke's will lead the management team of the new facility at St. James's. I also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

I have approved the provision of two additional linear accelerators at St. Luke's to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the national plan. I expect these services to commence late next year. Last week I also announced the approval of two radiation oncology facilities at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, comprising of two linear accelerators and associated treatment planning at each site, to be delivered in early 2009. These are key elements of the delivery of the National Plan.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

134 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the most recent position of chiropody services for medical card holders; if she will clarify the possibility of chiropodist charging top-up fees to medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35445/06]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services to GMS patients; however in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to review the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. This process has been underway for some time and considerable progress has been made.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made; and provide for an appeals framework.

Competence Assurance Scheme.

John Perry

Ceist:

135 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the start-up date for competence insurance for all health professionals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35520/06]

Healthcare personnel have a responsibility to ensure that their practice is safe and their skills are up to date. The introduction of statutory schemes for the maintenance of professional competence is being dealt with in the context of the Medical Practitioners Bill, which will provide for a statutory basis for an appropriate scheme or schemes to ensure the maintenance of professional competence of medical practitioners, and in relation to other legislation which is in preparation regarding nurses, dentists and pharmacists.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

137 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received representations from church authorities regarding the location of a new National Children’s Hospital. [35190/06]

The Taoiseach, the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive and I met with representatives of the Adelaide Hospital Society on 28 June 2006 to discuss a number of issues relating to the Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght. The delegation included the Most Rev R.H.A. Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Very Rev Dr David Clarke, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Rev Desmond Bain, former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, together with the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Rev Dr John W Neill, President of the Hospital. They expressed concern at the implications for the National Children's Hospital of the Government decision to endorse the development of a single national tertiary paediatric hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital.

A number of other matters relating to the provision of hospital services at Tallaght were also discussed. In this context the delegation submitted a document proposing a wide range of service developments at the hospital over the next 10 years. The proposals have been forwarded to the Health Service Executive for consideration.

In a letter to Archbishop Eames following the meeting, the Taoiseach gave an assurance that the Government wishes the hospital to thrive on a sustainable basis as a particular focal point for the involvement of the minority tradition in the healthcare system and as a key health provider to an expanding local population. These objectives will be pursued in tandem with other compelling objectives, including the achievement of an effective and efficient hospital care system, which will deliver the highest possible standards of care within a framework designed to respond to the needs of patients at national, regional and local level.

Arising from the meeting, it has also been decided that a review will be conducted of decisions taken with regard to the funding and development of the hospital. The arrangements for the review are being finalised.

In relation to the development of the new National Paediatric Hospital, a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group has been established to advance the matter. Among the key items to be addressed are the definition of high level framework brief for the new hospital and the determination of the range of services and location of the urgent care centres required to support the new hospital. The Transition Group will have consultations with relevant stakeholders, which will include representatives of the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght.

To date, no decision has been taken in relation to the range of services to be provided at the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght in the context of the development of the national paediatric hospital and the associated urgent care centres.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

138 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the number of psychiatric inpatient beds available for children and adolescents from the current level of 20 nationally. [35538/06]

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

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

139 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, with regard to the hardship, stress and suffering caused to patients arising from the practice of the use of hospital trolleys due to a lack a sufficient bed space, she has taken steps to ensure the availability of adequate beds throughout the winter months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35424/06]

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

178 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the average time spent by a patient in the accident and emergency department of Dublin hospitals; the way these times will be improved; her Department’s policy on waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35367/06]

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

194 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, as a result of actions taken by her Department and the Health Service Executive, an improvement in accident and emergency services will be seen in winter 2007. [35462/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 178 and 194 together.

Tackling the problems in A & E departments is the Government's top priority in health. Our objectives are to reduce the numbers waiting for admission, the time spent waiting for admission, and the turnaround time for those who can be treated in A & E and do not require admission.

A & E services are improving around the country. The Health Service activity reports over recent months indicate a significant reduction in the average number of patients in A & E departments awaiting admission. Waiting times for patients have also been reduced. The percentage of people waiting longer than 24 hours for admission has decreased from 13% in May to 7% in September. The long-term objective is to ensure that no patient waits longer than six hours to be admitted after the clinical decision to admit has been made.

I understand that the HSE intends to begin collecting data on the turnaround time for those who are treated in A & E departments without recourse to an acute hospital bed. In the meantime, the Executive will carry out occasional surveys to give an indication of the length of time such patients wait in A & E.

In order to ensure that the improvements that have been achieved in recent months can be sustained, particularly during the winter months, the HSE has introduced a broad-based Winter Initiative.

The Winter Initiative will be similar to those in place in other health systems internationally. Its purpose is to ensure that the services required to address the particular demands of the winter season are in place and operating optimally. It will encompass not just hospital services but also primary and community care services.

The Initiative will build on work already underway and focus on a range of measures including:

preventative measures;

public communications;

operational readiness (capacity, staffing, etc);

out of hours arrangements;

NHO/PCCC service integration (Ambulance/Primary Care/A&E links, Discharge Initiatives, Continuing Care and Home Supports);

planned escalation procedures to enable responsiveness to increased demand beyond normal operating levels; and

ongoing development of necessary infrastructure particularly for continuing care.

A formal structure is now in place, with eight Local Implementation Teams covering the whole country. A comprehensive work programme has been presented to each team for implementation. The teams will be responsible for ensuring that the Initiative's priorities are implemented at local level, as well as devising and implementing local solutions to address specific local winter demands.

I believe that the actions and initiatives being taken by the HSE will result in the sustained improvements in A & E services that patients and their families deserve.

Proposed Legislation.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

140 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the Health Information and Quality Authority legislation to be introduced. [35524/06]

Earlier this year I published, for consultation purposes, the draft Heads and General Scheme of a Bill providing for the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). The draft Heads have been revised following on from the consultation process and I will be seeking Government approval within the next few weeks to commence drafting the full Bill. As my Department has been working very closely with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on the draft Heads, work is at an advanced stage on the draft provisions and I intend to publish the Bill during the Autumn Session.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

141 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the private facilities being used to treat public patients; if access is unlimited or if there are restrictions on access; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35511/06]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established as one of the key actions for dealing with public hospital waiting lists arising from the 2001 Health Strategy. The NTPF purchases procedures for public patients predominantly from private hospitals in Ireland.

My Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to outline for the Deputy the protocols and procedures in relation to referring patients to private hospitals.

School of Podiatry.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

142 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when the decision was taken by her Department to locate the proposed school of podiatry in a university; the reason an institute of technology was deemed unsuitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35303/06]

As outlined in my responses to the Deputy's previous questions on the matter, responsibility for the establishment of a school of podiatry, including its location, will be a matter in the final instance for the Department of Education and Science. A decision has not yet been taken on the location of the school or the criteria associated with this.

As the Deputy was previously advised, the delivery of clinical training, which is a significant core component of the course, must be facilitated in an integrated manner with Health Service Executive (HSE) services. The HSE has advised the two Departments of its view that the school of podiatry would be best located in a large centre of population, one that is associated with a multi-disciplinary health professional environment and which is linked to a teaching hospital.

Meetings are continuing at an official level between my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the HSE to consider all issues and to progress the matter.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

143 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide specialist facilities for brain damaged persons under 65 years of age. [35540/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

144 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she intends to take to ensure an adequate standard of care is provided through home care packages; if she will establish a minimum standard of care charter to set down minimum qualifications for all care staff employed by agencies including appropriate language competency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35488/06]

The Deputy will be aware that significant funding has been made available to the HSE in the 2006 Budget in respect of home care packages — €30m. for 2006 and a further €25m. for 2007, giving a full year cost of €55m.

The aim of Home Care Packages is to enable older people to remain at home who would otherwise be cared for in a residential setting. A home care package consists of a range of services including Home Help, Public Health Nursing, Registered General Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. In the first instance the use of mainstream community services will be maximised to maintain the older person at home. If further services are assessed as being required, these will be provided through the home care package.

The Home Care Packages are designed to:

Facilitate timely discharge of older people from Acute Hospitals;

Reduce inappropriate admissions;

Reduce the need for older people to attend A&E departments; and

Support older people to continue to live in their own community.

The HSE has advised that the decision to allocate a Home Care Package is based on the assessment of needs of the individual and the identification of any assessed needs which are not being met by mainstream services together with consideration of the appropriateness of care in the community in the individual case.

Guidelines are being drawn up in conjunction with the HSE for the standardised implementation of all aspects of Home Care Packages across the HSE. In the meantime each area is continuing to roll out home care packages in accordance with the HSE service plan.

The HSE has further advised that the Dublin Mid Leinster Area has recently advertised requesting applications from tenderers for inclusion on a panel of preferred providers for home care services. Successful tenderers will be used to provide services over and above that which is possible to provide by the HSE inhouse. The tender specifies stringent standards that will have to be met on an ongoing basis for continued inclusion on the panel. It is envisaged that details of this panel will be available to members of the public who can then be assured that where they contract with a provider for services those services will be of a high standard that is monitored.

Health Service Staff.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

145 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the 300 additional personnel for primary care teams who have been recruited. [35550/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

146 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the timeframe for the tendering process for the private beds to be built on the grounds of public hospitals. [35508/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

193 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has concluded the public procurement process for private for-profit hospitals in any of the ten public hospitals sites earmarked for collocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35469/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 193 together.

The Health Services Executive is currently undertaking a procurement process to select a consortia to build and operate private hospitals on the sites of 10 public hospitals.

The new private hospitals will be procured by utilising the competitive dialogue tendering process. It involves a three stage process namely:

1. pre-qualification;

2. competitive dialogue phases within which solutions are identified and discussed; and

3. a final tendering stage.

The HSE has had a lot of interest in the initiative.

It has pre-qualified a number of bidders for each site and is now in the process of evaluating outline proposals and short listing bidders for each site.

The intention is to select the consortium for each site, negotiate the detailed contracts and sign the contracts by the first quarter of 2007.

Health Services.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

147 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children the staff guidelines in place for responding to people presenting in hospitals following deliberate self-harm and resource services for dealing with this situation in primary or secondary care settings; her plans to improve or expand these; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35541/06]

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

Organ Retention.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

148 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she will not agree to a full statutory inquiry into the issue of organ retention as requested by the parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35464/06]

I do not believe there is anything to be gained from the establishment of a Statutory Inquiry into the issue of organ retention. The report of an Inquiry into post mortem practice and organ retention chaired by Ms Anne Dunne SC was presented to me in March 2005. Unfortunately it could not be published for legal reasons.

Dr. Deirdre Madden, a distinguished expert on medical law, was appointed by Government in May 2005 to provide a report on key issues relating to post mortem practice and procedures. She had access to all of the documentation assembled by the previous Inquiry. Her report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures was published on 18 January this year. Among her key findings are that:

Post-mortem examinations were carried out according to best professional and international standards and no intentional disrespect was shown to deceased children or their families.

Communication between hospital staff and parents and next of kin was poor, with people not being told that organs might be retained at a post-mortem. This was often done for paternalistic reasons, where doctors did not wish to upset next of kin when they were already distressed and vulnerable.

There was no legislative framework in place and no consistent national policy relating to these practices. However, the lack of a national policy on post mortem practice until 2002 is not unique to Ireland, nor was it the usual practice in other countries to provide information about organ retention to relatives of a deceased person.

The system of disposal of organs and tissues by hospitals was not intentionally disrespectful to children or their families. Hospitals were constrained by health and safety regulations and were obliged to consider organs and tissues as clinical waste.

Between 1976 and 1988, almost 14,000 pituitary glands were collected in hospitals and supplied to two pharmaceutical companies for the manufacture of human growth hormone. (Around 10% were collected from children, with the balance from adults). The practice ceased when a synthetic product was developed.

The motivation for collection of glands was "for a positive medical and public benefit, notwithstanding the lack of specific consent for retention and use of the glands".

Hospitals were paid modest amounts for the additional work undertaken to remove the pituitary glands. There was no known commercial motive on the part of any hospital or its staff in the supply of glands to the companies.

A key recommendation of the report was that a Working Group be established to examine issues not included in the original terms of reference, that is post mortem issues relating to babies who died before or during birth, minors and adults. This Group, chaired by Dr. Madden, was set up in March, 2006 and its membership includes representatives of Parents For Justice. I expect to receive a report from this Group shortly.

Dr. Madden's first report on paediatric hospitals is a comprehensive and robust one and I expect that her Working Group report dealing with post mortem practice and procedures in other areas will be equally so. She has set out key recommendations which are now being implemented by the Health Service Executive and other relevant agencies.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

149 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the statement by the Joint Committee on Health and Children in June 2006 that funding for mental health services is allocated in a random manner with scant regard for need. [35536/06]

This question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has informed my Department that the National Mental Health Directorate of the Health Service Executive took a population-based approach in allocating new resources in 2006.

The 2002 Census data was used and the SAHRU (Small Area Health Research Unit) Deprivation Index was employed to pinpoint areas of deprivation in recognition of the close correlation between social deprivation & mental illness. As the Mental Health Act, 2001 places a particular emphasis on the role of the Consultant Psychiatrist, the availability of Consultants was an important driver in decision making in 2006. Consultants were taken as a proxy for teams. It is recognised by the HSE that many teams are incomplete at this time and work to address this is the focus of further analysis following the Census 2006.

The HSE's "Vision for Change" Implementation Group has identified the need for a comprehensive exercise to analyse concerns regarding funding inequity and resource availability nationally and intends to include this exercise in its workplan for 2007, building on the work already in train.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

150 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has entered into a service level agreement with the providers of the private radiotherapy facilities in Waterford; and the number of people they envisage being treated in the first year. [35519/06]

Quality standards for the provision of radiation oncology services for public patients have been prepared by an expert group established on foot of a Government decision in January 2004. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised my Department that it is applying these standards to radiation oncology services that it provides or arranges to have provided.

There has been recent communication between the HSE and the UPMC Whitfield Clinic to explore the scope and conditions for the procurement of its radiation oncology services. The HSE will comply with relevant procurement and quality guidelines in any contracting for these services.

My Department is working closely with the HSE to progress the National Radiation Oncology Plan announced by Government in July 2005. It will deliver integrated care to cancer patients by multi-disciplinary teams of cancer experts at centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital.

Infectious Diseases.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

151 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to reports from the UK on the superbug C difficile which can cause severe illness and death in patients who have undergone surgery and is at unprecedented levels there and with experts warning that it is more of a danger than MRSA; the position in relation to this superbug here; the plans in place to deal with it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35448/06]

My Department is aware of these UK reports and the findings in relation to Clostridium difficile.

Clostridium difficile is not a notifiable disease and as a result it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the heath care system. However, Clostridium difficile infection was examined in The Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty six patients had Clostridium difficile infection representing 0.5% of patients studied. Clostridium difficile infection increases with age and is eight times more common in patients over 65 years compared to those under the age of 65 years. The emergence of more virulent strains of Clostridium difficile which is partly due to over use of antibiotics underlines the importance of strict antibiotic stewardship in our health care system.

Clostridium difficile is one of the HCAIs and as such, the identification, surveillance and control is comprehended within the Strategy for the control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland (SARI) Strategy. SARI was launched in 2001 and includes recommendations such as hospital hygiene practice, appropriate antibiotic prescribing, active surveillance for the detection of HCAIs, and corporate/clinical governance structures in the area of infection control. The HSE will shortly publish a three year Action Plan which will set targets in this important area.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

152 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the Pharmacy Review Group’s recommendations that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between dispensing and prescribing; her further views on the potential conflict of interest that arises from the development of multi-practice health centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35449/06]

On foot of the recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group, my Department has commenced drafting new pharmacy legislation in two pharmacy bills.

The second bill will address the regulation of pharmacy and pharmacy services, including the definition of pharmacy services and of a community pharmacy, enhanced provisions for the inspection of pharmacies, and the provision for regulation of pharmacies for matters such as physical conditions, standards, record keeping and promotional activities. It is also proposed to deal with general provisions relating to community pharmacy contracts for services, as well as the remaining recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group.

The Government accepted the Review Group recommendation that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between prescribing and dispensing and, in regard to multi-GP practices with adjacent pharmacies, that contracted pharmacies and general practices should occupy discrete premises, with separate entrances. I have agreed to consider the potential conflict of interest issues arising from the development of health centres with adjacent contracted pharmacies and this issue will be addressed in the second bill in the light of that examination. In the interim, my Department has advised the Health Service Executive to take due care in assessing pharmacy contract applications so that any commercial relationship between a pharmacy contractor and a health centre will not affect the proper provision of services as required under clauses 21, 22(3), 22(4) and 23 of the pharmacy contract, dealing with ownership of pharmacies and beneficial interest. I have also written to the Medical Council in relation to this issue.

The Deputy will note that the location of services is a land use planning issue and therefore a matter for the relevant planning authority. I am not in a position to dictate the location of privately funded and owned pharmacies or GP practices, nor to restrict the awarding of State pharmacy contracts based on location.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

153 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the lack of adequate aftercare support groups and treatment centres for the Drogheda area; her plans to improve the services for drugs and alcohol aftercare support groups and treatment centres for the area; her further views on the embargo on manpower within the Health Service Executive in this area that may be adding to the problem of adequate services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35446/06]

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

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

154 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that one in eight people here is suffering from chronic pain; her further views on the new drug-free implant which uses the body’s own nerves to control pain being used at present in St. Vincent’s; her plans to extend the number of pain clinics here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35484/06]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

155 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the position and timeframe on the national roll-out of BreastCheck by region; the budget spend on the roll-out by region with initial cost projections and the current cost projections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35482/06]

I have met with representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have a quality assured programme rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. I have approved additional revenue funding of €2.3m to meet the additional costs of roll-out and an additional 69 posts have been approved. BreastCheck also requires considerable capital investment in the construction of two new clinical units and in the provision of five additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. I have made available an additional €21m capital funding to BreastCheck for this purpose.

At a meeting with my Department recently, BreastCheck reported on significant progress that has been made in preparation for the roll-out. BreastCheck has appointed Clinical Directors for the Southern and Western regions and both will take up their positions today. The recruitment of Consultants and other staff, including Radiographers is under way. Construction teams have been appointed for the static units in University College Hospital Galway and South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork. Construction will commence at both sites on 6 November.

BreastCheck is not in a position to provide a breakdown by region of costs and timeframes in advance of essential elements of the roll-out being in place, including adequate staffing, effective training and quality assurance programmes. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to the Southern and Western regions will be met.

Health Service Management.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

156 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the headquarters of the Health Service Executive is split in two and her views on whether it would be more sensible to have the HQ concentrated on one site. [35529/06]

In accordance with the provisions of the Government decision of July, 2004 the headquarters of the Health Service Executive is located in Naas, Co. Kildare. However, for operational reasons, the HSE also maintain a sub-office in Parkgate Street, Dublin 8. My Department has been informed by the Executive that it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the current arrangements.

Hospital Services.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

157 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the acute hospitals which have a programme of clinical governance in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35547/06]

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

Eating Disorders.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

158 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for St. Columcille’s Hospital, Ireland’s only obesity clinic; the steps she will take to aid St. Columcille’s Hospital; the measures she will take to combat obesity here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35444/06]

Obesity is a major public health problem both for Ireland and for our European neighbours. The National Taskforce on Obesity published a report in 2005 containing 93 recommendations to halt the rise in levels of overweight and obesity.

The Taskforce recognises that a multi-sectoral approach is necessary, involving other State agencies and Government Departments and real engagement of the public and private sectors to implement all of the report's recommendations. It is proposed to utilise social inclusion structures already established as well as other working groups as required to facilitate this.

I understand that the Health Service Executive has established a Working Group to implement those recommendations of the Task Force on Obesity for which the HSE has the lead responsibility and for which €3 million has been allocated. It is currently undertaking an audit of existing services to reduce and prevent obesity, to identify gaps in current service provision and to make recommendations for future service provision. It has already commenced a number of new initiatives and has secured 8 additional posts this year focussed on obesity.

The part of the question which queries the waiting list for St. Columcille's Hospital relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

159 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children when does she expect that legislation on eligibility and provision of entitlements for elderly people will be enacted. [35523/06]

The Deputy may be aware that work has commenced on a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility and entitlement for health and personal social services for the whole population. The aim is to produce a clear set of statutory provisions that ensure equity and transparency and to bring the system up to date with developments in service delivery and technology that have occurred since the Health Act 1970. Publication is expected in 2007.

Vaccination Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

160 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the overall cost of the flu vaccine; the uptake in 2005 and to date in 2006; if there was a drop in the rates of flu as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35460/06]

The overall cost of the influenza vaccine campaign was €10.837m for the 2004/2005 influenza season and €11.465m in the 2005/2006 season. Final costs are not yet available for the current season. The figures given include the costs of the media campaigns, the flu vaccine and GP fees.

Influenza vaccine uptake statistics are available for those aged 65 years and over. Data provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicate that the uptake of influenza vaccine in those aged 65 years and over for the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 influenza seasons was as follows:

National Influenza Vaccine Uptake %

65-69

70-74

75+

65+

2005/2006

52.71

61.26

66.66

62.69

2004/2005

49.15

57.62

67.43

61.38

Note:

Data for the 2005/2006 season are provisional only and relate to September 2005 to July 2006. Receipt of finalised data for this season is awaited.

Data on influenza vaccine coverage is not yet available for the 2006/2007 season.

In Ireland the current influenza season (2006/2007) began on Week 40 (commencing October 2nd 2006) and no cases of influenza have been reported in this period. The influenza-like illness rates have been very low so far with rates of 2.7, 8.9 and 2.6 per 100,000 for weeks 40 to 42 respectively. I should add that the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS) has reported that influenza activity is low across Europe this season to date.

Health Policy.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

161 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Hanly report is still Government policy. [35512/06]

The National Task Force on Medical Staffing, chaired by Mr David Hanly, was set up to:

devise a strategy for reducing the average working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) so as to achieve the requirements of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD);

address the consequent medical staffing needs of Irish hospitals;

analyse the practical implications of moving to a consultant-provided hospital system; and

consider the requirements for medical education and training arising from any changes to the current model of delivering services.

