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 5, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 6 to 43, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 44 to 51, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Staff.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

52 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff dealing with aquaculture licence applications in Clonakilty; and the number in this section previously who have relocated. [27135/07]

There are currently 15 staff dealing with aquaculture licensing within my Department. This does not take into account work-sharing activities.

One member of staff previously working in this area has transferred to the Clonakilty Office.

Native Livestock Breeds.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

53 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the assistance available from her Department to assist the increase in numbers of native rare breeds of cattle and sheep. [27094/07]

My Department is very aware of the need to conserve native rare breeds of cattle and sheep and actively participates in conservation programmes at National, EU and International levels. Conservation of rare breeds of farm animals is crucial in achieving sustainability of livestock production.

My Department supports on-farm conservation of genetics resources in a number of ways.

The REPS 4 Scheme contains a voluntary Supplementary Measure which rewards farmers who keep native cattle and sheep breeds (Cattle — Kerry, Irish Moiled, Dexter; Sheep — Galway). A payment of €234 per livestock unit is paid to farmers under the scheme.

My Department also operates the Kerry Cattle Preservation Grant Scheme, whereby a grant of €76 is paid per live eligible calf. The objective of the scheme is to encourage the maintenance and development of Kerry Cattle in Ireland.

National conservation of endangered genetic resources is also supported in other ways. Approximately €200,000 of Exchequer funding has been allocated to projects that assist with the conservation of Kerry cattle and Galway sheep. Examples of this work includes the collection of semen from Kerry bulls and Galway rams, the development of websites for the Galway and Kerry Cattle breed societies (to provide information and increase awareness of the breeds), and the development of a long-term conservation strategy for Kerry Cattle and Galway Sheep. More recently, funding has been provided for the collection of semen from Irish Moiled bulls.

Ireland has also availed of funding from two EU Programmes to assist with the conservation of genetic resources — the 1994 and 2004 programmes. Under the most recent programme my Department secured approximately €20,000 to assist in the development of a national inventory of animal genetic resources. This web-based database contains important population and breed data on all of Ireland's domestic animal genetic resources, including native cattle and sheep breeds.

Internationally my Department also participates in conservation activities for animal genetic resources, particularly through the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In September 2007 Ireland, along with 109 countries, adopted a Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, the first internationally agreed framework to halt the erosion of livestock diversity and support the sustainable use, development and conservation of animal genetic resources. Development of national conservation policies to preserve our native animal breeds will take full cognisance of the policies in this Global Plan.

Animal Vaccination Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

54 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she proposes to introduce a national plan for vaccination against bluetongue; if so, the proposed arrangements for administering the vaccine; and the costs involved. [27051/07]

The bluetongue virus (serotype 8), which emerged in northern Europe in 2006, re-emerged this year and, in September, an outbreak of the disease was confirmed in Britain for the very first time. Cases of the serotype 8 strain have now been confirmed in nine European countries.

Since the disease was first confirmed in August 2006, my Department has been developing contingency arrangements, in the first instance, to minimise the possible introduction of the disease to Ireland and, secondly, to deal with an outbreak in this country. In both regards my Department is working very closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland in the development of an all-island approach.

As part of my Department's contingency arrangements, we have produced a comprehensive Bluetongue Contingency Plan for Ireland. My Department's contingency arrangements are kept under constant review and revised as appropriate by reference to the developing disease situation or in the light of legal or other developments, particularly at EU level.

In terms of minimising the risk of the disease being introduced to Ireland, my Department has had in place a ban on the importation of live susceptible animals from bluetongue-restricted areas in Europe. Since 1 November, however, a new Commission Regulation allows for the possibility of movement of susceptible animals from bluetongue-restricted areas under defined conditions that are detailed in the Regulation. However, imports of such animals from Great Britain remain banned under FMD-related measures.

My Department has advised importers of live animals to assess carefully the risks involved in importing animals from bluetongue-restricted areas and to import animals from such areas only where absolutely necessary. My Department is also finalising a risk analysis on other possible routes of introduction of the disease. Arising from that risk analysis, I will consider whether any additional mitigating controls ought to be put in place.

As regards vaccination, there is no vaccine yet available for the particular strain of the disease that is present in Britain and across northern Europe. Three pharmaceutical companies are currently involved in the development of an inactivated vaccine. I understand that such a vaccine may become available by the summer of 2008 though, even then, there will be production issues and a huge demand for the vaccine given the cattle and sheep populations of the countries affected to date.

My Department has been in contact with the three companies involved in relation to the timeframe for the availability of a vaccine and the provision of an adequate supply to ensure that we can put in place a comprehensive and effective vaccination programme. The logistical arrangements associated with securing and administering the vaccine are currently being actively considered within my Department. In the absence, to date, of a vaccine, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible, at this stage, to predict what the cost of the vaccine or of a comprehensive vaccination programme will be.

Furthermore, my Department is actively involved with the European Commission and the other Member States in relation to the possibility of developing an overall Community-wide vaccination strategy. The Commission has scheduled a bluetongue symposium to be held in Brussels on 16th January 2008 and, in preparation for that, the first in a series of working group meetings took place yesterday, at which my Department was represented.

I have also discussed the current disease situation in continental Europe and in Britain with my colleagues in the European Agriculture Council and have also discussed it, and will again later this week, with Minister Gildernew, in the context of the development and maintenance of an all-island approach. Indeed, at the September Agricultural Council, a number of Ministers called on the Commission to develop a bluetongue control strategy and I strongly support this approach.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

55 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date and agenda of her last meeting with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27065/07]

I met the Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 11 September 2007. We discussed the importance of ensuring compliance with food labelling requirements especially in relation to the country of origin to beef sold in the retail and catering sector.

My Department is in regular contact with the FSAI. We established the Food Safety Liaison Unit in my Department in 2001 to coordinate the relationship between the various line Divisions in the Department and the Authority. A high level Steering Group which is jointly chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and the Chief Executive of the FSAI meets twice a year to oversee the working arrangements between the Department and the Authority, the last such meeting took place on 5th October 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

56 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the situation regarding the proposed relocation of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to Clonakilty. [27133/07]

Under the Government Decentralisation Programme the Fisheries Divisions of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as an Bord Iascaigh Mhara are to be co-located in Clonakilty. The Department opened an interim decentralised office in Clonakilty in July 2006 and there are currently 80 civil servants from the fisheries Division of the Department working in that office.

In addition, some of the former staff of the fisheries divisions of the Department now work in the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, which was established on the 1st January 2007. There are 28 public servants working in the Clonakilty headquarters of the Authority at present. To date none of the (90) posts due to relocate to Clonakilty have moved, pending resolution of a range of matters that have arisen in the context of the decentralisation of the State Agencies.

The Minister for Finance has asked his Department to engage at central level with the unions representing staff in State Agencies on the full range of industrial relations issues relating to the decentralisation of State Agencies. Once the central issues are resolved, meaningful negotiations can occur with BIM staff and Trade Unions towards implementing the decentralisation of BIM's Head Office to Clonakilty.

A contract has been placed by OPW in August of this year for the construction of the new decentralized offices for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and BIM. Construction commenced in September 2007 with an anticipated construction period of eighteen months.

Afforestation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

57 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will honour her pre-election commitment to the forestry sector on re-afforestation after harvesting. [27093/07]

My Department has completed a comprehensive review of the Forestry Act 1946 and draft Heads of a new Forestry Bill have been prepared. The proposed legislation will address many of the issues raised during the extensive consultation process undertaken by my Department. As I stated in May, allowing a change of land use in certain limited circumstances will be one such issue.

In drawing up the new Bill it is proposed to take a more flexible approach regarding the question of replanting after harvesting. The general principle of replanting after felling will remain in order to ensure that the national forest estate is not progressively eliminated. The draft Scheme of the new Forestry Bill will be submitted to Government shortly for approval to send to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

58 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the decision by the European Union to award $114 million to help Argentina with its animal health and phytosanitary regime in order that it can develop its exports to Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27080/07]

I am not in a position to confirm the details set out by the Deputy. I am seeking information from the European Commission, which is responsible for EU bilateral aid agreements, and I will issue a detailed response in writing when I have more information.

Plant Protection Products.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

59 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the decision by the European Parliament on the regulation of plant protection products which will have devastating consequences for yields and income in tillage farming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27085/07]

I am aware of the position recently adopted by the European Parliament regarding the proposed legislation on the marketing and use of Plant Protection Products.

This area is subject to Co-decision procedures and, while the EU Parliament has adopted a position, Council has not yet completed a first reading of the legislative texts concerned. Consequently there is no agreed EU position at this time.

My Department is actively participating in the discussions at Council, and is acutely aware of the possible negative consequences for Irish farming of the EU Parliament's agreed position.

We are negotiating to ensure:

that any additional controls proposed are justified,

that any use restrictions are based on scientifically valid risk assessments and

that environmentally sensitive agricultural production is sustainable.

Meat Imports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

60 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps she has taken to ensure that all meat imports into this country from whatever source comply with national and European standards in regard to husbandry, processing and hygiene; if all traceability standards have been complied with; if she intends taking further initiatives in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27114/07]

Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that Member States must apply to the production of and trade in products of animal origin as well as to imports of these products from third countries.

It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, Member States. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU.

My Department has responsibility for the operation of public and animal health control in the area of third country import of food of animal origin, including meat. These are carried out in co-operation with Customs Service. Import control forms a part of the EU's integrated policy of guaranteeing that the food produced and placed on to the market is safe and that animal and public health is not put at risk. They are a part of the EU's hygiene package the implementation and monitoring of which is carried out by the relevant competent agencies under Service Contracts by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland since 1999.

The EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out inspections to ensure that only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If outbreaks of animal diseases occur in a third country, approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country, or the whole country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.

I have consistently pointed out at EU level that produce imported from third countries must meet standards equivalent to those required of Community producers. In this context I have been in regular contact with the EU Commissioner for Health, Mr. Markos Kyprianou. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market, represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

I should add that in WTO discussions in the Council, I have always emphasized the need to take account of the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations.

International Agreements.

James Reilly

Ceist:

61 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the international diplomatic and political initiatives planned to bring about a synchronisation of the regulatory and approval mechanisms of the US FDA, the EFSA and the FSAI. [27131/07]

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed an agreement, last July, designed to facilitate the sharing of information in relation to food safety. This marks the first formal step to promote cooperation between the two agencies aimed at facilitating the sharing of scientific information and setting the tone for future cooperation. It is hoped that the difficulties associated with the lack of synchronization in the GM authorization processes between the EU and the US can be addressed as part of this agreement.

Food Safety Standards.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

62 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will demand the publication of the report of the EU Food and Veterinary Office’s visit to Brazil in March 2007, and that there be an independent observer included in the party for the next EU visit to Brazil. [27084/07]

I would welcome the publication of this report at the earliest possible date. However it is important to note that the FVO have procedures which can involve protracted correspondence on their draft report with the national authorities in the Member State or Third country concerned. The time taken for the publication of this report is above the average but there are instances where up to 8 months elapsed between the FVO mission and the date of publication of the final report.

The Food and Veterinary Office is part of the EU Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection. It conducts missions to Member States and third countries to check on compliance with the requirements of EU food safety and quality, animal health and welfare and plant health within the EU and on compliance with EU import requirements in third countries. The Commission report on their findings to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. I would remind the Deputy again that the Commissioner has personally assured me that he will not hesitate to take appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country represents a risk for the health of EU consumers, livestock or plants.

Animal Vaccination Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

63 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she is taking steps to obtain a priority supply of vaccines against bluetongue in view of Ireland’s dependence on agriculture; and the discussions that have taken place on an all Ireland basis with a view to an island wide vaccination scheme. [27052/07]

There is, currently, no vaccine yet available for the particular strain of the disease (serotype 8) that is present in Britain and across northern Europe. Three pharmaceutical companies are currently involved in the development of an inactivated vaccine. I understand that such a vaccine may become available by the summer of 2008 though, even then, there will be production issues and a huge demand for the vaccine given the cattle and sheep populations of the countries affected to date.

My Department has been in contact with the three companies involved in relation to the timeframe for the availability of a vaccine and the provision of an adequate supply to ensure that we can put in place a comprehensive and effective vaccination programme. The logistical arrangements associated with securing and administering the vaccine are currently being actively considered within my Department. In the absence, to date, of a vaccine, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible, at this stage, to predict what the cost of the vaccine or of a comprehensive vaccination programme will be.

Furthermore, my Department is actively involved with the European Commission and the other Member States in relation to the possibility of developing an overall Community-wide vaccination strategy. The Commission has scheduled a bluetongue symposium to be held in Brussels on 16th January 2008 and, in preparation for that, the first in a series of working group meetings took place yesterday, at which my Department was represented.

I have also discussed the current disease situation in continental Europe and in Britain with my colleagues in the European Agriculture Council and have also discussed it, and will again later this week, with Minister Gildernew, in the context of the development and maintenance of an all-island approach. Indeed, at the September Agricultural Council, a number of Ministers called on the Commission to develop a bluetongue control strategy and I strongly support this approach.

Apart from the political contacts, my officials are in regular contact with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland in the context of maintaining an all-island approach to the threat posed by the spread of the disease, particularly following the recent outbreaks in Britain.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

64 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of expected milk quota increases of 3% for 2008 and the eventual abolition of quotas, she will take initiatives to ensure the viability of the maximum number of family dairy farms. [27090/07]

Ensuring the viability of the maximum number of family dairy farms means improving efficiency and competitiveness right across the sector, at both producer and processor level, at a time of increasing exposure to global market forces.

At producer level, greater efficiency and competitiveness can only be achieved through the attainment of increased economies of scale and the reduction of costs. This quite simply means getting more milk quota into the hands of active, committed dairy farmers. The Report of the Agri Vision 2015 Committee highlighted the need for greater flexibility in the movement of quota from those exiting milk production to those who needed to expand in order to maintain viability and withstand competitive pressures. I acted on this at the end of last year by bringing a more open-market approach to the transfer of quotas through the introduction of a new Milk Quota Trading Scheme.

Replacing the old Restructuring Scheme, the new Trading Scheme has been responsible in its first year for the transfer of 200 million litres of quota, and we have seen that much greater volumes of quota have made their way into the hands of active milk producers than would ever have been possible under the Restructuring Scheme. The Trading Scheme is currently under way in respect of the 2008/2009 milk quota year, and my intention is to continue to build on its success to the maximum extent possible.

From a processing perspective, in April of this year I announced details of 19 capital investment projects that were awarded Government grant assistance of over €114 million under the Dairy Investment Fund, which will in turn generate an overall spend of nearly €300 million in the sector. I am confident that this will assist in particular the production of added value products and the delivery of cost efficiency programmes, which will in turn help to achieve my objective of developing a modern, competitive food sector in Ireland, as envisaged in the Agri Vision 2015 Action Plan.

Departmental Bodies.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

65 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of people employed by An Bord Bia; the location and roles of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24839/07]

An Bord Bia currently has a staff complement of 92 people of which some 72 are based in headquarters and the remainder located in eight overseas offices, mainly in Europe but also in the US and Russia. The role of Bord Bia, which is fulfilled by its staff, is to provide market development, promotion and information services to the Irish food, drink and horticulture industry.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

66 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applications for the farm improvement scheme for 2007; the time-frame in which she expects these applications to be expedited; and if the programme will continue in 2008. [27087/07]

The Farm Improvement Scheme was introduced by my Department in July 2007 and funding of €79 million for the Scheme was agreed under the Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, as part of an overall programme of investment in the agri-food sector.

I announced last week that as applications had reached the level of funding available for the Scheme, the Scheme was closed to new applications for now. Over 12,600 applications were received up to the closing date of the Scheme and my Department will process these applications up to the level of funding available. Payment of grant-aid will issue in respect of all approved projects in due course when the work involved has been completed and I expect that a substantial number of payments will therefore issue to farmers under the Scheme in 2008.

Food Labelling.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

67 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on introducing legislation that will empower An Bord Bia to visit food production plants to enforce labelling. [27071/07]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which comes within the remit of the Department of Health and Children has overall responsibility for the enforcement of all food legislation including food labelling in Ireland. It would not be appropriate for a promotional agency such as Bord Bia to undertake statutory enforcement responsibilities.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

68 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to address the anomalies in the REP scheme where commonage land does not qualify for the mixed grazing supplementary top-up of €1000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27082/07]

Commonage land must be farmed to the farming conditions set out in the relevant Commonage Framework Plan and attracts an enhanced payment rate of €282 per hectare on up to 40 hectares in REPS 4.

The mixed grazing supplementary measure is available to farmers who engage in a mixed cattle/sheep livestock farm enterprise in which at least 20% of the livestock units (on average) grazing the holding must be made up of the second livestock type. The livestock must graze the same sward either together or in a leader–follower grazing system.

It is not possible to undertake this measure on land which is not under the sole control of the farmer, which excludes commonage. A farmer with commonage and non-commonage land may however apply for the measure on his or her non-commonage land.

Sheep Sector.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

69 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the recent FAPRI analysis stating that sheep production here will decline by 14% between 2006 to 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27075/07]

I am aware of the recent FAPRI analysis concerning projected sheep production between now and 2016. The Deputy will be aware that likely production and market trends were taken into account in the Sheep Strategy Report of 2006 and its subsequent Implementation Report that I received last April. The Implementation Report sets out a number of measures to improve the performance of the sector and to ensure that we remain competitive on export markets. Whereas most of the recommendations fall to the industry itself to implement, my Department is providing assistance in a number of areas including sheep breeding, processing facilities and quality assurance. Teagasc is also providing support to the sector through technology evaluation and transfer.

Sheep farmers are also eligible for various schemes operated by my Department. A new supplementary measure aimed at sheep farmers has been introduced under REPS 4. A budget of €28 million per annum has been allocated to fund the new measure at an overall cost of €170 million up to 2013. The sheep sector is also the beneficiary of on-going work to promote Irish lamb on home and export markets, which is undertaken by Bord Bia.

The implementation of the Sheep Strategy Report and the other measures outlined above will provide a sound basis for the future development of the sector.

Fish Exports.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

70 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the quantity of fish caught in Irish waters and exported in an unprocessed state; and the proposals to increase onshore processing. [27134/07]

The total landings of fish into Irish ports by Irish vessels amounted to 190,253 tonnes in 2006. The estimated quantity exported in an unprocessed state, including high value whitefish and some shellfish which command their highest value in fresh form, amounted to some 36,000 tonnes.

The Report of the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group —Steering A New Course — Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007 -2013 sets out a range of measures to deliver a restructured seafood processing sector with appropriate scale and operational efficiency to compete in the international market. The strategy focuses on R&D and value-added development to meet customer demands and take advantage of new market opportunities. The Government is committed to the efficient and effective implementation of this strategy and an Implementation Committee has been established under the independent chair of Dr Noel Cawley and comprising industry representatives, State Agencies and the Department to oversee its implementation..

Fisheries Protection.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

71 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to deal with the high level of fish being discarded and bycatch being dumped; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27132/07]

The issue of high levels of discards in commercial sea fisheries is a global problem and is on the agenda of all major international organisations who deal with the development of sustainable sea fisheries and protection of marine ecosystems.

At a European level, Community legislation allows the discarding of fish in certain circumstances. Fish discards are a complex problem and are a feature of most fisheries particularly in mixed fisheries such as those which prevail in Irish waters. Fish are discarded mainly because they are not the target species, are undersized, are not a commercially viable catch or are over quota.

Ireland has been to the forefront in pressing for action on this issue at European level. The Irish Presidency in 2004, chose as its theme in relation to the fishing sector "fast tracking the development of environmentally friendly fishing methods" as its key focus. A major international conference was held in Dundalk involving EU member states, Norway and Iceland with the key focus on how to reduce discards in commercial fisheries.

Following further consideration, a Commission Communication on "a policy to reduce unwanted by-catches and discards in European fisheries" was presented to Council in June 2007. The Council adapted a range of conclusions on the Commission proposal and these will determine the agenda at European level on this issue for the immediate future.

I will continue to press for progress on this issue and am confident that significant improvements can be achieved in this area. The current Programme for Government commits to increasing supports to assist fishermen make the change over to more environmentally friendly fishing gear, and I am confident that this will assist in reducing the incidence of discarding in key fisheries.

Decentralisation Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

72 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her Department’s decentralisation programme is on target. [27095/07]

The Government decision on the decentralisation of my Department is that the headquarters will move to Portlaoise, involving some 600 staff; the local offices in Cork city will move to Fermoy, involving up to 100 staff; and the laboratories in Cork and Limerick will move to Macroom, again involving up to 100 staff.

The Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan allowed for a phased movement to Portlaoise, i.e. the transfer of functions and posts over a number of years. The 2005 and 2006 phases of decentralisation to Portlaoise are now complete and the 2007 phase is in progress. Also, to facilitate the Government decision on decentralisation all new activities within the Department, particularly work relating to the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), are being focused in Portlaoise. In total there has been an increase of some 200 full-time posts in Portlaoise to some 400 since early 2004. Therefore, to date, the decentralisation of my Department is ahead of schedule.

The original estimate for completion of my Department's new headquarters in Portlaoise was 2008. As the OPW has revised this estimate to the end of 2009, an additional advance move of staff is now being prepared for 2008. When the 2008 phase is complete it is envisaged that, in advance of the final move, up to 50% of the original target will be in Portlaoise.

Implementation plans for Fermoy and Macroom are in place and the Department is liaising with the OPW regarding specifications for the offices and identification of sites. The recruitment process for Fermoy has begun.

EU Regulations.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

73 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on removing the deadline imposed on farmers for slurry spreading in view of the fact that the changing climate is having a detrimental effect on this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27078/07]

The prohibited periods for the spreading of fertilizers are set down in the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Waters) Regulations 2006, made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The objective of the Regulations is to provide statutory support for good farming practices to protect waters from potential pollution from agricultural sources. The prohibited periods vary slightly depending on the type of fertilizer in question and the part of the country, or zone, in which a holding is located.

The zones and prohibited periods are based on scientific research and advice, taking account of factors such as growing seasons, climate and Irish farming systems. These issues were finalised following wide-ranging consultation with interested parties and submitted to the European Commission by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government as part of Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme in 2005.

Farm Consolidation.

James Reilly

Ceist:

74 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to facilitate farm consolidation. [27130/07]

The Government has a number of incentives in place that encourage greater levels of land mobility and farm consolidation. These include:

An Early Retirement Scheme pension of up to €15,000 for a period of up to 10 years on farms transferred by gift, sale or lease.

An installation aid grant of €15,000 for young trained farmers.

Capital Gains Tax — Retirement Relief for farmers over 55 years.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €15,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 7 years or more.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €12,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 5 to 7 years.

A 90% Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

The provision of full Stamp Duty relief for young trained farmers.

Stamp Duty relief for land swap for the purpose of farm consolidation between two farmers.

Budget 2007 included a number of provisions to further encourage land mobility and farm consolidation. The measures include a third rental income exemption threshold of €20,000 for leases of 10 years or over; stamp duty relief for farm consolidation where only one farmer is consolidating his holding; and a provision whereby farmers who are leasing out land can still, subject to certain conditions, qualify for Capital Gains Tax retirement relief. With regard to Stamp Duty, further reform by way of relief for land swap for the purpose of farm consolidation, which would facilitate consolidation between more than two farmers, is awaiting EU State Aid approval.

All these measures help to improve land mobility through early farm transfer or by encouraging greater levels of leasing, land swaps or farm consolidation.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

75 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress of applications for derogations under the Nitrates Directive above the 170kg/N. [27076/07]

Some 5,450 applications for derogations in respect of 2007 have been received by my Department. Applications are currently being processed and all applicants will be informed of the outcome of their applications in writing in due course.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

76 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will organise a national debate on the commitments in the Programme for Government on establishing a genetically modified free island. [27097/07]

I am currently engaged in discussions with my Cabinet colleagues on how best the commitment in the Programme for Government to seek to negotiate the establishment of an all Ireland GM free zone can be effected. I will of course be eliciting the views of all stakeholders directly involved in the agricultural and food sectors.

Horticulture Industry.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

77 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has plans to encourage the growth of new crops such as grass, soybean and grapes for winemaking in view of the fact that many of the staple fruit and vegetable crops here are under threat due to the warming climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27073/07]

My Department monitors ongoing research on climate change and its likely impact on Irish Agriculture. It is represented on the inter-Departmental team established to oversee implementation of the National Climate Change Strategy.

There is no evidence to suggest that there is any major threat to our staple fruit and vegetable crops here due to the warming climate at this time. Indeed the impact on horticulture crops generally is likely to be positive in the short to medium term.

There are no plans to encourage the growth of new crops such as grasses, soyabeans or grapes. However, research is ongoing to identify possible new crops and varieties of existing crops which might be suited to drier and warmer conditions.

Farmers’ Markets.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

78 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the growth of the slow food movement, she will encourage through her Department the growing awareness of this movement and support local producers to sell within local markets. [27074/07]

This Government is committed to supporting local and regional food and both Towards 2016 and my Department's Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan include measures in this regard.

Bord Bia, which operates under the aegis of my Department has worked closely with other State and local agencies to exploit the growing opportunities for markets, providing a guide to farmers markets, advice and mentoring assistance.

A comprehensive "Guide to Selling Through Farmers' Markets, Farm Shops and Box Schemes in Ireland" will be launched this month to assist local producers wishing to sell their produce in the local area.

I believe it is crucial to raise general awareness of the local concept. In that regard my Department in co-operation with Bord Bia organised a series of regional food fora which took place over an eighteen month period from late 2005 to early 2007. These events brought together regional, speciality and artisan producers along with relevant state agencies. The aim was to increase awareness of emerging market opportunities and encourage best practice in developing regional and local excellence in food. It also provided a forum for these producers to raise issues of particular concern.

As a follow up to the regional food fora my Department in conjunction with Bord Bia is holding a conference on the topic of Local Food, exploring the opportunities, in Mullingar on the 13th November at which my colleague Trevor Sargent will be presiding. This event aims to raise awareness of local food and to highlight the benefits of local food initiatives for both the consumer and the producer. It will also provide relevant information and support for those involved in local food production.

Grant Payments.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

79 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the tight deadline for REP scheme four applicants; when first payments under this scheme will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27129/07]

Farmers may apply to join the REPS 4 scheme at any time of the year by submitting an application and farm plan to my Department's Local AES Office. I have recently introduced more flexible rules for farmers in REPS 3 who may wish to transform to REPS 4 before finishing their five-year contracts in REPS 3. Previously, such farmers would have had to get their REPS 4 applications in before their anniversary dates, but they now have two months after the anniversary to do so.

While farmers may continue to apply to join REPS at any time of the year, changes in EU regulations which take effect in January 2008 will mean that applications for payment under the Scheme must be made within the same period allowed for the submission of the Single Payment Scheme application. In practical terms this means that first-time applicants for REPS will need to submit their REPS 4 plans before the Single Payment application deadline to ensure that they get their first REPS payment within the same calendar year. First-time REPS applications received after the closing date for SPS applications will be given a REPS commencement date in the normal way but the first REPS payment backdated to that commencement date will not issue until the following calendar year. Second and subsequent payments under REPS will not be affected and payment will issue in the normal course. These changes will have no impact on farmers remaining in REPS 3.

Applications for REPS 4 are already being processed and I expect the first payments to be made shortly.

Horticulture Industry.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

80 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the mushroom growers who have received investment aid under the scheme of investment aid for the development of commercial horticulture since the scheme started here. [27079/07]

Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, my Department operated a grant aid scheme for the development of the commercial horticulture including the mushroom sector. Over the period 2000-2006 a total of €5.011m was paid to 190 mushroom growers. The following schedule shows the breakdown per year to mushroom growers for the period of National Development Plan 2000-2006.