The Report of the Task Force made a series of important recommendations. These covered issues such as:

the changes needed in NCHD work patterns;

the need for a significant increase in the number of consultants;

the need for a revised contract for medical consultants;

reform of medical education and training; and

the reorganisation of acute hospital services.

Work is proceeding in relation to each of the main recommendations made by the Task Force. The Task Force advised that the current organisation, structure and staffing of our hospital system is failing to deliver the care that, at its best, the Irish system is capable of giving. It further advised that patients have better outcomes when treated in hospitals with appropriate numbers of specialist staff, high volumes of activity and access to the right diagnostic and treatment facilities.

I am concerned that, at present, some patients are being exposed to increased risk because specialist services are being provided in some hospitals that lack the necessary critical mass of activity and patient throughput. Patient safety and quality must be paramount and must be the key drivers in the re-configuration of our acute hospital services and, indeed, our services generally. The policy of the Government is to provide safe, high-quality services that achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. This will mean that those services that can be safely delivered locally are delivered locally and that more complex services that require specialist input are concentrated at regional centres, or in the case of highly specialised services such as organ transplantation, in national centres of excellence. This approach is consistent with international best practice for the optimum delivery of patient care. The Health Service Executive has begun the process of reorganising our acute services in order to achieve these objectives. This will take time and, in the meantime, there will be no diminution in services available locally until suitable alternative arrangements have been put in place.

Hospital Services.

John Gormley

Ceist:

162 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if a common waiting list was considered as part of the 2001 health strategy; the reason for its exclusion; her views on whether it would introduce greater equality into the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35454/06]

John Gormley

Ceist:

177 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has carried out studies on the possible impact of a common waiting list; her views on whether this would introduce greater equality into the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35455/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 177 together.

The reform of the acute hospital system, now well under way, was proposed in the Health Strategy published in 2001. The actions for change proposed for the development of the system were related to capacity, the mix between public and private patients and measures concerned with organisational and practical steps aimed at promoting equity, people-centredness, quality and accountability.

Together with other proposals designed to ensure that public patients obtain needed access to hospital treatment as quickly as possible, consideration was given to the establishment of a common waiting list during the deliberations stage. The common waiting list suggestion was not proceeded with, in the final analysis. Instead, a number of alternative proposals put forward in the Strategy were considered to be preferable as methods of obtaining the required result. They included the following innovative proposals which, I am glad to say, are now well in train:

the provision of up to 3,000 additional acute beds over ten years;

the establishment of a strategic partnership with private hospital providers,

the establishment of a National Hospitals Agency (now the National Hospitals Office under the HSE); and

the establishment of a Treatment Purchase Fund (now the statutory National Treatment Purchase Fund).

In relation to the initiatives to increase the number of public beds, the following developments indicate that the Government's commitment to increase total acute bed capacity is virtually complete:

In 2001, the average number of in-patient beds/day places available for public patients in acute hospitals was 12,145. By 2005, this number had risen to 13,255; an increase of 1,110.

A further 450 bed/day places are in various stages of planning and development under the Capital Investment Framework, 2005-2009.

In July 2005, I announced an initiative to have private hospitals built on the campuses of public hospitals. The aim of this initiative is to enable up to 1,000 beds in public hospitals, which are currently used by private patients, to be redesignated for use by public patients. The HSE is currently evaluating outline proposals from interested parties in the private sector to construct private hospitals on the sites of ten publicly funded hospitals.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund was set up to reduce the length of time public patients are on hospital waiting lists by offering them an opportunity to obtain access to high quality treatment, quickly, safely and in line with the Government's Health Strategy. I am very pleased at the success of the Fund to date. Since referring its first patient in the summer of 2002, the Fund has arranged treatment for over 48,000 public patients.

All of these initiatives demonstrate that the Government is meeting its commitment to improving public access to hospital care.

Health Services.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

163 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the studies her Department has carried out on the possible introduction of universal health insurance; the overall cost of such a scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35456/06]

The issue of what is an appropriate method of funding the health services was discussed in the Health Strategy of 2001, which remains Government policy. The conclusion in the Strategy was that the present system should remain as "there is no compelling evidence that any alternative approach to the tax-based system would deliver significant improvements".

If the question is referring to an extension of full eligibility to everyone, which the Health Strategy did not propose, then my view is that it is reasonable to expect those who can afford to pay for services to do so. There are many supports available already to those without full eligibility. These include the GP Visit Card, the Long Term Illness Scheme, treatment in a public ward of an acute hospital is free other than a modest hospital charge for non medical card holders, and the Drugs Payment Scheme contributes significantly towards the cost of pharmaceuticals. In addition, there are reliefs available in respect of medical costs under taxation provisions.

The largest element of cost in extending full eligibility to the entire population would arise under the general medical services scheme. If this were extended to the whole population, the estimated cost would be in excess of €3 billion, based on current fees to participating contractors, i.e. pharmacists and GPs in the GMS Scheme.

This estimate takes no account of adjustments to fees to the contractors which might result from negotiations that would be required with the representative bodies of the contractors involved. The additional costs that might arise under other schemes, such as the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) and other community services, have not been taken into account.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

164 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and percentage of general practitioner only cards that have been issued; the number of GP cards waiting to be issued; the breakdown of GP cards per Health Service Executive area by number and percentage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35442/06]

The most recent information provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department shows that 41,506 GP visit cards have been issued as at 25th October, 2006. More detailed statistical data provided by the HSE to my Department and correct as of 1st October 2006 contains county-by-county figures for the number of GP visit cards issued and this information is set out below.

My Department has requested the HSE to provide the Deputy with the current figures regarding the number of GP visit cards waiting to be issued and the breakdown of GP visit cards per HSE Area.

GP Visit Cards as at 1st October 2006

County

GP Visit Cards

Dublin

3,734

Kildare

741

Wicklow

826

Laois

832

Longford

481

Offaly

866

Westmeath

835

Clare

746

Limerick

1,124

Tipperary North

468

Cavan

804

Louth

1,282

Meath

1,464

Monaghan

670

Donegal

2,420

Leitrim

438

Sligo

727

Carlow

971

Kilkenny

920

Tipperary South

1,240

Waterford

1,046

Wexford

1,484

Cork

5,212

Kerry

1,558

Galway

2,604

Mayo

1,750

Roscommon

774

Total

36,017

Hospital Staff.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

165 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is her policy to bring in public only contracts for consultants. [35510/06]

Proposals for a new employment contract for consultants working in the public health system have been tabled by the management side in the context of the consultants' contract negotiations, which will resume shortly.

The new contract will be a first step towards the introduction of a consultant-provided service and the appointment of large numbers of dedicated public hospital and community based consultants, working in teams. This will be matched by a reduction in the number of non-consultant hospital doctors.

The precise nature of the public hospital commitment will be a matter for negotiation by the parties involved.

Hospital Accommodation.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

166 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the location and number of the 500 nursing beds provided in 2006 by the Health Service Executive; the number of private nursing home beds and the number of public beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35489/06]

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

Ambulance Service.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

167 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to the use of private ambulances she will confirm that there should be a certified emergency medical technician or paramedic travelling in the back with the patient at all times; the best practice guidelines for same; the reason this practice is not followed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35486/06]

The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) is responsible for the development of professional and performance standards for the ambulance services and for the accreditation of institutions providing training for ambulance personnel.

The Health Service Executive has advised that when private ambulance services are contracted to carry out A&E duties, on the Executive's behalf, it ensures that both crew members are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) registered with the PHECC.

The Executive has also advised that in relation to all inter hospital transfers, the minimum requirement is that one member of the crew, who must be either a PHECC registered EMT, a Registered nurse or a clinician (where required), will travel with the patient at all times.

The HSE has confirmed that when private ambulance services have been contracted to deliver services on its behalf, they must always comply with the requirements as laid out by the National Ambulance Office.

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

168 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Hollywood report on radiotherapy services is still Government policy. [35513/06]

The Government is committed to making the full range of cancer services available and accessible to cancer patients throughout Ireland. Government policy is to achieve best outcomes for patients based on all aspects of cancer care, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy delivered by multi-disciplinary teams based around major centres.

My Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) to progress the National Radiation Oncology Plan announced by Government in July 2005. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital.

The NDFA has assembled a team to progress the financial and procurement aspects and the HSE has appointed a Project Manager and support team. A Clinical Output Specification Group is well advanced in specifying the clinical aspects of the development. Technical advisors will be appointed shortly to advise on the construction and other technical aspects of the project. I have also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's Hospital to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

Arrangements are now in place for access by Donegal radiotherapy patients to the major cancer centre at Belfast City Hospital, commencing today. I have approved the provision of two additional linear accelerators at St. Luke's to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the national plan. I expect these services to commence late next year. Last week I also announced the approval of two radiation oncology facilities at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, comprising of two linear accelerators and associated treatment planning at each site, to be delivered in early 2009. These are key elements of the delivery of the National Plan.

Hospital Staff.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

169 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the Government’s position on EU Commission Infringement 2004/5152 regarding equal treatment in employment; her views on whether the people’s prior experience in professions in other EU countries should be taken into account when applying for posts here; the steps she intends to take to reassure the Commission on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32044/06]

EU Commission Infringement 2004/5152 deals with the calculation of salary on the staff nurse pay scale, in particular the appropriate incremental point when experience gained in other EU countries is taken into account. The ruling, which is called a Reasoned Opinion, was addressed to Ireland by the Commission under Article 226 of the Treaty on 19 December 2005.

All EU citizens are currently entitled to receive equal treatment with Irish nationals in regard to employment in the Irish public health service. Registered nurses, regardless of nationality, receive incremental credit for genuine nursing experience gained anywhere in the world. This has been the position since 1998.

However, this particular case relates to service as a State Enrolled Nurse (SEN), a grade employed in the UK's health service. The SEN qualification is not recognised as a nursing qualification under Irish legislation, as training for it is deemed insufficient to qualify as a nurse registered with An Bord Altranais.

The complaint referred to the EU was made by a nurse employed in the public health service. She argued that experience acquired in the United Kingdom as a SEN, before she was qualified as a Registered General Nurse, was not taken into account in the calculation of her salary by her Irish employers. She was seeking recognition for incremental purposes of her service as a SEN in the UK for a period of over 16 years.

The Rights Commissioner Service and the Labour Court, who adjudicated on the claim in 2004, both found that management was within its rights not to recognise periods of service as a SEN in the UK for incremental credit purposes.

This case was subsequently referred to the EU Commission who found, under Infringement No. 2004/5152, that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 39 of the European Community by not making a comparison between the experience acquired by a worker in the UK, and the type of experience acquired in Ireland, in calculating the salary of registered general nurses. The ruling does not deal with the application process or eligibility conditions for posts in the public health service.

I have accepted the EU ruling and my Department has informed the Health Service Executive — Employers Agency of the outcome of the complaint. The HSE-EA is arranging for a circular letter on the matter to issue very shortly to all public health service employers. The circular will direct that incremental credit be granted on appointment as a Registered General Nurse, on the basis of one increment for every three years service as a SEN, with a seventh increment being given for twenty years service. The EU Commission have been informed accordingly.

Medical Profession Regulation.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

170 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the increasing number of complaints being made to the Medical Council regarding doctors; her further views on the concerns that regulation is proactive and not reactive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35475/06]

Complaints about medical practitioners are obviously of concern to me. I understand that a total of 189 complaints were made to the Medical Council in the first six months of this year, compared with 174 in the first six months of 2005.

I am currently preparing a new Medical Practitioners Bill. The proposed legislation is intended to be both proactive and reactive. The main objective of the Bill is to provide for a modern, efficient, transparent and accountable system for the regulation of the medical profession, which will satisfy the public and the profession that all medical practitioners are appropriately qualified and competent to practise in a safe manner on an ongoing basis.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

171 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the social partners who agreed that 5% of the value of an elderly person’s house is taken into account for subvention purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35503/06]

The practice of imputing 5% of the value of a person's principal private residence in certain defined circumstances is not new. It has applied since the introduction of the subvention scheme under Regulations made in 1993. The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the Nursing Homes(Subvention)(Amendment) Regulations 2005.

When carrying out a means test for the purposes of subvention, the applicant's home is not taken into account in certain circumstances, for example, where it is occupied by a spouse, a child under 21 or a relative in receipt of certain social welfare payments. If none of these situations apply, 5% of the imputed value of the person's principal private residence is taken into account as part of the financial assessment. This situation has applied since the subvention regulations were introduced in 1993.

An Inter-Departmental Group was set up to examine financially sustainable models of long-term care. The Group reported to Government, and Government agreed on a number of principles that are reflected in the new social partnership agreement "Towards 2016". That agreement describes a whole range of initiatives covering new arrangements for residential and community care for older people. The Inter-Departmental Group has continued to meet to help draw up proposals for a new policy on long-term care, based on the principles endorsed by Government and the social partners. One of these principles is that, where residential care is required, there should be appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients, based on a standardised financial assessment. The aim will be to achieve an equitable, balanced scheme, both for residential and community care, and for both public and private provision.

The Deputy will be aware that the social partners comprise representatives of Government, employers, trade unions, the farming sector and the community and voluntary pillar.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

172 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports that three in four children here have decayed permanent teeth by the time they are 15 years old and that half of all five year olds have rotten teeth; the measures she is putting in place to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35479/06]

Despite the substantial decline in the prevalence and severity of dental cavities in Ireland since 1964, this largely preventable disease is still common. Fluoridation of community drinking water is a major factor responsible for the decline in dental caries. 71% of the Irish population live in areas with fluoridated water supplies.

In Ireland, according to the preliminary National Children's Survey (2002) report, over 2/3rds (69.5%) of 5 year olds with fluoridated water had no decay in their teeth, and 52.5% of 5 years olds without water fluoridation have no dental decay.

According to the same report, one third of 15 year olds in fluoridated water areas are free of dental decay and approximately one quarter (26%) of those living in non-fluoridated water areas have no dental decay in their permanent dentition.

Dental decay is an infectious disease that affects most people in developed countries. There are many factors involved in the development of dental decay, the main factors being a susceptible tooth, sugar and bacteria in dental plaque. Data from the ‘Health Behaviour of Children in School' report found that of all the countries surveyed the percentage of students who reported eating sweets or chocolate every day was consistently higher in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Ireland (71-80%). The consumption of soft drinks has increased considerably in recent years.

The Health Service Executive is responsible for planning oral health care. Since 2000, all children under the age of 16 years who attended state primary schools have access to free dental care through the public dental service. Children aged 7, 9 and 12 are targeted for screening and for application of preventive measures, oral health education, fluoride mouth rinsing in non-fluoridated areas and fissure sealing of vulnerable permanent molar teeth.

A number of initiatives have been undertaken to address oral health promotion recently:

Winning Smiles is a school based oral health programme. Launched by the Taoiseach it is a north/south initiative involving Queens University Belfast, the Oral Health Research Centre and Dental Health Foundation. This schools programme provides toothpaste and toothbrushes to introduce tooth brushing programmes into schools.

Smart Start is a cross-border initiative emphasising nutrition, physical activity and oral health for very young children. Trainers have been trained to visit pre-school teachers to teach the implementation of best practice in areas of good oral health, diet and nutrition.

The National Guidelines Development Group, which is funded by the Health Research Board, is working in a multi-disciplinary way and is also involving parents to develop best practice guidelines regarding school screening and oral health in high risk children.

Hospital Accommodation.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

173 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in view of the Government’s stated commitment to providing an extra 3,000 beds and of Professor Drumm’s previous statements on the lack of need for extra beds in the Health Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35441/06]

In 2001, the year of the publication of Health Strategy, the average number of in-patient beds and day places available for treatment of patients in the 53 public acute hospitals was 12,145. At the end of 2005, this figure had increased by 1,204 to a total of 13,349 (an additional 724 in-patient beds and 480 day places).

In July 2005, I announced an initiative to have private hospitals built on the campuses of public hospitals. This is designed to enable up to 1,000 beds in public hospitals, which are currently used by private patients, to be re-designated for use by public patients. The HSE is currently engaged in a procurement process with the private sector to build and operate private hospitals on 10 public hospital sites.

The 2006 estimates for the Health Service Executive includes €60 million to open new facilities built under the National Development Plan. These new facilities include additional in-patient beds and day treatment places in acute hospitals. The HSE has indicated that when fully opened these new facilities will provide an additional 97 in-patient beds, 68 day treatment places and 7 intensive care / high dependency beds. A total of 172 treatment places in acute hospitals.

In addition, a further 450 acute beds/day places are in various stages of planning and development under the Health Service Executive's Capital Plans.

All of these additional in-patient beds/day places will mean that this Government's commitment in the Health Strategy to increase total acute hospital capacity is well on the way to completion.

In view of the changes which have occurred since the publication of the Health Strategy the HSE is undertaking a further review of acute hospital bed capacity. The Review will:

identify acute bed capacity needs to the year 2020;

the number and type of acute beds that are required by HSE administrative area;

identify the capital and revenue implications; and

advise on how to meet the identified need.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

174 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the statement by the Inspector of Mental Hospitals that community residences for former long-stay patients is an exercise in relocation rather than part of a rehabilitation programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35535/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including the provision of community residences, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

175 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the latest ESRI recommendations regarding spending in the health sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35461/06]

I have noted the recommendations contained in the recent report of the ESRI in relation to the Health Sector under the NDP 2007-2013. These recommendations will be considered in the context of the Government's deliberations in finalising the new National Development Plan which is due to be announced in January next.

Hospital Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

176 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if consultants are keen on her private hospitals initiative due to the fact that public hospitals are under resourced and many consultants are frustrated at not being able to carry out the work that they are trained to do. [35515/06]

As I stated in the debate on the co-location initiative last week, arrangements will be put in place whereby consultants will be able to work at these co located private hospitals. The policy direction states that the development of the new private hospitals will be subject to better work practices being put in place in each of the public hospitals involved in the initiative. Many consultants at individual hospital level are keen to do this and have expressed their support for the initiative to me.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 162.
Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

National Cancer Strategy.

John Perry

Ceist:

179 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects that the implementation plan for the next cancer strategy will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35518/06]

The National Cancer Control Strategy encompasses all aspects of cancer, including prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, supportive and palliative care. My objective is to develop an integrated cancer control programme based on:

evidence of what works to prevent and treat cancer;

standards that assure quality in all aspects of cancer control; and

fairness, so that all patients, irrespective of county, region or personal financial means, can be assured of the best cancer care.

Our efforts to prevent cancer will include societal and public policy responses to reduce smoking and alcohol misuse and improve diet and exercise. I have written to the Minister for Finance on fiscal measures to reduce the consumption of tobacco. Heads of a Bill are being prepared for consideration by Government to regulate the use of sunbeds, including prohibiting their use by those under 16.

I will shortly establish a National Cancer Screening Service to amalgamate BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) to deliver both programmes nationally. BreastCheck will commence national roll-out next year. It is my goal to have the ICSP rolled out nationally by 2008, based on an affordable model. The Service will also advise in relation to a colorectal cancer screening programme.

My Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive and the National Development Finance Agency to progress the delivery of the National Radiation Oncology Plan. I have approved the provision of two additional linear accelerators at St. Luke's Hospital to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the national plan. I expect these services to commence late next year. Last week I also announced the approval of two radiation oncology facilities at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, comprising of two linear accelerators and associated treatment planning at each site, to be delivered in early 2009.

The HSE is establishing a National Cancer Control Programme that will build on the significant investment that has been made in the development of cancer control since 1997. A Programme Director, at national level, will be accountable for all HSE cancer control activities. A single national budget for all cancer control activities will be developed. The Programme will facilitate national standards for equity and access and will maximise ambulatory care. The HSE will establish four Managed Cancer Control Networks to deliver the Programme. Clinical leaders in oncology will be appointed to lead the delivery of quality multi-disciplinary care. I intend to invest substantially in cancer control based on the reform programme I have outlined.

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

180 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports that the blood test laboratory at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda is unable to keep up with demand and that a private clinic has to be used; the private clinics used; the cost of the blood tests to the private clinics; the measures she is taking to provide extra resources to the laboratory in Our Lady of Lourdes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35493/06]

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

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

181 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional resources which have been given to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda now that the teamwork plan has started to be implemented by the Health Service Executive North East. [35531/06]

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

Parliamentary Questions.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

182 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that 10% of parliamentary questions referred by her to the Health Service Executive in the six months of 2006 remain unanswered; her further views on concerns over the lengthy delays in securing answers to questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35477/06]

In the first 6 months of this year, Deputies asked 2,222 Parliamentary Questions which were appropriate for direct reply, either in part or in full, by the HSE having regard to its statutory remit. These questions covered a broad scope of issues, ranging from the provision of services to individuals to national operational or infrastructural matters. The Executive has informed my Department that to date final replies have issued to 2,084 (94%) of these questions of which, 1,222 replies issued within 20 working days.

The HSE's Parliamentary Affairs Division handles the centralised receipt, assignment and tracking of PQs within the HSE's network of operations. It also has the capacity to monitor overall performance in relation to the timely issue of replies and to propose developments in that regard. The Chief Executive Officer of the HSE, Professor Drumm, has previously directly informed Oireachtas members of the importance he attaches to this area of work. I am aware that he is very focussed on improving the turnaround time for replies to the greatest possible extent taking account of the complexity of the Questions and the availability of information sought.

Question No. 183 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Water Fluoridation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

184 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will implement the recommendations of the report from the fluoridation forum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35458/06]

The Forum on Fluoridation was established by the Minister for Health and Children to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The main conclusion of the Forum Report was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

The Forum, while recommending that fluoridation of water supplies continue, recommended a reduction in the levels of fluoride used from between 0.8 parts per million and 1 part per million to between 0.6 parts per million and 0.8 parts per million.

The Forum reported that the re-defined optimal level of fluoride would be sufficient — along with the continued use of fluoride toothpaste — to maintain meaningful reductions in dental decay rates.

In all, the Report of the Fluoridation Forum made thirty-three recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation and the establishment of an Expert Body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health (the Expert Body) was set up in 2004. The membership of the Expert Body is representative of public health interests, consumer interests, the Food Safety Authority, the Environmental Protections Agency, my Department and the Department of the Environment and Local Government.