Year

No. of growers

Amount of grant paid

€m

2001/2002

66

0.834

2003

43

0.567

2004

30

1.137

2005

31

1.433

2006

20

1.040

Totals

190

5.011

Potato Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

81 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to launch an initiative to support the International Year of the Potato by the UN in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27081/07]

Details of support for the International Year of the Potato (IYP) were announced by my colleague Minister Sargent on 18 October. My Department will provide significant funding to support the activities of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is the lead United Nations' agency for the IYP. I have already made an initial payment of $150,000 to FAO and the total contribution from my Department will be $300,000. Throughout the world, governments, scientists, farmers and others will focus on the potential of the potato to improve food security and nutrition and to reduce hunger and poverty. The FAO activities will include information generation and dissemination through conferences and symposia to review research policies and chart the future direction of the sector. It is hoped to encourage action throughout the developing world to focus on potato systems including crop yields, extension training on improved varieties and production systems.

To mark the IYP at home, a national programme of events is being organised for 2008 by a committee comprising representatives of the trade, an Bord Bia, Teagasc and my Department. The emphasis of the programme will be on nutrition. The programme will include activities for schools and in particular a primary school competition that aims to promote both the awareness and the growing of the potato. In addition there will be a website devoted to the potato and throughout the year agricultural show and heritage centres will feature the potato. The programme, which has not yet been finalised, will primarily be funded by the industry and an Bord Bia.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

82 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will review the operation of the milk quota regime whereby farmers who lose a land or quota lease are barred from assistance from temporary leasing if they have received previous assistance under various quota schemes administrated by her Department if that assistance exceeded prescribed amounts. [27091/07]

A farmer who has lost a land and quota lease is treated as a priority category in the allocation of quota under my Department's Temporary Leasing Scheme. The allocation takes place according to certain criteria, which for example in the case of a producer whose lease expired on 31 March 2007 meant that quota would have been allocated under the first phase of the 2007/2008 scheme on the following basis: 80% of the milk quota leased with land, less

(i)any additional quota granted under the Agenda 2000 Schemes,

(ii)any permanent quota granted by the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal since the 2001/2002 milk quota year,

(iii)any quantity purchased under the 2007/2008 Milk Quota Trading Schemes.

Some concern has been expressed that because all quota bought in the Trading Schemes, and not just that bought from the priority pool, is being taken into account, the total amount deducted from the 80% entitlement may leave some applicants with effectively no entitlement at all. While I think that these cases are few in number, and notwithstanding the fact that the current practice is the same as that operated in previous years when the amount purchased under the Restructuring Schemes rather than the Trading Schemes was deducted, my Department is reviewing the matter ahead of the second phase of this year's Temporary Leasing Scheme.

Afforestation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

83 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will revise the conditions of the forestry environment scheme to make it more attractive to farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27083/07]

The Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme, or FEPS, has already proven very attractive to many farmers since its launch as a pilot scheme earlier this year. The Scheme provides an opportunity for REPS farmers to plant high nature-value woodlands on their farm with the support of a very attractive grant and premium package. To date, my Department has granted Preplanting Approvals for nearly 2,500 hectares with a further 1,500 hectares currently at application stage.

My Department has carried out a review of the Scheme and arising out of this, certain adjustments are being examined.

Animal Welfare.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

84 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will assume overall responsibility for animal welfare in her Department; and if so, the areas of responsibility that will be transferred from other Departments. [27092/07]

The Programme for Government contains a number of animal welfare-related commitments, all of which are currently being advanced in my Department. Among those commitments is one to consolidate responsibility for the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) within my Department.

At present, a number of other Departments/Agencies have animal welfare responsibilities and work is progressing on identifying the actions required to effect the transfer of those responsibilities to my Department. My Department is also drafting a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill, which will update existing legislation and ensure that the welfare of animals is properly protected and that the penalties for offenders are increased significantly. Where it is necessary to transfer statutory responsibility for animal welfare to my Department, the necessary statutory provision will be made in the forthcoming Bill.

Rural Development Programme.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

85 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of funding that has been received from the EU under the Modulation Programme; what has happened to this funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24840/07]

Modulated funds of €225.5m are an integral part of the overall funding available for Ireland's 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme. The total funding for this programme amounts to €5.778bn from three sources: EU co-funding €2.114bn, Modulation €0.225bn, and Exchequer €3.439bn. The programme addresses three priorities, competitiveness, the environment and the wider rural economy, and encompasses the following main measures: REPS, compensatory allowances, early retirement, installation aid, and farm modernisation. The funding provided for these farmer payment schemes took full account of the amount available from modulation and was agreed with the farm organisations in the social partnership agreement. The Programme was approved by the EU Commission in July of this year.

It should be noted that the Rural Development Programme includes only those measures that are co-funded by the EU. The National Development Plan includes additional measures which are funded entirely by the Exchequer. The total value of the NDP agri-food package is €8.7 billion.

Agrifood Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

86 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her short, medium and long-term plans to sustain and develop the beef, lamb, pig meat and poultry industries here with particular reference to the need to compete on home and worldwide markets; if she has identified the difficulties facing these sectors at the present time; her intentions to address these issues at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27115/07]

For the meat sector and the agri-food industry as a whole, I subscribe to the vision set out in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. That foresees an industry obtaining optimal levels of efficiency, competitiveness and responsiveness to the demands of the market while respecting and enhancing the physical environment. The Action Plan points out that the short-to-medium term goal of the meat sector, especially beef, is to ensure that high market penetration in the EU is consolidated and developed, while also recognising the importance of access to commercially attractive third country markets.

The challenges facing the meat sector are varied. They include increased competition for beef and sheepmeat on the EU market to the higher costs of feed for the pig and poultry sectors. I am committed to assisting the industry to address these issues and I have already taken a series of actions with that in mind. I am glad to summarise these on a sector-by-sector basis.

Beef:

Firstly, I was delighted to recently announce the €250 million Suckler Cow Scheme. The suckler herd is the source of much of our high-quality beef and this measure is consistent with the aims outlined in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. I anticipate that over 60,000 herdowners will participate in this scheme. While the measure is primarily aimed at improved animal welfare, it will also contribute to the improved viability of suckler holdings.

Secondly, I announced in April a Capital Investment Aid Scheme for the beef and sheepmeat sector designed to support capital investment, which will increase added value at the processing level and improve efficiencies. This investment package will, I am confident, ensure the strategic and coherent development of the sector into the future and ultimately position our producers to avail of export opportunities. This also complements and underpins the existing quality assurance schemes and the advances in breed improvement programmes being developed by ICBF.

Thirdly, in order to publicise the response of the beef industry to an ever-evolving market, Bord Bia is intensifying its efforts to promote beef over the coming months. The aim is to build on the already well-established marketing and promotional activities being undertaken by Bord Bia and the industry. An extensive promotional campaign commenced in September involving 30 supermarkets across 13 European countries in 10,000 individual outlets. In addition Bord Bia is completing a new Irish beef marketing strategy. This follows consultation with industry as to how to best use the promotional resources available over the period 2008 to 2013.

I have also established a Market Access Group to focus efforts on the re-opening of markets for Irish beef and other meats. The recent re-opening of the Saudi Arabian and South African markets are welcome developments in this respect.

Pigmeat:

By far the main difficulty facing the pig sector is the very high cost of feed. The rise in feed prices can be attributed to a number of factors such as (i) heavy demand for cereals in Asia (ii) the increased demand for feed materials from the biofuel industry and (iii) unfavourable weather conditions which affected many of the major cereal growing countries.

The EU Council of Agriculture Ministers has, in response to the pressures on the international cereal and feed markets, agreed to suspend the obligation to set 10% of arable land aside. This will ensure that more arable land is available for cereal cultivation in 2008.

A scheme of financial assistance for the private storage of pigmeat has been in place since October 29. This was adopted by the European Commission in response to a request from me and some other Member States. I have also impressed on the Commission the desirability of export refunds for fresh and frozen pigmeat and this will be kept under consideration.

Pigmeat features prominently in Bord Bia's programme of promotion on the home and export markets. I have asked the Bord to intensify its Autumn pork and bacon promotion campaign in order to ensure that the market remains firm over the coming months. Additional funding is being made available for this. The Bord Bia quality assurance schemes are also a good tool in maintaining consumer confidence and, in this context; the pigmeat scheme is well established and managed.

On the export front, Irish pork has access to important markets worldwide and pork is included in overseas promotion drives and market access initiatives.

I am working with the Minister for Health and Children towards the introduction of legislation to provide better information to consumers on the origin of pigmeat and other meats.

Other initiatives aimed at sustaining the pig industry that I have introduced include the extension of the farm waste management scheme to the pig sector and my Department's programme of financial assistance for the transition to welfare-friendly sow housing.

Within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy, I will continue to ensure that pig producers' problems are highlighted with a view to suitable action.

Poultry:

The Irish poultry industry is an extremely important element within our domestic agri food sector. It is worth in excess of €150 million to producers and is an important contributor to economic and social development, particularly in certain areas. Overall, it is my policy that this industry should develop to its full potential and be in a position to meet the demands of today's consumers and withstand the very strong competition from abroad.

An Expert Group to advise on steps to ensure the future success of the industry will finalise its work shortly and I look forward to receiving its report. That report is likely to cover areas such as production, marketing and promotion, environmental protection and animal welfare.

I should also point out that Bord Bia, working in conjunction with the poultry industry and my Department, have in operation the very successful Chicken and Egg Quality Assurance Schemes which are viewed by consumers as a guarantee of quality and I am confident that the market position of our poultry will be enhanced as a result. It is important that consumer confidence is maintained and I believe that the Quality Assurance Schemes will be a valuable tool in this regard.

Sheepmeat:

The Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group issued its report in June 2006. This is a comprehensive study of the sheep industry that sets out a Development Plan for the sector. I decided that the best way to implement these recommendations was to set up an Implementation Group comprised of representatives of all sectors in the industry, including the relevant state bodies. This Group reported to me in April this year. Most of the recommendations in the Strategy Report fall to be implemented by the industry itself and it is too early at this stage to assess their impact. The recommendations are supported by my Department through assistance for breeding and management, processing facilities, mechanical grading and quality assurance. Sheep farmers are major beneficiaries of various schemes being operated by the Department such as REPS.

I believe that all these measures, combined with our high levels of food safety standards, will contribute to underpinning the viability of the meat sector and best position it to maintain and improve its competitiveness on EU and international markets.

Climate Change Strategy.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

87 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to introduce measures to address the problems in farming resulting from climate change such as bluetongue disease, higher crop and tree diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27086/07]

The effects of climate change are anticipated over a long period and are not expected to have a significant impact on Irish agriculture in the shorter term. Arrangements for dealing with animal diseases continue to be kept under review and the contingency arrangements and the legislative basis for dealing with possible outbreaks of exotic disease are updated where required. For the most part, EU legislation provides the framework for dealing with such diseases.

Close monitoring for possible new crop and forest pests resulting from climate change is carried out by plant health control officers. The existing EU phytosanitary regime which covers all of Europe provides an adequate framework for dealing with potential threats.

Organic Farming.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

88 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to increase organic output. [27096/07]

There are significant financial supports in place to encourage producers to convert to and remain in organic production. The new Organic Farming Scheme was launched in August 2007 as part of the new Rural Development Programme, which will run from 2007 to 2013. The objective of this Scheme is to deliver enhanced environmental and animal welfare benefits and to encourage producers to respond to the market demand for organically produced food. Payment rates have increased by approximately 17% compared to comparative rates under the Supplementary Measure in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). Under the new Organic Farming Scheme, it is now possible for organic farmers to obtain organic support payments without having to be in the REPS Scheme as was previously the case. This is designed to encourage small-scale horticultural producers to convert to organic production and conventional tillage producers to convert part or even all of their holdings. Both of these areas are very much in deficit production-wise and there is a readymade market for the organic product. Organic producers will still, of course, be able to join REPS as well, and I would encourage them to do so.

As a further incentive to encourage non-REPS farmers solely involved in tillage production to convert to organic farming, there is an additional payment of €240 per hectare available in the in-conversion period, up to a maximum of 40 hectares, provided they grow green cover crops during that period.

My Department also offers significant development grants both to farmers and to processors under the Schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector. Grant aid is available for investments by farmers and processors in equipment and facilities. The Schemes provide grant aid of 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of €60,000 in the case of on-farm investments and €500,000 for investments off-farm. I am pleased to note that applicants are showing significant interest in these Schemes.

Other initiatives include the recent appointment by Teagasc of three additional specialist organic advisor posts, an enhanced demonstration programme and the extension of agronomist expertise to include the pig and poultry sectors this year.

We will continue to raise awareness among consumers about the benefits of organic food and the third National Organic Week took place recently with that specific purpose in mind.

It is clear that all stakeholders will have to play a proactive role to enable the challenging target of 5% of agricultural land under organic production by 2012 to be realised. To this end I have asked for and received submissions from the organic farming bodies with their proposals for the development of the sector. I have also asked the National Steering Group for the Organic Sector and its two sub-groups, the Partnership Expert Working Group and the Organic Marketing and Development Group, to give me their considered views on the best ways to move towards the Programme for Government target.

My Department also recently arranged two training seminars for REPS Planners who wished to expand their expertise to include the preparation of organic conversion plans. Officials from my own Department, as well as staff from the Organic Certification Bodies conducted these courses. Almost 50 planners attended these courses and hopefully the knowledge and detail imparted will help these planners identify potential clients for future conversion to organic production methods.

Departmental Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

89 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if he will detail and itemise the performance based bonuses or other bonuses paid to Secretary General and Assistant Secretaries in the Office of the Attorney General in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26890/07]

In the case of the Office of the Attorney General, the Committee for Performance Awards approved awards in May 2007 in respect of 2006 to the Deputy Director General and two Advisory Counsel Grade I totalling €45,800.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

90 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if he will detail and itemise the performance based bonuses or other bonuses paid to Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries in his Department and Offices in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26891/07]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. It does not apply to Secretaries General. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However, I can say that during 2007 awards totalling €51,200 were made to 4 officers in my Department in respect of 2006 (as shown on page 10 of the CPA report for 2006). Details of the operation of the scheme are available in the report of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance (www.finance.gov.ie).

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

91 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27213/07]

The number of staff in my Constituency Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the table below.

Taoiseach's Constituency Office

Number of Civil Servants

8

Number of Non-Civil Servants

1

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€249,750

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

€36,276

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

*Last full year for which information available.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

92 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27228/07]

The number of staff in my Private Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed below.

Taoiseach's Private Office

No. of Civil Servants

13

No. of non-Civil Servants

0

Salaries of Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€663,983.43

Salaries of Non-Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

Nil

Travel & Subs expenses for Civil Servants

€2,453.19

Travel & Subs expenses for Non-Civil Servants

Nil

*Last full year for which figures are available.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

93 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27243/07]

There are two Ministers of State assigned to my Department — the Government Chief Whip, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D. and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D. Only the Government Chief Whip's Constituency Office is based in my Department. The Constituency Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs is based in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The number of staff in Minister of State Kitt's Constituency Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the table below.

Minister of State (T. Kitt, T.D) — Constituency Office

No. of Civil Servants

3

No. of non-Civil Servants

1

Salaries of Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€116,931

Salaries of Non- Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€43,091

Travel & Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel & Subs expenses for Non-Civil Servants

€1,661.22

*Last full year for which information is available.

Note: This does not include 1 Private Secretary and 1 Clerical Officer who support Minister Kitt in his role at the Department of Defence and who are located in this Department but are the staff of the Department of Defence.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

94 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27258/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

95 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the numbers and grades of staff employed in the Chief Whip’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27268/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

96 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for European Affair’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27273/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 to 96, inclusive, together.

There are two Ministers of State assigned to my Department — Government Chief Whip, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D. and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D.

The number of staff in each of the Private Offices of those Ministers of State assigned to my Department, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the tables below.

Office of the Government Chief Whip (Private Office)

Number of Civil Servants

4

Number of Non-Civil Servants

Nil

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€215,297

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs (Private Office)

Number of Civil Servants

3

Number of Non-Civil Servants

Nil

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€112,376

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

€1,488

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

* Last full year for which information is available.

Please note that Mr. Noel Treacy T.D. was Minister of State for European Affairs during this period.

Early School Leavers.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

97 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Taoiseach if will provide a county by county breakdown of the 3,679 fifteen year olds that have ceased full time education as a result of information obtained in the most recent census taken in April 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27411/07]

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

It should be borne in mind that the figures for persons aged 15 years may be affected by the fact that this age was used in a filter question on the Census questionnaire, resulting in a possible over-statement of the number of 15 year olds who have ceased education.

County

Number of 15 year olds whose education has ceased

State

3,679

Carlow

54

Dublin City

368

South Dublin

289

Fingal

195

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown

126

Kildare

161

Kilkenny

82

Laoighis

64

Longford

35

Louth

109

Meath

134

Offaly

71

Westmeath

101

Wexford

120

Wicklow

109

Clare

110

Cork City

94

Cork County

313

Kerry

118

Limerick City

40

Limerick County

112

North Tipperary

57

South Tipperary

74

Waterford City

36

Waterford County

47

Galway City

48

Galway County

153

Leitrim

21

Mayo

110

Roscommon

41

Sligo

36

Cavan

73

Donegal

136

Monaghan

42

Beef Imports.

David Stanton

Ceist:

98 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach the country of origin and respected amounts of imported beef, lamb and sheep meat, pig meat and poultry into the State in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27530/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is presented in the table below.

The table shows total meat imports by country (top ten in each meat category).

Imports of Meat

2004

2005

2006

Country of Origin

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

Beef

Great Britain

33,231

12,413

37,476

16,124

41,725

13,344

Brazil

16,396

6,587

20,462

6,867

20,905

6,320

Netherlands

2,949

703

8,757

3,667

12,198

5,171

France

1,733

1,044

1,941

1,018

2,374

1,133

Northern Ireland

172

177

2,874

923

8,386

1,961

Germany

2,530

680

1,783

478

2,375

482

Ireland*

1,275

546

1,045

559

1,629

415

Belgium

854

219

1,054

247

2,366

603

Argentina

139

64

1,065

270

500

141

Italy

579

106

482

178

507

97

Other

1,132

520

929

408

2,124

925

Beef Total

60,990

23,059

77,868

30,739

95,089

30,592

Pork

Great Britain

50,426

18,165

51,157

17,105

60,863

20,854

Ireland*

26,133

10,459

23,639

9,172

28,114

10,026

Germany

23,457

7,166

24,668

7,778

30,613

8,436

Denmark

21,224

8,382

22,030

8,900

14,813

5,275

Netherlands

13,952

5,179

15,550

5,777

22,364

7,017

France

12,074

5,277

13,641

5,566

13,697

4,788

Northern Ireland

7,026

2,264

6,724

2,201

4,125

1,278

Italy

1,513

1,347

3,363

1,545

2,920

1,466

Austria

428

333

3,424

1,914

3,591

1,338

Belgium

3,756

1,079

3,998

1,346

3,396

800

Other

3,205

874

3,248

1,031

6,780

2,664

Pork Total

163,194

60,525

171,442

62,335

191,276

63,942

Poultry

Great Britain

82,183

22,533

103,989

33,656

90,093

24,867

Netherlands

45,225

12,276

47,919

13,325

56,540

18,199

Northern Ireland

27,661

6,724

29,524

7,729

26,339

6,360

Belgium

11,045

4,028

12,945

4,532

13,461

4,657

Thailand

8,506

2,836

11,879

4,656

12,467

4,822

Germany

7,526

1,996

12,542

3,469

19,927

5,482

Brazil

5,061

1,728

8,621

2,854

6,091

2,229

France

11,416

2,699

6,070

1,631

6,239

1,603

Italy

4,958

1,646

5,915

1,840

7,610

2,335

Ireland*

2,157

1,059

2,550

641

3,173

821

Other

3,074

949

5,498

1,748

5,968

1,963

Poultry Total

208,812

58,474

247,452

76,081

247,908

73,338

Sheep/lamb

Great Britain

6,021

1,686

5,952

1,391

7,288

1,656

New Zealand

1,386

628

1,029

280

1,102

328

France

370

155

201

74

580

204

Northern Ireland

103

22

834

209

1,544

183

Netherlands

212

44

147

37

363

112

Germany

90

29

197

74

Turkey

323

85

Belgium

137

41

4

1

92

33

Ireland*

108

38

99

13

Australia

141

39

3

1

Other

105

23

161

82

237

56

Sheep/lamb Total

8,996

2,790

8,525

2,148

11,308

2,586

Grand Total

441,992

144,848

505,287

171,303

545,581

170,458

*The table reflects Country of Origin rather than Country of Consignment, hence Imports from Ireland.

Further information is available from the Trade Helpdesk at trade@cso.ie.

Review Body on Higher Remuneration.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

99 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the persons who are the members of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration and by whom are they appointed; the qualifying criteria applied to appointments; the period of tenure; the emoluments, including expenses, paid to members of the Review Body and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26881/07]

The Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector which was established in 1969 is an independent standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to certain top public service posts. The members of the Review Body are appointed by the Government.

The current members of the Review Body are:

Tony O'Brien, Chairman of the Review Body

Appointed 12 April 2005.

Chairman of C&C Group, plc: Former non-Executive Director of CRH plc and chaired the Remuneration Committee: Former member of the Civil Service Committee for Performance Awards: Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Corporation, plc and chaired the Remuneration Committee. Past President of IBEC.

John Doherty

Appointed 12 April 2005.

Employers' member of the Labour Court.

Brian Hillery

Appointed 22 December 1999

Currently Chairman of Independent News and Media plc, UniCredito Italiano Bank (Ireland) plc and Providence Resources plc: Commissioner, National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission: Former TD and Senator: Former Professor, Graduate School of Business, UCD.

Vivienne Jupp

Appointed 29 March 1995

Chair, Accenture Institute for Public Service Value: Former global managing partner in Accenture: Member of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland: Board member of the UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business: Chaired the Information Society Commission from 1996 to 2000.

Peter Malone

Appointed 29 March 1995

Director and former CEO of Jurys Doyle Hotel Group: Chairman of National Roads Authority. Chairman CBRE: Chairman Business Tourism Forum.

Noel O'Neill

Appointed 22 December 1999

Workers' member of the Labour Court.

No formal qualifying criteria applies to the appointments. Due to the complex nature of the work it is important that the members are suitably experienced and qualified to carry out the reviews.

There is no specific period of tenure — members are appointed to carry out reviews under the standing terms of reference from time to time and such other posts as the Review Body may be asked to examine from time to time.

The following are the fees paid to the current members by the Department of Finance:

Chairman — €25,000 per annum.

Members other than the Labour Court members — €15,000 per annum.

Mr Doherty and Mr O'Neill do not receive any fees as members of the Review Body.

No expenses have been claimed or paid to any member during the current review.

Drainage Schemes.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

100 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding a feasibility study for the upgrading and repair of the River Fergus embankments from Drumquin, County Clare to Kildysart, County Clare being carried out; if consultants have been appointed; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26908/07]

An examination into the feasibility, cost and environmental implications of upgrading the embankments referred to will be undertaken by Engineering staff of the Office of Public Works. It is expected that the study report will be completed early next year.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

101 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will continue the funding to the Office of Public Works to enable them to refurbish the embankment on the south eastern bank of the Brick River from Lixnaw Bridge to Ballinaghar Bridge to prevent the flooding of the recently built local authority housing estate (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26926/07]

A programme of refurbishment of the embankments of the Feale Catchment Drainage Scheme, which includes the River Brick, under the maintenance provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, commenced this year. It is intended that this programme will continue and that the necessary funding will be made available.

The work is being prioritised on the basis of risk to housing and while the OPW is at present finalising its programme for 2008, it is likely that the primary focus will be on the town of Listowel next year.

The embankment on the South Eastern bank of the River Brick from Lixnaw Bridge to Ballinaghar bridge will be refurbished as soon as embankments protecting a larger number of properties have been completed.

Tax Code.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

102 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 to obtain a P60. [26956/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it appears from their records that the taxpayer commenced employment with the company in question during 2001. On 5 November 2007 a letter was sent to the taxpayer giving details of his pay, tax and PRSI deductions for the years 2001 and 2003 to 2006, in accordance with the records held by the Revenue Commissioners. No details are available for the year 2002. The details provided in the letter are those which would be included in a P60 certificate, which is issued by an employer.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

103 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the schemes currently in place to encourage workers, through tax incentives or other means to cycle to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26992/07]

There is no specific tax scheme to encourage workers to cycle to work. There is, however, a provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits. The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the total value of such benefits in any tax year.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

104 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing a cycle to work scheme similar to the UK where bicycles can be purchased through the employer with the cost being deducted from the gross salary, thus saving on PRSI and income tax in view of the fact that this would encourage more people to cycle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26993/07]

There are no plans for the introduction of a scheme of the type referred to by the Deputy. There is provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits.

The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the total value of such benefits in any tax year.

Disabled Drivers.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

105 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will expand the disabled drivers scheme to take account of other forms of disability not currently eligible under the scheme; the reason for not undertaking such an expansion; the last time a review or expansion of the scheme was carried out since the scheme was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27017/07]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

106 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to a tax rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27028/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer retired from his employment on 31 August 2007 following which the taxpayer became entitled to a company pension and a State Pension (Transition). The company has confirmed to the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's lump sum entitlement was paid tax-free on 23 October 2007. The first pension payment (backdated to his retirement date) will be made by the company on 8 November 2007. On that date, the company will make any refund of tax due on account of the adjusted income since retirement.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

107 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there will be tax incentives for owners of electric pedlec bicycles which can be purchased through their employers in order that rural workers and urban workers can avail of the tax break enjoyed by the urban workers who use environmentally friendly transport to travel to work. [27042/07]

There are no plans to introduce a scheme of the kind referred to by the Deputy. There is provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits.

The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the value of such benefits in any tax year.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

108 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received the arrears due to them in relation to emergency payment of PAYE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27058/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer paid emergency tax in a former employment, which ceased on 1 July 2007. A new employer would normally make a refund of any tax over deducted in a previous employment following receipt of a cumulative certificate of tax credits. A cumulative certificate has issued in this case but as the taxpayer is on unpaid sick leave at present, the new employer is not in a position to make the necessary refund. In the exceptional circumstances of this case, the Revenue Commissioners have arranged to have the emergency tax repaid to the taxpayer. A notice of the repayment due, together with cheque in settlement, will issue in the coming days.

Site Acquisitions.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

109 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has succeeded in procuring a site for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [27184/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for schools. In the case of the school in question, the requirement has been advertised three times — most recently in September, 2007. Two proposals are currently under consideration and technical assessment, as to their suitability for a school. It is expected that this assessment will be completed by the end of November and a report will be furnished to the Department of Education and Science at that stage.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

110 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27208/07]

The staffing of my constituency office is set out below:

Title

Number

Salary Range

Personal Assistant

1

44,314 – 56,250

Personal Secretary

1

29,093 – 46,167

Executive Officer

1

29,093 – 46,167

Staff Officer

1

33,258 – 44,407

Clerical Officer

1

23,086 – 37,652

To date in 2007, overtime, salary related allowances and other allowance payments amount to €9,567.93. The amount paid in expenses for foreign and domestic travel, official entertainment and miscellaneous for the same period was €1,163.56.

In addition to the above staff, there are 3 Clerical Officers (Salary Range €23,086 — €36,546) who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance Press Office. The Personal Assistant and Personal Secretary in my constituency office are employed on a contract basis for the duration of my tenure. All of the other staff in my constituency office are permanent civil servants.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

111 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27223/07]

The staffing of my private office is set out below:

Title

Number

Salary Range

Administrative Officer

1

33,439 – 59,213

Executive Officer

2

29,093 – 47,980

Staff Officer

2

33,258 – 44,407

Clerical Officer

3

23,086 – 37,652

To date in 2007, overtime, salary related allowances and other allowance payments amount to €35,131.57. The amount paid in expenses for foreign and domestic travel, official entertainment and miscellaneous for the same period was €43,282.44.