The terms of reference for the Expert Body are:

to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation;

to advise the Minister for Health and Children and to evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and

to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his/her request or on its own initiative.

The Expert Body is overseeing the implementation of the wide-ranging recommendations of the Forum and will advise on all aspects of fluoride.

I will be bringing regulations before the House shortly to bring into effect the Forum's recommendations in relation to the fluoride levels in the water supply.

Mental Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

185 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will recognise and designate dementia as a national health priority; her views on the Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s calls in seeking investment in early diagnosis, intervention, enhanced care services and medical and social research up to a budget or €75 million over three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35447/06]

The Action Plan for Dementia, published in 1999, outlines the complexity and range of issues involved in the effective management of dementia. The plan emphasises the need for the development of co-ordinated, multi-layered and well-resourced services, which are responsive to the individual needs of people with dementia and of those who care for them. The Action Plan describes a model of best practice for the provision and planning of dementia care in Ireland.

The recommendations in the plan include increased funding, changes to service delivery mechanisms, expanded Old Age Psychiatry services, increased support for family carers and provision of day care and respite services.

Since the report was published, community supports have been enhanced over the years and increased levels of funding have been made available to develop a wide range of community based services, including community nursing, paramedical services, home help services, and support to family carers.

In Budget 2006, additional funding was provided to further enhance services for older people, including €30m for Home Care Packages, €30m for the Home Help Service, €7m for Day/Respite Care, €2m for Old Age Psychiatry Service and €15m for the Development of Primary Care Teams.

In terms of dementia specific services, new day care centres and residential units have been designed and developed in partnership with the Alzheimer's Society. Home care services have also been specifically developed to meet the needs of persons with Alzheimer's and their carers.

The additional funding provided under Home Care Packages and the Home Help Scheme will further enhance the supports available to families caring for people with dementia at home.

In August 2006 the Alzheimer Society of Ireland published "Perceptions of Stigma in Dementia: An Exploratory Study" in conjunction with the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College, Dublin. The HSE has advised that it will work closely with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, as is the case at present, in examining the various recommendations of this report in the context of services for older people.

Hospital Accommodation.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

186 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she intends replacing the €1 billion paid to public hospitals by VHI and BUPA when the private beds are removed from these same public hospitals. [35507/06]

Private health insurance companies do not pay public hospitals €1billion in respect of private beds in public hospitals. The €1billion paid out by private health insurance companies is an estimate of the total payments by the companies in respect of consultant fees, claims from private hospitals claims from public hospitals and claims in respect of out-patient services.

Our initial estimate of the income which could be lost by the public hospitals which was published with the policy direction back in July 2005 was €145m. This initial estimate was calculated in advance of the identification by the HSE of the public hospitals that would be participating in this initiative. However, in 2005 the private health insurance income to the 10 hospital sites selected as sites for co location was €111m.

Additional income to the hospitals in respect of the lease of the land will off set the loss of income from the private health insurers.

It has always been accepted that there will be a loss of income to the hospitals and that any net loss will have to be met by the exchequer. The impact of this initiative will not occur until 2009 when the new hospitals are built and is likely to be phased over a number of years.

Infectious Diseases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents of MRSA reported to date; the number of hospitals free from such infection; her plans to address the issue of hygiene in hospitals generally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35423/06]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

188 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers of deaths from MRSA to date in 2006; her views on whether there should be an appointment of a person specifically charged with eradicating MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35439/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) collects data on MRSA bacteraemia (also known as bloodstream infection or "blood poisoning") as part of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS). EARSS collects data on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter. The Irish data for EARSS, which is published on a quarterly basis by the HPSC, showed that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 586 cases in 2005 and 285 reported cases in the first half of 2006.

It is difficult to identify the number of fatalities attributable to MRSA as many people also have significant co-morbidity factors.

This year, Ireland participated in the Hospital Infection Society's "Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections" (HCAIs) in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The survey provides accurate and comparable data on the prevalence of Health Care Associated Infections (including MRSA) in acute hospitals in Ireland and can also be compared with similar data being obtained in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Preliminary results of this study are now available. The overall prevalence of health-care associated infection in the UK and Ireland study (these figures exclude Scotland) is 7.9%. The England figure is 8.2%, Wales 6.3%, Northern Ireland 5.5% and the Republic of Ireland 4.9%.

As expected, the prevalence of health-care associated infection was highest in regional/tertiary hospitals at 6% and lowest in specialist hospitals at 2%. 10% of patients with a health-care associated infection in the Republic of Ireland were recorded as having an MRSA related health-care infection. This is lower than the UK average of 16%. While the overall prevalence is lower in Ireland than UK, further analysis needs to be done before the true implications of this survey become clear.

Measures to control the emergence and spread of HCAIs are necessary because there are fewer options available for the treatment of resistant infections and because these strains spread amongst vulnerable at-risk patients. The prudent use of antibiotics underpins any approach to the control of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including MRSA. This, together with good professional practice and routine infection control precautions, such as hand hygiene, constitute the major measures in controlling and preventing healthcare-associated infection, including that caused by MRSA, both in hospital and in community health care units.

A Strategy for the control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland (SARI) was launched in 2001 and includes recommendations such as hospital hygiene practise, appropriate antibiotic prescribing, active surveillance for the detection of MRSA and corporate/clinical governance structures in the area of infection control. At present, active recruitment is ongoing within the HSE nationally to employ essential infection control staff such as infection control nurses, hospital liaison pharmacists, surveillance scientists and clinical microbiologists. The HSE are shortly to publish a three year Action Plan which will set targets in this important area.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

189 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the legislation she expects to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before the next general election. [35525/06]

The Deputy will appreciate that passage of a Bill through the Oireachtas is dependent on the availability of Oireachtas time. As set out in the Government's Legislation Programme, the proposed legislation within my remit is as follows:

1. Published Bills:

The Health (Nursing Homes) Amendment Bill 2006 is before the Dáil.

The Child Care (Amendment) Bill has been published and is now before the Seanad.

2. Bills expected to be published during the Autumn Session 2006:

The Health Bill will provide for the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services within HIQA with specific statutory functions. The Bill will also provide for a registration system in respect of residential services for children, older people and people with disabilities to replace existing registration procedures in the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Child Care Act 1991 and 2001.

The Medical Practitioners Bill will replace the Medical Practitioners Act, 1978 which established the Medical Council and provides for the registration of doctors and the regulation of their activities.

The Pharmacy Bill – No. 1 will provide fitness to practise regulations for pharmacists and the removal of the restriction on pharmacists educated in other EU or EEA countries from managing or supervising a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old — a derogation under Article 2.2 of Council Directive 85/433/EEC. It is also proposed to provide for an appropriate statutory basis for the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and certain competency issues.

3. Heads agreed and Bills being drafted:

The Voluntary Health Insurance Board Bill will address VHI's corporate status and related matters. I expect to publish the Bill in December.

The Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority) Bill will ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children in respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Bill will provide for the creation of the Adoption Authority (replacing the Adoption Board) as the Central Authority required under the terms of the Convention to oversee the implementation of the Convention in effecting Intercountry adoptions. The Bill will also provide for miscellaneous issues dealing with domestic adoption. I expect to publish the Bill in early 2007.

4. Heads not yet approved:

The Nurses and Midwives Bill will modernise the regulatory framework for nurses and midwives. It will update and amend the Nurses Act, 1985 in order to reflect and to respond to the significant changes which the health services and nursing and midwifery professions have undergone since 1985. Publication is expected in 2007.

The Eligibility for Health and Personal Social Services Bill will clarify and update the present provisions relating to eligibility for health and personal social services. Publication is expected in 2007.

Legal advice relating to the area of registering persons who are unsafe to work with children is being examined with a view to bringing forward legislation to address this issue.

The Public Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will provide for the prohibition of the use of sunbeds by those under 16 years of age together with minor amendments to the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act. Work on the draft heads is proceeding. I expect to submit draft Heads to Government for approval by the end of this year.

Work will begin on the Pharmacy Bill — No. 2, which will deal with other changes in the regulatory framework for pharmacy and pharmacy services and other recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group, as soon as the first Pharmacy Bill is enacted. Its date of publication is dependent on progress of the first Bill.

Care of the Elderly.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

190 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the home supports available in the Dublin area to older people who require a level of support; the level of home care packages available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35366/06]

The Deputy will be aware that, in Budget 2006, an investment package of €150m was announced for additional services for Older People and Palliative Care. This package included €55m for the rolling out of 2,000 additional Home Care Packages. €30m of this was for 2006, with the remaining €25m for 2007. Of this €30m, a total of €3.6m was allocated to the former Northern Area Health Board area, based on the percentage of the population aged over 65.

At the 30th of September 2006, a total of some 900 Home Care Packages were being delivered in the former Northern Area Health Board area, 700 of which commenced since the 1st of January this year.

Home Care Packages are delivered to persons either to facilitate their earlier discharge from an acute hospital, or to prevent admission to acute hospitals or long term residential care, where this is not necessary. The level of service to be provided is based on an overall assessment of the applicant's medical and social care needs, and the family or other supports available to the applicant, which determines the suitability of the applicant for care in the home. Home care packages consist of a mixture of grants, contracted care services, therapeutic input, equipment and other such community services as determined by a needs assessment to facilitate an older person to remain living in their own home. They vary according to the care needs of the person so that, for example, there might be a greater emphasis in some packages on home care assistance while other packages may require a greater level of therapy and nursing.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

191 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the commitments she or personnel on her behalf gave to a person (details supplied) regarding the future of Monaghan General Hospital; if she or her personnel advised that medical services would be retained on a 24 hours 7 days per week basis at Monaghan General Hospital along with surgical services plus the opening of the new treatment room to take the pressure off Cavan General Hospital; if the replacement and additional staff will be appointed to allow this to be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30510/06]

I have not made any commitments to the person concerned regarding Monaghan Hospital and I am not aware of any such commitments given on my behalf.

The HSE has recently established a Steering Group and a North East Project Group to oversee a programme designed to improve safety and standards across the acute hospital network in the North East Region. The decision was taken having regard to the issues raised in the report prepared for the HSE by Teamwork Management Services — "Improving Safety and Achieving Better Standards — An Action Plan for Health Services in the North East" and taking account of the findings of the recent report into the death of Mr Patrick J Walsh.

Led by the HSE's National Hospitals Office, the Steering Group has representation from key stakeholders such as clinicians and primary care providers. The Project Group is being led by a Consultant Surgeon from outside the Region.

The HSE has given me an assurance that, in progressing the implementation of these reports, there will be no discontinuation of existing services until suitable alternative arrangements have been put in place.

The HSE has advised that it is working in conjunction with staff and staff representatives towards the opening of the new treatment room in Monaghan General Hospital. It is expected that the Unit will open shortly.

Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 104.
Question No. 193 answered with QuestionNo. 146.
Question No. 194 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

195 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has considered the introduction of a national diagnostic purchase fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35463/06]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established to expedite the provision of treatment for patients on public hospital waiting lists who have been waiting longest for surgery. In this context diagnostic services, such as MRIs, are provided to public patients as part of their treatment under the scheme. I have no plans to expand the remit of the NTPF or introduce a national diagnostic purchase fund. Diagnostic services are provided by public acute hospitals to in patients and out patients and to general practitioners.

Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Hospital Accommodation.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

197 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the applications for extra beds or facilities from acute hospitals here; the date of such applications; the location of the applying hospital; the number of beds and types of facilities requested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35491/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Birth Control Products.

Damien English

Ceist:

198 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the morning after pill should be made available without prescription; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35534/06]

The morning after pill is currently confined to prescription control in accordance with the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003, as amended. In order for this product to be available without a prescription, the licence holder would have to initiate the process by making an application to the Irish Medicines Board and would also need to make a simultaneous application to the Department of Health and Children to amend the above mentioned Regulations.

An application to change the status of the morning after pill would be assessed by the Irish Medicines Board and a decision could only be taken having reviewed all the scientific data on the risks and benefits of the wider availability of this product.

National Cancer Strategy.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

199 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the situation that there is no dedicated funding for cancer patients travelling to radiotherapy services outside the south east; her further views on the fact that when alternative transport arrangements are provided there is no budget for displaying this information by means of a poster or flyer; her plans to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35478/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

200 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the €16 million promised for primary care teams which has been spent. [35549/06]

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

Legislative Programme.

John Deasy

Ceist:

201 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the medical practitioners Bill to be introduced. [35521/06]

Following a consultation process with interested parties on the draft Heads of Bill, work is progressing on the drafting of a new Medical Practitioners Bill. I intend introducing the Bill in the Oireachtas before the end of the year.

Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 114.

Health Capital Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

203 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the major capital projects that were expected to go to tender in 2006 but did not receive sanction from the Department of Finance due to the fact that there was no cost benefit analysis in these projects which were to cost over €30 million. [35506/06]

In accordance with Department of Finance guidelines, major health capital projects with a total project cost of over €30 million, require a Cost Benefit Analysis in each case. There are a number of such projects at present in the health capital programme going through various stages of procurement. However, no project requiring a Cost Benefit Analysis was programmed to go to tender for construction in 2006.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

204 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the location where the 800 nursing home beds which she is seeking under her winter initiative are being sought; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35517/06]

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

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

205 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the failure to publish the review of acute beds commissioned by the Health Service Executive; the date it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35490/06]

A Steering Group has been established under the chairmanship of the National Director of the National Hospitals Office to review our acute hospital bed requirements up to the year 2020. The Group includes representatives of the Health Service Executive, my Department, the Department of Finance and the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The review of Acute Bed Capacity requirements for Ireland to 2020 will be published when it is completed.

Law Reform Commission.

David Stanton

Ceist:

206 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach the annual budget allocation to the Law Reform Commission for each year respectively from 1997 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35650/06]

The annual budget allocation for the Law Reform Commission for each year from 1997 to 2006 is set out as follows:

Year

1997

688,000

1998

707,000

1999

1,102,000

2000

1,150,000

2001

1,279,000

2002

1,348,000

2003

1,577,000

2004

1,593,000

2005

1,900,000

2006

2,044,000

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

207 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the amount expended on photographers by his Department for events and publicity leaflet production in his constituency and the constituency of each Minister of State of his Department in the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35291/06]

My Department did not incur any expenditure on photographers relating to my Constituency Office or the Constituency Offices of the Ministers of State in the period concerned.

Registered Births.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

208 Mr. Neville asked the Taoiseach the percentage of children born to single mothers in 2005. [35624/06]

The number of births registered outside marriage in 2005 was 19,528, which was 32% of all births.

Census of Population.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

209 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if, arising from the latest census of population, reference will be made to the town of Foxford, County Mayo, based on its population as distinct from townlands currently mentioned, that is, Toomore and Srahnalee; his views on whether such direct reference will be beneficial in the context of attractiveness for location of investment and industry both foreign and indigenous; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35636/06]

Information in the preliminary census report published on 19 July was based on summaries prepared by the 4,400 enumerators of the enumerated population. The lowest level of geography distinguished in the report was Electoral Divisions (EDs). This was possible as the enumeration areas chosen for census collection were organised along ED lines.

Processing of the 1.5 million census forms is currently ongoing with a target date of April 2007 for publication of the Principal Demographic Results. Volume 1, dealing with Areas, which is due to be published in May 2007 will give population figures for every town with 50 or more occupied households. This will include the town of Foxford in County Mayo. It is important to bear in mind that in addition to publishing the population of legally defined towns, other towns are also shown. This requires a careful examination of enumerator maps to determine the precise boundary of the town at the time of the census, taking account of housing development since the previous census.

The small area population statistics give a breakdown of the demographic and social characteristics of the various towns throughout the State. This has proven to be an invaluable aid to planners, those in market research and the public at large.

Illegal Fireworks.

John Dennehy

Ceist:

210 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that sufficient measures are being taken to protect members of the public from illegal use of fireworks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35398/06]

The Explosives Act, 1875 provides for the control of the importation, manufacture, storage and sale of fireworks. That Act was amended by the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 and, on 1 August, 2006 I signed an order bringing all sections of the Act relating to fireworks into immediate effect. These amendments provide for new offences governing the possession of illegal fireworks with intent to supply and misuse of fireworks in public places. They also provide for significantly increased penalties governing the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Under the new provisions it is an offence:

for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence;

to throw an ignited firework at any person or property; and

to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

The penalty for such offences is as follows:

a fine of up to €2,500 or 6 months imprisonment or both on summary conviction; and

a fine of up to €10,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both on conviction on indictment.

The simple possession of fireworks without a licence is also an offence for which a person may be liable to a fine of up to €10,000.

Every effort is made by the Gardaí to identify persons involved in the illegal importation and sale of fireworks and where necessary specific policing plans are put in place in areas where particular problems arise. Each year, leading up to Halloween, special efforts are made by the Gardaí to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks and this year an intelligence led operation called "Operation Tombola" was launched on 25 September. To date this operation has resulted in 42 seizures of fireworks with an estimated value of €104,876. Over the last five years such operations have resulted in seizures valued at over €2 million. All fireworks seized are forfeited by the person importing them and destroyed in accordance with the provisions of the Explosives Act 1875.

I am confident that, following the introduction of the new offences and penalties, Garda operations will be even more effective in combating the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Remembrance Commission.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

211 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) receives the maximum support with all their medical treatments and expenses. [35107/06]

I have been advised by the Remembrance Commission that the person in question is continuing to receive funding for medical expenses under the terms of the Amended Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance for Victims in this Jurisdiction of the Conflict in Northern Ireland.

The Commission will continue to support the person to the maximum extent possible within its remit.

Asylum Support Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

212 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his Department’s plans for the new accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Clondalkin village; the length of time such a facility is expected to be open for; the final capacity envisaged; the consultation that has taken place with the local community; the consultation that has taken place with South Dublin County Council; if planning applications were submitted or needed to be submitted; the consultation that has taken place with the Department of Education and Science regarding the provision of additional school places, including language support and possibly special educational need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35109/06]

The Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) has entered into a contract for the accommodation of asylum seekers at the Towers in Clondalkin, Dublin 22. The contract will expire on 24th December 2012. The capacity of the centre is 250 persons.

It was not possible to engage in any advance consultation process with local service providers (including the Department of Education and Science) until such time as the acquisition of the property was completed and a contract with RIA was in place. Discussions have since opened with the relevant support groups and service providers and will intensify over the coming weeks.

Under the terms of the contract, it is the responsibility of the contractor to ensure that the premises complies and operates in accordance with all relevant statutory requirements of Local Authorities and other Agencies in relation to planning, building, by-laws, bedroom capacity, food, food hygiene, water supply, sewage disposal, fire precautions and general safety.

Residency Permits.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

213 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath for permission to remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35119/06]

The legal representatives of the person concerned lodged an application for permission to remain in the State on the 28 February 2006. A decision granting her permission to remain on work permit conditions issued to her legal representatives on the 9 March 2006. She attended at the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the 27 March 2006 where her passport was endorsed and a Certificate of Registration issued in respect of her, valid until the 9 March 2007.

Garda Stations.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

214 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding proposals to upgrade and extend Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick; the new facilities which will be provided; when the project will be put out to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35120/06]

There are plans to provide a new Divisional Headquarters Station for the Gardaí in Limerick City. The Garda Authorities have agreed briefs of requirements for a new Divisional Headquarters at a recent meeting and I expect that these will be submitted shortly to this Department and the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works are currently exploring various options to meet both short and longer term requirements and will finalise their strategy when the briefs have been provided to the Board. The briefs include the typical facilities associated with Divisional Offices and also provides for additional capacity for the future.

I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made to address the accommodation issues in Henry Street. The approach and timescale for tendering will be very much dependent on the options selected including the nature of any temporary accommodation required and if the longer term requirements can be accommodated on the existing site.

Asylum Applications.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

215 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for asylum for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35121/06]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Rented Accommodation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

216 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 regarding business tenancies; and if he will ensure that jobs are protected at a business (details supplied) in County Wexford following this legislation. [35138/06]

Sections 57 and 58 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 propose to amend the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980 so as to enable all business tenants to contract out of provisions that confer a right to a new tenancy, such course of action being conditional on the tenant having received independent legal advice in the matter. At present only tenants of office accommodation can contract out of such provisions. As the Deputy is aware, the Bill has passed Second Stage in the Dáil and is awaiting Committee Stage before the Dáil Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

The Tánaiste has no responsibility for the matter raised in the second part of the Deputy's question.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

217 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the date on which the power to impound uninsured vehicles that are registered outside the State was granted; the number of vehicles impounded under this power; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35158/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Prison Accommodation.

David Stanton

Ceist:

218 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or the prison service considered in detail any other site other than Spike Island for the new prison to replace Cork Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35159/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

219 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on building a prison on Spike Island which requires a bridge and road network to be put in place before substantial building work can commence which may delay the provision of a replacement prison for the overcrowded and outdated Cork Prison compared to a possible alternative site that would have the necessary infrastructure directly adjacent to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35160/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 219 together.

The Irish Prison Service is at present engaged on preliminary works and surveys on Spike Island which are intended to inform on the technical and planning aspects of the project prior to proceeding with the construction of the bridge. When these are complete I will be in a position to provide more detailed information on the likely timescale and logistics of the proposed development.

There are only two sites currently available to the Irish Prison Service in the Cork region for prison development. The existing site in Cork city has been considered in detail and is not deemed to be suitable. The prison facility on Spike Island offers obvious advantages from a security perspective and is immediately available for development. No other sites in the Cork region have been offered for prison development.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for leave to remain here in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35173/06]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal as appropriate.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

221 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for citizenship for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be dealt with in view of the fact that the applicant has been living and working here for the past five years. [35187/06]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship, 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 provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. In the case of a non-national applicant who is the spouse of an Irish citizen those conditions are that the applicant must:

be of full age;

be of good character;

be married to the Irish citizen for at least 3 years;

be in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting;

be living together as husband and wife with the Irish spouse;

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the island of Ireland immediately before the date of the application and, during the four years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to two years;

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation; and

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship section of my Department on 31 May 2006. The application was examined and it was determined that the person in question did not have the required reckonable residency as she was not married for three years at the date of application and consequently was not eligible to apply for a certificate of naturalisation at that time. She was informed of this by letter dated 14 October 2006.