In addition to the above staff, there are 3 Clerical Officers (Salary Range €23,086 — €36,546) who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance Press Office. All of the staff in my private office are permanent civil servants.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

112 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27238/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

113 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27253/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 113 together.

In relation to the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works the information requested has been supplied in the tables below as actual expenditure on overtime and travel and subsistence expenses for the period 13th June 2007 (when the current Minister of State took up duty) to date and per annum salary rates as at 5th November 2007.

Minister of State's Private Office

Salaries

Overtime

Expenses

€168,885

€1,926.55

€665.87

4 Staff — all Civil Servants

Minister of State's Constituency Office in the Office of Public Works

Salaries

Overtime

Expenses

€196,487

€2,003.82

Nil

7 staff made up of 3 Civil Servants and 4 non-Civil Servants including 2 Civilian Drivers whose duties cover both offices.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

114 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27312/07]

There is one EU Directive awaiting transposition into Irish law by my Department at the current time.

Directive 2007/18/EC makes two minor technical amendments to the Capital Requirements Directive (2006/48/EC) relating to the treatment of financial exposures to certain institutions and multilateral development banks. This Directive was due for transposition on 30th September 2007. It is currently at legal drafting stage. I expect that this directive will be transposed very shortly.

I wish to assure the Deputy that every effort is being made in my Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure that Directives are transposed on time.

Garda Stations.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

115 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 26 September 2007, if there are problems with the site map which is delaying the re-opening of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27403/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have recently received the agreed Ordnance Survey site map from the Landlord, for attachment to the Lease Agreement. The Chief State Solicitor will now finalise all legal matters relating to the Agreement and it will then be executed by both parties. Following execution, An Garda Síochána can take possession of the premises immediately.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

116 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way someone who misses a flight can reclaim the tax paid from the airline or Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27441/07]

As indicated in my response to Deputy Richard Bruton on 9 October 2007, since the £5 travel tax was abolished in Budget 2000 there have been no Irish Government taxes levied on flights into, out of or within Ireland.

Disabled Drivers.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

117 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the maximum rates of repayment of vehicle registration tax and value added tax on the purchase of a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger and the maximum rate of repayment of value added tax on the cost of adapting a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger have not increased in twenty years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27502/07]

Seán Connick

Ceist:

118 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will index link the maximum rates of repayment of vehicle registration tax and value added tax on the purchase of a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger and the maximum rate of repayment of value added tax on the cost of adapting a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27503/07]

Seán Connick

Ceist:

119 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the restrictive medical criteria for recognition of a disability as recognised under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27504/07]

Seán Connick

Ceist:

120 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will remove the engine size limits of 2,000 cc for drivers and 4,000 cc for passengers operational under the Disabled Drivers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1989; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27505/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 to 120, inclusive, together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

121 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing a measure in Budget 2008 allowing financial institutions to provide DIRT free saving accounts to young people under 25 similar to those which those aged over 65 can avail of; the estimated cost of such a measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27544/07]

The Finance Act 2007 introduced a new scheme to allow the operation of DIRT free savings accounts. To qualify, there are two conditions: be aged 65 years of age or over and total income must not exceed the relevant exemption threshold, i.e. €19,000 (for an individual) or €38,000 (for a married couple). I have no plans to introduce a similar exemption for any other category of taxpayer. Information is not available that would provide an estimate of the cost of introducing such an exemption.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

122 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on increasing the rent tax allowance in Budget 2008; the estimated cost of doubling the rent tax allowance for those under 55 to €3600 for a single person and €7200 for married or widowed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27546/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on the cost of rent relief to the Exchequer is available is for the income tax year 2004. Using that data, the full year cost to the Exchequer of rent relief for those aged under 55 years is projected at €67 million in 2007 terms. On this basis, a doubling of the allowance could cost in the region of an additional €67 million but could be less, depending on the extent to which the additional tax relief could be absorbed by claimants and assuming no significant increase in the level of take up by taxpayers.

All income tax provisions are reviewed regularly, particularly in the context of the annual Budget. The Budget is less than a month away. It has been the practice of successive Ministers for Finance not to comment on tax changes in the run up to the annual Budget and I do not propose to depart from that approach.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

123 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make provision in Budget 2008 for additional funding for the rehabilitation of drug users including funding for additional hospital beds for rehabilitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27550/07]

I will present Budget 2008 to the Dáil on 5 December 2007 and as is normal I will not comment on the contents of the Budget in advance of that date.

Tax Code.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

124 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there are plans to substantially increase the stamp duty rate bands for farm land to take account of inflation in values over the past five years. [27551/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, changes to stamp duty are considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

125 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to make a decision to treat the Diversification Fund in the context of Budget 2008 as capital rather than income, while clarifying that the capital receipt is not arising from the disposal of an asset. [27552/07]

The tax treatment of income derived from the payment of diversification aid to former sugar beet growers is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am informed by the Commissioners that based on the information available to them on the current proposals for the payment of such aid the payments will be subject to income tax.

As regards Budget 2008, it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax or expenditure matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

126 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether no capital grants tax should arise on the disposal of farmland to a local authority for road building or road widening purposes provided the proceeds of the compensation are re-invested in farm business assets where it can be demonstrated that the re-investment is necessary for future farm viability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27553/07]

I assume that the Deputy has in mind the re-introduction of roll-over relief.

It was announced in the 2003 Budget that no roll-over relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. This relief was introduced when CGT rates were much higher than current levels. The abolition of this relief was in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low.

Changes to the tax system are considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is already in place a generous package of reliefs that continue to be available exclusively to the farming sector.

Counterfeit Goods.

Damien English

Ceist:

127 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of inspectors that are employed by customs to investigate the sale of counterfeit goods to the public; the region that each inspector covers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27562/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No. 1383/2003, controls on the movement of counterfeit goods apply at the point of importation into the European Communities. Revenue has responsibility for enforcing this legislation where counterfeit goods are imported into Ireland from outside the EC. The legislation works on the basis that Rights Holders seeking protection for their goods apply to Revenue. (Currently, there are 297 such requests). When suspect goods are identified at importation, the Right Holder is contacted in order to verify the validity of the goods. If the goods are found to be counterfeit, they are liable to seizure and the persons involved are liable to prosecution. Revenue has appointed a specific coordinator in relation to intellectual property rights (IPR) to bring greater focus to these issues and to enhance liaison with traders.

Revenue Customs officials engaged in controlling goods at points of entry (ports, airports and mail centres) have primary responsibility in ensuring enforcement of legislation relating to a wide range of prohibited goods including counterfeit goods. In addition, where illegally imported counterfeit goods, or counterfeit goods on which the appropriate excise duties have not been paid, are detected elsewhere within the jurisdiction, they are liable to seizure.

The precise number of staff engaged in this activity will vary from time to time having regard to different risk priorities and the resources available, but generally in excess of 300 officers are involved in the enforcement of such controls, as part of their regular duties.

There have been 191 seizures of counterfeit goods by Customs officials so far this year (to end September) involving 24,550 items with a value of €983,980.

It should be noted that matters relating to the sale of counterfeit goods (other than excisable goods) which are not illegally imported into the EC is primarily a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Health Services.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the €4.5 million allocated in 2007 will be agreed with the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland; if this finance will be paid in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26995/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

129 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details regarding the locations of all child care facilities in County Cork funded under the EOCP. [27185/07]

As the Deputy will be 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 Office of the Minister for Children. A list of childcare facilities in County Cork who have received funding under the EOCP will be sent to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

130 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if forced marriage is a specific offence under Irish law; if she will introduce legislation in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27199/07]

While there is no specific provision in Irish statute law which makes forced marriage an offence, there are a number of measures which aim to ensure that marriage is entered into voluntarily and with full knowledge and consent.

The statutory provisions governing notice of intention to marry, solemnisation and registration of marriage are contained in the Civil Registration Act 2004. Section 2(2) of the Act provides that there is an impediment to a marriage if one, or both of the parties is already married; or if one or both of the parties is under 18 years of age, unless an exemption from the age requirement has been granted by the Circuit or High Court under Section 33 of the Family Law Act 1995. Section 47 of the Civil Registration Act provides that such an exemption may only be granted by a court if the applicants show that it is justified by serious reasons and is in their interests. A marriage would be void if the parties are within the prohibited degrees of relationship (i.e. if they are closely related by blood or marriage).

Section 46 of the Civil Registration Act requires parties to an intended marriage to attend at a registrar's office to give three months notice of intention to marry and to make a written declaration that there is no impediment to the marriage. This provision also gives the registrar authority to request evidence as to the names, addresses, marital status, age and nationality of the parties to an intended marriage. Notices of intention to marry may be published and are available for inspection at the registrar's office.

Section 48 of the Civil Registration Act provides for the issue of a Marriage Registration Form (MRF), without which no marriage may be legally solemnised. An MRF will only be issued if the registrar is satisfied that all of the statutory requirements for a valid marriage have been met. In addition, a marriage may not be solemnised unless one of the parties to the marriage gives the MRF to the person solemnising the marriage for examination by him or her, prior to the marriage.

Section 51 of the Act governs the manner in which a marriage shall be solemnised. A marriage may only be solemnised by a registered solemniser. A solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage unless both parties are present, two witnesses over 18 years of age are present, the place where the marriage is solemnised is open to the public and he or she is satisfied that the parties to the marriage understand the nature of the marriage ceremony and the declarations that must be made as part of the ceremony. These declarations are to the effect that (a) there is no impediment to the marriage and (b) they accept each other as husband and wife. This section also makes provision for interpretation where the solemniser, the parties to the marriage, or the witnesses do not have a sufficient knowledge of the language of the ceremony.

Section 53 of the Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of a register of solemnisers, which is open to inspection by members of the public. Religious bodies may apply to the Registrar General to have members registered in the register of solemnisers. In order to be registered, a person must be nominated by a religious body whose form of ceremony includes the required declarations referred to above. Section 55 provides for the cancellation of a registration in certain circumstances.

Section 58 of the Civil Registration Act provides for the making of objections to a marriage prior to solemnisation.

Offences in relation to the solemnisation of marriage are set out in Section 69(10) of the Civil Registration Act. An offence is committed if: a registered solemniser solemnises a marriage other than in accordance with the requirements of Section 51; a person who is not a registered solemniser solemnises a marriage; the solemniser fails to examine the MRF prior to the ceremony; a solemniser or a party to a marriage engage in a marriage ceremony where the notice required under Section 46 was not given; a party to a marriage makes a false declaration that there is no impediment to the marriage.

A person guilty of an offence under Section 69(10) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €2,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both.

By its very nature, a forced marriage is going to involve some form of coercion, threat, intimidation, physical assault or restraint, abduction or unlawful detention. These matters fall to be dealt with under the criminal law.

There is a well established legal principle in common law that a full, free and informed consent is essential for a valid marriage. Full, free and informed consent would not be present in cases of insanity or unsoundness of mind, intoxication, mistake, misrepresentation, fear, duress, intimidation or undue influence.

In view of the above, I am satisfied that all reasonable measures are in place to prevent forced marriages and to provide a remedy where full, free and informed consent is absent.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which genetically modified food or food products are imported here and to other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27512/07]

The following GM foods are authorised for sale in all EU Member States:

vegetable oil from oil seed rape;

vegetable oil from cotton seed;

maize products;

soya products;

sugar beet products.

These products are normally used as food ingredients and have been identified in a variety of products such as vegetable casseroles, gluten-free reduced sugar rusks, soya protein mince, soya protein chunks, soya biscuits and cakes, soya bran, soya flour, infant formula, soya cream, soya yogurt, soya drink, soya dessert, lecithin granules derived from soya bean and maize meal, tortilla chips, taco shells, breadcrumbs for chicken, and burger and corn snacks derived from maize. This list, however, is not exhaustive.

There is no information available to my Department in regard to the quantities of the various GM products place on the Irish market; in any event, such information is not required in the context of food safety.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Ceist:

132 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that funds realised from the sale of hospitals and lands and assets in the mental health sector will be ring fenced for future investment in the mental health services sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27567/07]

James Reilly

Ceist:

213 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that funds realised from the sale of assets, hospitals and lands in the mental health sector will be ring fenced for future investment in that sector, if the Department of Finance agree to ring fence the said funds for investment in mental health services and investment plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27568/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 213 together.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched in January 2006 and has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of mental health services. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. It will require substantial funding, but there is considerable equity in buildings and lands within the current mental health system, which could be realised to fund this plan. "A Vision for Change" recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to re-invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service.

The closure of mental hospitals and the reinvestment of the proceeds will take place on a phased basis. Hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres together with a substantial increase in the number of well trained, fully staffed, community-based multi-disciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in a "A Vision for Change".

The assessment and realisation of the full economic value of psychiatric hospital buildings and lands is the responsibility of the HSE.

James Reilly

Ceist:

133 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the process that was used to arrive at the decision to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to the proposed prison site at Thornton Hall in north County Dublin; if expert committees, staff management or senior Health Service Executive officials were consulted on the suitability of the site for the purpose of a central mental hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27569/07]

James Reilly

Ceist:

209 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the process used to arrive at the decision to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to Thornton Hall prison site in north County Dublin; if expert committees or the relevant officers in the Health Service Executive and the management of the Central Mental Hospital were consulted on the suitability of the site for the purpose of a central mental hospital, prior to the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27537/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 209 together.

In February 2003 the Department of Health and Children established a Project Team to progress the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital. The Project Team, which comprised key stakeholders, including representatives from the Central Mental Hospital, the then health boards, the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Health and Children, recommended that the hospital be relocated to a new purpose built facility in the greater Dublin area, with ready access to the M50.

In February 2004, the Government decided that the Ministers for Health and Children and Justice, Equality and Law Reform should consult on the future of the CMH in the context of the plans to replace Mountjoy Prison. In November 2004 the Government decided that in principle, and subject to further study, the CMH should be transferred to the same site as the proposed new prison. It later agreed the purchase of Thornton Hall for the provision of the prison.

In May 2006, the Government formally approved the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, County Dublin and that the cost of developing the new facility would be met from the proceeds of the sale of the existing site in Dundrum. This decision was consistent with a recommendation contained in "A Vision for Change" — the report of the expert Group on Mental Health Policy which recommended that the CMH should be replaced or remodelled to allow it to provide care and treatment in a modern, up-to-date humane setting and that the capacity of the CMH should be maximised.

The redevelopment of the CMH will constitute a separate capital development project independent of the prison complex to replace Mountjoy Prison, and will be owned and managed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The new hospital will be built on its own campus and will retain its identity as a distinct, separate, therapeutic health facility. The new hospital will also have its own grounds with a separate entrance and address to the prison complex.

Health Services.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

134 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take in respect of a case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 which was brought to the attention of the Health Service Executive three weeks ago by way of correspondence from this Deputy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26866/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

135 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when an announcement will be made regarding an application for funding by a crèche (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26885/07]

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

152 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when a grant will be awarded to a crèche (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26988/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 152 together.

As the Deputy will be 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 Office of the Minister for Children.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 referred to in the question, I understand that it is currently being assessed by Pobal, the agency engaged to administer the grants. Following the assessment of the application, a recommendation will be made by the Programme Appraisal Committee (PAC), prior to a decision being made by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

As the Deputy will be aware the NCIP came into effect from 1 January 2006, with an allocation of €357 million for capital projects during the 5 year period of 2006-2010. This funding is allocated for each year subject to the rules governing capital expenditure and the multi-annual investment framework, which are also conditions of the sanction given by the Department of Finance each year for capital expenditure including the NCIP. Due to the success of the scheme to date, the existing capital commitments under the programme has reached the approved ceiling of €132 million for this year and it is not possible for this Office to enter into further capital commitments under the NCIP before January 2008 when the ceiling will adjust. However, should the application in question be assessed by Pobal and recommended by the PAC before the end of this year, it will be submitted for consideration and approval by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children at the earliest opportunity in January 2008.

To date no application for staffing assistance has been submitted by this Group.

Ambulance Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

136 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 17 October 2007 and the reply received (details supplied), if she will now publish the report submitted by the Military Airworthiness Authority to the Hospital Network Manager; the reports recommendations that have been implemented; when the recommendations that have not been implemented will be; if she will list each occasion that a helicopter has landed for medical reasons at either Bantry General Hospital or at the nearby airstrip; the type of helicopter used and the mission type in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26886/07]

Neither myself, nor my Department have received the report referred to by the Deputy. Therefore since the rest of the question refers to operational issues and 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. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

137 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position is in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency in Naas; if this service is not available in Naas, the location where they can go to get the speech therapy they need; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26889/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal 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. As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including Therapy Services.

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

138 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Clare who is waiting to have an ICP monitor carried out in Beaumount Hospital Neurosurgery Department; if this procedure will be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26902/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive 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 case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Medical Cards.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

139 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will put in place a review of the conditions governing qualification for the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26903/07]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For medical card and GP Visit Card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.

Currently, my Department is 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. My Department is currently examining the range of services that will be defined in legislation. It is expected that the legislation will be published in 2008.

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

140 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when a primary medical certificate will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26904/07]

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

Drugs Reimbursement Arrangements.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

141 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; if she has had discussions with pharmacists since her recent announcement in respect of the new proposals in regard to the purchase and dispensing of drugs; if so, the position regarding these discussions; her views on the impact that these proposals will have on the viability of pharmacies throughout Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26905/07]

I have previously outlined in detail to the Oireachtas the legal provisions under competition law which prevent the HSE from negotiating with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) on fees, prices or margins for their members. When it became clear that the HSE could not negotiate with pharmacists or wholesalers on fees or margins, a detailed, fair and transparent consultation process, including independent economic analysis and public consultation, was carried out to inform the final determination of the new reimbursement pricing arrangements for drugs and medicines under the GMS and community drugs schemes. These new arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17 September 2007.

In regard to the new reimbursement prices, the main wholesaler companies have confirmed to the HSE they will charge community pharmacists the same price for these drugs and medicines as pharmacists will be reimbursed by the HSE for these products. The HSE has been provided with no evidence to indicate that the impact on individual pharmacies will be detrimental, having regard to the totality of fees and mark-ups under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

All the evidence available to the joint HSE/Department of Health and Children team dealing with this issue indicated that the State was paying a premium for this service and that the new arrangements will save the HSE about €100 million in 2008.

To address concerns expressed by the IPU, on behalf of community pharmacists, about the implications of the legal advice on competition law on their right to negotiate fees through the Union, a process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed.

Despite suspension of this process during the recent withdrawal by individual pharmacists of methadone services, there is now renewed engagement between the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the HSE under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey.

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

142 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend speech and language therapy services for children in County Clare; if she will provide additional tutoring services for children with speech and language difficulties in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26906/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, additional funding of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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 Repayment Scheme.

Brendan Kenneally

Ceist:

143 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the rights of Members of the Oireachtas to make representations and receive detailed responses from the Health Service Executive in relation to the health repayment scheme, rather than receiving unsigned generic replies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26915/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administeringthe health repayment scheme in conjunctionwith the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

The HSE has informed my Department that the Data Protection laws governing the repayment process are particularly strict and are primarily aimed at protecting the privacy and rights of all applicants. Therefore the Scheme Administrator cannot divulge information about particular claims to the Public Representatives. However, the Scheme Administrator have put a process in place in order to deal with this privacy issue. Firstly they correspond directly with the claimant by phoning them and updating them on the current status of their application. The Scheme Administrator also advise them of the representation by the Member on their behalf. They then write to the Member informing them that this has been done. This ensures that the privacy and the rights of applicants are maintained in a scheme where not divulging information to third parties is at the core of their processes.

The HSE have informed me that they will endeavour to provide public representatives with as much individual information where possible within the requirements of the Data Protection Legislation.

Ambulance Service.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

144 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the further progress that has been made since her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 185 of 10 October 2007 regarding payments due under the final phase of the previous social partnership agreement Sustaining Progress and the first and second phase of the current social partnership agreement Towards 2016 which are due to ambulance personnel in the Health Service Executive west area who are members of SIPTU; when the National joint council will be in a position to recommend that payments be made; when these payments will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26916/07]

As already stated in the response provided to Parliamentary Question No. 185 of 10 October 2007, sanction for payment of pay increases due under the final phase of the previous Social Partnership Agreement, Sustaining Progress, and the first and second phase of the current Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, was withheld in relation to ambulance personnel, HSE West, members of SIPTU, due to their non co-operation with a move to a new combined ambulance and fire control centre — Camp West (Computer Aided Mobile Project) in the HSE West.

My Department was advised by the Health Service Executive Employes Agency yesterday that this industrial relations dispute has now been resolved and that the ambulance personnel concerned are co-operating with implementation arrangements. Written confirmation of this is awaited from the joint secretaries of the National Joint Council. On receipt of such confirmation, the Secretary General of my Department will be in a position to make a final decision as to the appropriate effective date(s) for payment of the withheld increases.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

145 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for refunds under the nursing homes compensation scheme; the number refused; the reasons given; the numbers sanctioned; the sums due to be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26957/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/ McCann Fitzgerald.

The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 30,000 claims have been received and to date 4,353 payments totalling over €86.7 million have issued. 6,590 offers of repayment, totalling over €125.2 million, have been made.

The HSE have also informed my Department that 3,943 applications have been rejected up to 26 October 2007. There are a variety of reasons for applications being rejected and these include instances where the relevant person died prior to 9 December 1998, where the relevant person resided in an institution not within the scope of the scheme and where duplicate applications were received on behalf of the relevant person.

The Scheme Administrator and the HSE are confident that all claims submitted by eligible applicants by 31 December 2007 will be processed within the 2 year time frame allotted for the Scheme which is due to end on 30 June 2008.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

146 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the situation regarding entitlement of new general practitioners practices to see clients who have GP visit cards. [26959/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for arranging for the provision of general practitioner services to persons covered by the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme and persons who qualify for a GP visit card. The award of contracts for these services is normally through open competition and interview, following advertisements in national and medical newspapers. All suitably qualified medical practitioners may apply for these contracts.

Under the terms of further agreements reached in the context of the extension of medical card coverage to all persons aged 70 and over, and the introduction of the GP visit card, arrangements were made permitting GPs who at that time did not hold a GMS contract to obtain a contract in respect of providing a service to such patients, with an option to become eligible for a full GMS contract in due course.

At present the HSE is required, under the terms of the agreement negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), when deciding to fill a vacant GP patient panel or to create a new patient panel, to take account of the potential viability of such a panel under a range of headings.

I regard the existing arrangements in this regard as unnecessarily restrictive and it is my wish, therefore, that new contractual arrangements, which are to be developed for the provision of publicly funded general practitioner services, should ensure that HSE contracts for GP services are open to all suitably qualified and equipped providers.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck is expected to be rolled out to County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26962/07]

BreastCheck commenced the screening process in the Southern region in October. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €8 million to the National Cancer Screening Service for this year to meet the additional costs involved in national roll-out. The full complement of 111 staff for roll-out has been approved. I have also made available an additional €26.7 million capital funding for the construction of two new clinical units and the provision of seven additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the Southern region covers counties Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary South Riding. Screening in individual counties will be dictated by BreastCheck's management and operational considerations.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Ceist:

148 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an appointment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick for a medical appointment at University Hospital, Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26972/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive 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 case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

149 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be released in respect of a community child care facility (details supplied) in County Mayo; if he will confirm that an application has been received in his Department from the group involved; when these payments will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26978/07]

As the Deputy will be 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 Office of the Minister for Children.

The Group in question has recently been approved an interim NCIP staffing grant of €31,200 for the period to 31 December 2007. I understand from enquiries made that Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP on behalf of my Office, forwarded the Group's first staffing payment of €23,400 on 15 October. They will receive their remaining instalment of staffing funding when the information requested by Pobal, who have been in contact with the Group, has been received and finalised.

This Group were also approved a capital grant of €707,646 under the EOCP in March 2005. The final payment of €3,389 will be paid when the paperwork outstanding is received and finalised by Pobal.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

150 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the step-down facilities that will be provided at a hospital (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26979/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

151 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when further posts will be available for speech and language therapists (details supplied) in County Wexford; if same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26980/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal 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. As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including Therapy Services.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Ceist:

153 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will secure an early appointment at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26999/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive 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 case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

154 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made by the Health Service Executive to offer suitable employment contracts to taxi and hackney drivers who are providing a transport service for patients to various HSE establishments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27008/07]

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 issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, to establish a dedicated Alzheimer’s unit at a hospital (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27021/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

156 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme. [27027/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new employees in front-line services in recent weeks while the embargo was in place on the north side of Dublin. [27029/07]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The Deputy may wish to note that the current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of this month. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in front-line services. Accordingly a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established which is meeting weekly to consider such applications.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

158 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy of the Health Service Executive with regard to how soon physiotherapy should begin after a person has suffered a stroke; the way this policy compares with international best practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27030/07]

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.

Mary O'Rourke

Ceist:

159 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27031/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

160 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if medical examinations for a driving licence for persons over 70 are covered by medical cards (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27043/07]

The law provides that persons aged 70 years or more are required to undergo a medical review for driving licence renewal purposes. This requirement falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

In making arrangements for the provision of publicly funded General Practitioner (GP) services, under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, an agreement was negotiated between the Department of Health and Children and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The provisions of this agreement took the form of the current GMS GP Capitation Contract. This contract is a diagnosis and treatment contract and gives effect to the statutory requirement to provide GP medical and surgical services without charge to eligible persons; this includes persons aged 70 and over, who are automatically entitled to a medical card.

The contract stipulates that the fees paid to GMS GPs are not made in respect of certain certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences". As these non-treatment type services are outside the scope of the GMS GP contract, the question of a fee is a matter between the GP and the person seeking the particular service.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

161 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the free cervical smear programme available to traveller women in Ballyfermot was withdrawn two years ago and has not been reinstated since; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this successful programme had an estimated uptake rate of 90% of traveller women eligible in the Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan and Ballyfermot areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27046/07]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

162 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to reinstate the free cervical smear programme for traveller women in Ballyfermot, and expand it to Clondalkin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27047/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

The National Cancer Screening Service is planning to roll out the National Cervical Screening Programme on a national basis early next year. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €5.0m to the Service this year for this purpose and an additional 30 posts have been approved. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The Service is planning 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, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

The specific questions raised by the Deputy regarding cervical screening for Traveller women in Ballyfermot relate to the management and delivery of health, personal and 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.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

163 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding access to speech therapy at a location (details supplied) in County Cork; the number of persons on the waiting list for this service; and when she will provide a demand led service. [27100/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, additional funding of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

164 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on extending the scope of the long-term illness card scheme for people suffering from a genetic condition (details supplied). [27101/07]

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

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Health Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a neurological appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [27102/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive 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 case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

166 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27103/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

167 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps taken to provide hospital facilities to treat people affected by eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27118/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

174 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to increase the number of designated specialist beds in the public mental health service for the treatment of eating disorder cases in people over the age of 18, as recommended in Vision for Change; if there is a time frame for implementing these increases; her views on whether a dedicated national adult eating disorders service is needed as a matter of urgency and must be adequately resourced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27125/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

177 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to designate and fund a dedicated eating disorder service for the management of eating disorder cases arising in childhood and adolescence; the anticipated time frame for doing so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27137/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167, 174 and 177 together.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled "A Vision for Change", was launched in January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. "A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services.

Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, training on eating disorders for undergraduate and postgraduate training of health professionals, the further development of primary and community care services including the management of eating disorders in children and adolescents by the child and adolescent community mental health teams, the creation of specialist multi-disciplinary adult teams and the provision of a full multi-disciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

In 2006, €26.2 million was allocated for the development of mental health services in line with "A Vision for Change". An additional €25 million has been provided to the HSE in 2007, €750,000 of which is for developing services for eating disorders. €500,000 of this funding was provided to enhance the service in the Elm Mount Unit, St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin which will provide a national service to support local services in addressing eating disorders. The balance of €250,000 has been allocated to HSE South to commence the development of an eating disorder service. In addition funding was provided for the development of 16 child and adolescent community mental health teams in 2006 and 2007.