It is open to her to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at the time.

Garda Recruitment.

John Deasy

Ceist:

222 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applicants from both Waterford City and Waterford County who applied for the Garda Reserve unit. [35194/06]

John Deasy

Ceist:

223 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the group of Garda Reservists picked for training, after the initial interviews, who registered for training. [35195/06]

John Deasy

Ceist:

224 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda Reservists that have been fully trained to date. [35196/06]

John Deasy

Ceist:

226 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applicants for the Garda Reserve who have had their application rejected; and the number who have withdrawn from the scheme. [35198/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 224, inclusive, and 226 together.

The total number of applicants for the Garda Reserve at 19 September was 6,661. Of these applications 148 were in respect of persons from Waterford County, including the city. A table showing the county by county breakdown of all 6,661 applications is set out below.

County

Carlow

104

Cavan

85

Clare

189

Cork

673

Donegal

185

Dublin

1922

Galway

343

Kerry

186

Kildare

332

Kilkenny

124

Laois

123

Leitrim

43

Limerick

239

Longford

67

Louth

226

Mayo

217

Meath

328

Monaghan

60

Offaly

122

Roscommon

119

Sligo

116

Tipperary

190

Waterford

148

Westmeath

165

Wexford

160

Wicklow

154

Northern Ireland

37

Other

4

Total

6,661

A further 439 applications have been received between 20 September and 27 October. However, a county by county breakdown of them is not yet available. The first interviews were held in September and involved 374 candidates. 138 people from this group failed to pass either the interview or the written test. Not all applications were processed to completion during September. There will be further trainees selected from the first interview group who will commence training at a later date. The first group of 37 trainees commenced phase one training in Templemore on 30 September 2006. They are currently in phase two of their training and are expected complete their training in December.

The next interviews will be carried out this month and will involve applicants from counties Limerick, Kerry, Galway, Clare, Sligo and Dublin.

Crime Prevention.

John Deasy

Ceist:

225 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the types of weapons the Gardaí have received under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 weapons amnesty; and the number of knives included in same. [35197/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

262 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and type of weapons handed in on foot of the weapons amnesty. [35675/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 262 together.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Gun, Knife and Offensive Weapons Amnesty which commenced on 1 September 2006 expired at midnight on 31 October 2006. The Garda Síochána are compiling a comprehensive list of all weapons handed in which I will forward to the Deputy as soon as it is available. The Garda Síochána have informed me that up to Monday, 30 October, 2006 a total of 368 weapons, which includes 54 knives, had been handed in.

Question No. 226 answered with QuestionNo. 222.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

227 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of speed checks carried out by the Gardaí in 2005 and to date in 2006; the number of drink driving interventions carried out by the Gardaí in 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35212/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of fixed charge notices issued for speeding was 143,651 in 2005 and 152,669 in 2006 (up to 30 September). I am also informed that the number of drink driving related incidents recorded on PULSE was 13,727 in 2005 and 12,829 in 2006 (up to 30 September).

Statistics are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Sexual Offences.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

228 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of his request, as stated in his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 601 of 4 July 2006, of the Gardaí for a report into the matters raised in that parliamentary question; if he has received that report; and if not, when he expects to receive same. [35243/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Garda Strength.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

229 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí allocated to each Garda station in County Kerry; the way these figures compare with the end of 1997; the number of Gardaí in County Kerry at the end of 1997 and today; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35245/06]

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 An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of each Garda station in the Kerry Division as at 31 December, 1997 and as at 25 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

31/12/97

25/10/06

Tralee

76

95

Ardfert

2

3

Fenit

1

1

Abbeydorney

1

1

Dingle

7

8

Clochan

1

1

Castlegregory

2

2

Annascaul

2

1

Ballyferriter

1

1

Camp

1

1

Caherciveen

18

21

Ballinskelligs

1

1

Valentia Island

1

1

Glenbeigh

2

2

Portmagee

1

1

Castlemaine

3

1

Killorglin

6

10

Waterville

2

2

Sneem

2

2

Killarney

36

58

Kilgarvan

1

1

Kenmare

6

8

Castleisland

7

10

Farranfore

2

2

Barraduff

1

1

Beaufort

2

1

Lauragh

1

1

Listowel

23

32

Ballyheigue

2

2

Ballylongford

1

1

Ballybunion

7

8

Ballyduff

3

2

Brosna

1

1

Knocknagoshall

0

2

Lixnaw

2

1

Moyvane

2

2

Tarbert

3

2

The personnel strength of the Kerry Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 230 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Kerry Division as at 25 October, 2006 was 290 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 60 (or 26%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

Rathmore Garda Station is situated in County Kerry but is policed by the Cork West Garda Division. The personnel strength of Rathmore Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 and 25 October, 2006 was 2 (all ranks) and 1 (all ranks), respectively.

In addition, I would point out to the Deputy that the Division's resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units.

It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Garda management state that such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Kerry Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Missing Persons.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

230 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of his publically stated commitment to the rights of victims of crime, and the ongoing problems faced by the families of missing persons, he will reinstate funding to a dedicated missing person’s helpline in order that victims, their families and persons wishing to provide information on such cases are given every assistance possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35247/06]

The disappearance of any person is traumatic for their family and friends, and for this reason I am anxious to assist them in any way I can. I am of the view that a helpline for this purpose is best set up on an independent basis and by a non-official, voluntary organisation. Any proposals for funding for such a purpose which are made to my Department will be carefully considered on their merits.

In March 2005, I established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures. The Commission is entirely independent in its decision making and examines each application on its merits. It should be borne in mind in this context that the Commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that, while some persons who are missing are crime victims, most are not.

The Missing Persons Bureau in Garda Headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All cases of a person reported missing in suspicious circumstances remain open and under ongoing review and investigation until the person is located or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect by the coroner.

At present, local Garda management take direct responsibility for missing person cases, and special investigation teams are appointed as necessary. All missing persons are recorded on the PULSE system. When a person is reported missing, the local Garda Superintendent will appoint an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the Technical Bureau. The systems put in place by An Garda Síochána to manage and deal with reports of missing persons are in line with best international police practice, and Garda management have assured me that they are satisfied that the systems in place are adequate to deal with any reported case of a missing person.

An Garda Síochána interacts fully and as appropriate with all of the media outlets — print, radio and TV — in highlighting cases involving missing persons. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda District has a specially trained search team that is familiar with the locality. The investigation of missing persons is a dedicated subject on the curriculum at the Garda College, Templemore, and is also a subject covered in in-service training.

The Garda authorities are continuously monitoring international developments in relation to investigations of missing persons in order to ensure that best practice is followed. If their professional judgement is that some change in the existing legislation, protocols or structures would be of assistance in improving investigations, this would be considered by me.

A proposal for funding has been received in my Department from the Missing In Ireland Support Service to restore the National Missing Persons Helpline and officials are currently examining the proposal. A response on this proposal will issue to the organisation in the near future.

Asylum Applications.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

231 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 17; and if they will be given the maximum support. [35265/06]

I understand that the Immigration Division of my Department has been in correspondence with the person concerned. Upon receipt of the documentation requested, a decision will be made on the application.

Residency Permits.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

232 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people granted humanitarian leave to remain here for each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35266/06]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to applications for Leave to Remain in the State made pursuant to Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999.

An application for Leave to Remain in the State in these circumstances arises where a non-national person is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act, 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent to deport is afforded three options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a Deportation Order should not be made and why temporary Leave to Remain in the State be granted instead.

In determining whether to make a deportation order or grant temporary leave to remain in the State, I must have regard to the eleven factors set out in Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 and Section 5 (Prohibition of Refoulement) of the Refugee Act, 1996. Temporary leave to remain is considered in every case regardless of whether representations are made by, or on behalf of, the persons concerned. Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between those who have made an application for leave to remain and those who have not. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that many of those who failed the asylum process, and who did not opt to return voluntarily or consent to deportation, nonetheless left the State before a decision to deport or grant leave to remain was made.

The figures in the table below refer to persons who received a notification of intention to deport under Section 3(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 but were subsequently granted temporary leave to remain in the State for an initial period of one year. The majority of these would have been persons who were refused refugee status in the State.

Leave to remain granted

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006 (until 30 September)

Number of persons

158

86

207

135

95

The figures in the table above do not include persons who have been granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child either under the revised scheme announced in January 2005 or under the earlier arrangements, or those granted residency on the basis of marriage to Irish/E.U. nationals. Many of these persons would otherwise have been considered for leave to remain in the context of the deportation system described above. For example, in the case of the Irish Born Child Scheme initiated in January of last year, a total of 17,917 applications for leave to remain were received of which, as of 19 October, 2006, 16,980 have been granted.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

233 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount expended on photographers by his Department for events and publicity leaflet production in his constituency and the constituency of each Minister of State of his Department in the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35289/06]

I regret that the information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in the time allowed and is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Prison Building Programme.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

234 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he has not considered submissions made under Part 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 in relation to the prison development at Thornton Hall. [35305/06]

The Planning procedure for the development has not yet been instigated. It is intended that when this occurs, which is likely to be early in 2007, all submissions received in relation to the development will be given full consideration.

Public Order Offences.

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

235 Mr. Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when will anti-social behaviour orders come into effect; if An Garda Síochána will be given instructions on the way they will be implemented and enforced; his views on their implementation with urgency; his further views on whether anti-social behaviour is a major problem in many of our communities; if the Gardaí will be given extra resources to tackle anti-social behaviour; if he is satisfied that there is enough legislative support to tackle anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35317/06]

I can inform the Deputy that strong provisions are in place to combat anti-social behaviour. The primary basis for the law regarding public order offences is the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, which modernised the law in this regard. Furthermore, because of my concerns about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offending and broader social problems, I brought forward tough provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 has also been enacted, the main purpose of which is to provide the Garda Síochána with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking.

More recently, I brought forward additional provisions, which were enacted in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006, to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Act empowers a senior member of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of a civil procedure for an order which will prohibit an adult from behaving in an anti-social manner.

Separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Act introduces provisions for behaviour orders for children aged 12 to 18 years into the Children Act, 2001 and the protections of that Act will apply. There will be a series of incremental stages, with parental involvement, preceding an application for a behaviour order. These include a warning, a good behaviour contract and referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme. Only after these stages can a behaviour order be sought through the courts.

The relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 will be commenced following consultations between my Department, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. These consultations are currently ongoing. The purpose of this is to ensure that these provisions will commence as soon as the Commissioner has made the necessary internal arrangements to ensure the smooth introduction of these new procedures.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has a pro-active approach to policing anti-social/public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecutions or advice, as appropriate. Local Garda management provide for this in policing plans and make every effort to provide a highly visible police presence on the streets of our towns and villages through the deployment of uniform Gardaí, detective units, divisional traffic corps, community policing units and mountain bike units as appropriate. Garda patrols pay particular attention to areas where the public tends to congregate such as licensed venues and fast food outlets while awaiting transport, so as to prevent and detect incidents of public disorder.

Insofar as the resources available to the Gardaí are concerned, the position is that these have been increased significantly in recent years. The personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. Furthermore, the Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year and the Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these considerable additional resources.

Visa Applications.

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

236 Mr. Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a special concession will be put in place on humanitarian grounds to avoid the continued separation of a family (details supplied). [35318/06]

I understand the Immigration Division of my Department has recently been in contact with the person concerned outlining the options open to her.

Computerisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

237 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda fixed charge processing system is fully integrated with the Courts Service information technology system and the National Drivers File; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35344/06]

I can confirm that there are electronic interfaces between the Garda and Courts Service information technology systems for the purposes of processing summons applications and court scheduling details for fixed charge offences.

An Garda Síochána are supplied with an electronic copy of the National Driver File by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government for the purpose of processing payments in respect of fixed charge penalty point offences. Details of payments received by An Garda Síochána in respect of these offences are electronically transmitted to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government for the purpose of applying penalty points to the driver licence record.

Citizenship Applications.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

238 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation with regard to an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; if this person has one year’s continuous reckonable residency in the State. [35345/06]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled, including where the applicant has had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, has had a total residence in the State amounting to four years.

The person referred to in the Deputy's question lodged an application for naturalisation which was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 21 April 2006, having lodged an earlier, unsuccessful application in July 2005. On both occasions, the person concerned did not satisfy the statutory residency conditions and was deemed ineligible to apply for naturalisation. In her earlier application, the person concerned did not have five years' reckonable residency at the time of her application and in the second application, she did not satisfy the statutory requirement of having one year's continuous reckonable residence in the State immediately prior to applying for naturalisation. The person concerned was informed of this in writing on both occasions.

My officials have informed me that the person in question now satisfies the statutory residency requirement and it is open to her to submit a fresh application for naturalisation if she wishes. Any application for naturalisation submitted by the person concerned will be assessed against the requirements of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act.

Asylum Support Services.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

239 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the moneys spent on the development of Balseskin Reception Centre, Finglas, Dublin 11; the status of the reception centre; his plans for the future of the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35350/06]

Arising from an EU tender in January 2001, Balseskin was developed by a private company as a reception centre for asylum seekers. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has remunerated the company on a fixed rate basis since that time and the total value of the contract to date is €20,865,951. Balseskin Reception Centre currently operates as a reception centre providing reception facilities, including access to voluntary medical screening, for asylum seekers newly arrived into the State. I understand from the RIA that the Agency is currently in negotiations with the contractors at Balseskin in relation to the renewal of the contract.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

240 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Balseskin Reception Centre operated as a refugee reception centre without an appropriate fire certificate being in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35351/06]

Under Section 6(b)(iv) of S.I. 496 (Building Control Regulations) 1997, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is exempted from the requirement to obtain a fire certificate. Notwithstanding this exemption, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) includes in all contracts requirements that the contractor comply, at all times, with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, and in particular with the requirements of the Local Authority Fire Officer. The contractors are also obliged to provide, annually, to the Office of Public Works (OPW) written confirmation of the OPW requirements regarding fire certification together with evidence of ongoing, independent, third party fire certification.

In this regard, and before the initial contract at Balseskin started, the contractors treated this requirement as if it was an application to the local authority for a fire safety certificate and lodged all appropriate drawings and plans with the OPW. The contractor has at all times since complied with the obligation to provide, annually, to the OPW written confirmation of the OPW requirements regarding fire certification together with evidence of ongoing, independent, third party fire certification.

The RIA actively monitors the status of fire certification on all contracts. Contractors are penalised where failure to comply with the requirements of the Local Authority Fire Officer leads to loss of capacity at, or closure (however temporary) of, the centre. Failure to comply with the OPW requirements leads to the automatic suspension of payments under the contract.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

241 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the nature of instructions issued by his Department in relation to the development of Balseskin Reception Centre on foot of interest from the Health Service Executive in converting the property into a long term care facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35352/06]

My Department has issued no instructions in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy. When the prospect arose of the centre in question being used by the HSE for step-down beds, my Department advised the Department of Health and Children that it would make available a senior staff member to facilitate the health authorities in exploring that particular option. This was done, but in the event, ultimately the HSE decided not to proceed with the use of the centre for that purpose.

Garda Strength.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

242 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí stationed in Shankill, Dalkey, Dún Laoghaire, Blackrock, Deansgrange and Cabinteely Garda Stations during the years 1997 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35353/06]

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 An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Shankill, Dalkey, Dún Laoghaire, Blackrock, Kill O Grange and Cabinteely Garda stations as at 31 December, 1997 to 2005, inclusively, and as at 26 October, 2006 was as set out in the table below:

The personnel strength (all ranks) of the DMR as at 31 December, 1997 and 31 October, 2006 was 3,399 and 4,045, respectively. This represents an increase of 646 (or 19%) in the number of personnel allocated to the DMR during that period.

Stations

’97

’98

’99

’00

’01

’02

’03

’04

’05

26/10/06

Shankill

50

48

53

53

48

53

55

61

60

61

Dalkey

27

23

23

23

23

29

28

26

26

26

Dún Laoghaire

109

110

104

107

109

106

90

104

99

100

Blackrock

71

75

75

75

74

66

66

68

75

80

Kill O Grange

35

35

38

36

33

36

37

35

33

32

Cabinteely

42

42

46

49

41

39

40

41

39

33

I have also been informed that the area of Deansgrange is located in the Dún Laoghaire sub-district and is policed by Kill O Grange Garda station. Shankill, Dalkey, Dún Laoghaire, Blackrock, Kill O Grange and Cabinteely Garda Stations all form part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR).

The DMR's resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units, all of which have had increased resources to provide a comprehensive policing service to the community.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Garda management state that such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the DMR will be given the fullest consideration.

Making of Wills.

John Dennehy

Ceist:

243 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the percentage of the adult population who have made a will; and his views on a campaign to highlight the importance of making a will. [35412/06]

No data are available on the percentage of the adult population that has made a will. However, the 2005 Annual Report of the Courts Service indicates that of the 15,671 applications made to the Probate Office in the year under review 11,328 (72.3%) were in respect of wills having been made and 4,343 (27.7%) were in cases without a will having been made.

The policy of the Succession Act 1965 ensures particular distributions of the estate of a deceased person whether or not a will is made and whether or not there are any children of the deceased. The Legal Aid Board provides a leaflet on the making of a will and the Courts Service provides a leaflet on the service provided by its Probate Office. The contents of both leaflets may be accessed on their respective websites. In addition, the Citizens Information website — provided by Comhairle — gives comprehensive information on the subject.

The Deputy will be aware that solicitors are normally in the best position to advise their clients on the merits of making a will and the need for care in doing so. The Law Society has, on occasion, promoted the case for making a will.

I am satisfied that there are useful avenues of information available on the issue of wills. However, the need to inform persons any further is being kept under review.

Visa Applications.

John Curran

Ceist:

244 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a renewal work visa will be issued early for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and the appropriate steps to be taken in relation to same. [35425/06]

Subject to the provisions of the Immigration Act 2004, an Immigration Officer may, on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, give a non-national a document, or place in his or her passport or other equivalent document an inscription, authorising the non-national to land or be in the State.

In performing his or her functions with regard to the granting of a permission to land or remain in the State, pursuant to the provisions of the Immigration Act, 2004, an Immigration Officer shall have regard to all of the circumstances of the non-national concerned known or represented to the officer by him or by her.

In the circumstances outlined in this case, the granting of a permission of the nature sought will be considered on presentation, by the person referred to, at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), Burgh Quay, in the calendar month immediately prior to the intended date of travel, i.e., November 2006.

Garda Strength.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

245 Mr. McEntee asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the number of Gardaí stationed in Dunboyne, County Meath and Slane, County Meath is adequate to meet the policing needs of the areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35565/06]

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 An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Dunboyne and Slane Garda Stations as at 27 October, 2006 was 14 and 3, respectively.

I have also been informed that Dunboyne and Slane Garda stations are located within the Louth/Meath Division. The personnel strength of the Louth/Meath Division as at 27 October, 2006 was 541 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Louth/Meath Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 498 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 43 (or 9%) in the number of personnel allocated to the Division during that period.

In addition, I would point out to the Deputy that the Division's resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Garda management state that such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of Louth/Meath Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Prison Accommodation.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

246 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the accumulated capital cost of the Dóchas women’s facility in Mountjoy prison; the facilities it provides for the women prisoners; the level of access the prisoners have to their children; the number of prisoners accommodated in the facility; the period of time they spend in the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35566/06]

The Dóchas Centre comprises seven houses as well as a dedicated healthcare unit. There is an average of twelve predominantly single occupancy bedrooms with en-suite facilities in each house. A television is provided in each room. Each house also contains domestic style cooking, laundry and recreational facilities.

All sentenced and remand prisoners in the Dóchas Centre have access to a wide range of services and facilities — including medical, psychological, psychiatric, dentistry, chaplaincy, educational, work training, library and recreational.

Medical, psychological, psychiatric, dentistry and chaplaincy services are provided by a combination of persons who visit the Centre on a full time, part time and sessional basis.

Educational classes and courses are provided by a team of full and part-time teachers in a specially designed Education Unit. Courses offered cover a wide range of academic and practical skills — including Parenting, Home Economics, Drug Awareness, Addiction Studies, Office Skills, Typing/Word Processing, Computers, English, Maths/Numeracy and, Leather and Fabric Crafts. Work and Training opportunities include catering, hairdressing and sewing skills. As part of the roll out of the Proposal for Organisational Change, additional work/training staff will be appointed shortly which will facilitate an increase in the range of vocational activities and opportunities available in the Dóchas Centre. All prisoners have access to a fully fitted out gymnasium and sports hall. There is also a television installed in the recreation area in each House in the Dóchas Centre as well as in each individual room.

Sentenced prisoners are allowed one visit a week but additional visits may be granted from time to time at the discretion of the Governor. Remand prisoners are allowed one visit each day — with the exception of Sunday — but additional visits may be granted at the discretion of the Governor. Visits are supervised by staff but are open. Every effort is made to allow mothers as much flexibility as is possible on visits with their children. There is no statutory entitlement for mothers to have their children stay with them in the Dóchas Centre — although Rule 20 of the Government of Prisons 1947 provides that a child of a female prisoner may be received into prison in certain circumstances. I should add that this Rule is, however, being revised under Rule 19 of the new draft Prison Rules which are available on my Department's web-site.

All prisoners may make a phone call of six minutes duration to a nominated person each day. Organisations who visit the Dóchas Centre include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), St Vincent de Paul, Befrienders, Samaritans, Legion of Mary, Tús Nua, Ruhama and Coolmine.

In January, 1996, the Government gave approval for the construction of a new Women's Prison at the Mountjoy Prison Complex. The construction cost was €17.2 million, which included all the costs associated with the construction of both the new prison and a 300 space multistorey car park, adjacent to St. Patrick's Institution, to service the entire prison complex at Mountjoy. Roughly one quarter of the costs are attributable to the multistorey car park.

The total cost of maintenance and improvement works for the Dóchas Centre since it opened to date is approximately €1.5 million.

Figures indicate that on 31 October, 2006 there were 91 persons in custody in the Dóchas Centre, of which 61 are serving a sentence. A breakdown of the sentence lengths are outlined in the table below.

Sentence Length

Number

<3 Mths

4

3 to <6 Mths

1

6 to <12 Mths

8

1 to <2 Yrs

17

2 to <3 Yrs

7

3 to <5 Yrs

10

5 to <10 Yrs

9

10 Yrs+

1

Life Sentence

4

Grand Total

61

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

247 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to allegations made by a person (details supplied) in County Waterford against An Garda Síochána; if he intends to take action on foot of these allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35568/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Crime Levels.

David Stanton

Ceist:

248 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 276 of 24 October 2006, the number of people convicted as a result of domestic violence incidents in each Garda district and region for the years 2004 and 2005 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35585/06]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in touch with the Deputy in relation to this matter when it becomes available.

Asylum Applications.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

249 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria he applied in deciding whether persons who are not Irish citizens are allowed to stay here following a criminal conviction and release from prison. [35586/06]

By way of background, it should be noted that the effect of a deportation order when served on a person is that the person concerned is legally obliged to leave the State and to thereafter remain out of the State. Additionally, it should be borne in mind that while Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act, 1999 — the relevant legislation in this area — provides for a deportation order to be made in a variety of circumstances, in practical terms, deportation orders tend to be made based on the provisions of Section 3(2)(f) of the Act, that is, where the persons concerned have failed all stages of the asylum process and Section 3(2)(i) of the Act, that is, where the persons have otherwise become illegal in the State such as where they have overstayed a work permit or a study or holiday visa etc. It should also be borne in mind that all deportation orders, regardless of the specified headings they are made under, are equal in value, legally and operationally. For example, a person who would be liable to deportation on the grounds of a prison sentence might also be liable to be deported as an overstayer. The effect is the same.

Each case is considered on its individual merits having regard to the gravity of the offence committed as well as what, if any, other connection each individual has to the State. For example, if a non-EU national prisoner has a legal entitlement to be in the State, for example, as a recognised refugee or as a person who has availed of EU Treaty Rights through marriage to an Irish or an EU National, they would clearly be less likely to be deported. Where a person has been here for some time and their children have settled here it would be necessary to consider the impact that deportation would have on the family unit. Where no such legal entitlement to be in the State exists, and the offence committed was of a serious nature, there is every likelihood that the person in question would be deported at the time of their release from prison.

There is no provision in Irish law for the automatic deportation of a non-national person who has committed a criminal offence. Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act, 1999 sets out nine categories of persons in respect of whom the Minister can make a deportation order. Included are (i) persons who have served or are serving a term of imprisonment imposed on them by a Court in the State, (ii) persons whose deportations have been recommended by a Court in the State before which they have been indicted or charged with a crime or an offence and (iii) persons whose deportation would, in the opinion of the Minister, be conducive to the public good.

Sexual Offences.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

250 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the nature of the sex offenders register maintained; his plans to extend access to this information to additional groups or agencies in the community; and if he is satisfied with the degree of protection provided by this system particularly where children might be at risk. [35587/06]

The Sex Offenders Act which commenced on 27 September 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences against both children and adults. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

Thereafter, the offender must notify the Gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any twelve month period must also be given to the Gardaí.

If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Gardaí of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Gardaí of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Gardaí within a further seven days. The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries or who have been convicted abroad of an offence comparable to one covered by the Act.

Part 4 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that it is an offence for convicted sex offenders to apply for, or to accept, work or to offer services, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of unsupervised access to, or contact with, children or mentally impaired persons, without informing the employer or organisation of his/her conviction for a qualifying sexual offence.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the notification requirements. The penalty is imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of €1,900 or both. The courts can also sentence an offender who has been found guilty of an offence under the schedule of offences in the Act to a period of statutory supervision under the Probation and Welfare Service on their release from prison.

Before an offender is released from prison, the Prison Service must inform him/her that they are subject to the notification requirement of the Act. Ten days before the date of release, the Prison Service must inform the Garda Síochána that s/he is being released.

The Garda Síochána has in place a system for the monitoring of persons subject to these requirements. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit monitor and manage the notification provisions. The information on persons who are subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 is maintained at a central location. Only specified nominated Garda personnel have access to this information.

There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who are notified by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit when a sex offender, who is subject to the requirements of the Act, is resident in their Division. These inspectors are responsible for the monitoring of such offenders. The Garda authorities are currently preparing to computerise the system for recording persons subject to the requirements of the Act and integrate it into the PULSE system.

As of the 27 October, 2006 there were 972 persons subject to the requirements of Part 2 of the Act. The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006, which has been approved by Government and forwarded to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting, contains amendments and additions to the Act, including amendments to the notification system. The Joint Committee on Child Protection is at present examining a wide range of issues relating to the protection of children, in particular protection against sexual abuse. The Committee is due to report back to each House with recommendations in a final report by 30 November 2006. I will await completion of that report before considering any further changes to the operation of the notification system.

Garda Investigations.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

251 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an internal investigation conducted into the issuing of a public service vehicle licence to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [35588/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Asylum Applications.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

252 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allow a person (details suppled) in County Meath to remain here temporarily; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35605/06]

The persons concerned and their children, Nigerian nationals, arrived in the State on 7 August, 2002 and 18 November, 2002 and applied for asylum on 1 April, 2004. They had previously applied for asylum in 2002 and had withdrawn this application on the basis of the birth of an Irish born child. Their application was refused by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner on 19 May, 2004 and 25 May, 2004. Their subsequent appeal was refused by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and they were notified of this recommendation by letter on 23 September, 2004 and 27 September, 2004.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, the people concerned were informed on 6 December, 2004 and 30 December, 2004 that the Minister was proposing to make a deportation order in respect of them. They were in accordance with the Act, given the option of making representations within 15 working days setting out the reasons why they should not be deported i.e. be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before the deportation order was made; or consenting to the making of the deportation order. The persons concerned applied to remain in State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child born before 1 January, 2005. This permission to remain was subsequently refused on 12 January, 2006. An additional notification of intention to issue a deportation order was issued on 13 October, 2006.

I expect the case files in this matter to be submitted to me for decision in due course. This decision will be taken having regard to considerations specified in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended. These considerations include matters relating to the common good, the person's family and domestic circumstances, as well as humanitarian considerations. Consideration will also be given to the prohibition of refoulement which is contained in section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended.

Visa Applications.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

253 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will grant a visitors visa to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35612/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Irish Embassy in Ankara on 19th October, 2006. A decision in respect of the application in question will be made in the near future.

Driving Licences.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

254 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ask the Gardaí at the Carriage Office in Dublin Castle to review the decision on humanitarian grounds not to renew the PSV licence of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35613/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that any person who wishes to drive a Public Services Vehicle must have sufficient knowledge to operate as a PSV driver. Under the PSV Regulations there is a provision for a person to undergo an oral test. I am also informed that the person referred to should re-submit his application to renew his PSV Licence and the application will be dealt with in a sympathetic manner.

Crime Prevention.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

255 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main elements of his strategy for tackling crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35614/06]

The recently published provisional headline crime statistics for the third quarter of 2006 show a decrease of 1.6% for the quarter compared with the same quarter in 2005. Looking at long term crime trends, the level of headline crime in 2005 was lower than that in 2003 by 1.6% and that in 2002 by 4.4%. Furthermore, in 1995, when we had a population of almost 3.6 million, there were 29 crimes per 1,000 of the population, while in 2005, with a population of over 4.1 million, there were 24.6 crimes per 1,000 of the population — 15% crimes less per 1,000 of the population.

I am determined that disturbing trends will be addressed as they are identified and, despite an increasing population, we should continue to enjoy relatively low crime rates. High on the Government's list of policing priorities for 2006, which have been incorporated into the Garda Síochána Policing Plan for the year, is the continued targeting of organised crime, including drug trafficking, and the gun culture associated with it through the use of specialist units and targeted, intelligence-led operations. Garda strategies are in place for dealing with drug offences which are designed to undermine the activities of organised criminal networks involved in the trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs. These strategies include gathering intelligence on individuals and organisations involved in the distribution of drugs, conducting targeted operations on criminal networks based on intelligence gathered and working in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies both within and outside the jurisdiction to address the national and international aspects of drug trafficking and distribution. These strategies continue to result in operational successes.

While it is the case that a number of the increases in headline crime statistics reflect increased enforcement activity on the part of An Garda Síochána, the overall picture indicates there is no room for complacency. The Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime shows that it is not complacent, as does my insistence that those resources be deployed at the front line of policing in the State.

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 An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Operation Anvil commenced in the Garda Dublin Metropolitan Region on 17 May, 2005. It is an intelligence led policing initiative, the focus of which is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting this criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static check points by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols. The Operation remains in place and is on-going in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. It was extended nationwide in 2006.

Outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region, a series of special operations, prepared by senior Garda managers and designed to focus on areas and incidents of high crime, has been initiated. These operations are focused with particular targets identified. A number of these operations have been completed, while further are ongoing.

Operation Anvil has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in recorded crime in the target crime areas under the operation. A budget of approximately €11 million has been allocated for Operation Anvil during 2006, and the Garda Commissioner has been advised that an additional €10 million has been made available for further operations to tackle gang related crime.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities. Operation Anvil will continue to be funded to the extent and as long as the Commissioner considers that it is necessary to do so and it is fulfilling its objectives.

With regard to legislative measures, the Deputy will be aware that the recently enacted Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. In addition, the Act contains an essential updating of our criminal law to ensure that criminal offences can be investigated and prosecuted in a way which is efficient and fair and which meets the needs of modern society. The Act addresses a wide range of matters including the designation of a place as a crime scene, increased detention powers for certain offences, the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements, the creation of new offences in relation to organised crime and the misuse of drugs, the strengthening of existing provisions in relation to sentencing for drug trafficking offences; provisions to update and strengthen the law in relation to firearms and fireworks and provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour.

With effect from today the following provisions come into effect:

mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest; and

new offences concerning the modification of firearms such as "sawing-off" a shotgun.

The Government gave approval on 27 July, 2006 for the drafting of a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2006 which includes a number of provisions aimed at introducing certain changes and improvements in the operation of the Criminal Justice system. It is expected that drafting of the Bill in question will be completed early in 2007. The purpose of the Bill is twofold. Firstly, it will provide for miscellaneous, mainly technical, changes to the criminal law in relation to a number of statutes. These changes include the following:

provision for a presumption of continuity of evidence in relation to secure storage of Audio/video recordings;

provisions dealing with giving evidence in Court by Garda Technical Bureau staff;

consecutive sentences for offences committed on bail by amending Section 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984;

consideration of the definition of harassment as currently contained in Section 10 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997;

allowing for the separation of Juries during trials; and

amendments to the European Arrest Warrant Act, 2003 arising from experience of operation of the provisions of the Act.

Secondly, the Bill will also give legislative effect to a number of international instruments relating to criminal law, these include:

Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime which requires the signatories to establish jurisdiction over certain offences, including money laundering when the offence is committed in the territory of the State or outside it or on a vessel or aircraft registered to the State.

The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which is the first international treaty dealing with criminal offences by means of, or against, computer networks, in particular child pornography, computer related fraud, network security and infringement of copyright. The aim of the Convention is to pursue a common criminal approach aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime.

An OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. A number of recommendations made by an OECD Working Party following an evaluation in 2002 in relation to this provision, will be included in the Bill.

The Framework Decision on Combating Corruption in the Private Sector, which was adopted in July 2003. Ireland's anti-corruption legislation already has extensive measures which largely comply with the requirements of this Framework Decision. The Bill provides an opportunity to deal with any outstanding issues.

The Bill will also contain provisions which are largely procedural in nature, the aims of which are to facilitate the operation in Ireland of the Schengen Information System.

In addition to the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006, work has commenced on a General Scheme of a Criminal Justice (Money Laundering) Bill which will have the effect of transposing the European Communities 3rd Money Laundering Directive into Irish law.

Preparatory work on a General Scheme of a Bill, which will allow Ireland to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, is also underway and it is intended, subject to Government approval, to have this proposed legislation published and introduced in the Oireachtas without undue delay. The enactment of all of the provisions set out above is intended to improve the working of the criminal justice system and will also enable Ireland to play its part in developing a common approach at international level to combat crime.

Strong provisions are in place to combat anti-social behaviour and vandalism. The primary basis for the law regarding public order offences is the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, which modernised the law in this regard. Furthermore, because of my concerns about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offending and broader social problems, I brought forward tough provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. One of the provisions of the Act is to broaden the application of the temporary closure order penalty, which was originally introduced to combat under-age drinking, to cover also convictions for a series of offences, such as a licensee supplying intoxicating liquor to drunken persons and permitting disorderly conduct on the licensed premises.

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 has also been enacted, the main purpose of which is to provide the Garda Síochána with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. It does this by providing for the closure of premises such as pubs, off licenses, late night clubs and food premises where there is disorder or noise on or close to the premises, as well as the making of exclusion orders on individuals convicted of a range of public order offences, in addition to any penalty they might receive under the 1994 Public Order Act. The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 contains provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Act empowers a senior member of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of a civil procedure for an order which will prohibit an adult from behaving in an anti-social manner.

The relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 will be commenced following consultations between my Department, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. These consultations are currently ongoing. The purpose of this is to ensure that these provisions will commence as soon as the Commissioner has made the necessary internal arrangements to ensure the smooth introduction of these new procedures.

Separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Act introduces provisions for behaviour orders for children aged 12 to 18 years into the Children Act, 2001 and the protections of that Act will apply. There will be a series of incremental stages, with parental involvement, preceding an application for a behaviour order. These include a warning, a good behaviour contract and referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme. Only after these stages can a behaviour order be sought through the courts.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has a pro-active approach to policing anti-social/public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecutions or advice, as appropriate. Local Garda management provide for this in policing plans and make every effort to provide a highly visible police presence on the streets of our towns and villages through the deployment of uniform Gardaí, detective units, divisional traffic corps, community policing units and mountain bike units as appropriate. Garda patrols pay particular attention to areas where the public tends to congregate such as licensed venues and fast food outlets while awaiting transport, so as to prevent and detect incidents of public disorder. I am further informed that Operation Encounter, which was introduced by Garda management in 2002, targets public disorder offences including assaults and drinking by underage persons.

Juvenile Liaison Officers regularly visit schools, youth clubs and social services to give presentations under the education programme and highlight alternative options for regular offenders. Community Gardaí and the Garda Schools Liaison Officers also visit schools and address young people on a variety of topics including anti social behaviour.

Members of An Garda Síochána are frequently in contact with other Government and non-government agencies, including the Health Service Executive and the local authorities in order to have a multi-agency approach to addressing criminal issues. This multi-agency liaison will continue.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development and promote civic responsibility. The Garda Youth Diversion Projects are funded by my Department and administered through Garda Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána. The allocation of funding for the 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (along with 7 Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2006 is just over €6.6 million, which is an increase of €1.2 million on 2005.

It is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. As part of this expansion, ten new projects were established this year and they are located in Blanchardstown, Birr, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects).

Garda Stations.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

256 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans for a temporary Garda station in Monasterevin, in view of the fact that the current station is closed for renovation and the residents have to travel the considerable distance to Rathangan or Kildare to conduct their business with the Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35629/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda station in Monasterevin was closed due to fire damage on 13th September, 2006. The Office of Public Works have been requested to ascertain the remedial works required to re-open the station. When the proposals are received from the Board and examined by the Garda Authorities, a decision can be taken on how best to proceed, including the provision of temporary accommodation if appropriate.

Garda Vetting Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

257 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of additional staff who will be required at the Garda vetting unit in Thurles, County Tipperary arising from the inclusion in the proposed childcare regulations of the need for crèches and childcare facilities to have staff and volunteers appropriately vetted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35635/06]

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 were made by the Minister for Children, Mr Brian Lenihan, T.D., on 29 September, 2006. These Regulations will come into operation on 2 January, 2007. Sections 8(2)(c) and 8(2)(d) of the Regulations provide that (i) a person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure appropriate vetting of all staff, students and volunteers who have access to a child by acquiring Garda vetting from the Garda Síochána when the latter has set down procedures to make such vetting available and (ii) in circumstances where Garda vetting is not available for staff, students and volunteers who have lived outside the jurisdiction, by ensuring that these persons provide the necessary police vetting from other police authorities.

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU), which is responsible for providing child protection vetting, is currently well advanced in the ongoing, phased expansion of its vetting service to all personnel working in a full-time, part-time and/or voluntary capacity with children and vulnerable adults. To facilitate this, staffing of the GCVU has already been more than doubled, from 13 to 30. In line with the current expansion programme of the GCVU and in the context of the aforementioned Regulations, it is expected that vetting will be expanded to the pre-school sector in early 2007. Existing staffing levels at the GCVU are adequate to meet existing and foreseeable demand, although this will be subject to continuing review as expansion proceeds.

Road Traffic Offences.

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

258 Mr. Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that there is enough legislative support for the Gardaí to tackle the issue of non-Irish registered cars being driven here that have not got the correct insurance cover and vehicle roadworthy documentation to comply with Irish road traffic laws; when a proper compound will be provided for the Gardaí to store seized cars in County Cork; if he is further satisfied that the Gardaí are giving enough attention to the problem of non-Irish registered cars breaking road traffic laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35639/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Garda Strength.

David Stanton

Ceist:

259 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí stationed in the Fermoy District Cork North Division each year from 1997 to 2001 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35653/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

260 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí stationed in each of the Garda stations in Mitchelstown, Kildorrery and Kilworth in each year from 1997 to 2001 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35654/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 260 together.

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 An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Mitchelstown, Kildorrery and Kilworth Garda stations, and the Fermoy District of the Cork North Division, as at 31 December, 1997-2001, inclusively, was as set out in the table hereunder:

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

Station

Mitchelstown

14

17

17

16

17

Kildorrery

3

2

2

2

2

Kilworth

1

1

1

1

1

District

Fermoy

63

74

76

74

73

I have also been informed that the Fermoy District forms part of the Cork North Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the Cork North Division as at 31 December, 1997 and 1 November, 2006 was 208 and 258, respectively, representing an increase of 50 (or 24%) in the number of personnel allocated to the Division during that period.

In addition, I would point out to the Deputy that the Division's resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Garda management state that such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Fermoy District will be given the fullest consideration.

Domestic Partnerships.

David Stanton

Ceist:

261 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the budget allocation to the Working Group on Domestic Partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35655/06]

There is no specific budget allocated to the Working Group on Domestic Partnership. Costs arising from the work of the Group are met from the existing vote of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I understand that the Working Group is finalising the Options Paper on Domestic Partnership for submission to me in the coming weeks.

Question No. 262 answered with QuestionNo. 225.

Weapons Amnesty.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

263 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money spent on advertising and promoting the weapons amnesty. [35676/06]

A total of €331,608.26 (inclusive of VAT) was spent on advertising and promoting the Weapons Amnesty.

Juvenile Offenders.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

264 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of youths between 16 and 18 years of age who are currently detained in St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin. [35689/06]

Figures indicate that on 31 October, 2006 there were 52 persons in custody in St. Patrick's Institution who are aged between 16 and 18 years. This figure is made up of eighteen 16 year olds and thirty four 17 year olds.

Garda Stations.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

265 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of a proposed 24 hour Garda station in Carndonagh in North Inishowen, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35693/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that there are plans to provide a new Area Headquarters Station at Carndonagh, Co. Donegal. To this end the Office of Public Works recently advertised in the local and national press for suitable sites. I understand that OPW are currently assessing the responses and their recommendations will be considered by the Garda Authorities and my Department once they are available. While it is not possible to say at this point in time when the project will commence, I can assure the Deputy that there will be no avoidable delay in addressing the accommodation needs of the Gardaí in Carndonagh.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday 8 September with the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of North Inishowen will be given the fullest consideration.

Detention Centres.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

266 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to develop the Oberstown Campus in County Dublin as a national centre for the detention of children; the number of children up to 18 years of age who will be detained in the complex; and his proposals for the development of the site. [35715/06]

Amendments to the Children Act 2001 included in the Criminal Justice Act 2006 extend the children detention school model to all offenders under the age of 18 and transfer responsibility for the detention of young people to the remit of my Department from that of my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. This role in my Department is managed by a new executive office, the Irish Youth Justice Service, which operates within the policy parameters of the Office of the Minister for Children.

It has been agreed by my colleague the Minister for Children and myself, that the existing accommodation and other facilities at the Oberstown campus need to be replaced. In addition, the accommodation requirements of children aged 16 and 17 years within a children detention school model need to be met. In order to plan for these developments an Expert Group was set up. This Group is considering a range of issues including location of a national centre, capacity requirements and suitable infrastructure for care and education programmes. The Expert Group is expected to make an interim report to myself and the Minister for Children by the end of this year.

Vehicle Registration.

David Stanton

Ceist:

267 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures in place for An Garda Síochána to receive notification from vehicle registration in Shannon Town Centre, County Clare that a change of vehicle ownership has occurred; the way in which this information is transferred to the computer systems used by An Garda Síochána when checking on vehicle ownership; the typical length of time it takes for An Garda Síochána computer records to be updated following receipt of change of ownership notification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35751/06]

I have requested a Garda report in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Departmental Properties.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

268 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 25 October 2006 in relation to property acquired or disposed of in the Dublin area by or on behalf of the Reception and Integration Agency, the number of expressions of interest received from persons interested in providing accommodation for asylum seekers in response to the advertisement of 10 July 2006; if other contractual arrangements, apart from those applying to the property in Clondalkin, were entered into arising out of such expressions of interest; if there have been disposals or termination of contracts in the Dublin area by the RIA within the past two years of such asylum seeker accommodation; and if so, the details thereof. [35849/06]

A total of 35 persons expressed an interest in providing accommodation for asylum seekers in response to the advertisement of 10 July 2006. One of these expressions of interest was not received by the closing date of 11 August 2006 and this expression of interest was rejected as being out of time.

No other contractual arrangements, apart from those applying to the property in Clondalkin, were entered into arising from such expressions of interest.