Implementation of the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" and management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the HSE.

Eating Disorders.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

168 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have been diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia or with other forms of eating disorders in the past five years; the number of same who have required hospital treatment or psychiatric care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27119/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

169 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a study has been carried out to evaluate the Health Service Executive’s responses to the issue of people affected by eating disorders, regarding services and treatment, both inpatient and outpatient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27120/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

Figures are not available on the numbers of people over the past five years diagnosed with eating disorders and the number who required hospital treatment. The estimated annual incidence of anorexia nervosa is 10 per 100,000 population for females and 0.5 for males. All eating disorders are estimated to have an upper prevalence of 5,000 cases per 100,000 translating to approximately 200,000 in Ireland.

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. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

170 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is appropriate that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 be released from accident and emergency rather than being referred to psychiatric care in the hospital. [27121/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

171 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 with an eating disorder was not assigned a bed and treatment in St Vincent’s Hospital unit which deals with eating disorders when the opportunity presented itself. [27122/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.

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. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

172 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to or if she will investigate claims that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 had been prescribed tablets that they are allergic to while in accident and emergency recently. [27123/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

173 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it should take two nurses to deliver four potassium tablets daily to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and the further reason opportunities to take blood samples to assess and monitor their potassium levels on a regular basis are not being availed of. [27124/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

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 case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 174 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if bags for taking blood from a person (details supplied) in County Wexford with haemochromotosis will be made available to a general practitioner in County Wexford to avoid the person travelling to Dublin twice weekly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27127/07]

The information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

176 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community mental health teams in existence; the way they are resourced; and the number of CMHTs that are serving children and adolescents affected by eating disorders. [27136/07]

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. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Suicide Prevention.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

178 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to increase and fund suicide prevention services, including ensuring access to suicide prevention service in hospitals and provision for people affected by eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27138/07]

Responsibility for the implementation of "Reach Out" the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was published in September 2005, rests with the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP). The Minister and the National Office are fully committed to the implementation of the strategy.

Significant additional funding of €3.05 million was provided in 2006 and 2007 which brings the total funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives in 2007 to €8 million. This funding is being used to develop and implement national training programmes, complete the availability of self-harm services through A&E departments, develop mental health awareness campaigns, implement recommendations arising from a review of bereavement services and support voluntary organisations working in the field of suicide prevention.

There are currently 32 posts of specialist nurses in Accident and Emergency Departments to respond to deliberate self-harm presentations. The National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork are currently looking at best practice in this area in order to standardise the approach to service delivery. "A Vision for Change" provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. It acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services.

Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

An additional €25 million was provided to the HSE in 2007, €750,000 of which is for developing services for eating disorders. Some €500,000 of this funding was provided to enhance the service in the Elm Mount Unit, St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin which will provide a national service to support local services in addressing eating disorders. The balance of €250,000 has been allocated to HSE South to commence the development of an eating disorder service.

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

179 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will prevail upon the Health Service Executive to release the ban on staff recruitment to ensure that critical front-line staff positions such as the already funded suicide prevention nurse for Tallaght Hospital, can be filled as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27139/07]

There are currently over 2,700 whole time equivalent staff employed in Tallaght Hospital. It is a matter for the hospital administration to decide on the allocation of staff to particular services.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The Deputy may wish to note that the current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of this month. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in front-line services. Accordingly a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established and is meeting weekly to consider such applications.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

180 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for home help hours will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the delays that have taken place in sanctioning hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27141/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Ceist:

181 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if an independent review or report has been carried out on care and conditions in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin particularly covering the years 1995 to 2002 or thereafter; if a copy of the report will be made available to Members of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27144/07]

James Reilly

Ceist:

182 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has carried out a report or review on care and conditions in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin; if her Department has received a copy of the report or been informed of the contents of the report; if so, if her Department or the HSE will make the report available to Members of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27145/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 182 together.

A review was undertaken in respect of the complaints received in relation to St. Mary's Hospital Phoenix Park. A report on the matter has recently been received by the Health Service Executive and is at present under consideration by the Executive. My Department has not to date received a copy of the report. The HSE expects to be in a position shortly to advise the complainant and my Department on how the range of issues associated with this complaint can most appropriately be progressed. The question of dissemination of the report is a matter for the HSE.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

183 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made in relation to Mayo General Hospital holding on to the existing oncology services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27148/07]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

184 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if meetings have taken place between herself and a person (details supplied) in relation to the oncology services in a hospital. [27150/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 184 together.

The implementation of the National Cancer Control Programme is a major priority for me and for this Government. I fully support the appointment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Prof. Tom Keane as Interim National Cancer Control Director. The delivery of cancer services on a programmatic basis will serve to ensure equity of access to services and equality of patient outcome irrespective of geography. The decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. The HSE plans to have completed 50% of the transition of services to the cancer centres by end 2008 and 80-90% by end 2009.

The HSE has designated University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region which includes Mayo. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multidisciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Mayo General Hospital.

I have met with the person referred to by the Deputy on a number of occasions but none of our discussions have related specifically to oncology services at Mayo General Hospital.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

185 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are individuals or groups who may receive the cervical cancer vaccine on the GMS or without charge in some other way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27175/07]

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 reimbursed, 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. Products are considered for reimbursement on application by a supplier. Only drugs and medicines which are licensed for dispensing in a community pharmacy, on foot of a doctor's prescription, would qualify for reimbursement under the scheme. As the cervical cancer vaccine would require a clinical administration, it would not meet the criteria for reimbursement.

The most effective strategy for the prevention of cervical cancer requires decisions based on an assessment of the relative contributions of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening in reducing the burden of both existing and projected cervical pre-cancerous changes and cervical cancer. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine for different age groups and for differing levels of screening provision and uptake.

As is being done in other jurisdictions, Ireland is now considering the potential role of HPV vaccination in addressing the problem of cervical cancer prevention. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recently undertaken a scientific assessment of the public health value of HPV following a request from my Department. NIAC and the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) agreed that this work needed to be complemented by a study of the cost effectiveness of the vaccine in the current Irish context. Accordingly, both organisations requested that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertake this study.

One of the key functions of the Authority is the assessment of health technology, drugs and health promotion activities. When I have received the policy advice from HIQA and NCSS I will make the necessary decisions that arise from the advice. A quality assured population based cervical screening programme aims to reduce cervical cancer in Ireland by approximately 80%. The NCSS has confirmed that it will have such a programme in place from January next year. A national cervical screening programme will still be required regardless of a decision on a HPV vaccination programme.

Adoption Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

186 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on recent changes in adoption regulations which require sole applicants to be assessed by the Irish Adoption Board for eligibility before undergoing the Health Service Executive home study and assessment process; her views on whether such a regulation should be extended to all applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27197/07]

The Adoption Board approved the guidelines for determining the eligibility and suitability of sole applicants in September, 2007. These guidelines were developed by the Adoption Board in co-operation with the HSE to guide its decision making when considering whether a sole applicant is eligible and suitable to adopt in accordance with Section 10 of the Adoption Act 1991 and Section 13 of the Adoption Act, 1952. The guidelines will also be used to advise the Health Services Executive and the registered adoption agencies on how applications to adopt abroad by sole applicants are to be processed. I am fully supportive of the guidelines.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

187 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in her constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27210/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

188 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in her private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27225/07]

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

The tables below detail the number of civil servants and other staff employed in my private and constituency offices and the grade and annual salary of each staff member. Annual salary costs identified in the tables do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser *

Other

136,034

Special Adviser *

Other

130,287

Special Adviser/Programme Manager *

Other

169,415

Special Adviser/Press Adviser *

Other

116,487

Personal Assistant

Other

56,859

Private Secretary (HEO)

Civil Servant

74,443

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer

Civil Servant

40,758

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

31,891

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Clerical Officer (0.5)

Civil Servant

18,273

Clerical Officer (0.5)

Civil Servant

14,320

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

57,479

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

*The Special Advisers identified in the above table have been appointed to me in my capacity as Minister for Health and Children and as Party Leader.

As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December 2007 until early 2008. However, expenses amounting to €15,954.60 in respect of travel and subsistence were paid to staff working in my private office for the financial year ended 31 December 2006. No expenses in respect of travel and subsistence were paid to staff working in my constituency office for the same time period.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

189 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27240/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27255/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

The tables below detail the number of civil servants and other staff in the private and constituency offices for each Minister of State assigned to my Department.

Minister of State, Mr Brendan Smith T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

95,363

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

70,724

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

44,697

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

21,928

Clerical Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

14,861

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

45,121

Personal Secretary

Other

38,529

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

17,833

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Minister of State, Ms Maire Hoctor T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

64,387

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

22,204

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary

Other

40,734

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,196

Minister of State, Dr Jimmy Devins T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

82,016

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

69,954

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

42,766

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary (0.46 post)

Other

12,516

Personal Secretary (0.54 post)

Other

14,692

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Minister of State, Mr Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

58,631

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

45,499

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

27,555

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

52,379

Personal Secretary

Other

42,571

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

36,546

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,267

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

191 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding waiting lists at Mayo General Hospital for physiotherapy appointments; and the number of physiotherapists working at the hospital. [27261/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

192 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the performance objectives set out in respect of posts in which bonuses in her Department are paid; the way the performance is measured; and the way the performance related to the targets set. [27262/07]

The scheme of performance related awards in my Department relates to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and the Chief Medical Officer. The Committee for Performance Awards oversees the scheme, monitors its application and brings independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the officers concerned and in approving recommendations for awards. The Committee comprises two Secretaries General and three major figures in the private sector.

The setting of objectives, performance measurement and target setting are set out in the scheme. Details can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance at the following link:http//www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/ reports/CPArep2006.pdf. The objectives set are derived from my Department’s Statement of Strategy and the Corporate Business Plan which can be accessed on my Department’s website at www.dohc.ie. Awards are based on an assessment by the Secretary General of the performance of the individuals concerned by reference to objectives agreed between the Secretary General and the individuals. I understand that the awards reflected the Secretary General’s assessment of performance.

Ministerial Staff.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

193 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in the Office of the Minister for Children; and the annual cost of those staff. [27270/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and constituency offices of Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for children.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

95,363

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

70,724

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

44,697

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

21,928

Clerical Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

14,861

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

45,121

Personal Secretary

Other

38,529

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

17,833

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

194 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27284/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Dr Jimmy Devins T.D. Minister of State with special responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health (excluding discrimination).

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

82,016

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

69,954

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

42,766

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary (0.46 post)

Other

12,516

Personal Secretary (0.54 post)

Other

14,692

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

195 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Older People’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27288/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Ms Máire Hoctor T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People. The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Ms Máire Hoctor T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

64,387

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

22,204

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary

Other

40,734

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,196

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

196 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in her Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date she foresees for implementation of each directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27314/07]

There are currently 14 EU Directives awaiting transposition in my Department. Details of the dates by which transposition is due are as follows:—

(1)2006/81/EC adapting Directive 95/17/EC as regards the non-inclusion of one or more ingredients on the list used for labelling of cosmetic products and Directive 2005/78/EC as regards the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from engines for use in vehicles, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania — due 01/01/07. My Department is responsible for the transposition of the first part of this Directive.

(2)2007/1/EC amending Directive 76/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products, for the purposes of adapting Annex II thereof to technical progress — due 21/08/07.

(3)2007/17/EC amending Council Directive 78/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annexes III and VI thereof to technical progress — due 23/09/07.

(4)2007/22/EC amending Council Directive 78/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annexes IV and VI thereof to technical progress — due 18/01/08.

(5)2007/53/EC amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annex III thereto to technical progress — due 19/04/08.

(6)2007/54/EC amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC, concerning cosmetic products, for the purpose of adapting Annexes II and III thereto to technical progress — due 18/6/08.

(7)2007/29/EC amending Directive 96/8/EC as regards labelling, advertising or presenting foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction — due 30/11/07.

(8)2006/142/EC amending Annex IIIa of Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council listing the ingredients which must under all circumstances appear on the labelling of foodstuffs — due 23/12/07.

(9)2006/141/EC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae and amending Directive 1999/21/EC — due 31/12/07.

(10)2006/52/EC amending Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners and Directive 94/35/EC on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs — due 15/02/08.

(11)2006/128/EC amending and correcting Directive 95/31/EC laying down specific criteria of purity concerning sweeteners for use in foodstuffs — due 15/02/08.

(12)2006/129/EC amending and correcting Directive 96/77/EC laying down specific purity criteria on food additives other than colours and sweeteners — due 15/02/08.

(13)2007/47/EC amending Council Directive 90/385/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to active implantable medical devices, Council Directive 93/42/EEC concerning medical devices and Directive 98/8/EC concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market — due 21/12/08.

(14)2006/125/EC on processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children (Codified version).

The Directives numbered (1) to (6) in the above list are being dealt with together and I expect that they will be transposed within the coming weeks. I expect that those numbered (7) to (13) will be transposed by their respective deadlines. While there is no deadline for the transposition of the remaining Directive (14), I expect that it will be transposed by the end of this month.

Health Services.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

197 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she or the Health Service Executive have for the future of the Meath Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27319/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

198 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of MRSA in hospitals that have occurred over the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27322/07]

MRSA is not a notifiable disease. However, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. The data is collected on the first episode of blood stream infection of MRSA per patient per quarter. This system shows that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases on 2005 and 588 in 2006. Figures for the first six months of 2007 show that there were 292 cases.

A National Surveillance System recently has been established to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) in our healthcare system: Staphylococcus bacteraemia; Antibiotic consumption; Alcohol gel use; MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units. The first report is expected shortly and eventually 52 hospitals and 30 local health offices will report into the system.

Tackling HCAIs, including MRSA is a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has established a National Infection Control Action Plan. The Infection Control Steering Group is Chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) and is responsible for reducing infection levels in Ireland's healthcare facilities. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infection by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk.

These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

The HSE has issued hygiene and infection control standards for all hospitals and has begun initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption. In addition, the HSE has appointed a number of new infection control nurses, surveillance scientists and antibiotic pharmacists. These staff will strengthen specialist support for infection control and facilitate the development of the national surveillance system.

Each hospital has been mandated to carry out hand hygiene audits at least annually. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has completed its first Hygiene Services Assessment Scheme incorporating unannounced hospital hygiene inspections. Its report is expected shortly. HIQA is currently working with the HSE to produce national infection control standards. When these are introduced they will have the status of approved standards under the Health Act 2007 and their implementation will be monitored by HIQA.

I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contact MRSA. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

199 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application under the health repayment scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [27406/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

200 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the capital projects and respective costs approved for projects in County Roscommon and County Leitrim at the Health Service Executive capital steering group meeting of 25 October 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27417/07]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of €546 million has been provided to the Health Service Executive. Responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the developments referred to in the Deputy's question are a matter for the Health Services Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend the health repayment scheme to people who were living in private nursing homes because they could not get a bed in a public home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27424/07]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive will have their charges repaid in full. The estates of all those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged for publicly funded long term residential care and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme does not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date.

Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. It is not my intention to extend the parameters of the health repayment scheme.

Health Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

202 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath cannot avail of respite care. [27470/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

Damien English

Ceist:

203 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the domiciliary carers allowance of a person (details supplied) in County Meath has been discontinued; if she will re-investigate the matter with a view to restoring this allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27475/07]

My Department understands from the Health Service Executive that applicants must be notified in writing of the outcome of any decision on an application for, or review of, Domicilary Care Allowance and in the event of an unfavourable decision formal notification should be issued informing the applicant of his or her right of appeal and indicating where he or she should send the appeal. 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 Facilities.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

204 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy in respect of the provision of smoking facilities for hospital patients. [27501/07]

On 29 March 2004 most enclosed places of work — including hospitals (other than psychiatric hospitals) — became smoke-free. The primary purpose of the measure is to protect the health of employees and the public (including patients, in the case of hospitals) from exposure to toxic environmental tobacco smoke. There are no plans to permit smoking in hospitals.

Departmental Correspondence.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

205 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of items of correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas to her office that were received from 1 March 2007 to 1 October 2007; and the number of these that were referred to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive for response. [27506/07]

Seán Connick

Ceist:

206 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of items of correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas to her office, received from 1 March 2007 to 1 October 2007 and referred to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive for response that received responses from the Health Service Executive. [27507/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 206 together.

In the period between the 1st March, 2007 and 1st October, 2007 my office received approximately 6,500 items of correspondence. This figure covers all correspondence of various kinds received by my office. Each item of correspondence is tracked by surname and is not otherwise broken down by classification of the sender.

Approximately 1,300 of these items of correspondence related directly to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive and these letters were referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive for a direct response. Accordingly, I have asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division to furnish the Deputy with information regarding the number of letters issued by the Executive in the period concerned, in reply to representations from Oireachtas members.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

207 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the preparedness of Ireland to ratify the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption; the efforts being made to sign bilateral agreements with countries such as Russia, China and the Ukraine where many Irish adoptions occur; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27527/07]

The Department of Health and Children is currently drafting legislation to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Considerable progress has been made in drafting this legislation and it is expected that the Bill will be published around the end of this year.

Once the new legislation has been enacted it will be possible for Irish applicants to adopt from other countries which have ratified the Convention; or from countries with whom Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague principles. Adoptions from some countries are likely to cease as a result. This situation has been anticipated and it has been agreed by my Office and the Adoption Board that bilateral agreements will be actively pursued with a number of countries.

In negotiating agreements, priority is being given to those countries with which Ireland has an existing bilateral agreement, or administrative arrangements in place which reflect the ethos and standards of the Hague Convention and from which Irish applicants have a recent history of adopting.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

208 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason inter-country adoptions from Ethiopia and Rwanda have been suspended and adoptions from Guatamala have been stopped; her views on the impact this will have on the validity of previous adoptions from these countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27528/07]

Adoption in Ireland is regulated by the Adoption Board, which is an independent, statutory body. The Board must make decisions regarding adoptions in line with its assessment of the situation in each country, and its responsibility to ensure that all activities are undertaken with the best interests of the child as a paramount consideration.

The Adoption Board has discontinued the issuing of declarations of eligibility and suitability in respect of the adoption of children from Guatemala. There are a number of documents already in the public domain regarding concerns over the trafficking of children from Guatemala. These reports cover a long period of time in which the issue of trafficking and sale of children in the context of international adoption has continued to be raised.

I should point out that a number of other countries entered reservations regarding Guatemala's accession to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. These countries include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. These reservations date from 2003 and remain extant. This means that these countries do not accept that procedures in Guatemala reach Hague Standards regarding intercountry adoption, and therefore, have objected to or suspended acceptance of Guatemala's accession to the Convention and will not treat them as party to the Convention. This effectively means that these countries have a ban on adoptions from Guatemala.

In light of the long-standing and continuing international concern with regard to adoption practices in Guatemala, which have shown little sign of improvement, despite international comment and support, over the last ten years, I am of the view that the position taken by the Adoption Board is reasonable and measured. I have been assured by the Adoption Board that it is satisfied with regard to the validity of adoptions of Guatemalan children to date.

The Adoption Board is also currently examining the adoption laws of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Rwanda to determine if they meet the requirements for recognition in Ireland. This examination was undertaken as part of the preparations to ratify the Hague Convention, and it has highlighted a number of important legal issues which require further investigation. In the circumstances, and in order to protect the adoption process, the Adoption Board has decided, as a precautionary measure, to suspend the granting of Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability in respect of these two countries until the investigations are complete. Following the receipt of legal advice, the Adoption Board has been able to assure parents who have previously adopted from Ethiopia, and whose adoptions are already entered in the Register of Foreign Adoptions, that these adoptions are valid and secure. I have been assured by the Board that this issue is being dealt with as a matter of priority. I feel that the Board's decision is an appropriate one in the circumstances.

Question No. 209 answered with QuestionNo. 133.

Hospital Accommodation.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

210 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital beds available in Dublin and countrywide for the rehabilitation of recovering drug addicts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27547/07]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

211 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the new changes being made in the near future to the nursing home subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27555/07]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the new Nursing Home Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, which was announced by the Minister on 11 December 2006.

The proposed new scheme aims to remedy the inequities that exist in the current system. At present, people face greatly different costs depending on whether they are in public or private nursing homes. In addition, individual contributions in public places are based on a flat rate regardless of an individual's wealth, whereas State support for individuals in private places is based on means-testing. This means that many people in private nursing homes get no support, and even with subvention, people can face costs they cannot afford. The result is that some people are forced to sell or mortgage their homes to pay for care costs.

In contrast, the new Nursing Home Support Scheme will ensure that long-term residential care is affordable for all who need it. Contributions during a person's life will be affordable and they will not have to sell or mortgage their house to meet the contribution. Furthermore, a person's family will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care.

Under the new Nursing Home Support Scheme, people who require long-term residential care will contribute up to 80% of their assessable income, whether for public or private nursing home care. Depending on the amount of a person's assessable income, there will also be a contribution of up to 5% of a person's assets.

The portion of the contribution relating to assets, such as a person's house, may be deferred. This means that it does not have to be met during the person's lifetime and can be payable on settlement of the person's estate instead. The deferred contribution will be based on the actual number of weeks spent in residential care and on the cost of care and, consequently, may be less than 5% per annum. I would take this opportunity to emphasise that no one will pay more than the cost of their care.

In addition, where the deferred contribution applies to the principal private residence, it will be capped at a maximum of 15%, or 7.5% in the case of one spouse remaining in the home while the other enters long-term residential care. This means that after three years in care, a person will not be liable for any further deferred charge on the principal residence. It also means that 85% of the value of the principal residence will be maintained for the beneficiaries of the person's estate. This is not something that can be guaranteed at the moment.

A person or his/her family can also choose to pay the charge at the time when care is being received instead of allowing it to be levied upon the estate if they so wish. Where a spouse or certain dependants are living in the principal residence, the charge can be further deferred until after the death of that spouse or dependant, or until such time as a person previously qualifying as a dependant ceases to qualify as such.

The Department is currently preparing a Bill for the new Nursing Home Support Scheme. It is intended to publish the Bill for the scheme in November, and to have the legislation in place by 1 January 2008.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when home help will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is in urgent need of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27558/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 213 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Search and Rescue Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

214 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Transport if the Irish Coast Guard are able to operate helicopters in and out of Bantry General Hospital helipad; if he will list all occurrences in the past 10 years of their helicopters using or being diverted to another site or hospital and the type of helicopter involved; if the Irish Coastguard have any reservations about using the helipad at Bantry Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26887/07]

The helicopter landing facility at Bantry General Hospital does not meet the criteria laid down by the International Civil Aviation Authority, and implemented by the Irish Aviation Authority for helicopter landings of the Irish Coast Guard medium-lift helicopters. Use of the hospital grounds or the issue of diversion of helicopters has, therefore, never arisen.

Bantry Airfield, at one km distance from Bantry Hospital, is an IAA approved heliport for the Coast Guard helicopters on Search and Rescue, air ambulance and inter-hospital transfer missions. Ambulance transfer takes place between the airfield and the hospital.

Road Traffic Offences.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

215 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will not penalise the vast majority of responsible drivers on provisional licences; and if he will show common sense on this matter. [26910/07]

Enforcement of road traffic legislation is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Air Accident Investigations.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

216 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has been notified in relation to an incident (details supplied); if he has raised concerns in this regard with the Dublin Airport Authority; if he has requested a report on the incident from the authorities; if he has received such a report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26938/07]

I have been advised by my Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) that no "near miss" was reported into the Unit for the 17 October 2007. Following receipt of this PQ, the AAIU contacted Shannon ATC, Cork ATC, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), BMI (Airline) and Servisair (BMI Handler) to ascertain whether such an event had occurred. All replied in the negative. If the Deputy has further details relating to this "near miss" I would request that you provide same directly to the AAIU.

Rail Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

217 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the reason wheelchair bound persons cannot access trains nearest to their homes but have to hire a taxi to travel further distances at a cost to the patient (details supplied). [26939/07]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that access is available for wheelchair users to both platforms at Kildare station and assistance is provided upon advance request to the station manager.

I understand therefore that it is not necessary for Kildare wheelchair user customers to be diverted to Newbridge station to gain access to the rail services.

Rural Transport Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

218 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to provide public transport to serve isolated rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27000/07]

Under my Department's Rural Transport Programme (RTP), thirty-four community transport groups around the country are being funded to address social exclusion in their rural areas arising from unmet public transport needs.

The new Programme, administered by Pobal, is building on the success of the former Rural Transport Initiative (2000-2006) by putting that pilot scheme on a permanent mainstreamed basis with significantly increased funding.

Pobal has commenced a process to extend the RTP on a phased basis with a goal of achieving nation-wide coverage in due course in line with Government policy.

The Government's continued commitment to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) is reflected in Towards 2016 which includes phased increases in the annual RTP allocation over time to about Euro 18 million. The National Development Plan 2007-2013 — Transforming Ireland, commits some Euro 90 million to the Rural Transport Programme over its full term.

Some Euro 9 million is being provided for the RTP in 2007 which it is envisaged will lead to an increase in the frequency of existing services, extended coverage, and additional groups of customers accessing rural transport.

Rail Network.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

219 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in conjunction with Iarnrod Éireann to upgrade a railway line (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27022/07]

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

220 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in conjunction with Iarnrod Éireann to upgrade a railway line and station (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27023/07]

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals, in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann to upgrade a railway line and station (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27024/07]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, together.

I understand from Iarnród Eireann that the railway line from Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh, Co. Tipperary is currently one of the more lightly used regional passenger lines on the Iarnród Éireann network.

However the company is currently engaged in a programme of track work to reduce the number of severely speed restricted sections of track along the line.

According to Iarnród Eireann, improvements to the stations at Nenagh, Cloughjordan and Roscrea will be carried out in due course as part of Iarnród Eireann's network wide accessibility improvement programme.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

222 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the number of drivers who have been prosecuted for an offence under the Railway Safety Act 2005 section 138 (Bridge Strikes) in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27035/07]

The information sought by the Deputy is not held by my Department. Statistics on bridge strike offences is a matter for the Garda Síochána and the Courts Service.

Air Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

223 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport when and the circumstances in which the Secretary General of his Department first became aware of the proposal of Aer Lingus to remove the Shannon Heathrow slots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27104/07]

The circumstances in which the Secretary General of my Department first became aware of the proposal to establish a hub at Belfast and the possible implications for Shannon Airport are set out in a Report recently prepared for me by the Secretary General of my Department.

This report was completed on 25 October and has been published on the website of the Department of Transport and placed in the Dail library.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

224 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27214/07]

The table attached provides the information required by the Deputy.

Constituency Office

No.

Remuneration based on current payscales

Expenses incl. overtime to date

Civil Servant

2

30,628 – 48,594 23,221 – 37,651

1,039

Non Civil Servant

3

88,261 – 108,856 44,314 – 56,250 22,064 – 42,571

Nil

Total

5

1,039

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

225 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27229/07]

The following table provides the information required by the Deputy.

Private Office

No.

Remuneration based on current payscales

Expenses incl overtime to date

Civil Servant

8

€44,314 – €56,250 plus allowance €19,690 €30,628 – €48,594 €23,221 – €37,651 × 6

€1786

Non Civil Servant

1

€82,016 – €95,363

Nil

Total

9

€1786

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

226 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27244/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

227 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27259/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

There is no Minister of State in my Department.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

228 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27317/07]

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

Title

Deadline for Transposition

Target Date for Implementation

Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on safety on the Community’s railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification (Railway Safety Directive).

30 April 2006

End November 2007

Directive 2004/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports

30 April 2006

Mid November 2007

Directive 2003/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15th July 2003 on the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers, amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 and Council Directive 91/439/EEC and repealing Council Directive 76/914/EEC

10 Sept 2006

End of December 2007

Directive 2005/64/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the type approval of motor vehicles with regard to their reusability, recyclability and recoverability and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

15 December 2006 (15 July, 2010 — Implementation Date for N1s — small vans).

S.I. No. 166 was signed by the Minister on 11 April 2006 for Type Approval of Motor Vehicles and the Road Safety Authority is preparing the necessary instrument in relation to Entry into Service of Mechanically Propelled Vehicles.

Council Directive 2006/103/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Directives in the field of Transport Policy, by reason of accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

1 January 2007

Date not yet clear

Council Directive 2006/96/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Directives in the field of free movement of goods, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania

1 January 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

Directive 2005/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 amending Council Directives 72/166/EEC, 84/5/EEC, 88/357/EEC and 90/232/EEC and Directive 2000/26/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles.

11 June 2007

End of November 2007

Commission Directive 2006/119/EC of 27 November 2006 amending for the purposes of adapting to technical progress Directive 2001/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning heating systems for motor vehicles and their trailers.

30 September 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

Commission Directive 2006/120/EC of 27 November 2006 correcting and amending Directive 2005/30/EC amending, for the purposes of their adaptation to technical progress Directives 97/24//EC and 2002/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, relating to the type-approval of two or three-wheel motor vehicles.

30 September 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

Directive 2006/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17th May 2006 relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

4th January 2008

4th January 2008

Directive 2006/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5th April 2006 on a Community air traffic control licence.

17th May 2008

April 2008

Directive 2006/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures.

10 June 2008

By end of March 2008

Commission Directive 2007/32/EC of 1 June 2007 amending Annex VI to Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and Annex VI to Directive 2001/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system.

2 December 2007

1 December 2008

Commission Directive 2007/15/EC of 14 March 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 74/483/EEC relating to the external projections of motor vehicles.

4 April 2008

4 April 2008

Commission Directive 2007/34/EC of 14 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 70/157/EEC concerning the permissible sound level & the exhaust system of motor vehicles.

5 July 2008

By the scheduled date

Commission Directive 2007/35/EC of 18 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 76/756/EEC concerning the installation of lighting & light-signalling devices on motor vehicles & their trailers.

9 July 2008

By the scheduled date

Commission Directive 2007/37/EC of 21 June 2007 amending Annexes 1 & 111 to Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles & their trailers

4 January 2008

By the scheduled date

Directive 2007/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 on the retrofitting of mirrors to heavy goods vehicles registered in the Community.

6 August 2008

By the scheduled date

Air Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

229 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if he will purchase the four Heathrow slots which are on offer from the former GB airlines and give them to the Shannon Airport Authority for their permanent use to ensure connectivity between the mid west and the rest of the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27404/07]

It is not open to the State to acquire slots at Heathrow airport as the applicable rules only allow for slots to be assigned to airlines. The provision of funding to any airline to fund the acquisition of slots would be constrained by the State aid rules.

Passport Applications.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of people living in Northern Ireland holding Irish passports; the number of people in Northern Ireland who have opted to hold an Irish passport since the Belfast Agreement; the number of Irish passport holders living in the United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland who hold Irish passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26949/07]

The Passport Office database records and collates data on applicants by place of birth rather than place of residence. It is therefore possible only to give estimated figures in response to this question.

While it is not possible to provide details on passport holders resident in Northern Ireland it is estimated that approximately 320,000 persons who were born in Northern Ireland currently hold valid Irish passports. The level of demand from persons born in Northern Ireland has been increasing since finalisation of the Good Friday Agreement. Some 58,000 such applications were received in 2006 compared to 15,000 in 1998. Figures to the end of October suggest that the total number of applications in 2007 will exceed 63,000.

The number of current passport holders in Great Britain, is approximately 400,000.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

231 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27209/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

232 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27224/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

233 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27239/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

234 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27254/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

235 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for European Affair’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27274/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 to 235, inclusive, together.

The following tables set out the grades, numbers and remuneration of the personnel in my private and constituency offices and those of the two Ministers of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, T.D. Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Special Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

Press Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

First Secretary

1

1st Secretary PPC scale — €66,302 – €82,679

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer higher scale €47,000 – €58,139

Personal Secretary(Non-established)

1

Executive Officer higher scale €29,093-€47,980

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer standard scale €29,093 – €46,167

Clerical Officer

4

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

10

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €52,379 (excludes long service increments)

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer PPC scale €30,628 – €48,594

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.5

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (based in constituency)

1

Clerical Officer higher scale €23,086 – €36,546

Total

4.5

Minister of State, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D.

Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Special Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

Personal Assistant (Non-established)

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €52,379 (excludes long service increments)

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €56,250

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer standard scale €33,258 – €44,407

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Total

6

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Secretary (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Secretarial Assistant Scale €22,064 – €42,571 (Plus a 10% attraction allowance)

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer standard scale €33,258 – €44,407

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.5

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

5.5

Minister of State, Mr. Míchael Kitt, T.D.

Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer PPC scale €30,628 – €48,594

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer standard scale €29,093 – €46,167

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.6

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

4.6

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant (Non-established)

1

Parliamentary Assistant scale €39,112 – €49,685

Personal Secretary (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Secretarial Assistant Scale €22,064 – €42,571 (Plus a 10% attraction allowance)

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

5

The employment contract of the non-established officers referred to in these tables is coterminous with the appointment of the relevant office holder. Overtime, travel and subsistence expenses are paid in accordance with normal Civil Service regulations. Personal Pension Contribution (PPC) scales apply where officers were employed since 6 April 1995, pay class A rate of PRSI and make a personal pension contribution.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

236 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27313/07]

My Department, which has an overall coordinating role in relation to EU matters, does not as a rule have responsibility for transposing EU measures into Irish law. Currently, there are no EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in my Department.

The Government remains firmly committed to the effective and timely transposition of EU Directives into Irish law. My colleague Mr Dick Roche, T.D., Minister of State for European Affairs, has reconstituted the Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee for European Affairs (ICCEUA), a high-level group which meets regularly and, inter alia, monitors the transposition of EU legislation.

The Department of the Taoiseach, in collaboration with other Departments, has created a special data base, which monitors and coordinates information relating to EU directives. This will serve as an important tool in enabling Ireland to meet deadlines for transposing EU measures.

Furthermore, the European Commission recently published a communication entitled A Europe of Results — Applying Community Law where it has proposed a pilot project on measures to improve the application of Community Law. Ireland is engaged in discussions with the Commission with a view to participating in the pilot project.

Business Regulation.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

237 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has made a commitment on behalf of Ireland to reduce the cost to business of national regulations by 25% by 2012 at the Spring European Council; the interim targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27172/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

244 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland has made a specific commitment to reduce the cost to business of national regulations by 25% by 2012 as called for at the Spring 2007 European Council meeting; the interim targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27151/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

248 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of times the High-Level Group on Business Regulation has met since the formation of the Government; the members of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27155/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

253 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he will make his first annual report outlining the progress he has made in reducing administrative burdens on business as agreed at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27160/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

254 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has responded to the agreement at EU level by setting a national target for the reduction of administrative burdens on business; the details of that target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27161/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

257 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will use the international standards cost model in assessing the impact of regulation on industry and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27164/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237, 244, 248, 253, 254 and 257 together.

In March this year, the European Council agreed that "administrative burdens arising from EU legislation should be reduced by 25% by 2012. Taking into account the different starting points and traditions the European Council invites Member States to set their own national targets of comparable ambition within their spheres of competence by 2008."

Prior to the Taoiseach's departure for the Spring European Council, the Government agreed that I should lead the cross-Departmental and agency drive, and put in place a mechanism under the Secretary General of my Department, to drive this agenda at national level.

Before setting a definitive target, I intend to consult with other Departments and Agencies on the extent of administrative burdens and on measures that have been undertaken or are planned to reduce that burden.

As part of the effort at national level, earlier this year, I established the High-level Group on Business Regulation, under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of my Department. The High-level Group comprises representatives of Government Departments and Agencies, the business sector and a representative of ICTU. The members are:

Sean Gorman (Chairman)

Secretary General

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Liam Berney

Union Services Officer

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Patricia Callan

Director, SFA

Small Firms Association

Marie Daly

Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs

Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation

Pat Delaney

Director of Business Sectors

Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation

Gearoid Doyle

Founder

Kinsale Capital

Pat Farrell

Chief Executive Officer

Irish Bankers’ Federation

Mark Fielding

Chief Executive Officer

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises

Liam Irwin

Deputy Secretary, Strategic Planning Division

Revenue Commissioners

Philip Kelly

Assistant Secretary

Department of the Taoiseach

Irene Lynch Fannon

Professor of Law

Faculty and Department of Law, UCC

Steve MacFeely

Director, Business Statistics

Central Statistics Office

John O’Connell

Assistant Secretary

Department of Finance

Tom O’Mahony

Assistant Secretary

Department of the Environment and Local Government

Breda Power

Assistant Secretary

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

The High-level Group has decided to focus initially on ways to reduce, simplify and eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens and associated costs in five priority areas and will capture the savings arising from their work on a case by case basis. The five priority areas are:

Taxation,

Statistical Reporting

Environmental Regulations

Health and Safety Regulations, and

Company and Employment Law.

The five priority areas are those identified in the report of the Business Regulation Forum (BRF), published in April 2007. The approach being taken is in line with the BRF's recommendation that "given the resource implications associated with undertaking a full baseline measurement exercise, a prioritised and selective approach is the most realistic way forward for Ireland".

The High Level Group has met twice so far in 2007, on the 26th of July and the 2nd of October.

I expect the Group to submit an initial report to me by July 2008.

Visa Applications.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

238 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, further to correspondence (details supplied) he will address the issues raised and have them addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26953/07]

A holder of a Green Card who previously held a work authorization / work visa issued by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform may in certain circumstances change employer within 12 months of issue of a Green Card.

This position has been conveyed to the applicant.

Community Employment Schemes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

239 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the cut off age for community employment schemes will be extended to sixty years in view of the ageing population here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26987/07]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

The upper age limit for CE participants is 65 years.

With effect from 10 November 2004 those aged 55 years of age and over are eligible to participate on CE for a maximum period of 6 years, based on participation since 3rd April 2000. In June 2006 the participation limit for people with a disability was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and participants with a disability may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

Work Permits.

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

240 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the case of a person (details supplied) who has applied for a green card permit will be processed as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26996/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a green card application was received in respect of the above named person. The permit was refused and the applicant subsequently lodged an appeal of the decision. The appeal was successful and a Green Card Permit has now been issued.

Job Creation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

241 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures being taken to encourage new industry into a county (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26998/07]

State support for enterprise and job creation is channelled through the industrial development agencies. While I may give general policy directives to the development agencies, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual industrial undertakings, or from giving preference to one area over others.

Through its range of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively promoting Co. Wexford for new and expansion investments. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the Agency is concentrating its resources on the hub town of Wexford, as the location with the greatest potential to develop first class facilities for attracting overseas industry. At present in County Wexford, there are over 1,900 people working in 11 IDA supported companies. The Agency is actively engaged with its existing base of manufacturing companies in the County highlighting the importance of upskilling/reskilling and the need to add high-value activities in order to ensure their development and sustainability for the long-term.

Enterprise Ireland is committed to delivering on its regional mandate and continues to support the development of entrepreneurship in the region in collaboration with other State agencies and educational establishments. In terms of job creation, the Agency's activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs, setting up new High Potential Start-Up companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions. Enterprise Ireland has 163 client companies in County Wexford, which employ a total of 3,603 people.

The Wexford County Enterprise Board (CEB) assists micro enterprises in the county and, during 2006, the Board grant-aided 28 projects resulting in the creation of 36 jobs.

I am satisfied that the co-operation between the State agencies, together with the roll out of the National Development Plan 2007-2013, will continue to bear fruit in terms of job creation and investment for the people of Wexford.

Employment Support Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

242 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the new programmes or approaches to training and employment for people with mental health problems that have been adopted or are definitively planned bearing in mind the high level of unemployment among people with mental health problems and the recommendations of the National Mental Health Policy Framework A Vision for Change. [27048/07]

FÁS offers a comprehensive menu of vocational training and employment supports for people with disabilities, consistent with current mainstreaming policy. People with disabilities are encouraged to apply for training and the appropriate supports are put in place to meet their particular individual needs. If people with disabilities cannot meet the requirements of mainline vocational training, with training supports, then the individual is referred to Specialist Training Provision contracted by FÁS. This is done on the basis of an occupational guidance interview with a FÁS Employment Services Officer as Employment Services are the "Gateway" for all FÁS services.

As of 1st November 2007, all clients with a disability presenting to FÁS will be registered with Employment Services. This will enable FÁS to track and support clients with a disability in a more systematic way with the objective of providing better labour market outcomes. Accordingly they will deal with a named Employment Support Officer/Local Employment Service mediator in all their contacts with FÁS. Their applications are considered priority for FÁS training courses, access to additional supports under the High Support Process and under FÁS's Technical Employment Support Grants.

A working group has been established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Indecon Report. It relates specifically to services contracted out to specialist training providers by FÁS. The focus of this working group is on achieving greater efficiencies and value for money in relation to the significant levels of public funding being allocated to such training providers each year.

The recommendations in the recently published "Framework for the Training and Employment of People with Mental Health Difficulties", published by the Mental Health Forum, are being considered for implementation. In this regard FÁS will be giving particular attention to:

The introduction of new supports, or the adaptation of existing ones, with a view to further improving training options available to people with disabilities.

Introducing bridging programmes to assist the transition between rehabilitative and open vocational training and

Enhancing the prospects for the placement of people with disabilities in the open labour market.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

243 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on Ireland’s progress in transposing the EU internal market directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27149/07]

A fully functioning Single Market is of crucial importance for growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe and, in this respect, the timely and correct transposition of EU Internal Market Directives into national law plays a vitally important role.

The European Commission's Internal Market Scoreboard, published twice a year, highlights how successful each Member State has been in conforming to the transposition deadlines of Internal Market legislation. At the moment, each Member State is required to have 98.5% of its Internal Market Directives transposed by the due date, i.e. a deficit of no more than 1.5%. The European Council has imposed a new deficit target of 1% to apply from 2009.

Ireland's transposition deficits since the first Internal Market Scoreboard was published in November 1997 are set out in the table below. It is anticipated that Ireland's deficit rating for the December 2007 Scoreboard will be under the 1.5% target.

Internal Market Scoreboard — Irish Deficits

Date

Deficit Rating

Date

Deficit Rating

%

%

Nov 1997

5.4

May 1998

5.4

Nov 1998

5.8

May 1999

3.9

Nov 1999

4.4

May 2000

4

Nov 2000

3.6

May 2001

3.3

Nov 2001

2.4

May 2002

2.4

Nov 2002

2.6

May 2003

3.5

No Scoreboard

July 2004

1.2

No Scoreboard

July 2005

1.6

Dec 2005

1.8

July 2006

2.0

Dec 2006

1.2

July 2007

1.7

Dec 2007

Question No. 244 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

Single Market Review.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

245 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the EU single market review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27152/07]

The Internal (or Single) Market is one of the European Union's most significant achievements. It has created jobs and stimulated growth. It has created an agreed set of rules for businesses that now have access to a market of 500 million consumers. It has generated high quality safety standards and has offered consumers (including business consumers) a wider choice of goods and services at lower prices. Despite its achievements, however, it is still not a fully functioning entity.

The Commission's Interim Report on the Single Market, entitled A Single Market for Citizens, was presented to the March 2007 European Council. It stressed that the Single Market must be a market for consumers and citizens; for an integrated European economy; for a knowledge society; for a well-regulated Europe; for a sustainable Europe; and for a Europe that must be open to the world.

The Commission's Final Report is likely to state that the internal market should focus on issues that affect the everyday lives of consumers and businesses, such as telecommunications, energy and retail financial services. It is likely to refer to the need to support SMEs due to the difficulties that small businesses often experience in negotiating the Single Market. It is also likely to refer to the need for more progress in the area of services, including the transposition of the Services Directive. It is likely to make reference to the social and environmental dimension of internal market policy. In that regard, new approaches are necessary (for example, transition towards a low-carbon economy) if the EU's citizens are to be able to meet the challenges of the future. The Report is also likely to refer to the international dimension of the Single Market, which would make Europe more attractive for foreign investors and allow Europe to take a leading role when global rules and standards are being defined.

Ireland has contributed to the Review through our participation in the various European fora at which it was discussed. In addition, my Department asked Forfas to undertake a critical assessment of the Single Market from an Irish perspective. The study addresses where the real barriers are and what is preventing Irish businesses and consumers from exploiting the Single Market to its full potential. The study, which will be available to my Department shortly, will contribute to Ireland's position in the discussions following the publication of the Report.

I look forward to the publication of the Commission's Final Report, which is expected to be published later this month. As a trading nation, we can only benefit from a fully functioning Single Market that addresses the remaining areas that need to be tackled and whose rules are applied in a fair, transparent and timely fashion. A fully functioning Single Market will also increase the confidence of citizens, consumers and businesses in the institutions of the EU generally and in its future.

Company Law Review.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

246 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, with regard to the on-going review of company law, he will implement any amendment to company law with regard to residential management companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27153/07]

The Government has approved the drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill along the lines of the General Scheme prepared by the Company Law Review Group.

The General Scheme was designed to provide an appropriate framework for the formation and operation of companies and is framed primarily with private, commercially operating, companies in mind. The underlying philosophy behind the proposals in the General Scheme is to simplify company law for the benefit of business operators and company law practitioners.

Recognising the role that company law could play in relation to property management companies, the Company Law Review Group consulted widely on its proposals and gave specific consideration to that aspect. As a result, the General Scheme contains a number of provisions with the express intention of facilitating the use of the company structure by multi-unit developments. For example, the membership limit of 99 which will ordinarily apply to the most common company type, the private company limited by shares, will not apply in the case of a residential management company. Also, the membership of a residential management company will be deemed to transfer from the vendor to the purchaser upon the sale of the underlying property to which the membership relates. These proposals represent very specific carve-outs from the general provisions concerning the standard private company limited by shares.

Export Licensing.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

247 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has committed to implementing all the recommendations of the Forfás report on the export of armaments and dual-use items with particular reference to the non-legislative recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27154/07]

As indicated by my colleague, Minister McGuinness, in the Dáil debate on 4 October on the Control of Exports Bill, my Department has acted on the non-legislative recommendations of the Forfás review on the export licensing of military and dual-use goods in Ireland.

The export licensing function has remained with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as recommended by the review. However, much has been done to improve coordination with the other Government Departments and state agencies in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs which is consulted on all licence applications with foreign policy considerations and the Customs authorities of the Revenue Commissioners. In this regard, an official has been seconded by the Department of Foreign Affairs to a senior managerial role in the Licensing Unit of my Department.

It is my intention to transform the Inter Departmental Group established to oversee production of the Report this group into a standing Inter Departmental Committee which will take forward responsibility for coordinating the work of the Departments and agencies in the area of export control. A priority of the Inter Departmental Group is the establishment of a Technical Advisory Panel to act as a specialist resource for my Department on technical questions related to the licensing process.

Acting on the recommendation of the Forfás Review, a project to develop an online export licensing system has been underway for the past year and the system, OELAS, will be released to exporters in the next few weeks. My Department has developed an outreach to industry programme for export control. A good working relationship has been established with individual companies and with appropriate umbrella organisations and they are regularly briefed on the latest developments in this sector. My Department organised the first ever export control seminar for exporters of controlled goods in June 2006 in Farmleigh, at which a Users Guide and Customers Charter to Export Licensing was launched.

In conclusion, I would like to reassure the House that I remain committed to implementing the recommendations of the Forfás report.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

249 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Services Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27156/07]

The Directive on Services in the internal market (Directive 2006/123/EC) is a major piece of internal market legislation. It creates a "single market" for commercial services and is a key provision of the Lisbon Agenda. It provides a framework for service providers to become established in another Member State or to provide services there on a temporary basis. It strengthens the rights of consumers as users of services. It establishes legally binding obligations for administrative co-operation between Member States in connection with the activities of service providers availing of the Single Market outside their own Member State.

The Directive has significant implications for the development of the services sector in Ireland. Trade-related services, other business services and recreational services will benefit from the opening up of the European market. Some services sectors will face competition from abroad, which will spur greater innovation and productivity in those sectors. Indeed, much of the benefit of the Directive will result from increased competition in the European services market, which will create new export opportunities for Irish service providers and make services available to Irish consumers (including business consumers) at lower prices. The overall effect will be beneficial for the Irish economy, including its competitiveness.

Transposition of the Directive is currently underway in my Department. There will be extensive consultations with stakeholders, including the social partners, over the next twelve months. A Regulatory Impact Assessment is also being prepared on the Directive. The target date for the transposition of the Directive is 28th December 2009.

Work Permits.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

250 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount his Department has accrued in fees paid with respect to work permit applications and renewals for each of the past five years; if he has plans to increase or reduce the level of these charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27157/07]

I set out below receipts for employment permit fees paid for each of the past 5 years:

Year

€m

2002

14.509

2003

20.216

2004

12.864

2005

11.603

2006

10.624

I have no plans at this time to increase or reduce the fees applicable for employment permit applications.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the length of time it takes on average for his Department to issue a work permit from the time the application has been received; if he is satisfied with the length of time taken; if he will introduce measures to speed up the process; if he has set targets or benchmarks in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27158/07]

The following table illustrates the current processing time for Employment Permits applications. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that we are meeting our customer service targets for Green Cards and Intra Company Transfers. The current processing time for Work Permits is 18 days and for Spousal Permits 22 days. Staff have been redeployed in the last 3 days to process Spousal Permits and Work Permits in order to bring these Employment applications within our target processing times.

Permit Type

Customer Service Target (days)

Position at 02 November 2007 (days)

Work Permits

15

18

Spousal Permits

15

22

Green Cards

15

13

ICTs

15

2

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

252 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the mechanism used to calculate the cost to business of new regulations when his Department carries out a regulatory impact assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27159/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

256 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the section of his Department responsible for carrying out regulatory impact assessments; if he will explain the process and methodology used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27163/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 256 together.

Regulatory impact assessments are carried out by the Section responsible for the regulation in question. In so doing, the Section draws on the Regulatory Impact Analysis Guidelines published by the Department of the Taoiseach in October 2005, which includes guidelines on cost/benefit analysis. Within my own Department a dedicated toolkit has also been prepared to help Sections to undertake the RIA process.

Questions Nos. 253 and 254 answered with Question No. 237.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

255 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the UCITS Directive will be transposed into Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27162/07]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the most recent amendment of the UCITS directives, namely EU Commission Directive 2007/16/EC of 19th March 2007 implementing Council Directive 85/611/EEC on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investments in transferable securities (UCITS) as regards the clarification of certain definitions.

Member States are required to transpose this amending Directive into national law by 23rd March 2008. Ireland expects to complete the necessary transposition process ahead of this deadline by the end of 2007. The earlier UCITS directives have already been transposed into Irish law.

Question No. 256 answered with QuestionNo. 252.
Question No. 257 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

258 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27206/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in my constituency office is outlined in the Table below together with the total annual salaries, and total annual allowances pertaining to each category, i.e. civil servants and non civil service staff. Expenses relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present day. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Staff

Number & Grade

Total Annual Salaries

Total Annual Allowances

Expenses

Civil Servants

2 Clerical Officers 1 Clerical Officer, w/s (.8)

102,967.00

290.19

Non Civil Servants

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary, w/s (.6) 1 Personal Secretary, w/s (.5)

102,587.00

4,174

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

259 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27221/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in my private office is outlined in the Table below together with the total annual salaries and total annual allowances pertaining to each category, i.e. civil servants and non civil service staff. Expenses relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present day. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Staff

Number & Grade

Total Annual Salaries

Total Annual Allowances

Expenses

Civil Servants

1 Private Secretary (HEO) 2 Executive Officers 5 Clerical Officers

278,496.00

19,690.08

4,727.13

Non Civil Servants

1 Special Adviser 1 Policy Adviser 1 Press Adviser

266,325.00

8,895.00

8,011.64

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

260 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27236/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in the constituency offices of the three Ministers of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is outlined in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Minister of State

Civil Servants

Non Civil Servants

Office of the Minister of State for Labour Affairs (Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D.)

Nil

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy (Mr. Michael Ahern T.D.)

1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary

Office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce (Mr. John McGuinness T.D.)

Nil

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary, w/s (.8)

Each Minister of State also employs 2 Civilian Drivers. The drivers work alternate weeks on a week on/week off basis. The current salary for a Civilian Driver is € 33,148.00 per annum.

The total annual salary costs and the total annual allowances for each of the Minister's of State Constituency Offices are set out in Table 2 below. Expenses for Minister Ahern's Office relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present. Expenses for Minister Kelleher's Office relate to the period 20/06/07 to the present while expenses for Minister McGuinness' Office relate to the period 11/07/07 to the present date.

It should be noted that the salary costs are inclusive of the Civilian Driver salaries. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Table 2

Constituency Office

Total Annual Salaries — Civil Servants

Total Annual Salaries — Non Civil Servants

Total Annual Allowances — Non Civil Servants

Expenses

Office of the Minister for Labour Affairs

Nil

134,298

6,801.00

3,793.54

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy

30,805

165,695

Nil

23,210.53

Office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce

Nil

152,797

4,432.00

1,938.15

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

261 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27251/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in the private offices of the three Ministers of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is outlined in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Minister of State

Civil Servants

Non Civil Servants

Office of the Minister of State for Labour Affairs (Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D.)

1 Private Secretary, (HEO) 1 Executive Officer 3 Clerical Officers

Nil

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy (Mr. Michael Ahern T.D.)

1 Private Secretary, (HEO) 1 Executive Officer 1 Clerical Officer

Nil

Office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce( Mr. John McGuinness T.D.)

1 Private Secretary, (HEO) 1 Staff Officer 1 Clerical Officer

Nil

The total annual salary costs and the total annual allowances for each of the Ministers of State Private Offices are set out in Table 2 below. Expenses for Minister Ahern's Office relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present. Expenses for Minister Kelleher's Office relate to the period 20/06/07 to the present while expenses for Minister McGuinness' Office relate to the period 11/07/07 to the present date. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Table 2

Constituency Office

Total Annual Salaries — Civil Servants

Total Annual Salaries — Non Civil Servants

Total Annual Allowances — Civil Servants

Expenses

Office of the Minister for Labour Affairs

172,059

Nil

19,690.08

4,382.90

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy

126,972

Nil

19,690.08

785.61

Office of the Minister for Trade and Commerce

117,503

Nil

19,690.08

904.36

Community Employment Schemes.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

262 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the guidelines governing applications by people aged 55 and over for community employment schemes. [27266/07]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

263 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the overall guidelines for a person applying for a place on a community employment scheme. [27267/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

The criteria for participating on the Community Employment programme are based on age and length of time in receipt of various social welfare payments. In general, the Part-time Integration Option is for people of 25 or over who are receiving social welfare payments for 1 year or more, and people of 18 years or over in receipt of disability-related payments. The Part-time Job Option is for people who are 35 or over and in receipt of social welfare payments for 3 years or longer.

Certain groups such as travellers and refugees aged 18 or over are eligible for both options. If you qualify under the criteria but do not wish to take up the option yourself, there are certain conditions under which you can do a spousal swap.

To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE cap to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April 2000). Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE based on a Social Welfare disability linked payment was increased by one year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and participants with a disability may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

Ministerial Staff.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

264 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for Innovation Policy’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27275/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in the office of the Minister for State with special responsibility for Innovation Policy is set out in the table. The total annual salary cost of staff is also included. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Minister of State

Staff

Total Annual Salary & Expenses (Incl. Civil Servants & Non Civil Servants

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy (Mr. Michael Ahern T.D.)