The following centres were closed by the RIA in the Dublin area in the period from October 2004 to date:

Centre

Closed

1 Montpelier Apartments, Dublin 7

12.10.2005

2 Ard Erdrad Apartments, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15

07.03.2006

3 Kilmarnock House, Killiney, Co. Dublin

03.04.2006

4 Morehampton House, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

03.05.2006

Garda Stations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

269 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station in Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35246/06]

It is expected that a sketch scheme for the new Garda Area Headquarters at Castleisland will be ready by the end of the year for the approval of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities. On approval of the sketch scheme a Part 9 planning process will be initiated in early 2007.

Tax Code.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

270 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if she will make a special allowance to waive the stamp duty of €30,000 under the favourite nephew clause; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35429/06]

As regards liability to stamp duty, in normal circumstances where property is transferred upon death no stamp duty is liable. However, if the transfer in question from uncle to nephew was by way of gift, stamp duty liability may arise.

Stamp duty relief is available on the transfer of farm lands by way of gift or sale, where the farmer receiving the land is aged under 35 years and has attained relevant educational qualifications. The required qualifications are listed in the Revenue Commissioners leaflet SD2A, which is available on their website. The relief is intended to encourage the transfer of land to young farmers who have successfully undergone agricultural training. If the individual in question meets the educational qualifications under this scheme he may qualify for stamp duty relief. Where the individual in question does not qualify for young trained farmer stamp duty relief, and where the farm is transferred to him by a relative, he may qualify for a 50% relief on the stamp duty otherwise chargeable, as a relative of the person transferring the land.

Favourite niece/nephew relief is a Capital Acquisitions Tax relief that is available to certain nephews and nieces who take a gift or an inheritance of a business or farm from a disponer. In order to qualify for the relief, the beneficiary must be a child of a brother or sister of the disponer (in other words, a nephew/niece in law will not qualify) and he/she must have worked substantially on a full-time basis for the disponer for a minimum of five years ending on the date of the gift or inheritance. This relief is intended to take account of the close working relationship that exists between certain nieces/nephews and their uncles/aunts and is not intended to apply generally to all gifts or inheritances taken by nieces/nephews.

Tax Yield.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

271 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the amount of VAT that different local authorities have paid over the past two years; the breakdown of the figures per local authority and per year; his plans to change the system where local authorities could claim back VAT like businesses do; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35638/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to furnish figures of the VAT paid by local authorities on their purchases of goods and services from VAT registered bodies, as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular consumers to be identified.

I would add that local authorities are treated as exempt bodies for VAT purposes. This means that local authorities do not charge VAT on the goods or services they provide nor are they entitled to recover the VAT incurred on the goods and services which they purchase in the course of their activities. I have no plans to change the VAT treatment of local authorities.

Departmental Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

272 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 243 of 6 July 2006, when the outstanding information for the properties not included in his correspondence of 4 October 2006 will be available; if he will include information for all relevant properties (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35140/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is shown on the following table.

Kilkenny Castle

Date of Event 2006

Client / Company

Fee

12-Feb.

Susan Proud, KK Music Club

250

25-Feb.

Clara Clark Event Mgmnt Co

250

28-Feb.

SIPTU, KK

190

31-Mar.

Crafts Council

190

April dates

Heritage Officer, KK Co Co

570

25-Apr.

Tony Walsh, KK Co Co

190

28-Apr.

KK Limestone — Jenny Byrne

300

2-May

Siobhan Fahy, KK Book Centre

190

4-May

Pat Nolan, Celtic Festival

230

17-May

Helen Seery, Eli Lily

500

18-May

Crafts Council

190

19-May

Anne Logan, Childcare Dev, SEHB

190

24-May

Crafts Council

190

26-May

Dr Conway, KK

450

30-May

SIPTU, KK

190

13-Jun

James Fogarty County Librarian

190

19-Jun.

Susan Broderick, Health Promotion

380

21-Jul.

Tony Walsh, KK Co Co

190

Total

4,830

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

273 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the basis on which VAT is charged on the standing charges for such utilities as electricity and gas; if it is open to him to vary the level of VAT charged on these utilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35142/06]

The position is that application of VAT to goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The method through which VAT must be calculated has been transposed under section 10 of the Value Added Tax Act 1972 (as amended) on the following basis; ". . . the total consideration which the person supplying goods or services becomes entitled to receive in respect of or in relation to such supply of goods or services, including all taxes, commissions, costs and charges whatsoever, but not including value-added tax chargeable in respect of the supply". Any standing charges included in utility bills are therefore legally subject to VAT.

In relation to the scope under EU law for Member States to vary the rate of VAT applied to utilities such as gas and electricity, the position is that under the Sixth VAT Directive Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services, which have been in place since 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to other goods and services. The supply of fuel and energy products used for home heating and light are already subject to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5% under Article 28 (2e) of the Sixth VAT Directive. This means that Member States had the option of maintaining, at a reduced rate of not less than 12%, any items not listed in Annex H of the Sixth VAT Directive, provided these items carried a reduced rate on 1 January 1991. Ireland is one of only eight Member States that apply a reduced or parked rate to the supply of fuel and energy products used for home heating and light. In Ireland the parked VAT rate equates to our reduced rate of 13.5%. Telecommunications are subject to the Standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

274 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the excise and VAT on unleaded petrol in 1997 and 1998. [35156/06]

The excise and VAT on a litre of unleaded petrol in 1997 and 1998 are as set out below.

Year

Price per ltr (cent)

Excise

VAT

Total Tax

1997

77.7

37.39

13.48

50.87

1998

76.8

37.39

13.33

50.72

The 1997 price is the national average price quoted by the CSO for November 1997; the 1998 price is that referred to by the Deputy in a footnote to the Question.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

275 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance his views on allowing SSIA holders to reinvest their accumulated savings into PRSAs; if he will provide an incentive to persons who wish to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35157/06]

There are already generous incentives for taxpayers investing in pensions. In addition, the Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, introduced in the 2006 Finance Act, provides an incentive for eligible SSIA holders on lower incomes to reinvest all or part of their net SSIA proceeds, after maturity, into an approved pension product, including a PRSA. It is primarily a savings scheme and is designed for people who are saving for retirement. The incentive involves a tax credit of €1 for every €3 of SSIA proceeds reinvested, up to a maximum of €2,500 credit (i.e. €7,500 invested). Secondly, there is an additional tax credit involving a percentage of the tax deducted from the SSIA on maturity. Where an SSIA holder avails of the Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, it is not possible to claim any other tax relief for amounts invested up to and including €7,500. Tax relief can be claimed, however, on amounts in excess of €7,500 transferred from a matured SSIA to an approved pension product, subject to the standard limits.

If a person invests SSIA proceeds in a pension product without availing of the Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, he/she can claim tax relief in respect of that investment subject to the standard limits.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

276 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if there are proposals for the Government to refund VAT payments to registered charities; the estimated annual cost to the Exchequer of such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35182/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to furnish figures of the VAT paid by charities and non-profit organisations on their purchases of goods and services from VAT registered bodies, as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular consumers to be identified.

In relation to the application of VAT to charities and non-profit organisations, the position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU Sixth VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

Ministerial Orders have been used in a limited way to provide refunds of VAT on certain aids and appliances for the disabled and on medical equipment donated voluntarily to hospitals. These orders are focused and are designed to target specific circumstances. However, under EU law, it would not be possible to introduce new schemes within the VAT Act 1972 to relieve charities from the obligation to pay VAT on goods and services that they purchase.

I would add that the tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax and Dividend Withholding Tax. Moreover, charities also benefit significantly from the uniform scheme of tax relief for donations, which was introduced in the Finance Act 2001 and which, for the first time, allowed tax relief on personal donations to domestic charities and other approved bodies. The relief is based on the taxpayer's marginal rate which for an individual donor could be as high as 42%. In the case of donations from the PAYE sector the relief is given directly to the charities.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

277 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if there are proposals to charitable or sporting bodies such as the GAA regarding stamp duty; the estimated annual cost to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35183/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to proposals to amend the stamp duty code in the forthcoming Budget. I further assume the Deputy is seeking the cost of exempting sporting bodies from stamp duty.

As the Deputy is aware, I do not comment on possible changes ahead of the Budget. I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are unable to provide a cost of introducing an exemption from stamp duty for sporting bodies.

The Deputy will already be aware of the fact that an exemption from stamp duty is provided for in the stamp duty code in respect of a conveyance, transfer or lease of land made for charitable purposes to a body of persons established for charitable purposes only. This exemption is confined to bodies of persons which are recognised under law as having been established for charitable purposes only in which case the entirety of the activities carried on by the body in question must be charitable in nature.

In this regard, voluntary sporting bodies that do not have this charitable exemption are liable to stamp duty in the normal manner. However, there are separate relieving provisions in the tax code for not-for-profit and member-controlled sporting bodies. Amateur and athletic associations are not liable to income tax. In addition, a generous capital gains tax exemption is available to sports bodies where they dispose of a property and the proceeds are re-invested in new assets for the promotion of the sport in question. In this situation, capital gains tax is not payable. In addition, sporting organisations can avail of the special donations scheme. Where donations are made to qualifying sporting associations, the Revenue Commissioners will apply relief on the donation at the donor's marginal tax rate and refund the relief to the sports body in question.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

278 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the value of tax revenue raised by DIRT and the number of accounts; the amount refunded to persons over 65 not in the tax net and the relevant number of accounts; and the cost of applying tax only to the earnings in interest which exceeds the rate of inflation. [35229/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the net yield from DIRT collected in 2005 was €167 million.

The amount of DIRT due to be paid each year is dependent on the amount of monies on deposit and the rates of interest applying to such deposits rather than on the number of accounts involved. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the statutory return of DIRT filed by the financial institutions requires details only of the relevant amount of interest paid in the year and the appropriate tax in relation to the payment of that interest. There is, therefore, no basis for compiling the information requested in relation to the number of accounts, either by reference to all account holders or to those aged over 65 years.

A refund of deposit interest retention tax is provided for where an individual is not liable or fully liable to income tax and is over 65 years of age at some time during the tax year or is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental/physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself. (Bodies qualifying for ‘charitable' status and companies are also entitled to refund of DIRT). The taxpayer must advise Revenue that he or she meets the legislative requirements and the amount of the retention tax suffered. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total amount of DIRT repaid in 2005 was €2.3 million and the number of such repayments was 971. With deposit interest rates being very low in recent years, the quantum of the interest earned and tax retained would be very small in many cases and may be considered uneconomic to reclaim.

As regards the cost of applying DIRT only to deposit interest which exceeds the rate of inflation, it is not possible to provide a costing due to the multiplicity of rates that are offered by Financial Institutions.

Tax Collection.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

279 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funds given to his Department by way of the Criminal Assets Bureau; the sums involved in each year since the establishment of the CAB; the purposes for which this money has been used by his Department or other Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35242/06]

The Exchequer receives moneys directly from the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in the form of non-tax revenue which arises from the forfeiture and subsequent disposal of assets and cash. In addition, all tax collected by the CAB is first paid to the Revenue Commissioners who forward these moneys to the Exchequer as part of general tax revenue collected by Revenue. The Table below sets out the non-tax revenue paid each year by the CAB to the Exchequer along with the tax revenue paid each year to the Revenue Commissioners.

In accordance with the requirements of Article 11 of the Constitution, these revenues accruing to the State through the functions of the CAB are paid into the Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure on necessary public services and investment.

€m

Tax Revenue

Non-Tax Revenue

Annual Total

1996

1997

0.25

0.25

1998

0.79

0.07

0.86

1999

3

0

3

2000

8.6

0.33

8.92

2001

23.56

0.65

24.21

2002

10

0.03

10.03

2003

9.99

0.49

10.49

2004

16.41

0.44

16.85

2005

16.38

2.47

18.85

Total to date

88.98

4.47

93.45

Sources: CAB Annual Reports; Finance Accounts.

Schools Building Projects.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

280 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Finance if the Property Management Section of the Office of Public Works has identified a site for the re-development of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 18. [35254/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as an agent on behalf of the Department of Education & Science in the acquisition of sites for new school facilities. The requirement for the school in question was advertised publicly during August 2006. However, no responses were received. The Commissioners have written to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council asking if they have any suitable lands available for the accommodation of a school; we are awaiting their reply.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

281 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the amount raised in stamp duty from residential property in each of the past five years. [35255/06]

The amount raised from stamp duty on residential property over the last five years is:

Year

€m

2001

265

2002

349

2003

528

2004

752

2005

945

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

282 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount expended on photographers by his Department for events and publicity leaflet production in his constituency and the constituency of each Minister of State of his Department in the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35286/06]

In the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006, the sum of €3,260.30 was spent by my Department on photographers for events held in my constituency and the constituency of the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Parlon. Details of these events, and associated expenditure on photographers, are set out in the table below.

No monies were expended by my Department, in the period in question, on publicity leaflet production in my constituency or the constituency of the Minister of State.

I have also asked the Office of Public Works to forward any information to the Deputy regarding any relevant amounts expended by that Office.

Event

Date

Location

Amount

Group Photograph at the meeting of Regional Ministers, as part of the Irish Presidency of the EU. Chaired by the Minister of State Mr. Tom Parlon

26-28 February 2004

Portlaoise

€1,551.55

Hand-over of the keys to the Department of Finance’s new offices

18 July 2006

Tullamore

€130.53

Official opening of the Department of Finance’s new offices

6 October 2006

Tullamore

€1,578.22

National Development Plan.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

283 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the profile, the expenditure, and expenditure versus profile in the Border Midland Western region in the National Development Plan, to June 2006. [35296/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

284 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of extra expenditure, above that committed in the National Development Plan, spent in the Border Midland Western region to June 2006. [35297/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

285 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the profile, the expenditure, and expenditure versus profile in the southern and eastern region in the National Development Plan to June 2006. [35298/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

286 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of extra expenditure above that committed in the National Development Plan spent in the southern and eastern region to June 2006. [35299/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 286, inclusive, together.

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006 is implemented through seven Operational Programmes (OPs). The most recent expenditure data reported to the Operational Programmes Monitoring Committees at their Autumn 2006 meetings held during week beginning 23rd October relates to the period January 2000 to the end June 2006.

In comparing the expenditure versus original profile, it is important to note that significant expenditure, particularly Exchequer expenditure, takes place in the latter half of the year. The position will become clearer when data is available for the full calendar year at the Spring 2007 Monitoring Committees scheduled to take place in April 2007.

The House will be aware of the general state of play in relation to expenditure in the BMW region from previous debates and questions on this issue. The figures reported at the recent Monitoring Committee meetings indicate that some €13.2 billion or 78% of the total original forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) and €11.1 billion or 82% of forecast Exchequer expenditure had been incurred by the end of June 2006. This is a healthy implementation rate in view of the slow start up in some areas at the very beginning, the relatively disappointing response in certain demand led schemes and the fact that Exchequer spending in relation to the Structural Fund OPs for the 2000-2006 period will in fact continue up to 2008.

With regard to the Southern and Eastern (S&E) region, the figures reported indicate that some €35.1 billion or 97% of the total original forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) and €30.2 billion or 108% of forecast Exchequer expenditure had been incurred in the S&E region by the end of June 2006. This means that the Exchequer contribution to the S&E region under the NDP had already exceeded its original target by €2.28 billion to the end of June 2006.

Flood Relief.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

287 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works flood prevention personnel will re-inspect the Tolka River where there is a build up of debris and silt which residents believe will make their homes more vulnerable to flooding; if this build-up will be removed and the foundations of the river wall strengthened to alleviate residents concerns; if the new higher river wall on the opposite side will make flooding more likely at the Tolka Road side where the wall is much lower; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35313/06]

I am advised that maintenance of the channel is not required at this stage. The Office of Public Works is in consultation with Dublin City Council to ensure that the River Tolka Flood Relief Works, will be maintained as required.

The wall on the right bank of the River Tolka, downstream of Distillery Road Bridge has been assessed and raised in any areas where the levels were under the prediction level of a 100 year flood, i.e. a flood with a 1% probability of occurring in a given year, thereby giving each side of the river protection against the design extreme event. Parts of the new wall on the left bank may be higher in places but this would be only to ensure the wall is at a minimum safety height from the road side.

Hospital Access.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

288 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will review the access points to St. Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park (details supplied). [35314/06]

Vehicular access remains as it always has via the entrance on the eastern side of the property in question. The Commissioners understand from hospital representatives at the recent Consultations in the Park that the hospital operates a service whereby if visitors to the hospital present themselves at any one of the Park's gates and ring the hospital, the hospital's own minibus (16 seater) will be sent to collect them.

Traffic Management.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

289 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 272 of 17 October 2006, if in view of widespread local concern regarding the impact of the proposed one way system on the adjoining Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7 area and the residents view that a traffic light or roundabout system at the Ashtown Gate, Dublin 7 would more effectively regulate traffic, he will direct the Office of Public Works to defer the implementation of the proposal, organise an information and consultation day for all local residents, introduce the traffic light solution as an interim measure and reassess the situation after six months. [35320/06]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

290 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the cost to date of the Faber Maunsell traffic study on the Phoenix Park, Dublin 7; and the projected cost of it’s full implementation. [35325/06]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

300 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 272 of 17 October 2006, if a copy of the ERM report referred to will be made available to this Deputy. [35592/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289, 290 and 300 together.

Firstly I wish to confirm that the Study in question was formulated following wide ranging consultation and following completion of the report recently, a number of presentations on the Study were held for a number of interested parties including local elected representatives, local residents and statutory authorities. Consultation is currently ongoing.

Options to resolve the severe traffic hazards at both the Ashtown and Cabra gates have been thoroughly investigated over an extended period in full consultation with the relevant authorities and I am satisfied that the option of a one way system for the Ashtown and Cabra gates represents the optimum solution. This solution has been endorsed by the independent Traffic Management Study recently completed and a similar system is proposed for Chapelizod and Islandbridge gates. As verified by the Traffic Management Study, the impacts of the one-way system on Blackhorse Avenue will be relatively minor. Consequently, while it is understandable that local residents have concerns about impacts on the area, in reality these concerns are largely unfounded. In light of the findings of the Traffic Management Study the deputy will appreciate that there is now an onus on the Commissioners to proceed with implementation of the measures contained therein, in the interests of the safety of all Park users and conservation of the Park and its amenities. I wish to confirm also that the Commissioners will monitor and review the effectiveness of these measures, following implementation, including of course the proposed one-way systems.

The fee for the Faber Maunsell Study, including services provided by ERM, amounts to €42,043.86 (including VAT) which has been paid. The provision of cost estimates for implementation of the measures did not form part of the commission. The main cost element will be the measures proposed for the Chesterfield Avenue. Implementation of the measures will be subject to standard procurement procedures and the Commissioners are anxious to ensure that this process is not prejudiced in any way. The Commissioners will be in a position to confirm the costs once the procurement process, in each instance, has been completed.

Messrs. Faber Maunsell engaged Messrs. ERM to vet the proposed measures contained in the Study from an environmental perspective and the findings are incorporated in the Study. Section 5.3 and Table 5.1 of the Study deals with the assessment of the proposals. The Commissioners do not have a separate report from Messrs. ERM.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

291 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the threshold for inheritance tax; the off-sets that can be used against it; the amount collected in tax under this category in 2000 to 2005 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35376/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the purposes of both Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold-known as the "Group threshold". Three Group thresholds are based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer and are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index. The following are the Group thresholds for 2006: Group A: €478,155 — applies where the beneficiary is a child (including certain foster children) or minor child of a deceased child of the disponer. Parents also fall within this threshold where they take an inheritance from a child. Group B: €47,815 — applies where the beneficiary is a brother, sister, niece, nephew, or lineal descendant of the disponer. Group C: €23,908 — applies in all other cases.

Where both Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisitions Tax (Gift or Inheritance Tax) arise on the same asset on the same event, for example, on a gift of an asset, the Capital Gains Tax can be off-set or credited against the Capital Acquisitions Tax liability. From 21 February 2006, if the asset is disposed of within 2 years of the date of the gift, the off-set or credit allowed will be clawed back.

The Net Receipt of Inheritance Tax for the years 2000-2005 inclusive is as follows:

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

€154.72m

€121.50m

€128.06m

€130.65m

€171.29m

€196.65

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

292 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the amount of stamp duty collected on residential and commercial properties, by county, for the years 1998 to 2005 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35377/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that statistics on Stamp Duty transactions are not compiled by reference to the address of the property purchased and, accordingly, it is not possible to provide the information requested by county. The figures of total stamp duty yield from residential and non-residential property in the whole country for the years 1998 to 2005 are as follows:

Year

Residential Property €m

Non-Residential Property €m

1998

213

174

1999

263

288

2000

282

392

2001

265

406

2002

349

317

2003

528

547

2004

752

709

2005

945

1,056

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

293 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the Chief State Solicitor to complete deliberations on the transfer of title for the proposed site for a school (details supplied) in County Meath, in view of the ongoing pressure on primary school places in east Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35400/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as an agent for the Department of Education & Science in the acquisition of sites for primary schools. A suitable site has been identified and agreement on price has been reached subject to contract. It is not possible at this stage to say when the conveyancing process will be completed.

Ministerial Appointments.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

294 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance when he plans to appoint an Irish representative to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development in view of the fact that Ireland has not been represented for the past two meetings of the Bank. [35405/06]

I can assure the Deputy that Ireland, as a member of the Denmark/Ireland/Lithuania/FYR Macedonia constituency at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has been represented at the four Board Meetings that took place during September and October. I would also like to assure the Deputy that I expect to appoint a new Irish representative to the EBRD in the near future.

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

295 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if there has been progress or an outcome to the regulatory inspection which he promised; and the Government’s plans to upgrade and update those aspects of credit union legislation and regulation which are curtailing and hampering the proper development of the credit union movement. [35419/06]

Regulatory inspections are the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions. The Registrar of Credit Unions is statutorily independent of me in performing his regulatory functions. On foot of the outcome of any regulatory investigations the Registrar can take whatever steps he considers necessary to resolve any issues using the powers available to him.

In relation to credit union legislation, the Credit Union Act, 1997 provides the legal framework for the regulation of credit unions. The Act was designed to provide the credit union movement with a regulatory structure that reflects and promotes the particular ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement, its strong tradition of volunteer service and the core objective of providing opportunities for saving and lending for members of credit unions. The approach to regulation embodied in the Credit Union Act has served the credit union movement well by providing clarity and certainty to individual credit unions, their Directors and members. It has helped support the continued stability of the credit union movement and to safeguard members' savings during a period of rapid growth.