1 Private Secretary, (HEO) 1 Executive Officer 1 Clerical Officer 1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary 2 Civilian Drivers

€367,158.22

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

265 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for Lifelong Learning, Youth Work and School Transport’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27283/07]

The Minister for State with special responsibility for Lifelong Learning, Youth Work and School Transport does not have a dedicated office in this Department. Instead, a senior official of the relevant business unit in my Department is appointed to liaise with the Minister of State and to provide him with the necessary support in the performance of his functions.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

266 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27286/07]

The Minister for State with special responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health does not have a dedicated office in this Department. Instead, a senior official of the relevant business unit in my Department is appointed to liaise with the Minister of State and to provide him with the necessary support in the performance of his functions.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

267 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27310/07]

There are currently a total of thirteen Directives due to be transposed by my Department up to 2010. All Directives are expected to be transposed on schedule bar one overdue Directive (2006/139/EC), which will be transposed in November 2007. There are three Directives due for transposition before 31 December 2007 by my Department as follows:

1. Directive 2006/139/EC amending Council Directive as regards restrictions on the marketing and use of arsenic compounds for the of adapting its Annex I to technical progress.

Transposition Deadline: 30 June 2007.

2. Directive 2005/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies.

Transposition Deadline: 15 December 2007.

3. Directive 2006/122/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations.

Transposition Deadline: 26 December 2007.

There are eight Directives due for transposition in 2008 by my Department as follows:

1. Commission Directive 2007/16/EC on undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS).

Transposition Deadline: 23 March 2008.

2. Directive 2006/68/EC of the European Parliament and Council amending Directive 77/91/EC regarding the formation of public limited liability companies and the maintenance & alteration of their capital.

Transposition Deadline: 15 April 2008.

3. Directive 2004/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (18th individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC).

Transposition Deadline: 29 April 2008.

4. Directive 2006/121/EC amending Council Directive 67/548/EEC on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances in order to adapt it to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and establishing a European Chemicals Agency.

Transposition Deadline: 1 June 2008.

5. Directive 2006/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on Machinery, and amending Directive 95/16/EC.

Transposition Deadline: 29 June 2008.

6. Directive 2006/43/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on statutory audits of annual and consolidated accounts, amending Council Directives 78/660/EEC and 83/349/EEC and repealing Council Directive 84/253/EEC.

Transposition Deadline: 6 June 2008.

7. Directive 2006/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2006 amending Council Directives 78/660/EEC on the annual accounts of certain types of companies, 83/349/EEC on consolidated accounts, 86/635/EEC on the annual accounts and consolidated accounts of banks and other financial institutions and 91/674/EEC on the annual accounts and consolidated accounts of insurance undertakings.

Transposition Deadline: 5 September 2008.

8. Directive 2007/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 September 2007 amending Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing of certain measuring devices containing mercury.

Transposition Deadline: 3 October 2008.

Two further directives, currently due for transposition in 2009 and 2010, are as follows:

1. Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market.

Transposition Deadline: 28 December 2009.

2. Directive 2006/25/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the minimum Health and Safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to risks arising from physical agents (artificial optical radiation) (19th individual Directive within the meaning of article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC).

Transposition Deadline: 27 April 2010.

Small Business Sector.

Damien English

Ceist:

268 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will set up a small business register here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27450/07]

I have no plans to set up a small business register.

Employment Rights.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

269 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans to amend legislation to allow employees choice in relation to the age at which they retire. [27493/07]

There is no provision in employment rights legislation imposing a compulsory retirement age in relation to employment in the private sector. The Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004, among other things, protect against discrimination on the ground of age in relation to access to employment. However, Section 34(4) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 allows an employer to include a specific retirement age in a contract of employment without being in breach of the age-discrimination provisions of the above-mentioned equality legislation.

The upper age limit of 66 years for bringing claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007 was removed by the Equality Act 2004. However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts continue to exclude from their jurisdiction employees who have reached the "normal retiring age" for the particular employment in which they are employed. The "normal retiring age" in this context tends to be the age at which there has been a custom and practice for employees to retire at in a particular employment.

In some employments, a "normal retiring age" will exist for that particular employment only, in order to give flexibility to employers and employees, having due regard to the nature of the work being performed.

I should also mention that the upper age limit of 66 for receipt of statutory redundancy payments was removed earlier this year by the Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007.

With effect from 1 April, 2004, it is not compulsory for most new entrants to the public service to retire at a particular age if they are fit and willing to remain in employment. The existing retirement conditions, in agreement with the relevant unions, have been retained for existing employees.

The recently-published Green Paper on Pensions examines issues surrounding retirement age and work flexibility in the context of developing a framework for future pensions policy.

Skills Register.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

270 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a skills register for County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27494/07]

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

271 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a skills register for County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27495/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

There is no skills register for either County Monaghan or County Cavan maintained under the auspices of my Department or its agencies. I am aware that other county and local authorities are considering the establishment of a skills register for their respective areas. However, it is a matter for these bodies to decide whether there is a need to develop a skills register for their respective areas. On a national level the FAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) is charged with acting as a central data gathering, analytical and research resource for the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). The SLMRU maintains the National Skills Database containing all available statistics relating to skills and the labour market in Ireland. The National Skills Database has been designed to collate all available information about the supply and demand of skills in Ireland. As such, it provides a resource for analysis and forecasting of the labour market at skills level.

Sports Capital Programme.

James McDaid

Ceist:

272 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the grant allocation to the Olympic Council of Ireland between the years 2002 to 2006 inclusive. [27171/07]

My Department has provided a total of €900,000 in capital funding to the Olympic Council of Ireland since 2002. €650,000 was provided in 2004 and €250,000 in 2006 through the Sports Capital Programme. Programme funding to the Olympic Council of Ireland is a matter for the Irish Sports Council (ISC). I have asked the ISC to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to this.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

273 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form. [27201/07]

The current staffing of my Constituency Office is as follows:

Grade

Number of Staff

Salary

Personal Assistant

1

A teacher on secondment from the Department of Education and Science. Salary of replacement teacher recouped by that Department.

Personal Secretary

1

Secretarial Assistant scale plus 10% attraction allowance

Executive Officer

0.8

Executive Officer — general service scale

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer — general service scale

Clerical Officer

1.6

Clerical Officer — general service scale

All the above staff are established Civil Servants with the exception of my Personal Assistant and my Personal Secretary who are appointed to unestablished positions. The staffing of my constituency office is in line with Department of Finance instructions issued in June 2007. Since 14 June 2007 there have been no expenses paid to staff in my constituency Office.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

274 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27216/07]

The current staffing of my Private Office is as follows:

Grade

Number

Salary

Special Adviser

1

Principal Officer — general service standard scale

Private Secretary

1

Higher Executive Officer — general service scale

Executive Officer

1.8

Executive Officer — general service scale

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer — general service scale

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer — general service scale

In addition, my Private Secretary is paid an allowance at the rate of €19,690 per annum for these duties. All the above staff are established Civil Servants with the exception of my Special Adviser who is appointed to an unestablished position. The staffing of my private office is in line with Department of Finance instructions on the matter issued in June 2007. In addition I have the services of a Press Adviser who is appointed to an unestablished position at Principal Officer higher scale level. The expenses paid to staff in my Private Office and to my Press Adviser since 14 June 2007 are €4,350.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

275 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27231/07]

There is no Minister of State assigned to my Department.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

276 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27246/07]

There is no Minister of State assigned to my Department.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

277 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27305/07]

There are no EU Directives currently awaiting incorporation by my Department.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

278 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the percentage of those in the workforce under 30 who have a private pension; his views on introducing measures to increase the numbers under 30 with a private pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27545/07]

In the most recent pension coverage statistics, from the Quarter 4 2005 CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, coverage of persons in employment aged 20-29 was 38.9 per cent. This represents an increase of 3.4 percentage points since the previous detailed coverage survey in Quarter 1 2002, and is above the ultimate target level for the age group set out in the National Pensions Policy Initiative in 1998 (35 per cent). However, improving coverage among younger workers is one of the key priorities for pensions policy. This is reinforced by the increasing importance of defined contribution pension arrangements, where early contributions are particularly important in securing an adequate retirement income. Recent research suggests that people without pension coverage in older age categories mainly ‘never got around' to taking out a pension, so establishing a savings habit at an early stage is essential to promote pensions coverage and adequacy. To date, efforts in this area have focussed on promoting pension awareness and take up, with young people being a particular target of initiatives under the National Pensions Awareness Campaign. This promotional work will continue.

The Green Paper on Pensions, published on October 17th, puts forward four reform options which are largely focussed on categories with low coverage at present, including younger people. As the House is aware, the Green Paper is now open for consultation and when this process is completed the Government will decide on a framework for long-term pensions policy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

279 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will arrange for a review of the decision to refuse disability allowance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [26880/07]

The person concerned was in receipt of Disability Allowance from 30 June 1999. Following a review of entitlement in September 2006 it was found that the income derived from her spouse's earnings from insurable employment was in excess of the statutory limit for entitlement to Disability Allowance and accordingly the claim was stopped from 27 September 2006.

She appealed the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Following an examination of the facts the Appeals Officer disallowed the appeal. In giving his decision on 5 December 2006 the Appeals Officer indicated that the weekly means were derived from spouse's earnings from insurable employment and that a correct means assessment was made in this case.

An Appeals Officer's decision is final and conclusive in the absence of new evidence or new facts or any change of circumstances. My Department has issued a new application that should be completed and returned if this persons circumstances have changed.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

280 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 214 of 24 October 2007, the way he reconciles two sentences in his reply (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26997/07]

Further to my reply of 24 October 2007, there are two basic rates of child benefit; the lower rate which is payable in respect of each of the first two qualifying children, and the higher rate, payable in respect of the third and subsequent qualifying children.

A qualified child is one who is under 16 years of age, or aged 16 to 18 and attending full-time education. In the case of twins, an amount equal to 150% of the appropriate rate, i.e. one and a half times the lower or higher rate as applicable, is paid in respect of each child. In the extract quoted from my previous reply, the salient terms are ‘qualified' and ‘qualifying', as the basic rate of child benefit payable is determined solely on the basis of the number of eligible, or qualifying, children in the family. It is not determined on the basis of the place of each individual child within the family. This is an important distinction where, for instance, there are non-qualifying children such as children over the age of eighteen, or over the age of sixteen and not in full-time education.

Accordingly, where twins are involved, rates could vary as follows: (a) As the higher CB rate is payable in respect of a third and subsequent qualified child, 150% of the higher rate is payable for each of a set of twins where they both fall into this category, (b) A set of twins may constitute the second and third of three qualifying children, e.g. in three-child families or where older children in the family cease to qualify for child benefit. In this scenario, one would receive 150% of the lower rate, the other 150% of the higher rate. (c) Where a set of twins are the only qualified children in a family, both receive 150% of the lower CB rate.

Pension Provisions.

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

281 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department will review pro-rata pensions with a view to increasing same (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27107/07]

One of the qualifying conditions for receipt of a State Pension Contributory is that a person must have entered into insurable employment before the age of 56. An amendment of this requirement was introduced for the self-employed in April 1999 whereby they could qualify for a partial State Pension Contributory if they were aged over 56 on the 6th April 1988, when PRSI for the self-employed was first introduced.

As the person concerned first entered insurable self-employment on 6th April 1988 aged 59, he satisfied the conditions to receive the partial State Pension Contributory from 9 April 1999, the date of its introduction. He is also in receipt of an increase for a qualified adult.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

282 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27212/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

283 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27227/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

284 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27242/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

285 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27257/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

286 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Older People’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27289/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 to 286, inclusive, together.

The details the Deputy has requested in respects of the staffing of my private and constituency offices, since my appointment as Minister for Social and Family Affairs, on 14th June 2007 are shown in the attached tabular statement. There has been no Minister of State formally assigned to my Department. However, Minister of State, Máire Hoctor, who is Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, has special responsibility for older people, areas of which fall within the remit of my Department. There are no staff assigned to her office from my Department

Private Office

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance Annual

Non civil servants

1 Press Adviser

82,016 – 95,363

Established civil servants

1 Higher Executive Officer

46,646 – 59,213*

19,690

(Private Secretary)

1 Executive Officer

29,093 – 46,167

1 Clerical Officer Higher Scale

23,086 – 36,546**

3 Clerical Officers

22,057 – 35,772

2 Clerical Officers

23,221 – 37,651*

Constituency Office

Grade

Salary Scale

Allowance

Non civil servants

1 Personal Assistant

44,646 – 59,213

1 Constituency Assistant

44,646 – 59,213

1 Personal Secretary

22,064 – 42,571

10% Attraction Allowance

Established civil servants

1 Executive Officer

30,628 – 48,594*

1 Clerical Officer

23,221 – 37,651*

No expenses have been paid to staff in either office in the year to date.

*Class A PRSI applies as employment commenced after 6 April 1995

**Adjusted proportionally to take account of work sharing.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

287 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27316/07]

There are no EU directives within the competency of my Department that have not been transposed into law.

School Meals.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

288 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will ensure that sufficient funding is put in place for schools who apply for and are given verbal permission to provide school meals under the school meals local projects scheme for the school year starting in 2008 in order to avoid the situation that happened in October 2007 when schools who were providing school meals were told after three weeks to cease the practice as there was no budget in place to provide payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27423/07]

The school meals programme operated by my Department gives funding towards provision of food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes. The first is the long-standing statutory urban school meals scheme, currently operated by 36 local authorities. The second is the school meals (local projects) programme through which funding is provided by my Department to participating schools in both urban and rural areas who are running specific school meals projects.

The school meals programme has expanded significantly in recent years to include a large number of disadvantaged school children and this trend will continue throughout 2007 and in future years. The number of meals being provided on a daily basis to disadvantaged children through the school meals local projects scheme doubled from 89,915 in the school year 2005/2006 to 179,660 in the school year 2006/2007. In 2006, some 1,394 schools with over 145,000 pupils benefited under the scheme and this is expected to increase to 165,000 plus pupils in over 1,800 schools in 2007.

As demand on the School Meals Local Projects Scheme has increased dramatically in 2007, and due to budget constraints, a number of schools were informed that their applications for funding under the scheme could not be processed in 2007.

However, I have now secured additional funding for the school meals scheme to cater for the continuation of the scheme in 2007. A number of schools whose applications were refused requested a review of this decision on the basis that they were given verbal agreement that the school was eligible to apply for funding as they are part of the Department of Education & Science's initiative for disadvantaged schools, ‘Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools' (DEIS). These schools have now had their applications reconsidered and, subject to meeting the normal criteria of the scheme, their applications can be processed in 2007.

In relation to further new applications, demand for the scheme remains high and priority will be given to schools which have DEIS status. However, schools must submit the relevant application form and receive written approval prior to establishing their food clubs. There is no automatic entitlement to funding under the School Meals Scheme. Each application will be considered in the context of the overall budget available for the scheme. I will be requesting additional funding for Budget 2008 to allow the scheme to expand in 2008 to include additional DEIS schools.

Social Insurance.

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

289 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are proposals to provide a time limited amnesty for farmers whereby retrospective PRSI contributions could be made and to exclude short periods of earlier employment when applying the averaging rule. [27496/07]

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

290 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are proposals for farmers to be allowed to make retrospective PRSI contributions to provide at least a 98% pension. [27497/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 290 together.

In order to qualify for a contributory pension a person must satisfy a range of conditions which include commencing payment of contributions 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum of 260 contributions at an appropriate rate and reaching a minimum average annual contribution rate of at least 10 contributions paid or credited. An average of 48 contributions is needed for a full pension.

The average contribution test is a key qualifying condition and ensures that those receiving a pension have demonstrated an adequate and ongoing attachment to the social insurance system over their working lives. A concession in this regard was made to self-employed persons who became compulsorily insured on the 6th April 1988 in that any previous PRSI record they may have can be disregarded, if that is to their advantage, when eligibility for pension is being assessed.

The issue of gaps in a person's insurance record impacts on a number of different groups, not just the self-employed, and any changes would therefore have to be looked at in the context of the system as a whole. These issues are discussed in the Green Paper on Pensions, which I published on the 17th October, and changes to the system will be considered in the context of the framework for long-term pension's policy, which will be developed after the consultation process is completed.

Eligibility to contribute to the system of social insurance is based on a person's income and employment status. There is no legislative basis, and none is planned, under which retrospective contributions, which were not due in the first place, can be accepted. It is, of course open to those who fail to qualify for a contributory pension, or who qualify for a reduced payment, to apply for the means tested state pension (non-contributory).

Pension Provisions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

291 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will address the pensions issue for those who had to resign their positions due to the marriage bar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27499/07]

The Government is anxious to ensure that as many people as possible can be accommodated within the social welfare pensions system, with due regard being paid to the contributory principle underlying entitlement to contributory payments and, in the case of non-contributory payments, the need to ensure that resources are directed to those who are most in need. Over the last 10 years, means tests have been improved and qualifying conditions for contributory payments made easier.

As the House is aware, I published the Green Paper on Pensions on 17th October and this includes a full discussion on the social welfare pension position of women who had to resign due to the marriage bar. In this context, the Green Paper sets out a range of reforms including the use of universal entitlements and back-dating the homemakers scheme.

A consultation process on the Green Paper is now underway and will remain open until mid 2008. The Government will respond to the process by publishing a framework for future pension's policy and I expect that this will happen towards the end of next year. Decisions in relation to those who are not at present receiving support through the social welfare system, including those who had to leave employment on marriage, will be considered in that context.

Data Protection.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

292 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 64 of 31 October 2007, the number of investigations under way into individual security breaches or alleged breaches in his Department; the basis on which each of these cases were commenced; if, in relation to all investigations, they are current or completed; the sanctions the Data Protection Commissioner has taken against his Department; the number and amount of fines paid in each case; and the number of civil cases that are being or have been taken against his Department and the outcome of any concluded to date. [27570/07]

There are six investigations currently underway in my Department in relation to alleged unauthorised access to and disclosure of personal data. The investigations relate to the records of eleven individuals, as follows;

The Department launched an investigation into possible data protection violations following articles in a national newspaper in April 2007 alleging that private investigators working for insurance companies had access to social welfare records. When contacted by the Department, the journalist provided the names of five individuals whose personal data is alleged to be on the private investigators' files.

The Data Protection Commissioner wrote to the Department in late June 2007 to advise that personal data was discovered on private investigator files during the course of his Office's audit of an insurance company. He supplied details of two individuals whose personal data was available.

In July 2007 The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner referred complaints to the Department from two members of the public who suspected that their personal data had been accessed and passed on to third parties. Each case is the subject of a separate investigation.

Two complaints have recently been received from members of the public who are concerned that their personal data may have been disclosed to third parties. Each complaint is the subject of a separate investigation.

All of these investigations are on-going and some are at an advanced stage. No sanction has been advised by the Data Protection Commissioner. The Department has fully co-operated with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to the issues raised, and welcomes notification of his intention to carry out an audit of the Department's procedures for processing personal data in the near future.

No civil proceedings have been initiated against the Department in relation to information security breaches.

Community Development.

James Bannon

Ceist:

293 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if and when he will increase funding for local improvement schemes; and the projected levels of such increases. [27004/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, funding for Local Improvement Scheme (L.I.S.) roads from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (D/EHLG) has increased significantly in the past number of years. Consequently, my Department has decided to place a greater emphasis on funding water and sewerage schemes during 2007 under the CLÁR Programme.

However, I recently announced a new CLÁR LIS roads measure for 2007. In this context, the Deputy should note that the total funding available from my Department and the D/EHLG in 2007 is set to increase by almost 6% on that available in 2006.

Details of provisional allocations notified to Local Authorities for 2007 are attached. The final amounts to be allocated to each county will be determined after the County Councils return details of additional LIS roads which they propose to fund under the CLÁR Programme this year.

Lis Clár Provisional Allocations for 2007

Local Authority

Clár Funding

Limerick

171,425.70

Monaghan

500,000.00

Roscommon

260,432.20

Louth

23,170.04

Sligo

470,129.90

Tipperary South

63,929.50

Laois

53,829.83

Clare

500,000.00

Kerry

500,000.00

Donegal

500,000.00

Offaly

48,335.50

Longford

268,002.00

Tipperary North

65,434.00

Cavan

176,588.00

Leitrim

500,000.00

Mayo

500,000.00

*Meath

0

Galway

500,000.00

Carlow

5,906.00

Kilkenny

16,530.50

Waterford

98,305.50

Cork

500,000.00

*Westmeath

0

*Wicklow

0

Dublin

Not in CLÁR

Kildare

Not in CLÁR

Wexford

Not in CLÁR

* These counties have yet to make an application for LIS funding.

Rural Transport Services.

James Bannon

Ceist:

294 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the plans in place to introduce a late night rural transport scheme to facilitate people in remote areas accessing cinemas and other places of entertainment to alleviate rural isolation. [27005/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, in many rural areas, there are no public transport services at night. While there are, in the more developed rural areas, either hackney or taxi services, these are at the discretion of the providers of these services and do not provide a guaranteed service to rural people.

It was against this background, therefore, that earlier this year I introduced a new evening transport service, on a pilot basis, to allow rural people to fully participate in the various activities — community, sporting and social — that take place in their areas. The new Scheme also aims to address the market failure that currently exists in this area.

The 34 groups currently delivering the Rural Transport Programme — operated by the Department of Transport — were invited to submit applications to be considered under my Department's new scheme. Following the appraisal of the proposals submitted, seven groups were selected to run the pilot Scheme, namely:

West Cork Rural Transport;

Avondhu Development Group in East Cork;

Meath Accessible/Kilnaleck Community Cavan;

County Sligo LEADER Partnership;

Tumna Shannon Development Company Roscommon;

Síob Teoranta Donegal; and

Laois Trip.

The annual budget for the pilot is €500,000. The first service commenced in June and service numbers and passenger numbers are expected to continue to increase throughout the remainder of the year.

Although still in the early stages, I understand that the services are being very well received by communities and passengers alike. Early indications are that older people, people with a disability and young people are particularly enthusiastic about the new services and new activities are being planned around the availability of services. My intention is to review the scheme after it has been in operation for 12 months and to consider its future in the context of the findings of that evaluation.

Harbours and Piers.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

295 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when funding for the pier on Inishboffin Island, County Donegal will be made available; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Donegal County Council have approved counter-funding for this project and are awaiting funding from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27143/07]

The position is that Donegal County Council has recently submitted a proposal for my Department's consideration Department in respect of funding 75% of the cost of improvements to the pier at Inis Bó Finne.

The proposal will be evaluated by my Department in the light of existing commitments and future priorities and in the context of monies available for island development in the future.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

296 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27203/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

297 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27218/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

There are currently ten staff members in my Private Office, made up as follows:

Civil servants: one Media Adviser (on secondment from Civil Service), one Private Secretary at Higher Executive Officer level, one Executive Officer and six Clerical Officers

Non civil servants: one Special Advisor.

There are currently five staff in my Constituency Office made up as follows:

Civil Servants: one Executive Officer and two Clerical Officers.

Non civil servants: one Personal Assistant and one Personal Secretary

The annual payments for salaries and allowance for staff at 2007 rates is as follows:

Private Office

Number

Salaries

*Expenses

Civil Servants

9

349,197

3,611

Non Civil Servants

1

102,365

723

Constituency Office

Number

Salaries

*Expenses

Civil Servants

3

95,009

Non Civil Servants

2

100,940

*Expenses related to the period from 15 June to date.

These staff numbers are within those approved for Ministers.

The expenses are within those provided for in the Estimates. Details of these were given to the Oireachtas Select Committee on Art, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

A record of the debate is available on www.oireachtas.ie.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

298 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27233/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

299 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27248/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 298 and 299 together.

The staffing for the office of Minister of State Carey is as follows:

There are currently four staff members in the Minister of State's Private Office as follows:

Civil Servants: 1 Private Secretary at Executive Officer level and three Clerical Officers.

There are currently four staff members in the Minister of State constituency office as follows:

Civil Servants: Two Clerical Officers

Non Civil Servants: One Personal Assistant and one Personal Secretary

The annual payments for salaries including allowances for staff in 2007, is shown on tables below:

Private Office

Number

Salaries

*Expenses

Civil Servants

4

€166,638

€578

Constituency Office

Number

Salaries

*Expenses

Civil Servants

2

€53,010

Non Civil Servants

2

€85,575

*Expenses relate to the period from 21st June to date.

The staffing for the office of Minister of State for Integration is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

These staff numbers are within those approved for Ministers of State.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

300 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27307/07]

I can confirm to the Deputy that there are no EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish Law by my Department.

EU Reform Treaty.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

301 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will report on the state of the negotiations of the EU Reform Treaty as they pertain to decision making procedures relating to agriculture. [27360/07]

The EU Reform Treaty was agreed by EU Heads of State and Government at a meeting in Lisbon on 18 and 19 October last. It will be finally adopted in December and, thereafter, it needs to be ratified by all 27 Member States.

The Reform Treaty is a carefully balanced agreement that will allow the Union to meet the challenges of the 21st century and at the same time ensure that the interests of individual Member States, both large and small, are adequately protected. The new system of double-majority voting, for example, will give proportionate weight to overall population while retaining important influence for the small and medium-sized Member States. This will be achieved by specifying that a qualified majority would require 55% of the Member States and 65% of the Union's population. This means that only those measures that genuinely command majority support can be adopted at EU level.

In so far as agriculture is concerned, the principle of qualified majority voting is already enshrined in this sector for some time. Provision is also made in the Reform Treaty for wider use of co-decision procedures in the Agriculture sector. While there will be some alterations to the thresholds for reaching a qualified majority under the new arrangements, I would point out that these alterations are unlikely to have significant implications for decision making in the agriculture sector given that it is unusual to have close voting margins in this sector.

Food Labelling.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

302 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the fact that food products being labelled as Irish are being produced in other countries; the steps she will take to regularise this situation to ensure that country of origin is shown on the label; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26907/07]

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, the Health Services Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency.

The particular issue referred to in this question is where a primary product can enter Ireland and processed in some way thereby allowing it to be branded as an Irish product is known as "substantial transformation". This terminology originates in WTO, Codex and EU legislation governing the EU Customs Code and therefore can only be amended at EU level. I have been concerned that this arrangement could, in certain circumstances, be used to mislead the consumers as to the origin of the raw materials used in certain products. I am not satisfied with the current legal position and have raised my concerns at EU Council level.

The EU Commission is currently reviewing the whole area of food labelling and in that context my Department contributed to Ireland's submission which was co-ordinated by the Department of Health & Children. Within this submission Ireland again raised the matter of the unsatisfactory nature of the concept of substantial transformation and the possibility of it being used to disguise the origin of products from the public. I believe that the concept of substantial transformation needs to be more clearly defined and I will continue to urge the Commission to address this problem.

In the meantime my Department has been involved in consultations with the Department of Health and Children on drafting new regulations to require operators in the retail and catering sectors to provide country of origin information on poultrymeat, pigmeat and sheepmeat as is the case with beef.

A public consultation on the proposed regulations took place during the past month via the website of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland with the final date for receipt of comments being the 19th October. These comments will now be examined and the proposed legislation will be reviewed in the light of comments received. Thereafter the draft legislation will be forwarded to the European Commission. The commencement date for the legislation will depend on the Commission's response and possibly that of other Member States.

In the proposed legislation ‘origin' will be defined as the country where the animal was reared and, if different, the country of slaughter. This will have to be indicated on meat and meat products containing over 70% meat. Regardless of the nature, extent or location of processing or packaging that has gone into the manufacture of the product the requirement to show actual country of rearing and slaughter of the animal will remain in place and this will not be superseded by any ‘substantial transformation'.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

303 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the DAS. [26967/07]

An application under the 2007 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 17 April 2007. The case was selected for inspection, which is now complete and, accordingly, full payment of €4,456.75 will issue to the person named in the coming days.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

304 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will expedite payment of a grant for a slatted unit to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26986/07]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. A decision concerning the payment of grant-aid will be made as soon as possible.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

305 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be awarded their area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26991/07]

An application under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 13 April 2007.

The case was selected for satellite inspection and the 50% advance payment has not issued pending the processing of the results. Once this has been done the application will then be further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

306 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has not received their farm retirement scheme payment; the reason for the delay in processing the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27014/07]

An application under the Early Retirement Scheme was received from the person named on 13 August 2007. On preliminary examination of the application, a number of queries arose. On receipt of the replies the application was forwarded to my Department's Inspectorate for detailed technical examination.

During the course of this examination by the Inspectorate, further queries arose and these were communicated to the person named on 31 October 2007. On receipt of the replies, processing of the application will resume.

Departmental Bodies.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

307 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of State, semi State, committees, sub committees, working groups and agencies operating under the aegis of her Department; the function, membership, duration and budget for each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27142/07]

In reply to the Deputy, the following is the position:

Teagasc

Functions: Teagasc — the Agriculture and Food Development Authority was established under the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988 to provide research, training and advisory services to the agri-food sector.

Membership and Duration: 11 board members including the Chairman. Term of office is 5 years.

Budget: Exchequer funding to Teagasc amounts to €140.450m in 2007. In addition Teagasc generates its own income which also forms part of its annual budget.

An Bord Bia

Functions: The statutory function of An Bord Bia is to promote, assist and develop the marketing of Irish food and livestock and the production, marketing and consumption of horticulture produce including amenity horticulture.

Membership and Duration: The Board of An Bord Bia comprises a Chairman and 14 ordinary members.

Budget: The annual grant-in-aid for 2007 is €26.7m.

Coillte

Functions: Coillte Teoranta is a private limited company, which operates in forestry and related activities on a commercial basis. The principal objectives of the Company are:

To carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices;

To establish and carry on woodland industries

To participate with other in forestry and related activities consistent with its objects, designed to enhance the effective and profitable operation of the company, and

To utilise and manage the resources available to it in a manner consistent with the above objects.

Membership and Duration: There are currently 7 members on the Board of Directors including the Chairperson.

Budget: Coillte, as a commercial company, generates its own sources of finance and therefore does not receive an annual budget from the Exchequer.

Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD)

Functions: COFORD is a non-statutory agency under the aegis of the Department. COFORD's remit is to fund and co-ordinate research and development projects with the aim of developing the forestry industry through technical innovation and good silvicultural practice.

Membership and Duration: The membership of the COFORD Council is currently being reviewed. There are currently 12 members of the Council.

Budget: €4.35 million for 2007.

Irish National Stud

Functions: The primary aim of the INS is to help breeders by the provision of top class stallions at reasonable rates to breed with approved mares, it also offers an equine training programme for young people who wish to enter the bloodstock industry.

Membership and Duration: There are 7 Board members including Chairman.

Budget: The Irish National Stud Company Ltd. is a commercial state body. It is not in receipt of grant aid. As is the norm in the commercial sector the Company funds it's operations through a combination of trading income together with borrowings when required. The Company may also seek an injection of equity from it's shareholder, the Minister for Finance, if appropriate depending on the circumstances prevailing.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)

Function: Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is the Irish State Agency with responsibility for developing the Irish Sea Fishing and Aquaculture Industries. BIM provides a range of services including advisory, financial, technical, marketing and training supports to all sectors of the Irish seafood industry.

Membership: The Board of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) comprises of six (6) board members including the Chairman.

Budget: Grant-in-Aid for 2007 is €45,906,000.

The Marine Institute

Function: The Marine Institute works actively to support existing marine research, technology, development and innovation activity and to underpin future innovation and growth in the marine sector.

Membership: The Board of the Marine Institute comprises of nine (9) Board members including the Chairman.

Budget: The budget for 2007 is €32.39m.

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)

Function: The primary purpose of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority is to manage Sea Fisheries Protection and Seafood Safety. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in conjunction with the Naval Service and the Air Corps, have a very important role to play in overseeing fishing activities in our waters.

Membership: The Authority of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority comprises of three (3) members including the Chairman.

Budget: The 2007 budget for the SFPA is €10.82m.

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) Consultative Committee

Function: The Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, allowed for the establishment of a Consultative Committee to inform the Authority of concerns and views of the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors regarding the functions of the Authority and to seek to keep the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors generally informed of the applicable sea-fisheries law and food safety law, as well as of the standards, guidelines, practices and procedures operated by the Authority in relation to the enforcement of that law.

Membership: The Committee consists of 14 members comprising representatives of fishing, processing and aquaculture sectors.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Seafood Strategy Implementation Group (SSIG)

Function: The SSIG, is tasked with:

Developing a detailed implementation plan;

Overseeing delivery of the implementation plan; and

Monitoring and reporting on the progress of implementation.

Membership: Membership comprises representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, State

Agencies and the Fisheries Industry

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Sea Fisheries Liaison Group (SFLG)

Function: The Sea Fisheries Liaison Group is a forum for the fishing industry representatives to be advised, and give their views on issues that arise for the fishing industry, both internally and externally.

Membership: The Sea Fisheries Liaison Group is comprised of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, State Agencies and Industry Representatives.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Sea Fisheries Quota Management Advisory Committee

Function: To establish/agree catch limits for various fish species for distribution over the course of the year.

Membership: The Committee is comprised of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Industry and Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) Representatives.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Aquaculture Forum

Function: The Aquaculture Forum is a forum for the Aquaculture industry representatives to be advised of issues arising on the Aquaculture Industry, and give their views.

Membership: The Aquaculture forum is made up of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, State Agencies and Industry Representatives.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre Marketing Initiative

Function: To develop a marketing strategy for Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre with a view to attracting new business to co-exist with the Fishing Industry.

Membership: The membership of the group includes State organisations and bodies with a role or interest in the development of the north west of Ireland.

Budget: The budget is €10,000

Harbour User and Advisory Fora in the six Fishery Harbour Centres

Function: To advise the Sea Fisheries Administration Division of this Department on the running of the Fishery Harbour Centres at a local level.

Membership: Local stakeholders in the Fishery Harbour Centres and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of these fora.

The Marine Licence Vetting Committee (MLVC)

Function: The Marine Licence Vetting Committee (MLVC) provides advice to the Minister regarding technical aspects of Foreshore Lease/Licence and Dumping at Sea applications.

Membership: 7 Members including the Chairperson.

Budget: There is no budget for the operation of this Committee.

Veterinary Council of Ireland

Functions: To regulate the practice of veterinary medicine in the State.

Membership and Duration: The Board of the Veterinary Council has 19 members and the term of office is 4 years.

Budget: Does not receive any exchequer funding- (mainly funded from registration fees from Veterinary Practitioners).

Animal Remedies Consultative Committee

Functions: To assist and advise the Minister in the making of regulations under the Animal Remedies Act 1993.

Membership and Duration: The Animal Remedies Consultative Committee has 9 members and the term of office is 4 years.

Budget: €2,000.

National Milk Agency

Functions: The National Milk Agency function is to regulate the supply of milk for liquid consumption throughout the State and to ensure all year round supply.

Membership and Duration: 14 members, including the Chairman, comprised of representatives of producers, processors, consumers, distributors and retailers. The Agency also has a Chief Executive and a full-time staff of five.

Budget: Funded by means of a statutory levy on producers.

Dairy Consultative Committee

Functions: The Dairy Consultative Committee was established in October 2007 to advise the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the evaluation of policy proposals in the context of the CAP Health Check. It will continue to meet as required over the coming months.

Membership and Duration: 20 members, including the Chairman, comprised of representatives of DAFF, IFA, ICMSA, Macra na Feirme, ICOS, IDIA, Teagasc, Irish Dairy Board, Bord Bia and UCC.

Budget: None

Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal

Functions: The Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional milk quota from individual producers who have either suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system or have been restricted by animal disease in the current milk quota year. It was established in 1989 and meets as frequently as required at the latter end of each milk quota year.

Membership and Duration: 6 members, including the Chairman, comprised of representatives of IFA, ICMSA, Macra na Feirme and ICOS.

Budget: None.

Milk Quota Review Group

Functions: The Milk Quota Review Group advises the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on matters relating to the management of Ireland's milk quota. In general, changes to quota schemes are made following consultation with the Milk Quota Review Group. It was established in 1988 and meets at the Minister's request, typically once or twice per year.

Membership and Duration: 12 members, including the Chairman, comprised of representatives of DAFF, IFA, ICMSA, Macra na Feirme, ICOS, IDIA and Teagasc.

Budget: None.

Agri-Vision 2015 Committees

Function: Three Committees have been established under the Agri-Vision 2015 Plan of Action.

Membership and Duration:

1. Agri Vision CEO Group comprising Chiefs Executive of food agencies. This committee was established to discuss cross-cutting issues regarding the Food and drink industry.

2. The Food Industry Committee has been established under the Agri-Vision 2015 action plan. The committee is made up of representatives of the large Irish food and drink manufacturers, representatives of the small and medium sized enterprises and artisan representatives. The committee have been established to identify issues facing the Irish food industry with a view to developing solutions.

3. An industry-led Research Group.

Budget: None of these Committees has an operational budget.

The Audit Committee

Function: The Audit Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was established in 1994. The Audit Committee has three main roles, namely:

To advise on the operation of the internal audit function within the Department.

To monitor the application of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 4045/89, as amended, more commonly identified as the Scrutiny Regulation.

To advise on best practice for risk management.

Membership and Duration: The Audit Committee is composed of six members including the Chairman. Five of the members are external to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Budget: The Audit Committee has an annual budget of €9,000.

The WTO Consultative Group

Function: The WTO Consultative Group was established to enable interested groups and organizations to review and discuss current developments in the ongoing WTO negotiations and to offer material, advice and expertise to the Department in the process of policy formulation.

Membership and Duration: The Group comprises officials of the Department and representatives of the following organisations; IFA, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Teagasc, Bord Bia, Irish Dairy Board, IBEC, Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), Irish Grain and Feed Association, Macra Na Feirme and two independent agricultural economists.

Budget: None.

Poultry Expert Group

Function: The group was set up in November 2006. The objective of the group was to identify, what needed to be done, and what could be done, to best assist the future viability of the indigenous poultry industry. It is expected that the report of the committee will be finalised within the coming weeks.

Membership and Duration: Trade organisations, state agencies and the Department were represented on the Group.

Budget: None.

Market Access Group

Function: The group had its inaugural meeting in July 2007. It was set up to facilitate trade in Irish meat to non-EU markets by re-opening traditional markets and accessing new markets.

Membership and Duration: The Group is comprised of representatives from the Department, Bord Bia and Meat industry Ireland. No set time limit for given for the group.

Budget: None.

Accreditation Review Group

Function: The Department is an accredited paying agency for payment of CAP funds. To be accredited, it has to meet certain administrative and accounting criteria laid down in EU regulations. An Accreditation Review Group committee (ARG) was established in DAF in January 1997. The main function of the ARG is to ensure compliance with the accreditation criteria.

Membership and Duration: The ARG meets at least quarterly under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of the Department and includes representation by the senior management. It also includes representatives from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners (Customs service).

Budget: None.

National Steering Group for the Development of the Organic Sector

Function: The National Steering Group for the Development of the Organic Sector was established to provide a framework for partnership between the organic sector and the other principal essential interests, to offer advice to the Minister on policy matters relating to the development of the organic sector and to review progress on the recommendations contained in the Report of the Organic Development Committee.

Membership and Duration: The Group is made up of representatives of a range of stakeholders including organic farmers, mainstream farmers, the food processing and retail sectors, semi-state bodies and consumers. It is supported by two sub-Groups, the Organic Market Development Group and the Partnership Expert Group chaired by Teagasc. The members of the National Steering Group were appointed for a second three-year term from June 2006.

Budget: The operating costs of the Steering Group are met from funds allocated to the Development of the Organic Sector. The total allocation for 2007 was €620,000. This also includes provision for Bord Bia's Organic Marketing Plan for 2006 to 2009, payments to organic demonstration farms and payments to specialist agronomists who conducted seminars and farm walks.

Committee for Increasing the Uptake of Knowledge Society Technologies in Agriculture

Function: The overall objective of the Committee is to accelerate the adoption of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) by the farming sector so as to ensure that it reaps all of the efficiency gains available from such technologies and has access to all of the information sources to make the best decisions for their business.

Membership and Duration: The Committee consists of members of the ICT Unit of the Department, Farming Bodies, The Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Meat Industry Ireland, Teagasc and UCD. The Committee has had 3 meetings in 2007 and will have a 4th next week.

It is expected to produce interim report early in the New Year and that the work will continue throughout 2008.

Budget: None.

Single Payment Appeals Committee

Function: Single Payment Appeals Committee (SPAC) dealt with appeals from farmers in relation to their entitlements under this Single Payments Scheme and continues to deal with appeals from farmers in relation to the distribution of National Reserve entitlements.

Membership and Duration: The Committee is made up of the Chairperson and 4 Agriculture Appeals Officers.

Budget: The Chairperson receives an annual honorarium of € 15,000 and gets the normal Civil Service travel expenses.

Consumer Liaison Panel

Function: The Consumer Liaison Panel was established in January 2002 to strengthen communication between the consumer and my Department. It is a Standing Panel which operates independently of the Department and meets as it considers necessary to liaise on general consumer issues in relation to the activities of the Department and to comment on the flow of information both to and from the public.

Membership and Duration: The Panel has representatives of the Consumers' Association of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Countrywomen's Association, Voluntary and Community Sector Platform, RGDATA and consumer representatives of major food retail outlets. The Chair of the Panel is currently vacant.

Budget: None.

Intensive Livestock Enterprises Working Group

Function: The purpose of the Group is to identify pragmatic solutions for the management of nitrogen and phosphorus arising in intensive enterprises in the context of the "Nitrates Regulations".

Membership and Duration: There are 11 members.

Budget: None.

The Forestry Liaison Group

Function: Forest Industry stakeholder consultation forum for discussing forest policy issues.

Membership and Duration: 24 members (including the Chairman) with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Enterprise Ireland, Coillte, Farming Bodies and the Forest Industry. First meeting held in November 2004. The work of this group is ongoing.

Budget: None.

Owenriff Working Group

Function: Aim of the Group is the determination of best practice in relation to forest management in the Owenriff catchment, Co. Galway, for the maintenance and enhancement of water quality and consequently the conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel and salmonid populations.

Membership and Duration: 17 members with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, National Parks & Wildlife, Coillte, Western regional Fisheries Board, Western River Basin District and Galway County Council. Group was established in August 2004 and its report (looking at forestry and FPM) is due to be released shortly.

Budget: None.

Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Technical Group and Steering Group

Function: The aim of the groups was to produce agreed guidance for all forestry operations, which could affect Margaritifera populations in rivers designated SAC for the species. The Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements — Site Assessment and Mitigation Measures were produced and these Requirements, when published, will apply to all potentially impacting forest operations within identified portions of the catchments of FPM populations in rivers designated candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs) for the species. Public consultation occurred, the draft Requirements were revised and at present they are in draft stage.

Membership and Duration: Initial meeting took place on the 23rd of September 2005 between the Forest Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Technical and Steering Groups. Work of these groups is still ongoing.

Budget: None.

DAFF — Meat Industry Working Group

Function: Meat Hygiene & Animal By-Products Division meets with Meat Industry Ireland and representatives of some of the major meat processors once a month. The function of this Group is to provide a forum for discussion on topical issues relating to meat hygiene and animal by-products.

Budget: There is no specific budget for the group.

DAFF — Federation of Irish Renderers Working Group

Function: Meat Hygiene & Animal By-Products Division holds bimonthly meetings with representatives of the rendering industry. The function of this Group is to provide a forum for discussion of relevant issues.

Budget: There is no specific budget for the group.

Cross Agency Animal By-Products Group

Function: This group consists of representatives from Meat Hygiene & Animal By-Products Division, the local authorities, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the HSE. It meets bi-monthly. The function of the group is to co-ordinate the enforcement of the animal by-products regulations.

Budget: There is no specific budget for the group.

Animal By-Products Consultative Forum

Function: This group consists of representatives from Meat Hygiene & Animal By-Products Division, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the compost, biogas and waste management industries. It meets bi-monthly. The function of the group is to provide a forum for discussion on issues relating to the regulation by DAFF under the animal by-products regulations of the composting and biogas industry.

Budget: There is no specific budget for the group.

Monitoring Committee on the Charter of Rights for Farmers

Function: The committee was established under the Charter of Rights for Farmers 2005/2007 to monitors progress on targets established under the Charter.

Membership and Duration: The Social Partner Farm organisations and the Department are represented on the Committee, which has an independent Chairman. It meets at least three times per year.

Budget: None. Fee and expenses paid to Chairman.

In addition to the above, there are a number of DAFF internal committees and working groups.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

308 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Mayo submitted the information sought by her Department, their payment of the DAS be awarded. [27165/07]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 1 May 2007. Of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, one of the primary requirements is that applicants maintain a minimum stocking density on their holding of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare declared for at least three consecutive months. However, where the holding of an applicant is identified as not meeting this minimum requirement, the person in question is invited to submit evidence of satisfactory stocking, i.e. Flock Register, Horse Passports, or details of a REPS or Commonage Framework Plan, which provides for a lower stocking level.

The person named was written to and invited to submit appropriate evidence of the number of sheep maintained on the farm. The REPS Plan requires that 59 sheep be maintained and the person named has submitted proof to my Department covering 55 sheep. The person named has been in contact with a Department official and is to submit proof of the purchase of a further 7 sheep. On receipt of this proof, the application will be further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

309 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27180/07]

The person named submitted a Single Payment Scheme/ Disadvantaged Areas Scheme application to my Department on 2 May 2007, in respect of 45.83 hectares. The case was selected for satellite inspection, which is now complete. The case is being processed and payment will issue to the applicant shortly.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

310 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment and a disadvantaged payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27181/07]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 15 May 2007.

While the person named had established 65.48 entitlements, a satellite inspection of his holding found an eligible area of 64.96 hectares. The appropriate 50% under the Single Payment Scheme is in the course of issuing to him i.e. €14,791.44. in receipt of 64.96 entitlements less modulation.

Payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme commenced on 20 September 2007, with payments issuing in respect of those cases cleared for payment at that stage. Payments continue to issue as further cases subsequently become clear. The application of the person named has now been fully processed and the DAS payment (€4,319.55) will issue shortly.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

311 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff in her constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27200/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

312 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff in her private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27215/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

313 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27230/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

314 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27245/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 to 314, inclusive, together.

The information that the Deputy requested is currently being collated and I will write to him on this matter very shortly.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

315 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in her Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date she foresees for implementation of each directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27304/07]

The 14 Directives to be transposed into national law for which my Department has responsibility are set out in the following schedule. Directive 2006/130/EC on animal remedies, Directive 2005/36/EC on professional qualifications in veterinary medicine for veterinary practitioners, Directives 2007/40/EC and 2007/41/EC on plant health will all be signed shortly. In all other cases I intend to have the Directives implemented by the due date.

Schedule

Directives to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Title of Directive

Date by which Directive is to be implemented

Commission Directive 2006/130/EC of 11 December 2006 implementing Directive 2001/82/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the establishment of criteria for exempting certain veterinary medicinal products for food-producing animals from the requirement of a veterinary prescription (OJL 349 12/12/2006 p.15)

30 September 2007

Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (OJL 255, 30/09/2005, p.22)

20 October 2007

Commission Directive 2007/40/EC of 28 June 2007 amending Directive 2001/32/EC recognising protected zones exposed to particular plant health risks in the Community. (OJL169, 29/06/2007, p.49)

31 October 2007

Commission Directive 2007/41/EC of 28 June 2007 amending certain Annexes to Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread with the Community. (OJL 169, 29/06/2007, p.51)

31 October 2007

Commission Directive 2007/56/EC of 17 September 2007 amending certain Annexes to Council Directives 86/362/EEC, 86/363/EEC and 90/642/EEC as regards maximum residue levels for azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, deltamethrin, hexachlorobenzene, ioxynil, oxamyl and quinoxyfen (OJL 243, 18/09/2007, p50)

18 December 2007

Commission Directive 2007/20/EC of 3 April 2007 amending Directive 98/8/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council to include dichlofluanid as an active substance in Annex I thereto (OJL 94, 04/04/2007, p23)

29 February 2008

Commission Directive 2007/55/EC of 17 September 2007 amending certain Annexes to Council Directives 76/895/EEC, 86/362/EEC, 86/363/EEC and 90/642/EEC as regards maximum residue levels for azinphos-methyl (OJL 243, 18/09/2007, p41)

18 March 2008

Commission Directive 2007/57/EC of 17 September 2007 amending certain Annexes to Council Directives 76/895/EEC, 86/362/EEC, 86/363/EEC and 90/642/EEC as regards maximum residue levels for dithiocarbamates (OJL 243, 18/09/2007, p61)

18 March 2008

Commission Directive 2007/52/EC of 16 August 2007 amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC to include ethoprophos, pirimiphos-methyl and fipronil as active substances (OJL 214, 17/08/2007, p.13)

31 March 2008

Commission Directive 2007/62/EC of 4 October 2007 amending certain Annexes to Council Directives 86/362/EEC and 90/642/EEC as regards maximum residue levels for bifenazate, pethoxamid, pyrimethanil and rimsulfuron (OJL 260, 5/10/2007, p.5)

5 April 2008

Council Directive 2006/88/EC of 24 October 2006 on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals. (OJL 328, 24/11/06, p14)

1 May 2008

Council Directive 2007/61/EC of 26 September 2007 amending Directive 2001/114/EC relating to certain partly or wholly dehydrated preserved milk for human consumption (OJL 258, 4/10/2007, p.270

31 August 2008

Council Directive 2007/33/EC of 11 June 2007 on the control of potato cyst nematodes and repealing Directive 69/465/EEC. (OJL 156, 16/06/2007. p.12)

30 June 2010

Council Directive 2007/43/EC of 28 June 2007 laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production (OJL 182, 12/07/2007, p.10)

30 June 2010

Equine Sector.

Johnny Brady

Ceist:

316 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of spot checks carried out to date in 2007 under the Equine Passport Control Regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27402/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department is currently actively engaged in a range of activities aimed at enforcement of the equine identification regulations. This is an incremental process. Officials from my Department have been working closely with the industry in 2007 with a view to achieving compliance with the legislation.

Letters have issued from my Department to all of the relevant bodies in the equine sector outlining the requirements regarding the identification of equidae. A series of advertisements were placed in the press to inform the general public of the requirements. Officials from my Department are making direct contact with the owners / managers of major equine venues to remind them of their responsibilities in this regard. In recent weeks Inspectors from my Department have attended at horse sales and carried out checks of animals presented for sale, reminding people that all equines must be identified before being moved from a holding and that failure to comply with the regulations may result in prosecution.

Grant Payments.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

317 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal under the disadvantaged area scheme. [27413/07]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 25 April 2007.

One of the primary requirements of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme,is that applicants maintain a minimum stocking density on their holding of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare declared for at least three consecutive months. However, where the holding of an applicant is identified as not meeting this minimum requirement, the person in question is invited to submit evidence of satisfactory stocking, i.e. Flock Register, Horse Passports, or details of a REPS or Commonage Framework Plan, which provides for a lower stocking rate.

The person named was written to and invited to submit appropriate evidence of the number of animals maintained on the farm. On receipt of a satisfactory response from the person named, the application will be further processed with a view to payment at an early date if he meets the eligibility criteria.

Sheep Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

318 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she is satisfied regarding the ability of the lamb production sector to compete on international markets; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27510/07]

I am satisfied that the necessary action is being taken to allow the sheep sector to continue to compete on international markets. The 2006 Sheep Industry Development Strategy and its subsequent implementation report provide the framework for an efficient and competitive response to market demands. While most of the recommendations are for the industry itself to address, my Department assists in a number of areas such as sheep breeding, processing facilities and quality assurance. Sheep farmers also benefit from a number of schemes operated by my Department. A new REPS supplementary measure is particularly aimed at sheep farmers. It has an annual budget of €28 million and a projected overall cost of €170 million up to 2013.

An Bord Bia will continue to promote Irish lamb on international markets. It organises several strategic marketing campaigns annually. Bord Bia's summer promotions are aimed to highlight the availability and improve awareness of Irish lamb at a time when it is at its optimum quality. In France, our main market, its promotions are run in conjunction with eight major retailers throughout the country covering over 1,200 outlets.

Aside from its comprehensive lamb marketing programmes in key European markets, Bord Bia is collaborating with its French and British counterparts to develop a 3 year generic lamb promotion on the French market to promote lamb to younger consumers. This campaign, which amounts to a major new initiative on the European lamb market, is due to commence early in 2008.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

319 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which single farm payments have been met to date; the extent to which administrative procedures have been eased or intensified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27511/07]

Under the 2007 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, 105,706 potentially eligible claims have been identified. Payments under the Scheme commenced on 20 September 2007, and so far 96,658 (nearly 92%) of cases have been fully paid a total of €240.2 million. Payments continue to issue twice weekly, as further cases subsequently become clear.

Under EU legislation, Member States may commence payment under the Single Payment Scheme on 1 December of the year of application. In exceptional circumstances, a Member State may apply to the European Commission to be allowed to make an advance payment on 16th October. Taking account of the exceptionally bad weather conditions throughout Ireland this summer I applied to the European Commission to allow an advance of the Single Farm Payment on 16th October. The European Commission accepted the case I put forward and legislated for a 50% advance payment to eligible applicants clear for payment on 16th October.

Advance payments to applicants with clear applications commenced on that date. The position now is that €557.8 million has been paid to over 117,078 applicants (over 92% of total eligible applicants). The remainder are not as yet clear for payment. Delays in processing the unclear cases can be caused by many factors, including incomplete application forms, errors on applications and discrepancies highlighted following computer validation, which include dual claims/over-claims etc. and are generally resolved via correspondence with the applicant.

The on-going objective of my Department is to make payments to all of those farmers, who have yet to receive their advance payment as soon as their cases are cleared for payment. In many cases, my Department is still awaiting documentation that will facilitate the processing of applications for payment. A number of payment runs continue to be made each week as cases are cleared.

In accordance with EU legislation balancing payments to eligible applicants with clear applications will commence on 1st December. In so far as administrative procedures are concerned, it is certainly the case that these are less onerous than was the case under the schemes in place prior to the Single Payment. Scheme. Nevertheless I have been keenly aware of the need to minimise the administrative burden on applicants for the Single Payment Scheme and to make the Single Payment application process as straight forward as possible within the constraints of the provisions of EU Legislation. Each year my Department provides applicants for the Single Payment Scheme with pre printed application forms containing the most up to date information available at the time of issue. The pre printed information is taken from the applicant's application for the previous year and takes account of updates to that application during the year. Applicants are requested to carefully check the information provided and made any amendments necessary before returning their application forms.

My Department is committed to easing administrative procedures for applicants under the Single Payment Scheme and undertook a major pilot project for on-line applications in 2007. Farmers may apply directly themselves or via Teagasc or other approved agents. The response was encouraging and in excess of 7,000 applications were received on-line. A major advantage from the applicant's point of view is that the validation procedure in place reduces the number of queries arising in relation to on-line applications compared to paper applications thereby facilitating the processing of such applications for payment. I am anxious that as many applicants as possible will avail of the on-line facility in 2008 and my Department will mount a major promotional and information campaign early in the new year to encourage farmers to submit their 2008 applications on-line. There is no doubt that administrative procedures are eased for those who avail of the on-line application facility and I would urge as many farmers as possible to use it in 2008.

At EU level discussions are ongoing in respect of European Commission proposals aimed at simplifying the Single Payment Scheme. Ireland supports elements of the proposals including the reduction of set-aside to zero in 2008 and the abolition of the 10 month retention period for land which if adopted will result in a simplification of administrative procedures for Single Payment Scheme applicants in 2008. My Department has made a number of submissions to the EU Commission suggesting additional alterations, which, if accepted, would further simplify the operation of the Single Payment Scheme for farmers.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

320 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent of sugar beet production within the EU at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27513/07]

Prior to the introduction of the temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry in the Community, sugar beet was grown for sugar processing in all but four Member States, namely Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Malta.