As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions continues to be appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. In recent months, I have introduced a regulation to increase the maximum amount a member of a credit union can hold in shares and deposits. Furthermore, the Registrar of Credit Unions recently issued guidelines on a revised framework for prudent and responsible investment by credit unions. Other developments include the establishment of a review group chaired by my Department to examine the current limits on longer-term lending in Section 35 of the Credit Union Act, and the agreement by the Financial Regulator to examine proposals for reform of the Savings Protection Scheme with a view to approving the scheme under Section 46 of the Credit Union Act 1997 to strengthen the protection afforded to credit union savings.

I believe it would be helpful if there was a clearer, and if possible shared, understanding on how a new regulatory framework would operate before moving to develop specific proposals. The Chair of the Regulatory Authority has recently confirmed that the Registrar of Credit Unions will engage with the credit union movement, in the first instance, to find common ground in relation to the principles that might guide the reform of the regulatory framework for credit unions.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

296 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2004, is being refused remission of the VAT and vehicle registration tax of the price of their car; and if he will investigate the reason this has happened. [35562/06]

I understand the person concerned applied for a Primary Medical Certificate in respect of the tax concessions available under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme. He was not awarded the Certificate by the Senior Area Medical Officer of the relevant Health Service Executive administrative area who is responsible for deciding applications for the Primary Medical Certificate under the scheme. I also understand that the person concerned has appealed the decision of refusal of the Primary Medical Certificate to The Secretary, Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. As the Deputy will be aware I have no direct role in the appeals process.

Ports Security.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

297 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the number of x-ray type machines capable of analysing the contents of a container, which are deployed at ports in the State; if he will identify such ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35567/06]

I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners currently have one mobile X-ray scanning machine capable of analysing the contents of a container. This machine, which has been in use since February 2006, is used to scan containers and vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, vans and cars. The mobile scanner has been deployed at the following Lift-On Lift-Off (Lo-Lo) container ports nationwide: Drogheda, Dublin Port, Belview (Waterford), Tivoli (Cork) and Foynes. It has also been deployed at all of the Roll-On Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) ferry ports, namely, Dublin Port, Dun Laoghaire, Rosslare and Ringaskiddy. Revenue staff operating the mobile scanner have been specially selected and highly trained in image interpretation and risk analysis.

Decentralisation Programme.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

298 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the options available to civil servants who wish to decentralise to posts outside Dublin but whose Dublin based Departments cannot secure replacement personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35574/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

299 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if there is a panel of civil servants who wish to remain in Dublin in the context of decentralisation; if the operation of this panel has been suspended; the reason for same; when this panel will be in operation again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35575/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 298 and 299 together.

The primary mechanism for placing Civil Servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin. Further arrangements have been initiated for general service grades. The objective of these arrangements is to provide to the Public Appointments Service (PAS) details of staff who wish to remain in Dublin at each grade level so that a proportion of vacancies arising in Dublin based posts may be filled by those staff. It is intended that the arrangements will continue over the full transition phase of the Programme.

My Department is monitoring these arrangements in co-operation with Departments and the relevant unions to ensure that they are operating efficiently and that there is a close alignment between the assignment of staff to decentralising posts and the readiness of Departments to release staff at particular grade levels.

Question No. 300 answered with QuestionNo. 289.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

301 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P45 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35610/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have arranged with the accountant representing the taxpayer's former employer to issue a P45 to the taxpayer within the next ten days.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P45 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35611/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have arranged with the accountant representing the taxpayer's former employer to issue a P45 to the taxpayer within the next ten days.

Registration of Title.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

303 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 233 of 6 July 2006, if he will report on progress, in respect on the title of a property (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [35649/06]

The Office of Public Works have been advised by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor that the property in question in County Leitrim, is not in State ownership.

Tax Yield.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

304 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the amount of excise duty raised on alcohol in each of the years from 2000 to 2005 with a breakdown of the amounts raised in particular from beer, wine and spirits; if specific amounts or percentages of the total are allocated to particular alcohol related programmes; and if so, to specify same. [35669/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the excise duty raised on alcohol in respect of the years 2000 to 2005 is as follows:

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Beer

475.9

435.6

477.4

455.4

458.2

457.3

Spirits

247.1

220.9

266.5

305.0

314.9

319.8

Wine

123.8

120.9

152.2

167.8

184.8

195.1

Cider

33.3

36.1

62.1

60.4

64.2

66.1

Total

880.1

813.5

958.2

988.6

1,022.1

1,038.3

Excise duty raised on alcohol is not allocated to any alcohol related programmes. In general, publicly funded alcohol related programmes are financed from the Exchequer.

Company Ownership.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

305 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in transferring a directorship from the names of the previous ownership to the name of the current owner (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35692/06]

The applicant's solicitor was advised on 23 May 2006 that it had been decided against waiving the Minister's interest in favour of the applicant. However, they were also advised to consider an alternative option of the restoration of the company to the Register of Companies.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

306 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the proposal by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland to have medical tax relief extended to included specific remedial tuition for children affected by the medical condition dyslexia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35718/06]

I am aware of the proposal mentioned by the Deputy. The position is that expenses in respect of tuition for children with dyslexia do not qualify for health expenses tax relief and have never qualified for the relief since it was first introduced in 1967. I understand from the Revenue Commissioners, who deal with such claims, that individuals may have been under the impression that tuition for children with dyslexia was allowable under the heading of health expenses relief. I also understand that the Revenue Commissioners have written to the Dyslexia Association to clarify the matter.

In recent years, the Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia. As with many areas where State support may be required, the question arises as to whether such support may be more effectively provided through the direct expenditure route rather than through the tax system. One advantage of the former mechanism is that the support may be better targeted at those in need, irrespective of family income, whereas support through the tax system can only benefit those whose incomes are high enough to benefit from tax relief.

As I have indicated to the House already in this matter, I have no plans to extend Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to cover expenses incurred by parents who have children with dyslexia. However, this matter, like any other, can be raised by the Deputy at Finance Bill time.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

307 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the documents including his speech relating to Budget 2006 that were translated into Irish; the cost involved; the number of these Irish translations that were sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35745/06]

In accordance with the requirements of the Official Languages Act, the following Budget 2006 documents were published in Irish:

Summary of Budget Measures; and

Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 31 December 2006.

These documents are available in hard copy and on the Budget website atwww.budget.gov.ie. My Department also produced an Irish version of the Budget Summary Leaflet, available in hard copy. The cost of the outside translation work for Budget 2006 was €3,875.13. This sum does not include translation related work carried out by staff in my Department. I am informed by the Government Publications Sales Office that no copies of the documents available in hard copy, i.e. the Summary of Budget Measures and the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 31 December 2006 have been sold to date.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

308 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing a threshold in respect of the new tax on imputed distribution of moneys from approved retirement funds in order to prevent an adverse impact on persons with low income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35746/06]

I would make the following comments in relation to the tax on approved retirement funds, ARF. The 2006 Budget and Finance Act introduced an imputed or notional distribution of 3% of the value of the assets of an ARF on 31 December each year, which notional amount will be taxed at the ARF owner's marginal income tax rate. The change is being phased in over a 3 year period commencing next year. This measure was introduced because the internal review of tax relief for pensions provision undertaken by my Department and the Revenue Commissioners last year, and which was published earlier this year, found that the ARF option was largely not being used, as intended, to fund an income stream in retirement but instead was being used to build up substantial funds in a tax-free environment over the long term. The imputed distribution measure will encourage the use of ARFs as intended, as funds actually drawn down by ARF owners will be credited against the imputed distribution to arrive at a net imputed amount, if any. It is important to note that ARF owners on lower incomes and who qualify for the higher income tax exemption limits for those aged 65 or over may not be affected at all by the measure.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

309 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of residential properties sold second hand in each of the past five years; the number in respect of which stamp duty was paid; the number which were deemed to be stamp duty exempt. [35747/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of second hand residential properties sold each year is not determinable from stamp duty records as this data is not collected in such a manner that would allow a breakdown between second-hand and new residential property types. The available information is in respect of the number of residential property transactions, both second-hand and new, where stamp duty was paid in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 and is as follows:

Year

Number of Residential Property Transactions where Stamp Duty was paid

2003

35,000

2004

44,500

2005

44,000

As the majority of new houses purchased are exempt from stamp duty — only new properties in excess of 125 square metres for owner-occupiers or new properties purchased as investments are liable to stamp duty — it could be reasonably assumed that the bulk of stamp duty paid in respect of residential property is from second-hand properties. The figures do not, however, include second-hand residential property valued at less than €317,500 for first-time purchasers and occupiers and valued at less than €127,000 for other owner-occupiers which are exempt from stamp duty. Particulars of transactions where no stamp duty applies are not normally captured and, accordingly, it is not possible to provide reliable information in relation to exempt categories.

Child Care Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

310 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the future of EOCP funding for community based child care centres; if she will ensure that these centres are put on a sound financial footing into the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35199/06]

The Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, which had a budget of €499 million, including support from the EU structural funds, will effectively come to an end in the latter part of 2007. The successor programme to the EOCP, the National Child care Investment Programme (NCIP) runs from 2006 to 2010. The total budget for the new Programme is approximately €575 million, comprising €357 million in capital funding and €218 million in current funding. A value-for-money review of the EOCP has been commissioned by my office. This review is currently under way and is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2007. The outcome of the review will inform the roll-out of the NCIP, in particular the arrangements for funding community and voluntary groups.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

311 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if, following comments made in Dáil Éireann on 18 October 2006 regarding nursing home standards where it was outlined that standard inspections are now unannounced, if she will provide the source of this information; if this standard will be enforced by the Health Service Executive; and if she will confirm that the HSE will ensure that nursing home inspections are adequate and acted on appropriately. [35277/06]

The inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990. The 1990 Act provides for the registration of private nursing homes and procedures for attaching conditions to the registration and for de-registering homes. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993 set out the standards which private nursing homes owners must adhere to in the provision of nursing home services.

The Health Service Executive established a National Nursing Homes Steering Committee in July 2005. One of the priority tasks outlined for this committee was to standardise policy and procedures relating to older people's services in general and residential care services in particular. The HSE is now implementing a national standardised inspection process which requires that all standard inspections are to be unannounced. The adequacy and appropriateness of nursing home inspections is a matter for the HSE. I have asked the executive to reply directly to the Deputy on this issue.

Child Care Services.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

312 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she is taking to ensure the provision of affordable child care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35387/06]

The Government has brought in a number of measures, both on the supply side and the demand side, to deal with the growing demand for child care, which has been created by the economic and social changes which have taken place over the last decade. These measures are aimed at supporting parents with the cost of child care and increasing the supply of quality child care places available to parents.

The primary supply side measure of the Government's approach to ensuring the provision of affordable child care has been to stimulate the provision of quality child care places, through the provision of grants for the child care sector. This is being done through the equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, 2000-2006 and the national child care investment programme, NCIP, 2006-2010. These programmes, with a combined budget of over €1 billion, are projected to create or support over 90,000 child care places, with some 29,000 of the new places already in place. These places are provided either through community based/not for profit child care groups or by private providers. Of the total funding committed in the period from the start of the EOCP to August 2006, over €67 million has been allocated to quality improvement and over €484 million to child care facilities, of which almost €183 million has been allocated to staffing grant assistance. This provides support towards the staffing costs of employing child care workers in community based child care centres in disadvantaged areas, ensuring that less advantaged parents in those areas have increased access to quality child care and that they are charged fees which are less than the economic cost of providing the service.

On the demand side, government policy to support parents with the cost of child care has been to increase child benefit payments and introduce the early child care supplement, ECS. Both instruments support all parents irrespective of income or employment status. Child benefit has been increased in successive budgets and in Budget 2006, it was increased by €8.40 per month for the first two children to €150 per month; and by €7.70 per month for the third and subsequent children to €185 per month. This means that over the period since 1997 child benefit has more than quadrupled.

The early child care supplement of €1,000 per annum was introduced for all children less than six years of age and became effective in April 2006. This is a direct, non-taxable payment of €250 per quarter year, in respect of each eligible child. There have already been two payments of the ECS in August and October, and I expect the final payment of €250 to be paid on 11 December. From 2007 the payments will be made in April, July, October and December. Taken together these payments mean that a family with two children under the age of six years are now in receipt of a direct payment per annum of €5,800.

The levels of increase in child benefit and the introduction of the early child care supplement is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents in relation to the care of their children. I am satisfied that the EOCP and NCIP will serve to moderate prices in the sector over time by increasing the supply of places and giving parents greater choice. This Government's record in providing enhanced child care supports is without parallel and I am confident that we are moving rapidly to ensure that there are quality services available to parents throughout the country.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Perry

Ceist:

313 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to improve the provision of occupational and speech therapy and other therapies for children with autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35722/06]

My Department understands from the Health Service Executive that its priority in 2006 is to increase service provision in the area of multi-disciplinary supports to meet obligations to children with developmental delay, in the home, in the community and in other appropriate settings. In this regard €12.5 million was made available by the HSE from the 2006 investment programme to provide multi-disciplinary supports to people with intellectual, physical and sensory disability and-or autism.

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

314 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a two-year waiting list for orthopaedic surgery in the Cork area; her views on whether such a delay is causing undue hardship and pain to many of the 3,000 patients in Cork awaiting this type of surgery; the reasons the recommendation made by Comhairle in 1994 to appoint two extra orthopaedic surgeons to the region has not been acted on in the intervening twelve years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35691/06]

The HSE has advised me that there are approximately 2,517 patients on the outpatient orthopaedic waiting list at present. Since the 1994 Comhairle recommendations, one additional permanent consultant orthopaedic surgeon post has been approved and filled. In July 2006, negotiations were completed with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, to implement an outpatient waiting list initiative which would focus on those waiting longest on the list. The position at present is that 1306 patients on the orthopaedic outpatient waiting list have been contacted by the NTPF. Of these, 498 have accepted referral by the NTPF to another agency for review and follow up.

Computerisation Programme.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

315 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the role of information technology in the health services here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35756/06]

By any standards the HSE is a very large organisation with total staffing of around 120,000 and a budget of over €12 billion. Such an organisation cannot function without sophisticated ICT systems. These systems need to cover areas such as personnel, payroll, purchasing and accounts. I acknowledge that there has been some public concern in relation to some of these systems in the HSE and with PPARS in particular. I am anxious to improve the governance of ICT within the Health Service Executive and I have written to the Chairman asking him to ensure that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible.

Apart from these business applications ICT has the potential to make hospitals and other health service settings safer and more efficient. It also makes health services management and delivery more efficient and effective. In my view ICT alone will not achieve this but it cannot be achieved without ICT. The over-riding purpose of ICT in health care should be the bringing of information to the point where it is required to support decision making and the most effective and reliable means of collecting health information is to generate it as a by-product of other health related processes, be they clinical or administrative.

Some concerns have been expressed about the confidentiality of electronic health records but ICT can increase the privacy and confidentiality of patients records by controlling and tracking who has access to them. One of the key issues in modern health care can be the availability of key critical information to the doctor at the point of care and sophisticated ICT systems are required to provide this. I do acknowledge that developing, implementing and using electronic patient records is a slow and complex process but the benefits can be considerable, especially in terms of reducing errors and improving the quality of care.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

316 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that patients availing of outpatient services at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire who live outside the hospital’s catchment area have access to the hospital’s transportation services only one day a week, but can not be guaranteed appointments on that day and that when transportation is available a patient may have to wait up to several hours in order that all patients with appointments can be brought to or from the hospital at the same time, regardless of the length of time between each patient’s appointment; if she will take steps to address this problem in view of the hardship it is causing to these patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35103/06]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

317 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the operation for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17 was cancelled; and if they will be assisted on this matter. [35104/06]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

318 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 233 of 18 October 2006, the amount being spent on security; the location where an external security company is involved if applicable at all health service buildings here; when the first contract was entered into; and the cost of each contract on an annual basis since January 2000. [35114/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the exercise by the Health Service Executive of its functions under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information sought.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

319 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the need to roll-out a nationwide screening programme for cervical cancer; when this nationwide programme will be up and running; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35115/06] I

I wish to see the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) rolled out nationally by 2008, based on an affordable model and in line with international best practice. Significant preparatory work is well under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. An additional €9 million is available to the Executive for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll out.

I will shortly establish a National Cancer Screening Service to amalgamate BreastCheck and the ICSP to deliver both programmes nationally. This will maximise the expertise in both programmes, ensure improved efficiency and develop a single governance model for cancer screening. The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.

Care of the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

320 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the Minister of State responsible for the elderly during the Leas Cross Nursing Home crisis; and if she will clarify the situation in relation to same. [35134/06]

The Deputy may wish to know that at the time of the Leas Cross investigation I had responsibility for services for older people.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

321 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a proper care plan will be put in place for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and the action she will take regarding the two year waiting list. [35135/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

322 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the nursing home subventions and the elderly owning homes above €350,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35136/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the Nursing Homes (Subvention) (Amendment) Regulations 2005.

Under the Regulations, when considering an application for subvention, the Health Service Executive carries out a means test which takes into account the means (including assets) of the applicant and his or her spouse/cohabiting partner, where appropriate. The HSE may impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than twenty one years or in full time education or in receipt of certain social welfare pension/allowances and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Regulations provide that the HSE may refuse to pay a subvention if the value of the applicant's principal residence is in excess of €500,000 (where the residence is located in the Dublin area) or €300,000 (where the residence is located outside the Dublin area) and the applicant has an income of at least €9,000 per annum.

The Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 which is currently on its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas, is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. In addition, national guidelines on nursing home subvention are currently being developed by the HSE to ensure an even and equitable application of the regulations nationally.

The Government is currently considering new policy on Long Term Care and several principles underlying this were agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016". These principles include, for example, that there should be one standardised national needs assessment for older people needing care. The use of community and home-based care should be maximised. Sheltered housing options will be encouraged. Where residential care is required, it should be quality care and there should be appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a national standardised financial assessment. The level of support for residential care should be indifferent as to whether that care is in a public or private facility. The financial model to support any new arrangements must also be financially sustainable. The Department is currently drawing up proposals in this regard as agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016".

Pat Carey

Ceist:

323 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that will apply to the contributions which nursing home patients on pensions will have to make towards their up-keep; the statutory basis for such contributions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35143/06]

I take it the question refers to the charging of people in long stay care.

The charging for long stay care under the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005 is being implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These Regulations were signed on 14 June 2005 and reinstated charges for in-patient services and provided for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of in-patient services. The Regulations were prepared following extensive consultation with the HSE and others.

Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, (as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005) provides,inter alia, for the levying of a charge where in-patient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. In this regard, charging of patients in long-term care commenced on 14 July 2005, which was after the expiration of 30 days after the Regulations were signed. The Regulations, in keeping with Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied.

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class 2 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

The mechanism for levying and collecting charges in respect of patients in receipt of social welfare pensions and also in respect of patients who are adult dependants on the social welfare pension of their spouse, is an operational matter for the HSE.

Community Care.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

324 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved for the home care package. [35146/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

325 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of payments made under a scheme (details supplied) for the past year. [35147/06]

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

Michael Ring

Ceist:

326 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive did not respond to a question placed on 27 September 2006; and when a response will issue in this matter. [35148/06]

I have had enquiries made of the Health Service Executive and I understand that statistical information for 2005 is currently being collated in a Statistical and Analysis Booklet. It is planned that this booklet will be ready for publication within the next two weeks. Detailed statistical information as requested by the Deputy will be made available following the publication of this booklet.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

327 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive did not respond to a question placed on 27 September 2006; and when a response will issue in this matter. [35149/06]

I have had enquiries made of the Health Service Executive and I understand that a reply has issued to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

328 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive did not respond to a question placed on 27 September 2006; and when a response will issue in this matter. [35150/06]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated for distribution in a Statistical and Analysis booklet and it is planned that this booklet will be ready for publication within the next two weeks. The HSE has indicated that the information requested will be forwarded to the Deputy at that time.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

329 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive did not respond to a question placed on 27 September 2006; and when a response will issue in this matter. [35151/06]

I have had enquiries made of the Health Service Executive and I understand that this information is currently being collated for distribution in a Statistical and Analysis Booklet. It is planned that this booklet will be ready for publication within the next two weeks. The information requested by the Deputy will be made available to him at that time.

Question No. 330 answered with QuestionNo. 133.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

331 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35186/06]

The Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction was established in March 2000. Its terms of reference were: to prepare a report on the possible approaches to the regulation of all aspects of assisted human reproduction and the social, ethical and legal factors to be taken into account in determining public policy in this area.

The Commission conducted an intensive and analytical examination of AHR issues, and its conclusions derive from this wide research. Its report was prepared after twenty three meetings. It also consulted widely and sought submissions from the public. The Commission's report was published in May last year and the Government decided to refer the report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. This process was intended to allow for further consideration of the complex issues involved and the Committee's report, along with the report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, will help to inform future policy in this area.

In the meantime, I have instructed my Department to prepare a policy proposals framework, as a first step in the process of development of appropriate legislation governing Assisted Human Reproduction in Ireland.

Child Care Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

332 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when moneys will be made available for a crèche (details supplied) in County Limerick. [35201/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the newly established Office of the Minister for Children.

The Group in question was approved Capital funding under the EOCP of €710,681 in December 2004 and the Group has submitted an application for additional capital finding under the EOCP. I understand from enquiries I have made that this application for additional funding is under appraisal. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formerly known as Area Development Management Ltd., which is engaged to administer the Programme.

Following completion of the assessment, the application will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee, before a decision is made regarding funding. The Group will be informed of the outcome of the assessment in due course.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

333 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the provision of a new community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry; if there is a defined catchment area for which the hospital will cater; the timeframe and costs involved in this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35202/06]

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

Health Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

334 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Kerry currently awaiting an appointment to see an orthodontist; the steps being taken to reduce waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35203/06]

The Deputy's question regarding the way that children are assessed and deemed eligible for orthodontic treatment relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

335 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed extension of accident and emergency facilities at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35204/06]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

336 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the announcement on 29 July 2002, the number of those promised 850 beds which have been provided to date in 2006; the costs involved to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35205/06]

I am committed to putting in place additional residential places for older persons who can no longer live in their own homes. The Health Service Executive anticipates that it will have provided an additional 1,100 places for older persons by the end of this year. This includes an additional 725 places in the Dublin area and an extra 375 places throughout the rest of the country.