In the first two years of the restructuring scheme, which involves quota renunciation and closure of the associated processing facilities, restructuring applications were submitted in 12 Member States. Details of these applications are given, by Member State, in the table below.

Recently the Council of Ministers adopted a regulation making the restructuring scheme more attractive with a view to reducing the EU sugar quota by a further 3.8m tonnes. The effect that this will have on sugar beet production in individual Member States remains to be seen.

Table: Applications for Restructuring Aid (Sugar quota only, in tonnes)

Member State

(1) Total sugar quota

(2) Quota renounced

(3)Col (2) as % of Col (1)

%

Italy

1,557,443

803,597

52

Spain

996,961

109,797

11

Sweden

368,262

42,562

12

Ireland

199,260

199,260

100

Finland

146,087

56,087

38

Hungary

401,684

108,093

27

Czech Rep

454,862

102,473

23

Slovakia

207,432

70,133

34

Portugal

69,718

54,718

78

Greece

317,502

158,800

50

Slovenia

52,973

52,973

100

Latvia

66,505

66,505

100

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

321 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farm retirement pension applications on hand at present; the number approved in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27514/07]

A total of 189 cases were approved for payment in the period 01 November 2006 to 31 October 2007 under the 2000-2006 Early Retirement Scheme. This Scheme closed to new applications on 31 December 2006.

The 2007-2013 Early Retirement Scheme was launched on 13 June 2007. A total of 8 cases have been approved for payment under this Scheme and a further 48 cases are currently being processed by my Department.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the acreage currently devoted to biofuel crop production; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27515/07]

The area of oilseed rape, which is used to produce liquid biofuel, increased from 5,000 hectares in 2006 to 7,500 hectares in 2007. A further 800 hectares of willow and miscanthus were planted in 2007. The increase in area planted can be attributed to the developing Bioenergy market and the introduction of incentives at farm level to stimulate production of energy crops. The incentives include a new national energy crops payment of €80 per hectare. This will be paid as a top-up to the EU premium available under the EU Energy Crops Scheme, subject to certain conditions. Establishment grants of up to €1,450 per hectare are available under the new Bioenergy Scheme to encourage farmers to plant willow and miscanthus.

The future outlook for energy crops depends on a number of factors, not least profitability at farm level. In the short-term, the soaring world demand for grain is likely to lead to an increase in the area devoted to conventional cereal crops in Ireland and elsewhere in response to the current high grain prices. More long-term projections are difficult to forecast at this stage. Much will depend on the rate of development of production and consumption patterns for biofuels over the next number of years.

Beef Exports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to promote the sales of Irish beef and beef products worldwide on the basis of high quality husbandry, production, packaging, processing and eco-friendly standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27516/07]

The Irish beef industry is worth €1.5 billion in foreign earnings to the national economy annually. Ireland produced over half a million tonnes of beef in 2006, with exports reaching a seven-year high of 516,000 tonnes, or 93% of total production. Irish companies are major suppliers across Europe and have gained a top-class portfolio of retail accounts there. In 2006, Ireland exported 250,000 tonnes to the UK and almost 230,000 tonnes to Continental EU countries, which together represents in excess of 90% of our total beef exports.

The Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan points out that our aim is to consolidate and further develop our position in the EU market. Bord Bia is responsible for the promotion of our beef and I take every opportunity to support them in their efforts in this regard. In order to publicise the response of the beef industry to an ever-evolving market, Bord Bia is intensifying its efforts to promote beef over the coming months. The aim is to build on the already well-established marketing and promotional activities in place. An extensive promotional campaign commenced in September involving 30 supermarkets across 13 European countries in 10,000 individual outlets. In addition, Bord Bia is currently finalising a new Irish beef marketing strategy. This follows consultation with the industry as to how best use the promotional resources available over the period 2008 to 2013.

I have also recently established a Market Access Group to focus efforts on the re-opening of 3rd Country markets for Irish beef and other meats. The recent re-opening of the Saudi Arabian and South African markets are welcome developments in this respect.

Another key element in our strategy for developing and sustaining our presence in EU and international beef markets must be the continued emphasis on the quality of our product. The support, both financial and otherwise, I have given to quality assurance schemes is an indication of the importance I place on these as key features of our future marketing strategies. In addition, I have introduced measures to assist the sector in further enhancing the quality of Irish beef.

Firstly, I was delighted to recently announce the €250 million Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. This measure is fully in keeping with the aims outlined in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. While the measure is primarily aimed at improving animal welfare, it will also contribute to the improved quality and the viability of suckler holdings.

Secondly, I announced in April a Capital Investment Aid Scheme for the beef and sheepmeat sector, which will increase added value at processing level and improve efficiencies. The advances in breed improvement programmes being developed by ICBF will also be of considerable long-term benefit to the industry. These combined measures will, I am confident, allow us to promote Irish beef successfully in international markets based on all its attributes, including its environmentally sustainable and welfare friendly aspects.

Poultry Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she is satisfied that all turkeys sold here during the festive period will meet Irish and EU standards in regard to production, processing and traceability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27517/07]

Turkeys sold here, during the festive period or at other times, are required to meet the relevant national and EU requirements. The necessary inspection and control procedures are in place to check on such compliance.

In the case of small quantities of poultry slaughtered on farm for direct supply to the final consumer or local retail establishments, there is an exemption from the EU requirements regarding approval and control of slaughtering establishments. The general requirements regarding food safety and hygiene remain, however, applicable to those supplies.

Fisheries Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which each EU country including Ireland has restricted its fish catches as a percentage of its total catch in the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27518/07]

It is the responsibility of each Member State to manage their fisheries within the regulations set by Council and Commission regulations. I do not have available to me details of the various systems that apply in each Member State.

The annual EU Total Allowable catch and quotas regulation sets out for each Member State the maximum catch which may be taken for certain species in specific areas of the sea. There are three categories of species to which quotas apply. These are:—

Whitefish Species;

Deep Sea Species; and

Pelagic Species

In Ireland, representatives from my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and Industry meet at least once a month to agree the quotas for whitefish and deep-sea species for the following month. Industry recommendations on management arrangements are accepted as far as possible.

In 2007, I have established particular management arrangements, in agreement with industry, setting catch restrictions for some 10 whitefish species, 4 pelagic species and 8 deep sea species. Of the particular stocks available to Ireland i.e. a particular species in a particular area, there are management arrangements in place for 17 of the 36 whitefish stocks, 11 of the 13 deep sea stocks and 7 of the 8 pelagic stocks. This would also be typical of previous years.

World Trade Negotiations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her proposed position in regard to future WTO discussions; if she will take particular initiatives with a view to ensuring that the agri-sector here can compete in the global economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27519/07]

I remain committed to a balanced outcome to the negotiations. As an open economy dependent on trade Ireland has much to gain from a successful deal. However, I am determined that agriculture must not be sacrificed for the sake of an overall agreement and that, in accordance with the agreed EU negotiating mandate, a new WTO agreement will not necessitate further reform of the CAP.

More specifically my priorities are:

on Market Access to retain the maximum possible level of protection against increased imports;

on Domestic Supports to defend direct payments to farmers from reduction by ensuring that their eligibility for Green Box status is maintained;

on Export Subsidies to ensure flexibility in the phasing out arrangements and to demand full parallel treatment for elimination of all forms of export subsidy;

on Non-Trade Concerns, to seek recognition for non-trade issues such as environmental, animal welfare and animal health controls.

The Agrivision 2015 Action Plan which I published in March 2006 sets out my vision for a competitive, consumer-focused and knowledge driven agri-food sector which will contribute to a vibrant rural economy, society and environment and which exploits opportunities in non-food areas. In addition to a broad vision statement, the Plan sets out one hundred and sixty six specific actions to be implemented for the development of the sector. It was drawn up in the light of recent CAP reforms and the likelihood of a more liberalised trade policy under a new WTO agreement.

I believe that the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan and the €8.7 billion package of agri-food measures in the National Development Plan will facilitate the continued growth of Irish Agri-Food sector and ensure that the sector is competitive on global markets.

Fisheries Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

327 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all EU countries are compliant with EU fish quota restrictions; the reason such restrictions appear to impact more here than in other EU jurisdictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27520/07]

The EU Commission is the body legally responsible for monitoring compliance by Member States with fish quota allocations. Where a Member State has breached a quota allocation for a stock in a particular year, in the normal course the provisions of Council Regulation 847 /96 introducing additional conditions for year to year management of TACs and quotas are applied. In this regard, where catches of a particular stock are exceeded by a Member State, that amount is deducted from that Member State's quota for the following year. In addition, the EU Commission may take infringement proceedings against a Member State where it considers that the Member State is not properly managing its quotas and where it is not ensuring that the limits set are being respected.

It is the responsibility of each member state to manage its own quotas taking into account their own national circumstances. In the current environment, where stocks are under pressure and quotas are declining most Member States find the management of quotas to be an increasing challenge. A number of Member States, including the UK, France and Denmark have introduced schemes to permanently reduce their fishing fleets in order to bring fleets into balance with available quotas in recent times. A important objective of fleet decommissioning schemes is to increase the quantum of quota available to the remaining vessels in the fleet.

I have sought EU approval so that I can introduce a new decommissioning scheme to remove excess capacity from Ireland's whitefish fleet in accordance with the recommendations of the Cawely report "Steering A New Course — Strategy for A Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Seafood Industry 2007-2013". I hope to be in a position to launch this scheme in the near future.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

328 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason the fishing industry here appears to have lost out on fishing quotas in comparison to other EU States; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27521/07]

In relation to quota allocations, you are no doubt aware that Ireland's shares of the main fish stocks were set in the early 1980's when fish stocks were being shared out between Member States. The share allocations were based on catch records and reflect the fishing levels by the Irish fleet at that time. Since then it has been a priority of successive Ministers with responsibility for the fisheries brief to have these shares improved. In 1992 and 2002, the Common Fisheries Policy was reviewed and in both cases substantial efforts were made to push Ireland's case for increases shares of important stocks without success. Ireland received no support from other Member States for changes in the allocation keys for the share out of stocks. The practical reality is that to achieve an increase in Ireland's share of Total Allowable Catch (TACs), other Member States would have to take a cut in their share. This is all the more difficult to achieve when TACs of all the main commercial species are falling and the reality is that achieving a qualified majority for such an outcome at the Fisheries Council is not deliverable.

The reform package, agreed in December 2002, included key national priorities such as the continuation of the Hague quota preferences, an action plan to address the problem of juvenile fish catches, stronger control and enforcement and new Regional Advisory Councils giving fishermen a strong voice in shaping future fisheries policy at EU level.

It is important to note that Ireland has 14 % of demersal/whitefish stocks and 21% of pelagic stocks (excluding blue whiting which is mainly landed for fish meal) in the waters around our coast (northern part of Western Waters). In 2007, this amounted to 35,359 tonnes of demersal/whitefish and 128,806 tonnes of herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and albacore tuna. In addition, Ireland's quota of blue whiting amounted to 35,278 tonnes. The Cawley Strategic report "Steering A New Course — Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-2013" sets out a clear strategy to maximise the value of quotas focused on increasing the value of seafood at every stage from the sea to the table. I am satisfied that the effective implementation of this Stategy, which the Government has endorsed, will deliver a a sustainable, profitable and self-reliant industry that will maximise its long term contribution to coastal communities. I am fully committed to working with industry to deliver the strategy set down efficiently and effectively.

Pigmeat Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has examined the current and future requirements of the pig industry with particular reference to future requirements and the ability to meet consumer demands at home and compete on international markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27522/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has received communication from pig producers outlining the state of the industry with particular reference to the ability to compete on the international markets; her proposals to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27523/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 330 together.

The representative organisations for pig producers and processors have been in contact with me about a range of issues affecting the sector. A major concern for the industry is the very high cost of feed and consequent erosion of profit margins. The rise in feed prices can be attributed to a number of factors such as (i) heavy demand for cereals in Asia (ii) the increased demand for feed materials from the biofuel industry and (iii) unfavourable weather conditions which affected many of the major cereal growing countries.

The EU Council of Agriculture Ministers has, in response to the pressures on the international cereal and feed markets, agreed to suspend the obligation to set 10% of arable land aside. This will ensure that more arable land is available for cereal cultivation in 2008.

In relation to market supports, a scheme of financial assistance for the private storage of pigmeat has been in place since 29th October. This was adopted by the European Commission in response to a request from me and some other Member States. I have also impressed on the Commission the need for export refunds for fresh and frozen pigmeat and this will be kept under consideration.

Pigmeat features prominently in Bord Bia's programme of promotion on the home and export markets. I have asked the Bord to intensify its autumn pork and bacon promotion campaign in order to ensure that the market remains firm over the coming months. Additional funding is being made available for this. The Bord Bia quality assurance schemes are also a good tool in maintaining consumer confidence and, in this context, the pigmeat scheme is well established and managed.

On the export front, Irish pork has access to important markets worldwide and pork is included in overseas promotion drives and market access initiatives. I recognise, however, that the weak U.S. dollar is creating difficulties for exports to non-EU countries.

I am working with the Minister for Health and Children towards the introduction of legislation to provide better information to consumers on the origin of pigmeat sold in this country. This will require the approval of the EU Commission, which following the public consultation process by the FSAI and consideration of its outcome, will be pursued shortly. I have introduced other initiatives to support the industry such as the extension of the farm waste management scheme to the pig sector and my Department's programme of financial assistance for the transition to welfare-friendly sow housing.

This is a difficult period for pig producers but the sector has proven itself resilient in the past. Within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy, I will continue to ensure that pig producers' problems are highlighted with a view to suitable action.

Food Safety Standards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to an EU report relating to the standards and quality of beef imports into the European Union including Ireland; if she has made enquiries as to whether this report has identified regulations or standards not being complied with; if such matters are expected to affect the health and quality of the product on sale here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27524/07]

I understand the Deputy is referring to the publication of a report by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission (FVO) on a visit it made to Brazil earlier this year to evaluate animal health controls in that country.

I would welcome the publication of this report at the earliest possible date. However it is important to note that the FVO have procedures that can involve protracted correspondence on their draft report with the national authorities in the Member State or Third country concerned.

The Food and Veterinary Office is part of the EU Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection. It conducts missions to Member States and third countries to check on compliance with the requirements of EU food safety and quality, animal health and welfare and plant health within the EU and on compliance with EU import requirements in third countries. The Commission report on their findings to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. I would remind the Deputy again that the Commissioner has personally assured me that he will not hesitate to take appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country represents a risk for the health of EU consumers, livestock or plants.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

332 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the labelling on all poultry products sold here reflects the country of origin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27525/07]

We already have EU Regulations which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat at retail level. The information which these regulations require on the label includes the registered number of the slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin. These regulations do not apply to poultry products that are processed in any way. Draft regulations requiring the origin labelling of pigmeat, poultry meat and sheep meat were prepared in my Department and forwarded to the Department of Health and Children as the Regulations will be made under the Health Act 1947.

A public consultation on the proposed regulations took place during the past month via the website of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The consultation period has now passed and the proposed legislation is being reviewed in the light of submitted comments. The draft legislation will then be forwarded to the European Commission for approval. The commencement date for the legislation will depend on the Commission's response and, possibly, that of other Member States. In the proposed legislation ‘origin' will be defined as the country where the animal was reared and, if different, the country of slaughter. This will have to be indicated on meat and meat products containing over 70% meat. The requirement to show the country of rearing and slaughter of the animal will not be superseded by any ‘substantial transformation'.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

333 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of inquiries or inspections carried out by her Department in the past 12 months with a view to the authentication of meat or meat products purporting to be of Irish origin; if she is satisfied that all such labelled products accurately reflect their original source; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27526/07]

The Minister for Health and Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, the Health Services Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency.

General food labelling legislation, as set out in Directive 2000/13/EC on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs does not require a declaration of origin of food. However declaration requirements exist in legislation for some food products including beef, and some imported poultry in specific circumstances such as when raw and pre-packed. There is a clear requirement that consumers should not be misled by food labelling. Manufacturers may voluntarily declare a country of origin, and consumers should not be misled by that declaration.

The labelling of beef is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No. 1760/2000 of 17 July 2000 and is underpinned by a full animal identification and traceability system. These compulsory labelling regulations require all operators and organisations marketing beef within the Community to provide the following information on the label:

A reference code to enable the beef to be traced back to the animal or group of animals from which it was derived

The approval number of the slaughterhouse and the country in which it is located

The approval number of the de-boning hall and the country in which it is located

An indication of the origin of the animal from which the beef was derived to include the country in which it was born and reared.

These Regulations are implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Labelling of Beef and Beef Products) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 435 of 2000) and the European Communities (Labelling of Beef and Beef Products) (Amended) Regulations, 2002 (S.I. No. 485 of 2000).

The competent authority with responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation in retail establishments is the Health Service Executive through its Environmental Health Officers under contract to the FSAI. As far as my Department is concerned labelling checks are carried out as part of the routine official checks at meat plants under DAFF control. Checks are conducted on a random, risk based frequency and cover labelling, traceability/origin, identification of cattle, labelling of carcases, meat, mince meat, meat products.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

334 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received their 50% single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27554/07]

An application was received on 15 May 2007 requesting a transfer of 7.99 standard entitlements to the person named by way of a three-year lease from a third party. Related documentation was also received. Processing of the application was somewhat delayed because of issues relating to the reversion of entitlements associated with a prior lease between the person named and the third party. The matter has now been resolved and the application has been fully processed. Payment will issue shortly.

John Perry

Ceist:

335 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the area aid and single farm payment for persons (details supplied) in County Sligo; when payment is expected to be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27565/07]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the persons named on 25 April 2007. In respect of the Single Payment Scheme, the 50% advance payment of €1,892.27 issued to the persons named on 24 October 2007, while under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, full payment of €1,454.25 issued to the person named on 25 October 2007. Balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence on 1 December 2007.

School Transport.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

336 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on the catchment areas for rural students (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26982/07]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to review the school transport scheme, including catchment boundaries. My Department is currently considering how best to progress this task.

School Absenteeism.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

337 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 388 of 9 October 2007, in accordance with her constitutional and legal obligation under the Constitution of 1937, the reason for the failure of the State to explain why a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has not been in school for the past 12 months. [27059/07]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the Board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. Enrolment decisions are the responsibility of the Board of Management of each individual school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment by schools.

In relation to this particular case, the Board have been requested to provide an update to my Department on the child's education status. When this has been provided, I will be writing directly to the deputy with the relevant details.

Schools Recognition.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

338 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made towards granting permanent status to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if she will give due priority to completing this process now that it has satisfied the required conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26864/07]

The school referred to by Deputy opened with provisional recognition from the Department in September 2006. Newly established schools are generally required to undergo a period of provisional recognition, during which the operation of the school and the growth of pupil numbers are monitored.

Site Acquisitions.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

339 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to reach a decision on the selection of a permanent site for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if she will treat this matter with urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26865/07]

The Property Management Section of the Office of Public Works (OPW), which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, has been requested to source a site for this school. A number of sites have been identified and are being assessed by the OPW. Once a suitable site has been identified, its acquisition will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Staffing.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

340 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent of the persons on the teaching panel for appointment for primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26870/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

341 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the name and allocation of each primary school in County Mayo in which a vacancy exists for the appointment of a permanent teacher; the reason these positions are not being filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26871/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

342 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are difficulties in regard to the filling of appointments to permanent positions in primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26872/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

343 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether the learning environment in primary schools in County Mayo where teachers have not been appointed is unduly affected; if she will make arrangements to have this position rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26873/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

360 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent of persons on the teaching panel for appointment for primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26969/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

361 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are difficulties in regard to the filling of appointments to permanent positions in primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26970/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

362 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether the learning environment in primary schools in County Mayo where teachers have not been appointed is unduly effected; if she will make arrangements to have this position rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26971/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 340 to 343, inclusive, and Questions Nos. 360 to 362, inclusive, together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I am given to understand that the Tuam Diocesan Panel is now clear and all schools in the Diocese are free to fill their permanent vacancies.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

344 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by students attending VTOS courses with regard to travel and subsistence allowance; her views on an appropriate revision of rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26879/07]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

366 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to increase the meal and travel allowance for VTOS students (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27010/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

367 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if travel and meal allowances for vocational training opportunities scheme students attending a centre (details supplied) in County Louth will be increased in line with rising costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27011/07]

Joe Carey

Ceist:

370 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to review the meal and travel allowance scheme payable to participants on vocational training and opportunities scheme courses in adult education centres here; her views on whether the €4 per week subsistence is inadequate and should be raised to €4 per day and that the travel allowance payable should be doubled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27039/07]

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

371 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on increasing meal and travel allowance for VTOS learners with meal allowance currently only €4 per week and travel allowance also being substandard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27040/07]

John Deasy

Ceist:

373 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to increase the meal and travel allowance for people participating in VTOS courses; when this allowance was last increased; her views on increasing the amount in line with inflation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27057/07]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

398 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans to increase the meal and travel allowances for VTOS students as the current rates have applied since January 2002 and are inadequate in view of rising prices and costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27260/07]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

420 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans to increase the meal and travel allowance payments to the vocational educational opportunity schemes as the payments are inadequate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27543/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344, 366, 367, 370, 371, 373, 398 and 420 together.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second chance education initiative for unemployed persons, who are at least 21 years of age and in receipt of specified social welfare payments for at least six months, which is funded by my Department. It is operated through the Vocational Education Committees. The aims of the Scheme are to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop and prepare them to go into paid employment or on to further education opportunities leading to paid employment.

A training allowance is paid by the VECs to students who previously drew unemployment benefit or assistance. The student ceases to receive an unemployment payment and, instead, receives a VTOS training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit, plus a payment for an adult or child dependant, if appropriate. VTOS students also retain their social welfare secondary benefits.

The allowances for VTOS students, for meals and travel, referred to in the questions are equivalent to these paid to participants on FÁS training courses. VTOS students may be entitled to a travel allowance if they reside more than 3 miles from a centre. These allowances are increased periodically in line with increases in FÁS rates. The current rates are in operation since 2002. There are no plans to increase them in the near future.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

345 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will find a suitable school for a pupil (details supplied) in Dublin 5 who has been turned down for a placement in a special class and is solely dependent on home tuition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26917/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has been operational since 1st January 2005, and is responsible for processing applications for special educational needs supports from primary and post primary schools through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs). The SENO is also a focal point of contact for parents and schools and their role includes identifying appropriate school placements. All schools have contact details of the local SENO. It is also open to the family to contact the SENO to discuss their child's special educational needs. Contact details may be accessed on the NCSE's website www.ncse.ie. or by telephoning 046 9486400.

School Services Staff.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

346 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some caretakers in the primary school system have not obtained an increase in pay in respect of the benchmarking award; if her Department has issued guidelines to schools as to the appropriate rate of increase that should apply to caretakers under benchmarking; and if she has made adjustment to the grant payment given to schools in order that they would be in a position to meet payments due under the award. [26918/07]

My Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978/79 scheme for the employment of full-time secretaries and caretakers in primary schools, under which my Department meets the full cost of salary. This scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. This scheme has been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme now referred to as the Ancillary Services grant.

The Ancillary Services grant scheme is flexible in nature, giving Boards of Management discretion as to the manner in which caretaking and secretarial services are provided. The grants paid are not directly linked to any objective pay scales. The level and extent of services provided is a matter for the school authorities who, through the discretion afforded by the scheme, apply diverse arrangements for caretaking and secretarial services as resources permit. As the secretaries and caretakers are employees of individual schools, my Department does not have any role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities.

There have been significant improvements in the level of funding provided to primary schools in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of the Ancillary Services grant has increased from €38.09 per pupil to €145.50 per pupil at present. The level of capitation grant at primary level has increased from €57.14 to €163.58 per pupil in the same period. The amount of grant paid to an individual school is determined by the enrolment in the school. This Government has shown a strong commitment to improving primary school funding in recent years and I will continue to prioritise this area in the context of available resources.

Educational Disadvantage.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

347 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is a scheme of financial assistance available to low income parents and one parent families who have children attending secondary schools; if her Department allocates funds to the said school to operate such a scheme; and if not, the assistance that will be given to low income parents, who have to purchase expensive books, in order to enable their children to complete their education at leaving certificate level. [26919/07]

A grant scheme for schoolbooks for needy pupils in post-primary schools has operated since the introduction of the scheme for the provision of free post-primary education in the 1967/68 school year. The purpose of the scheme is to provide aid towards the cost of schoolbooks. A needy pupil, for the purpose of the scheme, is defined as a pupil from a family in which genuine hardship exists. Schools are notified of the scheme each year by Circular Letter. The scheme is administered by school principals. Principals have discretion in the selection of pupils to be assisted and the level of assistance in each case, subject to the annual financial allocation and the terms of the scheme.

The 2007 allocation is €7.941million. 128,000 pupils are being assisted under the scheme in the 2007/08 academic year. Of this, some €0.9m issued to support seed capital and book loan/rental schemes. Schools designated as disadvantaged received a higher rate of grant per needy pupil. In addition to this, as part of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme, some €4.7m was issued in additional non pay supports to second level DEIS schools. The funds can be used flexibly by schools as part of their action plans to address the educational needs of pupils at risk, working in collaboration with parents and local community agencies.

Psychological Service.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

348 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists that are currently employed by National Educational Psychological Service on a full-time basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26931/07]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

350 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists who were employed in April 2007; the number employed in September 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26933/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 350 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them, such as the school to which the Deputy refers in the question, may avail of the SCPA and have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

Since NEPS was established, we have more than trebled the number of psychologists in the service. We are committed to increasing its staffing further, so that by 2009 there will be 200 NEPS psychologists. The number of psychologists employed by NEPS in April was 128. Approval was given earlier this year to increase the number of NEPS psychologists to 158 in 2007. However, the recruitment process has taken longer than expected. By September this year, there were 131 psychologists in NEPS. This has since increased to 135. My Department has also agreed start dates for a further 3 psychologists, two of which are due to start with NEPS in December 2007 and one in January 2008. The recruitment process is ongoing with a view to filling the remaining vacancies as soon as possible.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

349 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists who have been sub-contracted to cover areas that are not serviced by full-time National Educational Psychological Service psychologists here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26932/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA and have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved and paid for by NEPS. According to my Department's records some 150 psychologists were engaged by schools under the SCPA in the 2006/07 academic year.

Question No. 350 answered with QuestionNo. 348.

School Textbooks.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

351 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the policy of her Department in respect of schools requesting students to purchase new textbooks where the book in question may be only two or three years old; if her attention has been drawn to the considerable financial hardship this places on parents in terms of constantly changing textbooks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26934/07]

Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second-level, mainly in the case of language subjects, decisions on which textbooks to use in first and second-level schools are taken at school level. Syllabus planners are conscious of the need to avoid over-frequent changes to textbooks, primarily in order to minimise increases in the cost burden for parents. However, textbooks have to be changed periodically to enable teachers to keep their students' work educationally stimulating and to ensure that content and methodology are kept up to date. School authorities have been advised that books should be changed only to the extent that is absolutely necessary.

My Department operates a grant scheme towards the cost of providing school textbooks for pupils from low-income families in schools at first and second-level. Schools are notified of the scheme each year by circular letter. Principal teachers administer the book grant schemes in schools in a flexible way under the terms of the schemes based on their knowledge of particular circumstances in individual cases. My Department will provide funding amounting to some €13.8m under the schemes in 2007.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

352 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who have no school place who obtain home tuition support from her Department while attempting to find a school place; the number of children who have obtained this support in each year over the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26942/07]

The Deputy is aware that the home tuition scheme which provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for pre-school children with autism.

The Deputy will also be aware that the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for the establishment of special classes for autism and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department for the period in question in the requested format. However, for the past two years, home tuition information has been maintained electronically and I have requested my Officials to send the relevant information to the Deputy directly.

Higher Education Grants.