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

337 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding for a sexual assault treatment unit in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35206/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

338 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a new Community Hospital in Dingle, County Kerry; the timeframe and costs involved in this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35207/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

339 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in Kerry currently in possession of a full medical card; the number in possession of a doctor only medical card; the percentage of the population of Kerry in possession of both types of medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35208/06]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

340 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Kerry who have been treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund since its inception; and the number treated since 1 January 2006. [35209/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly with regard to the information requested.

Health Services.

Joe Callanan

Ceist:

341 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Health and Children the person who is the head of immunisation in the west of Ireland; the person who is the head of immunisation in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35210/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Joe Callanan

Ceist:

342 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases at High Court level initiated by staff members of the old western health board that were settled in the past five years; the general nature of these cases; the settlement made in each case; if all settlements were made without prejudice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35211/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this is a matter for the Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

343 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties currently being experienced in the delivery of orthodontic services in the Cork and Kerry region; the measures being taken to address the problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35230/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

344 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients currently awaiting orthodontic treatment in the Cork and Kerry region; the length of time that patients are waiting; the breakdown in the number of patients from Cork and Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35231/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

345 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures being taken to deal with patients currently awaiting urgent orthodontic treatment in the Cork and Kerry region; the length of time that patients are waiting; the breakdown in the number of patients from Cork and Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35232/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 343 to 345, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions regarding the way that children are assessed and deemed eligible for orthodontic treatment relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

346 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the recommendations contained in the 2004 review of the Expert Group on Domiciliary Births’ Domiciliary Births Report; if these recommendations will be implemented; if so, when; if not, the reason for same; if these recommendations will be implemented in part, the parts that will not be implemented; the reason for same; if the National Implementation Committee has been established to implement the recommendations of that report; if not, the reason for same; if so, the number of meetings it has had since its establishment; the progress made in progressing the work undertaken by the review group which carried out the aforementioned 2004 review with regard to implementing an interim national approach to the provision of home births where no established pathway of care existed; and when the draft national guidelines and procedures for dealing with home birth grant application which have been prepared will be rolled-out nationally. [35235/06]

My Department is committed to the principle of choice for women in the area of childbirth and its primary concern in planning obstetric services is the safety of the mother and child. However, having considered the report of the Domiciliary Birth Group my Department has a number of concerns about the evaluations of the Pilot Projects and has conveyed these concerns to the Health Service Executive.

The questions on implementation of the recommendations etc relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

347 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was not referred to the public orthodontic service for treatment while attending national school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35236/06]

The Deputy's questions regarding the way that children are assessed and deemed eligible for orthodontic treatment relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

348 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for implementing the recommendations contained in A Vision for Change; the way the Government plan to ensure that A Vision for Change will be fully implemented and that the necessary resources are put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35256/06]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

349 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the Government intends to ensure that the policy for mental health, A Vision for Change, will be fully implemented and that action will be taken on its recommendations by all Government Departments whose role it mentions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35264/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

365 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for implementing A Vision for Change. [35385/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

366 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the Government plans to ensure that A Vision for Change will be fully implemented, and that the necessary changes and resources are put in place to complete the recommendations. [35386/06]

Pat Carey

Ceist:

385 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the policies she has put in place to focus on mental health promotion and prevention as it is stated that one in four people here will experience a mental health problem at some time in their lives; the way her Department is ensuring that these polices are being fully implemented in the context of the Government National Policy Framework for mental health A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35620/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 348, 349, 365, 366 and 385 together.

The implementation of the recommendations in the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" will be a matter primarily for the Health Service Executive in accordance with the provisions of the Health Act, 2004.

The Report, which has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services, outlines a vision of the future for mental health services and sets out a framework for action to achieve it over the next 7-10 years. An additional €26.2 million was made available this year to the Health Service Executive for the further development of our mental health services, bringing the total revenue spend to approximately €835m in 2006.

I acknowledge that significant capital investment is required to provide and equip the proposed new mental health infrastructure. "A Vision for Change" estimates that approximately €800m will be required. However, there are substantial capital assets tied up in the existing psychiatric hospital buildings and lands which could be used productively to expand and modernise our mental health services. The Report recommends that the full economic value of such hospital buildings and lands within the mental health services be assessed and valued. The value of these assets should significantly counterbalance the projected capital cost.

In March 2006, I appointed an independent monitoring group to monitor progress on the implementation of all the recommendations in "A Vision for Change". In addition, the Health Service Executive recently established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and to guide and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality. Both of these Groups will play an important role in ensuring that the recommendations are implemented in a co-ordinated and timely manner.

"A Vision for Change" highlights the importance of mental health promotion in the prevention of mental health problems through the development of coping and problem-solving skills, help-seeking and resilience. It also recommends that mental health promotion should be available for all age groups, to enhance the protective factors and decrease risk factors for developing mental health problems. The Health Service Executive now has responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including health promotion programme development and implementation and will be guided by national policy in the development of mental health promotion programmes.

Health Service Funding.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

350 Mr. Blaney asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on increasing the allocation of moneys towards the Alzheimer Society in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35274/06]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive (HSE), which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for funding organisations and initiatives such as mentioned in the Deputy's question. Accordingly, my Department requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

351 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for assessment of primary medical certificates in Counties Westmeath, Longford, Offaly and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35275/06]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

352 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount expended on photographers by her Department for events and publicity leaflet production in her constituency and the constituency of each Minister of State of her Department in the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35288/06]

My Department has not provided any payment to photographers for constituency events or publicity leaflet production in the case of either myself or the Ministers of State at my Department. However, the following expenditure was incurred for photography services relating to official health engagements which took place in the constituencies of the Ministers of State concerned: Minister of State Lenihan — €306 in 2005; and Minister of State O'Malley — €410 in 2005.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

353 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 as a matter of priority. [35315/06]

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

Health Service Funding.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

354 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a club (details supplied) in County Dublin with funding. [35316/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

355 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or a delegation from her Department or from the Health Service Executive has met with SIPTU regarding the action plan for health services in the north east; if representatives from SIPTU are included on the steering committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35330/06]

Damien English

Ceist:

356 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children the members of the steering committee regarding the action plan for health services in the north east. [35331/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 and 356 together.

The HSE has recently established a Steering Group and a North East Project Group to oversee a programme designed to improve safety and standards across the acute hospital network in the North East Region. The decision was taken having regard to the issues raised in the report prepared for the HSE by Teamwork Management Services — "Improving Safety and Achieving Better Standards — An Action Plan for Health Services in the North East" and taking account of the findings of the recent report into the death of Mr Patrick J Walsh.

Led by the HSE's National Hospitals Office, the Steering Group has representation from key stakeholders such as clinicians and primary care providers. The Project Group is being led by a Consultant Surgeon from outside the Region.

Neither I nor my Department has met with SIPTU regarding the Action Plan for Health Services in the North East. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the specific matters raised in the Deputy's questions investigated and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Health Service Funding.

Damien English

Ceist:

357 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide additional funding for frontline groups that provide services to address violence against women such as helplines, refuges and rape crisis centres in order that they can provide assistance and services to all women seeking help; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35333/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

358 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can expect to be called for an angiogram; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35341/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

359 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children when the recommendations will be put in place in relation to the National Disability Authority’s Standards In-Care document, which was presented to her in April 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35342/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the National Standards for Disability Services (NSDS), which my Department has developed in partnership with the National Disability Authority (NDA) in consultation with people with disabilities, their families, carers, service providers, health services providers and other stakeholders. These standards are designed to ensure that services are provided to an agreed level of quality and that the level of quality is consistent on a national basis. It is proposed that the standards will apply to a range of services for people with disabilities as funded by the Health Service Executive.

The draft NSDS are being considered within the framework of the Health Services Reform Programme. A critical element in this process is the establishment of the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA). The new Health Bill currently being drafted to underpin the Health Reform Programme will include provision for the establishment of HIQA on a statutory basis. The establishment of HIQA as a key part of the architecture of planning and developing health and personal social services in Ireland will promote a continuous quality improvement ethos in the health system. The development and implementation of the NSDS is a central element of the process. Meanwhile, the draft NSDS have been forwarded to the interim HIQA for its consideration. The implementation process for the NSDS will necessarily involve an incremental process of planning, training and implementation over the coming years.

Hospital Services.

Liam Aylward

Ceist:

360 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive south to arrange an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for assessment for a hip replacement operation in Waterford regional hospital. [35343/06]

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

Community Care.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

361 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding made available by her Department to the Health Service Executive for home care packages in the Dublin catchment area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35363/06]

The Deputy will be aware that, in Budget 2006, an investment package of €150 million was announced for additional services for Older People and Palliative Care. This package included €55 million for the rolling out of 2,000 additional Home Care Packages. €30 million of this was for 2006, with the remaining €25m for 2007. Of this €30 million, a total of €3.6 million was allocated to the former Northern Area Health Board area, based on the percentage of the population aged over 65.

Home Care Packages are delivered through the HSE and consist of a mixture of grants, contracted care services, therapeutic input, equipment and other such community services as determined by a needs assessment to facilitate an older person to remain living in their own home. They vary according to the care needs of the person so that, for example, there might be a greater emphasis in some packages on home care assistance while other packages may require a greater level of therapy and nursing.

Hospital Accommodation.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

362 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the number of hospital beds available in the Dublin catchment area; the number of beds that have been identified by her Department as required to serve the population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35364/06]

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

Departmental Staff.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

363 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of employment of people either by her Department or agencies of her Department; the employment status and employee entitlements of people employed as home helps in the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35365/06]

The majority of staff employed in my Department are permanent civil servants. There are also a small number of staff attached to my Department or agencies of my Department who have been seconded in or are on contract. These staff are all specialists in their areas. My Department also has three staff on temporary six month placements under Civil Service approved work experience schemes.

Both the Non-commercial State Sponsored Bodies under the aegis of the Department and the Health Service Executive are responsible for the terms and conditions of their employees on an on-going basis. However, when appointing new employees in the Non-commercial State Sponsored Bodies, their terms and conditions of appointment are subject to Ministerial approval. In statutory instruments establishing the individual bodies, the consent of the Minister for Finance may also be required. In the case of new employees with the Health Service Executive, terms and conditions are subject to the approval of the Minister, given with the consent of the Minister for Finance as set out in Section 22 of the Health Act 2004.

The Health Service Executive have confirmed that home help staff employed by them have the same status and entitlements as all employees of the Health Service Executive.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

364 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider the inclusion of the drug Melatonin for reimbursement in the drug payment scheme in view of the fact that it is being prescribed by the medical profession to promote sleep. [35368/06]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be included on the list, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public.

Any application by a supplier to have Melatonin included on the common list will be considered in the usual way. People who experience undue financial hardship in obtaining any particular product should contact the local area office of the Health Service Executive.

Questions Nos. 365 and 366 answered with Question No. 348.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

367 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the role of a person (details supplied) appointed to the Health Service Executive; the salary of the said person; when the person took up the position with the HSE; the length of time their appointment or contract lasts for; if this position was advertised as an open competition; and the appointment process in this case. [35408/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this is a matter for the Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and my Department has been informed that a reply has already issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

368 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people working in the Health Service Executive in the west region administrative section; and the names of the people, their role and salary. [35409/06]

As this question relates to human resource management issues which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Dennehy

Ceist:

369 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the provision of orthodontic services in the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35410/06]

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 (HSE) under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John Dennehy

Ceist:

370 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the development of adult neurosurgery facilities here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35411/06]

At the request of my Department, a committee was established by the former Comhairle na nOspidéal, to review arrangements for the provision of neurosurgical services and consultant staffing nationally, and following consultation with the interests concerned, to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of neurosurgical services.

My Department has been informed that the report will be published very shortly. The future development of neurosurgery services will be considered in the light of the recommendations of the report.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

371 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a CAT Scan at University College Hospital Galway; her views on whether it is acceptable that a person who is experiencing sight failure and collapsing should have to wait over 14 months for a scan; the time delay for such appointments; the steps she is taking to address the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35431/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

372 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a renal appointment at University College Hospital Galway; the time delay for such appointments; the steps she is taking to address the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35432/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 371 and 372 together.

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

Home Help Service.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

373 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be provided with home help. [35435/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

374 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the bed capacity in hospitals (details supplied) in each year from 1999 to date in 2006. [35553/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

375 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of day surgeries taking place in hospitals (details supplied) in each year from 1999 to date in 2006. [35554/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

376 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of bed days lost due to closed or blocked beds in hospitals (details supplied) in each year from 1999 to date in 2006. [35555/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

377 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of elective admissions to public hospitals in the Dublin area in each year from 1999 to date in 2006. [35556/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 374 to 377, inclusive, together.

The questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

378 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of revenue received from private patients, distinguishing hospitals, in each year since 1999 to date in 2006. [35557/06]

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

Nursing Homes.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

379 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the nursing home capacity in each year since 1999 to date in 2006; and if a census of nursing home capacity is available. [35558/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

380 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in arranging to have a person (details supplied) in County Cork admitted to a hospital in County Cork for surgery. [35582/06]

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

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

381 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange an out-patient appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [35583/06]

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

Hospital Staff.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

382 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a crisis situation developing within the ENT section in Mayo; if funding will be made available in order that the position of head and neck surgeon and otolaryngologist can be advertised and prevent an ENT clinic in Mayo General Hospital being cancelled and extending the long waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35584/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

383 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an out-patient appointment in Galway. [35601/06]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

384 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be notified of the decision in relation to their application for the mobility allowance. [35602/06]

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

Question No. 385 answered with QuestionNo. 348.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

386 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths and rate by 100,000 by suicide in the Health Service Executive Regional areas for each of the years 2002 to 2005. [35621/06]

The responsibility for classifying deaths in Ireland rests with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). They consult with a number of sources before making the classification of cause of death.

As the CSO collect data on a county basis, it is not possible to provide a breakdown on a Health Service Executive regional area basis. According to figures provided by the Central Statistics Office the number of suicides by county and average annual suicide rate per 100,000 population is as follows:

Deaths by suicide & average suicide rate per 100,000 population classified by county of residence of deceased

County

2002

Rate

2003

Rate

2004

Rate

2005

Rate

Carlow

3

0.08

6

0.15

6

0.15

8

0.19

Dublin

103

2.64

107

2.69

104

2.58

101

2.44

Kildare

21

0.54

13

0.33

13

0.32

19

0.46

Kilkenny

11

0.28

13

0.33

10

0.25

7

0.17

Laois

6

0.15

3

0.08

3

0.07

6

0.15

Longford

4

0.10

2

0.05

5

0.12

4

0.10

Louth

14

0.36

14

0.35

12

0.30

7

0.17

Meath

19

0.49

16

0.40

24

0.59

13

0.31

Offaly

11

0.28

11

0.28

12

0.30

8

0.19

Westmeath

6

0.15

9

0.23

7

0.17

12

0.29

Wexford

17

0.43

22

0.55

11

0.27

13

0.31

Wicklow

15

0.38

15

0.38

12

0.30

17

0.41

Clare

16

0.41

15

0.38

14

0.35

15

0.36

Cork

62

1.58

80

2.01

69

1.71

53

1.28

Kerry

13

0.33

19

0.48

21

0.52

12

0.29

Limerick

30

0.76

28

0.70

25

0.62

16

0.39

Tipperary

22

0.56

25

0.63

17

0.42

23

0.55

Waterford

12

0.30

14

0.36

16

0.40

13

0.32

Galway

26

0.67

26

0.66

15

0.37

26

0.63

Leitrim

7

0.18

0

0

4

0.10

6

0.15

Mayo

18

0.46

12

0.30

11

0.27

11

0.27

Roscommon

4

0.10

3

0.08

1

0.02

5

0.12

Sligo

4

0.10

7

0.18

10

0.25

3

0.07

Cavan

10

0.26

5

0.13

9

0.22

11

0.27

Donegal

20

0.51

19

0.48

18

0.45

12

0.29

Monaghan

4

0.10

13

0.33

8

0.20

10

0.24

Total

478

12.20

497

12.49

457

11.30

431

10.43

Note: The figures provided for 2004 and 2005 are by ‘year of registration' and are therefore provisional.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

387 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason, after six years of transport being provided on two days a week to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, the transport provision has now ceased in view of the fact that it gave this person a chance to attend day care facilities which allowed them to meet with their peers and improve the qualify of their life; when she expects their transport to be restored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35651/06]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

388 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who have been waiting longer than a year for an operation or appointment and who have yet to receive a letter of confirmation that they have been put on the national treatment purchase fund scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35652/06]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the national treatment purchase fund, NTPF, my Department has asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Health Services.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

389 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a requirement on a member of the applicant’s family (details supplied) to supply certain information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35670/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme, enquiries relating to the scheme are referred to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. My Department has asked the HSE to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Eating Disorders.

Dan Wallace

Ceist:

390 Mr. D. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will outline the immediate steps being taken to address the shortfall in public services available to people with eating disorders. [35671/06]

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

Foster Care.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

391 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of social workers or link workers employed in the foster care sections for the Health Service Executive dealing with County Kildare; if there are vacancies in regard to the accepted number required to deal with the number of children in care; the ratio of social workers to the number of children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35680/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

393 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of agencies employed by the Health Service Executive to deal with foster parenting in the Kildare area for the past three years; the number of children that are cared for by this system of care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35682/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

394 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the cost of employment of an agency to deal with foster parenting is greater than if the foster parenting was organised by the Health Service Executive; the cost invested to the HSE in regard to the use of agencies for foster parenting for each of the past three years for the Kildare area; the cost for the HSE in regard to its own organisation of foster parenting for the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35683/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

397 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in foster care within the Kildare section of the Health Service Executive for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35686/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 391, 393, 394 and 397 together.

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

Jack Wall

Ceist:

392 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the location where agencies are employed to deal with foster parenting by the Health Service Executive; if the social or link worker attached to each child is remunerated by the HSE or if the charge for the care of the child is inclusive of the payment of the social worker made by the agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35681/06]

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

Questions Nos. 393 and 394 answered with Question No. 391.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

395 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that all of the guidelines and directives contained in the national standards for foster care are being implemented; the cost to her Department of foster parenting in each of the past three years; the number of children in foster parenting in all of the Health Service Executive regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35684/06]

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

Jack Wall

Ceist:

396 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the facilities which constitute proper access for children in foster parenting to meet with their parents; if such access is always supervised by a member of the Health Service Executive or agency dealing with the child; if there is an age limit on such supervised access meetings or if such meetings can be held without supervision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35685/06]

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

Question No. 397 answered with QuestionNo. 391.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

398 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the removal of the county boundaries that were means of designation for health services in the old health board system due to the fact that these boundaries are now a cause of concern to many people seeking health services that are available in certain areas and not others; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35687/06]

Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, the provision of health services and the internal structures of how these services are delivered is a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

399 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the standard ward units in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35697/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

400 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the acute psychiatric unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35698/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

401 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the medical assessment unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35699/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

402 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the operating department in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35700/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

403 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the pathology department in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35701/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

404 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the day services unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35702/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

405 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the palliative care unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar. [35703/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

406 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the coronary care unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35704/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

407 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the Intensive care unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35705/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

408 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the medicine for the elderly rehabilitation unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35706/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

409 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the child and adolescent psychiatry unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35707/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

410 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the catering department in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35708/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

411 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the occupational therapy unit in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35709/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

412 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the central staff change area in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35710/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

413 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the office accommodation in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35711/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

414 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the waste collection depot in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35712/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

415 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the line collection and distribution area in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar. [35713/06]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

416 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will commence, and work will be completed on the maintenance and equipment area in phase 2B of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35714/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 399 to 416, inclusive, together.

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

417 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of orthodontists currently available to deal with children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35723/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

418 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children currently awaiting orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35724/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 417 and 418 together.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

419 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which it is intended to upgrade the various health centres throughout County Kildare in accordance with requirements of increased population and modern demands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35725/06]

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

Hospital Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

420 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which the number of nurses currently in training is expected to be adequate to meet future requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35727/06]

Ensuring an adequate supply of nurses and midwives has been a concern of this Government for some time, and a number of substantial measures have been introduced in recent years. The annual number of undergraduate nursing training places has been increased by 94% since 1998 to 1,880 places from 2006 onwards. There are over 6,000 students in the system at any one time. Revenue funding for the undergraduate training programme is €115m per annum and the Government has provided €250m capital funding since 2002 to build thirteen new schools of nursing. The first cohort of students from the new four year degree programme graduated and registered as nurses earlier this year.

The measures to increase the domestic supply of nurses and midwives are vital to ensuring we have an adequate workforce to meet the needs of the health service going forward. It is expected that the nursing students funded by the Government will meet much of the demand for nurses in coming years. The Government has been successful in recruiting an additional 10,200 nurses (whole time equivalents) into the public health service over the last nine years. It is the responsibility of the HSE to effectively manage the nursing resource. In addition to training additional nurses it is also important that work systems are constantly monitored and adapted to ensure the best outcomes for patients. The increased use of health care assistants and better skill mix will help to ensure that our nursing care teams will continue to be able to deal with the growing demands on the health service. It has to be recognised that health professionals operate within a global labour market and that careers in the Irish public health service will also prove attractive to overseas nurses from EU and non-EU countries alike.

I am confident that the extensive range of measures to increase the domestic supply of nurses together with the more effective utilisation of the professional skills of nurses and midwives and the recruitment of overseas nurses, in addition to close monitoring and assessment of the situation on an ongoing basis, will continue to prove effective in addressing the nursing workforce needs of the health services.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

421 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which tuberculosis or other respiratory patients who previously dealt with Peamount Hospital are currently receiving treatment elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35728/06]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

422 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way it is intended to effectively respond to the needs of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; the way it is intended to respond to the needs of such children now and in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35729/06]

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

Infectious Diseases.